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Two Ways to Leave Work Stress Behind
After a long day, it can be a struggle to leave work behind you. Too often, we take out job-related stress on our friends, children, or partners. Here are two ways to make sure your work troubles stay at the office:
Have an end-of-work habit. Signal to your brain that it’s time to go home with a ritual that helps you unwind. Take a more scenic route home, listen to music on the bus, go to the gym. Make time for this habit so you can switch gears before you get home, not as you’re walking in the door.
Create a third space. It’s easy to just shuttle back and forth — physically and emotionally — between work and home. But having a third space besides these two locations will help you decompress. It might be anything from a quiet café to a book club to a poker night. It should be a place where you explore your interests, relax, and ideally find fulfillment.
Assess New Hires for Creativity
To build a team of creative thinkers, you need to hire people who are open to new experiences and have resilience, emotional stability, flexibility, and empathy. During interviews with potential hires, ask questions that test for these traits. For example, you might ask the candidate to come up with multiple solutions to a problem, and then see if they are able to draw connections between those solutions to find a novel approach. If you want to test a candidate’s ability for empathy, ask them to create a persona for a new product, or have them tell a story about a day in the life of a potential customer to see whether they can take on someone else’s perspective. These exercises give you valuable clues as to how well the applicant can connect with others both emotionally and intellectually.
Don’t Let Important Customers Pressure You into Giving Them a Discount
When a customer knows that you can’t afford to lose them, they’ll often try everything in their power to wring out cost savings. But don’t give into the pressure to give them a discount. Change the tenor of the conversation by focusing on the value you create for them. Ask which features or services they’d be willing to give up to get a lower price. Doing so will move the conversation away from haggling and toward a productive discussion about what they really value. And don’t get rattled if your customer goes quiet, stops returning phone calls, and ignores you. Remember, you are their preferred supplier for a reason, and there will likely be substantial switching costs if they want to change vendors. Silence is a powerful negotiation tactic; don’t let it push you into giving a revenue-destroying discount.
In a Heated Negotiation, Use Facts, Not Threats
When it comes to negotiations, let’s face it: We don’t always act rationally. And quite often a seemingly friendly discussion can turn nasty. If you and your counterpart are not seeing eye to eye, don’t try to force the other person to take your point of view by threatening them. Instead, do everything you can to share your understanding of the situation without implying that you have malicious intent. Try to frame implications as natural consequences, not calculated revenge. Rather than saying, “Cross the non-compete one inch and we’ll sue you,” say, “I want to be clear that I have an obligation to protect the firm’s interests.” You don’t need to apologize for protecting your interests, but don’t relish your power to do so. And always press for dialogue, not concession. As you share any potential natural consequences, reassure your counterpart of your wish to avoid those consequences and your willingness to continue the dialogue in search of better mutual outcomes.
Make Sure Your Next Big Meeting Actually Accomplishes Something
How many times have you walked out of a theoretically important meeting and thought, “What did we accomplish?” More often than not, the problem isn’t with what did or didn’t happen at the meeting — nothing got done because the meeting’s goals were never firmly established. Whether it’s a 15-person executive team meeting or a 150-person leadership conference, the first step when planning an important meeting should be to draft an initial set of goals based on the answers to these two questions:
- What do you want to have debated, decided, or discovered at the end of this session that you and the team haven’t already debated, decided, or discovered?
- What do you want attendees to say when their team members ask, “What happened at the meeting?”
Answering both questions will give you a high-level understanding of what the meeting needs to accomplish.
Focus on What You Have in Common When Working Across Cultures
When working with a person from another culture, your instinct might be to try to identify cultural differences so that you can alter your own behavior to avoid any faux pas. But focusing on differences alone won’t help you build connections. To do that, you have to focus on similarities. Perhaps it’s a hobby you have in common, a shared love of football (European or American), or the fact that both of you are trying to Skype your families back home. You can discover these commonalities in conversation, through basic research, or simply by noticing the pictures and memorabilia on the person’s desk. The possibilities are endless. By focusing on similarities, you have the power to create connections and build relationships that either supersede cultural differences or make them irrelevant. Adapted from: “To Connect Cross Cultures, Find Out What You Have In Common”, by Andy Molinsky and Sujin Jang.
How to Fake the Confidence You Need
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and in over your head, the best way to power through is to pretend you’ve got the confidence you need to get something done. These strategies can help you fake it ‘til you make it:
- Think positively. The more you focus on what’s scary about the challenge, the more intimidated you’ll feel. Try framing your new team, project, or initiative not as a threat but as an opportunity to do something new.
- Watch and learn. Observe how others lead. Pay attention to how they use humor, silence, and charisma to influence others — then tailor those tactics to your individual style.
- Use bold body language. Take long strides. Sit up straight. Walk with your chest held high. Don’t slouch. Carrying yourself in a way that conveys power, poise, and healthy pride helps you feel more self-assured, which comes across to others.
Avoid Fighting With Your Spouse When You Get Home From Work
The most challenging part of the day can be when you arrive home and inadvertently get into a fight with your spouse. It happens because we often forget our interpersonal skills as soon as we walk through the door. We tend to think we can just “be ourselves” without worrying about how we’ll be perceived or the impact on our partners. But people skills are just as necessary at home as they are at work. It’s unrealistic and unhelpful for couples to expect that they’ll automatically be in sync when they arrive home; different needs, different recovery times, and different experiences during the day make it more likely that you’ll be out of sync. That’s why it’s important to identify your needs as individuals and talk about them as a couple — but don’t do it right when you get home. