Soft Skills: Communication

communication

Communication skills are one of the top requirements of most job descriptions. Today I want to unpack “Communication Skills” and help you to find yours. Not everyone is a great communicator, but everyone has the capacity to communicate and improve their communication skills. Communication skills is a very broad term and a very tricky question when it comes to employers. Some people communicate better electronically whereas some are better in person. For those who communicate electronically, it gives them time to frame their thoughts in a clear and concise manner, rather than in person where they may stutter and become frustrated. When a communicator is frustrated, this frustration may be perceived as anger or irritation and get in the way of the message that the communicator is trying to convey. Those who communicate in person better, are usually ones that can read and respond to body language. When a communicator notices that the receiver of the communication is standoffish, he or she may change their approach by engaging the receiver in their conversation by asking probing questions or softening their tone and lowering their volume to make the receiver more comfortable.

Here are some tips to improve your communication skills:

  • Watch body language – this is a great resource for body language. http://www.businessballs.com/body-language.htm#eyes-body-language
  • If you know you are going to have a conversation about a difficult subject, write out what you want to make sure what needs to be said is conveyed in a bit more organized fashion.
  • When possible, request an agenda for face to face meetings. They should always be provided, but when they are not, it is ok to ask if there is a specific agenda so that you can be prepared for meetings.
  • Breathe. The less you breathe the faster you will speak. Fast speech can make people think you are unprepared and it can also make you hard to understand.
  • Listen and ask questions. Be engaged.
  • Put your device away. It can wait.

In short, these are not things you don’t already know, but they definitely bear repeating. Communication skills are much like learning skills, you can always find another way to do something that has been done a certain way for years.

Always remember to invest yourself. You’re worth it.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Personal Development: Your Personal Brand Statement

Personal brand statements were a pretty new concept to me a few years ago.  Just one more thing that I had to maintain on my resume or be able to rattle off if someone asked.  So what exactly is a personal brand statement?  Imagine you are trademarking yourself.  What is different about you that makes you unique and special?  How do you approach difficult tasks or projects?  What are your goals?  These are all things you should determine before you write your personal brand statement.  Then start with this:

I am a ______________ (professional personality type, i.e. leader, performer, visionary, motivator, researcher, problem solver, etc.).

I am motivated by ______________ (money, recognition, getting the job done, solving a problem, seeing others succeed, advancement, etc.).

Your work style is _________________ (process driven, pave your own way, somewhere in between, etc.).

Your work goals _______________ (get the job done, go above and beyond, work harder than others, work smarter not harder, etc.)

It’s important to recognize these things about yourself so that you can determine if they are part of your brand statement or if you need to focus your brand statement on other things.  For example, if you’re a person who just wants to get the job done, work 8-5 and go home to your real life, then you want to focus on your other strengths.  You don’t want a perspective employer to expect you to be at work 60 hours a week because your personal brand statement suggests you are willing to do so.

Now draft your personal brand statement, you’re not recapping your resume, you are telling others how you expect to be perceived in a professional environment.

Do’s

  • Focus on the value you will bring to the organization because you are who you are and there is no one like you.
  • Lure employers because they need someone like you in the position you are seeking.
  • Keep it high level enough to make it relevant to any industry that might be looking for someone like you.

Don’ts

  • Talk about how you work at a granular level (specific tasks, job description details)
  • Marry yourself to an industry
  • Just say you’re awesome (even though you are!)

After you have drafted your personal brand statement, ask your friends, family or co-workers how they would describe you if they only had three sentences.  This will give you a lot of insight in to how you are perceived by others and is a great exercise in personal development.

Next, critique your brand statement as if you’re reading someone else’s resume.  What vibe do you get from it picturing a stranger?  Does your personal brand statement match your experience?  For example, if part of your brand statement is  “A dedicated leader who operates at a high caliber in order to deliver proven consistent results.” you probably ought to have some management experience on your resume, or at the very least, team lead status.

Finally, keep it to three-five sentences.  First sentence should be about your target position (leader = management, performer = sales, strategist = problem solver) unless you have a specific title like software developer, marketing executive or you’re a doctor.  The next sentence is your style, you get two sentences here if you have a lot of hats you need to talk about more than one style.  For example, if you’re a manager, you’ll want to talk about your personal work style and your management style, but if you’re an analyst or project manager, you want to just talk about your work style.  Lastly, your value:  what are you bringing to the table?  This is your team performance or individual performance values, not specific goals and numbers.  For example, as a manager of a call center, you might say, “My clear understanding of how team dynamics and emotional intelligence are necessary in building a cohesive and resilient team is instrumental to my success as a leader.”  This part of your brand is different than your objectives as a leader which might be to reduce turnover or increase team performance through cost effective incentives.

Thanks for reading!

XOXO
Andrea

Ask Angela – Advice

Maybe Angela needs her own WordPress, but for now we’re going to just go ahead and be partners in crime.  Do you need advice?  Nothing is off limits.  I can’t possibly post every question, but will do my best.

Email Angela at askangela@dakotasparkle.com.  She can’t wait to hear from you.

