Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Insider's Tip to Improving Communication and Engagement

Throughout my corporate career as well as my entrepreneurial journey, I have spent a lot of time on conference calls and meetings, and I bet you have too.

How many meetings have you been in where you’ve watched people pull out their phones and lower their heads to text or check out social media instead of paying attention to what's going on in the room?

Whether you are running your own business, getting started in your career, or leading a group of people, you will find yourself listening to other people. Sometimes they will tell you about concerns they have or problems they're dealing with, and sometimes they are presenting solutions or suggesting someone to be recognized for a job well done.

Regardless of the type of conversation, there is one activity that needs to be present in order to improve your communication skills and increase engagement: Active listening.

Active listening is more than just hearing what is said. It's more than just being in the room or on the phone and hearing the words from the other person. It's about being present in that moment and not allowing distractions, including your own thoughts, to get in the way.

What does active listening NOT look like? Here are a few hints:

* Thinking about how you are going to respond before the other person finishes speaking
* Being on your phone or using your computer when you are engaged in a conversation with someone else
* Taking an unnecessary interruption when you are in the middle of a conversation
* Thinking about something else other than the conversation (an example might be your to do list)

When you are not actively listening to the other person, it tells that individual that what he or she is saying is not important to you. In fact, it sends a message that you have other things that are more important for your attention, and they are not one of them.

As a leader, it’s important that your team understands that you value who they are. When you are actively listening to them, you're telling these individuals that what they have to say is important to you, even if you disagree with the information being shared.

What does active listening look like? Here are a few suggestions:

* Allowing calls to go to voice mail and return them after your meeting is done
* Turning off your email notification and respond after the conversation
* Being present in the conversation
* Listening to really understand what the other person is saying
* Paying attention to body language and letting nonverbal queues provide additional insight
* Listening to inflection and silence, especially if you are on the phone and cannot see the other person.

The more you include these suggestions into your communication tool kit, the more you will strengthen your active listening skills. And over time and practice, this seemingly small change will increase the engagement of your team. Your team will know they can talk with you about a problem or an idea and trust that you care enough to engage fully with them.

Remember that when you are engaging with someone else, you are exchanging your greatest gifts with each other: your time and attention.

Comment below and tell me one thing you can do differently to actively listen the next time you are engaged with someone else.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Do you really know what’s expected of you at work?

It’s the start of another workweek, and you are getting settled at your desk to start the day.

You have your morning tea or coffee in hand and are probably scrolling through your to-do list or emails before you tackle an assignment or head to a meeting.

You come to work to make good things happen, so you want to be as productive as possible.

But do you really know what’s expected of you?

Whether you are a paid employee or a volunteer, you are providing services to the organization. It’s more than just completing a list of tasks, collecting data or analyzing reports. It’s more than following the company’s policies and procedures, making phone calls or attending meetings.

And although each of those activities are necessary to keep an organization moving forward, there is one important activity that must be present for the others to be done with purpose.

You must know why you are there.

When you are clear on the company’s vision and why your role adds value to the organization, then you feel more engaged. You will rise to the next level of performance and you will be more productive.

When you are clear how your role supports your immediate team, department, division, and company, you will work with your teammates in an entirely different way.

What do you do if you aren’t clear on why you are there?

It’s simple – ask.

Take some time to learn about the company’s mission and vision and find out if your department has its own mission and vision. As you read both, do you see how they connect? From there, write down what you are responsible for and see how your tasks and roles align to the department’s and company’s missions and visions. If none of these are clear, ask your supervisor.

When you are doing purposeful work, then you are more confident that you are supporting the company’s vision and are more productive and energized. You know that what you are doing is adding value and that you are making a positive difference to the company.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What does your resume profile say about you?

You know your resume is a paper introduction to a potential employer.

You know its purpose is to enable you to stand out from the crowd of contenders and secure an interview.

So how can you improve the likelihood that your resume is screened through?

You make it easy for the interviewer to get to know you by including a resume profile.

Ideally, the resume profile is created after you have clearly explained your work experience. It’s the equivalent of an abstract to a research paper or a book summary on the back or inside of the jacket. The resume profile has three things:

A summary statement brings all of your work experience together into a cohesive picture;
Six to ten bullets that identify your overarching themes; and,
Personality assessment results, if you have them.

