Identify someone at work who is credible and respected, at about the level of your job position, but with whom you have not communicated very much–maybe because you just haven’t felt enough of a connection to make the effort.
This week, purposely talk to that person for a few minutes. You can even tell him or her why you’re doing it: “I suddenly realized I rarely do more than nod or say hi, so I thought I’d stop for a minute.”
“Even though our jobs are different, we have some of the same customers, it seems like a good idea to do more than nod once a year!”
“The way things develop, we might be working together sometime, so I wanted to stop and say hello.”
“It seems like we hardly ever get a chance to do more than say hi, so while we have a few minutes I thought I’d better take advantage of the opportunity to see how work is going for you.”
You may find that one short conversation will last you (or them) for awhile! But, you may also discover someone who shares some of your values, seems interesting in general or who could be a good resource for you or someone else you work with, or you for them. It’s not calculated networking or aggressive friending, it’s purposeful out-reach.
You probably nod to a dozen people a day who you have never really gotten to know. They don’t know you either. Sometime in the next two or three days–don’t wait longer–make it a point to do more than nod.
Quite A Change!
My Arkansas City, Kansas High School friend, Geoffrey Adams, is now Jeff Adams, Ph.D. and the senior pastor of a very large urban church in Kansas City/Raytown, Missouri. Here is how they describe themselves on their website:
…you’ll quickly see that we don’t look like a typical Midwestern church. We are a multi-cultural, multi-generational congregation. Our church family consists of members of all ages from over 30 countries. Over 35 languages are spoken within our walls, including Spanish, Mandarin, French, Korean, and Swahili.
When the church was founded in the late 1940′s, Kansas City Baptist Temple sounded just fine. Pastor Adams speaks with respect and appreciation about the foundation that was established then and that has been maintained for decades through the commitment of members, pastoral teams and staff. But, in recent years the members and pastors felt the name was not effectively describing the message of the church to those they wanted to reach.
At first they took the Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC approach. Most members said KCBT and hoped no one would ask them to explain what kind of Baptists they were and why Baptists would have a temple, especially one that didn’t look anything like a temple. Finally they decided it was time to develop a new name that would take the emphasis off the description of a building and put it on their faith and what they felt it had to offer to others. Thus, Graceway.
I think the congregation will see their membership–and a resulting positive impact in the lives of members–grow dramatically over the next next year, as the new name allows them to be viewed differently by those who drive by or read or hear about them. It’s not that the message of the church has changed, it’s that a potential barrier has been removed and replaced with an open door.
What Barriers Keep People From Knowing The Real you?
In June I wrote an article about how we change and improve over time, especially in our knowledge and skills at work. I was inspired by watching the first Tron then the new one. I heard from many people who could relate to the concept. It may be, however, that there are barriers preventing coworkers, colleagues and others from seeing you as you really are, even when you know you have improved. Some of the most significant:
1. Appearance: Even if it seems there is no expectation for good appearance at work (and it seems there isn’t in some workplaces), you should dress tastefully, appropriately and in a way that reflects good judgment for the work situation. Hairstyles, makeup, jewelry, fragrance and clothing choices should be an enhancement not a distraction to internal or external customers. The appearance of your workspace counts too! If anyone has ever “joked” about some aspect of your appearance, figure they were serious.
2. Conversation and Verbal Style: Habitual movements and gestures, speech patterns, tone, volume and rate of speaking, verbal habits and what you talk about most often, all can irritate, frustrate and distract people or engage them. Ask your best friend to tell you habits you have that someone might find problematic. Try to not let it hurt your feelings!
3. Results: Even though you may feel you have more to offer than others realize, they are looking for proof. If you aren’t getting positive results most of the time, living up to your promises and fulfilling the tasks you’ve been given, feeling new and improved on the inside won’t matter.
The bottom line: Make sure you’re right about what you have been contributing and what value you can offer to others and the organization. Then, identify and remove any barriers so people can get to know and appreciate the real you for the first time or all over again. If Graceway can do it after 68 years as KCBT, you can!
In a February, 1942 Popular Science magazine I found this article and was intrigued by the first few paragraphs. The writer didn’t say, “J. Edgar Hoover never told us he intended to smash kidnapping rackets or stop murderous gunmen, but that’s what he did.” Instead he uses each promise Hoover made to illustrate the point of his article: J.Edgar Hoover says we’re prepared and you can trust him.
Whatever flaws might have been disclosed about Hoover later, the fact was that he and the FBI made our country more safe at a time when crime sprees by vicious criminals and their gangs were to the level of domestic terrorism. He was respected as well as feared, because he kept his promises.
J. Edgar Hoover did two things you should do:
1. Make promises. Say what you will do and when. “I’ll have that to you by 8 a.m.” “I’ll get it done the way you want it and have it to you for review before Friday.” “We’ll take care of this for you.” “I’ll take care of that problem.”