Ask Angela – Advice

Dear Angela,

I am a 30 something male.  I work with a 30 something female.  She is very particular and probably a little bit OCD.  She’s quite independent and she and I get along well.  I’ve only been at the company for a few months, but she’s been my mentor since I started.  When we were walking back from a job the other day I was carrying tools (as was she) and she told me to give her what I was carrying.  I told her that I had them and I wanted to clean them before returning them back to where they belonged.  She was clearly irritated with me, but I wanted to make sure to return them clean so I insisted that I bring them back to our office.
Fast forward a few hours, she storms into our shared office space and yells. “I don’t want you to carry my things or hold doors open for me or lift things for me.” And she stormed back out of the office.  It’s been really tense ever since.  As a guy, I don’t know what sparked this.  I had used the tools, got them dirty and wanted to clean them.  They don’t “belong” to either of us, they are property of the company.  I hold the doors for everyone.  I try to be a gentleman at all times.  It goes against my nature to not do these things.  What should I do?

Confused in Iowa
Dear Confused,

Chivalry is not dead!  But it sounds as if you have a very independent co-worker who is used to working alone.  However, everyone has to work together.  Because you have the male/female aspect of this situation and it sounds like you’re putting her off a bit, perhaps you should alert your boss to the conflict and ask him how he/she would like you to handle it.  It sounds like your co-worker might be a bit stressed out and I don’t think that it would serve you well to address the issue yourself.  Because of sexual harassment and hostile work environment laws, I would leave this particular issue to your manager to handle.

It seems to me you’re just being polite, unless you are insulting her in any other way or degrading her because she is a woman, I wouldn’t change the way you act around her.  That will just make it uncomfortable for both of you.

Keep us posted!

Angela

Ask Angela – Advice

Dear Angela,

My pre-teen daughter came home from her dads with a birthday gift the other day.  I asked her who it was from and she said, “From grandpa and grandma.”  I knew it wasn’t because they already gave her a gift, but let it go.  Later in the day, my daughter came to me and confessed that it was not from her grandparents, but from her father’s “friend.”  When I asked why she didn’t tell me that from the beginning she said that she didn’t want to hurt my feelings or make me mad.  I told her that it wasn’t a big deal and that she didn’t have to hide things from me.

Now, my ex-husband left me for this woman.  He has a picture of the two of them by his bed but my kids have never met her nor does he talk about her at all when they are around.  He texts her and talks to her on the phone but doesn’t really bring her up otherwise.

I’m angry that my daughter felt she needs to like to me to protect her father’s not-so-secret secret.  What should I do?  Should I talk to the kids about her?  Should I tell him about it?  I’m at a loss.

Well Lost,

You’re right, your daughter should not have to lie to you to protect you.  Good work there.

I wouldn’t “do” anything about it.  I would calmly tell your ex-husband what happened and ask him to either introduce her to the kids as his girlfriend or ask her to not buy things for them.  This puts the relationship on them where it belongs and you don’t have to be involved.  He doesn’t have to give the kids the gory details, but they should at least know where this woman stands in regards to their father.  If its not serious enough to introduce her as his girlfriend/significant other, then she probably doesn’t need to buy the kids gifts.

Stay Strong mama,

Angela

Ask Angela – Advice

I received the following question.

Dear Angela,

My new husband’s wife asked us to buy his three children new school shoes (not PE shoes).  We did that and also purchased clothes for the kids and a few other items.  When she picked the kids up all she said was “Wow” not “Thank You”, not “Oh gosh, you really went above and beyond.” Really?

Irritated New Step Mom

Dear Irritated New Step Mom,

Well isn’t she delightful.  Although she could probably use a quick lesson in manners and common courtesy, Remember that you don’t do stuff for her.   You didn’t buy her new shoes and clothes.  It is for the kids.  I think that will help you put things in perspective and could also help you from feeling like you’re feeling.  I wouldn’t give her more time and energy than she deserves.

XOXO
Angela

L – Love what you do!

Oh my gosh, it’s been over a month since I posted.  Wowzers.

Anyway, so the next installment here is L – Love what you do?  Are you in a job that makes you insane?  What do you want to be when you grow up?  What’s your 10 year plan?  If you’re just graduating college, you might not be able to answer these questions.  If you’re a 37 year old mother of two you might not be able to answer these questions.  The answer is that you don’t have to choose, you just have to make choices.  I never, in a million years, thought that I would be working as an analyst for a software firm in South Dakota.  Seriously, whose dream is that? But I love it.  Why do I love it?  It takes the best of me to do it.  I love to ask questions.  I love solving problems.  I love to make things work more efficiently.

So what can you do to love what you do?  I would suggest asking yourself a few different questions.

Do you hate your job because you’d rather be doing something else?   – So like, you’re server at Chili’s but you’d rather be a nurse.  Well it’s time to look in to going back to school.  It’s never too late to go to college.  EVER.  I don’t care how old you are.  If you want it, you’ll find a way.

Do you hate your job because of the people you work with?  – This one is a tough one, you can’t just decide to not associate with people, but you can decide to not share personal details about your life and be involved in their lives.  You can do your work and expect them to do theirs.  These are reasonable expectations.

Do you hate what you do, the actual work?  – Why do  you do it?  That’s the question you should ask yourself.  Is it the money?  What other jobs could you be doing for the same money.  Now if you are an exotic dancer or software developer, you might have to just consider a pay cut.  Money is not the end all be all of happiness.

Have questions about your job specifically?  email our answer gal!  askangela@dakotasparkle.com  I’ll post your questions anonymously and answer your question the best I can.

Until then!

XOXO

Andrea