Let’s break these down a little more:

The summary statement is a way to highlight your strongest skills and work experience, so that the hiring manager can get an idea of what you would bring to the company. It should come right after your contact information in order to quickly provide some insight as to who you are. It’s important to note that it’s not an objective statement. This isn’t a “I want to do x kind of work”, but rather a “here’s what I’m bringing to the table.”

When you think about the six to ten bullets that follow the summary statement, their purpose is to bring attention to your natural strengths and well-developed skills and abilities. Taking the time to clearly identify your attributes makes it easier on the hiring managers to assess your abilities with their needs.  In addition to making this process a bit quicker for the hiring manager, you are also making sure your key strengths, skills, and abilities are directly stated and what you want your overall work experience to convey.

For example, if you have had jobs as a bank teller, food concession stand supervisor, and call center representative, one theme throughout your work experience might be customer service oriented.  If you did not excel in the customer service aspect of these jobs, then don’t list it because it would not be the best representation of your strengths and skills. Your themes become clearer as you evaluate the job responsibilities individually and collectively.

By displaying each theme as a bullet, the overall message is succinct and easy to digest. Each bullet is a bite-sized nugget of a few words that showcases your strengths.

For the third part, this is only applicable if you have results from a personality assessment. If you know you are an INTJ or your top five strengths, then include this information. It’s just a little more insight into who you are, and if the hiring manager is familiar with the language, then they get a clearer picture of you.

Crafting a resume takes time and effort to ensure it is the best paper representation of you. The more effort you put forth to strengthen and enhance how you communicate your experience and abilities, you exponentially increase your opportunity to move from the resume pile and into the interview group.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Leadership Secret to Employee Engagement

I’m a big fan of quotes and one from Fred Rogers, otherwise known as Mr. Rogers, comes to mind when I think of employee engagement:

“Whether we’re a preschooler or a young teen, a graduating college senior or a retired person, we human beings all want to know that we’re acceptable, that our being alive somehow makes a difference in the lives of others.”

Let’s take a few minutes and really let these words sink in.

It really doesn’t matter who we are, what we’ve accomplished, or what we have yet to do.

What matters is that we want to add value.  And to take it a step further, we want to know that we have added value.

Now, adding value can look different for each one of us. It could be as simple as lending a helping hand or listening to a friend who needs a sounding board.  It could be working with an important client and winning new business for your company or properly diagnosing an illness to enable someone to start feeling better.

So how might we actually know that we did add value and that we’re acceptable?

Part of it is that internal sense of peace when you just know.  And part of it can come from people.

Whether we work with volunteers or paid employees, when we tell someone very specifically how their contribution or character made a positive difference, we are letting the recipient know that he or she did add value.  It’s important that this feedback is specific, timely, sincere and clearly connecting the contribution to the difference the individual made.

Why is this so important to do?

When people feel appreciated, they will do more than what’s expected. They will understand that you genuinely care, and they will continue to contribute.  When this type of feedback comes from peers, it is encouraging and supportive. When this type of feedback comes from a leader, either formal like a boss or informal like an understood team lead, it can spark a new sense of enthusiasm for the job at hand.

So what’s the secret? It’s easy – tell them.

The single act of telling them shows that them that someone else was paying attention and cared enough say so.  Think back to a compliment you received and it was specific, timely and sincere. Think back to how the person explained how your contribution mattered to them or the overall project.  Think back to how you felt receiving it. Even if you were a little embarrassed, it probably felt good that someone noticed and told you.

Remember – people want to be accepted and know that they matter.

Comment below with the experience you were thinking of and how you will try this step with others.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

5 Tips For Resume Writing

Whether you are entering the workforce or changing jobs, there is one document that is your vehicle to being seen and getting your foot in the door for the interview, and that’s the resume.

There are so many styles and ways to display your skills, experience and extra activities, but if they are hard for the reader to digest or really understand what you did, then the resume is not working to your advantage.

So what can you do?

1) Make it easy to read

Although this may seem obvious, take some time to really look at how the information is laid out on the paper.

  • Is the selected font a reasonable reading size and style? 
  • Is there enough white space to break up the text? 
  • Are there one or two words that could replace a phrase and still communicate clearly what you accomplished?

The easier the font, the use of white space to break up the text and streamlining words all enable your resume to be easier to read.

2) What's the “so what”?

Think of the “so what” as your competitive advantage. It's the thing that makes you stand out for what makes YOU unique like your specific skills and natural strengths.

To help demonstrate this, let’s take an example and show two different ways to communicate the task.

Years ago, I was in a role that required the department to submit checklists to me for a monthly analysis.

 So one way to show this task on a resume would be:

  • Collect and analyze monthly data for management team

However, the key – or the “so what” - was what I actually did with the results.  An updated bullet that takes this into consideration could be:

  • Developed and deployed communication plan based on department’s key metrics in order to minimize rework and improve product quality to client

As you can see in the second example, the data collected is being used to propose a solution and do more for the organization than just simply process paper.  Look at the bullets you have and identify where and how you’ve done more than what was stated.  For those responsibilities where you have done more, then say so. This makes it clearer why someone should hire YOU and not someone else.

3) Where do you want to be? 

It's great to have a general resume that captures the work you have done, but as you look at the job or career path you want to take, then take the time to shape your resume for that path.  It demonstrates to the hiring manager that you have taken the time to understand what they are looking for and how you are the best fit for the role.  It also shows them how you think.  And even for those experiences that do not seem to relate as easily, they still contributed to who you are today and what you have to offer, so help the reader understand how that experience can help them in the job they are filling.

4) The devil is in the details

How many times have you written something only to realize later that there was a typo or incorrect word used? It can happen to the best of us, so do your best to make sure it doesn’t happen on your resume.  After you have spent time on your resume, take a break and do not look at it for a few hours or even a few days. When you come back to it, read each word, each sentence, out loud. This little step will enable you to catch when a word is missing or the bullet should be restated.  Have another person review it and offer constructive feedback. Lastly, be sure to use proper punctuation, which includes omitting the period after a bullet point.

5) References please

When thinking about references, you want to talk with the other person first. Ask for their permission to be a reference and how they want to be contacted.  This should not be a cold call from the prospective new employer and blindside the person being asked to give the reference.  However, once you have secured some references, it’s not needed to state on your resume that they are available upon request. At one time it was suggested to do, but hiring managers already know this and will do it, if they are interested.  Put the space that could have been for mentioning references to better use by creating a stronger resume.

Remember – your resume is your first impression to the company’s hiring manager. Make it the best impression you possibly can, so that they can’t wait to meet you in person. The information that you include in your resume needs to add value as to why someone should choose you for the position they are hiring for. The content should amplify what you have done well enough so that the reader can make some deductions of what you are capable of doing for them.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Einstein & Moo and the Unexpected Visitor - New Release and Giveaway!

I'm excited to share that book six in the Einstein and Moo series is releasing tomorrow! And.... there's a special Goodreads Giveaway starting today! It's running through this Sunday August 20, so be sure to enter for your chance to win one signed copy of Einstein & Moo and the Unexpected Visitor!

(c) August 2017 - Jennifer Milius
Einstein & Moo and the Unexpected Visitor is about a perfect day when something different inside the house catches Einstein and Moo’s attention.  Although each kitty has their own way of investigating, they are hopeful they found a friend.  Read on to find out what Einstein and Moo discover….

The contest ends August 20, so be sure to enter for your chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Einstein & Moo and the Unexpected Visitor by Jennifer Milius

Einstein & Moo and the Unexpected Visitor

by Jennifer Milius

Giveaway ends August 20, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, June 12, 2017

Let the New Chapter Begin!

So excited to share some news with you! After years of informally helping and coaching others in their careers, and with the encouragement from family and close friends, I am embracing career + leadership coaching into my business. So writing, speaking, coaching - yep that's what I do and have done my whole career.... really throughout life :) Over the last month, my website has been revamped, and I'm over the moon about it and can't wait to share it! If you are interested in seeing what all the hub bub is about, it's www.jennifermilius.com. Here we come new chapter!