2. Keep your promises and remind people that you did. “Attached is that write-up, as promised.” “I said I’d get that to you by Friday but we worked extra hard and have it for you today.” “I knew you were upset about that situation, so I worked on it with Jim and I’m happy to report that it’s been handled and you won’t have to deal with it again.” “I told you I’d get this approved for you by this morning and here it is”
Say the words, to let people know that you came through not only as promised but because you promised.
Repeated broken promises are usually considered lies
Many people toss out promises they don’t ever intend to keep. “Sure, I’ll get that for you!” “No problemo, it will be done next week.” “I’ll take care of it.” Then, when the requester asks them about it on the due date, there are heavy sighs and excuses for why it isn’t yet done.
If you remember that a broken promise is viewed by most people as having been a lie to begin with, maybe you’ll get motivated to live up to what you promised. If you simply can’t fulfill your promise, at least let the person know the reason for your delay and get the work done ASAP. However, make sure your reason is more than, “I got really busy.” Or, ”Yeah, I know it’s not done yet, but it wasn’t really my fault.”
Look for chances to give your word, then keep your word.
Let people know, through your commitments and the way you live up to them, that you are someone to trust–no matter how they might feel about you otherwise. One day you may not be able to deliver on a promise, but by then you will have a long history of dependability to your credit. What you’re after is to have someone say, “If he promised to have it, you don’t need to worry, it will get done.” Or, “She says it will work out fine, and if she says it you can believe it.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Think Before You CC
This may seem to be my One Tune Topic for the last few months, but it seems that it cannot be emphasized enough. Consider these snippets from emails, all which were copied to several people (some not even part of the organizations involved.)
•”If you don’t have the skill to do it, at least send it to someone who knows how to do their job and stop wasting my time.”
•”Your email makes no sense at all. Rewrite please.”
•”I have tried to resolve this situation amicably only to face your nastiness time after time.”
•”I reviewed the work of you and your committee and frankly am amazed that you would consider this to be the quality I expected, especially from someone who is supposedly trained to do this kind of thing. If this is an example of your work, we need to be talking about getting you some additional training. There is no way I could list the problems in one email, so apparently I will have to take the time to meet and work on this with you. I’m available Friday afternoon but after that will be gone for two weeks, so let me know if you can meet then.”
•”Re: Your request to attend the conference. No.”
I’ve changed some details in those emails to protect the organization and those who sent the examples to me, but they are all essentially real. How would you like to be CCed on those? How would you like to be the recipients? How does it present the sender? Will any of them improve things?
What If Nothing Else Is Working?
In one of the examples above I was blind copied but several others were obviously copied. I immediately called the sender to register my dismay. She said, “Well, nothing else has worked and I figured if I embarrassed her maybe she would finally do something.”
Do you think that will happen? Even if it does, will the damage ever go away completely?
If the performance or behavior of an employee you supervise concerns you, talk to the employee directly by phone or in a personal email. No employee I’ve ever met develops a more positive approach to work as the result of being chided in a message that is copied to others. If the thing that concerns you is something that others need to be reminded of as well, handle it with a training approach for all, after you have dealt with the other employee personally.
If a coworker is the source of frustration or anger, talk to your manager or supervisor and be factual about what is concerning you. If you CC your manager in an unpleasant email you may find that both the employee and the manager resent your method of informing. That doesn’t mean you should ignore problems, it just means you should be direct not sneaky.
If you have something unpleasant or discomfiting to say to anyone, say it to them alone. Don’t wait until you are in an email “room” and bring it up. Have you noticed how brave or tough people can be when they are showing off for others!
“Look what a tough leader I am?” “Look how direct I am.” “See how I tell people where I stand?” “Notice that I don’t take anything from anyone?” “See how saintly I am compared to that other person?” Those are the underlying messages conveyed by unneeded CCs.
If you receive an awkward, embarrassing or inappropriate copied email, let the recipient know you would prefer to not be included on such things. If those who CC were told it was unnecessary or uncomfortable they would be far less likely to preen over their rough and ready approach. If you are a manager, stop such copying when you see it happening. If you are a subordinate, consider doing what one employee told me about: He wrote back directly to the manager and said, “I don’t think I was supposed to be included in that correspondence, but I want you to know that I have deleted it and won’t say anything about it.”
Whatever you do, don’t even inadvertently encourage the kind of rudeness that is the hallmark of unnecessary CCs or BCs.
The bottom line: There is a time for putting your concerns or frustrations in writing. Not all unpleasant mail is inappropriate. However, when you intend to correct someone or negatively critique their performance or behavior, think, think and think again before copying others. There may be rare times when it is needed, but most often, it is not. You and your reputation and effectiveness will be diminished in proportion to how many people you CC unnecessarily.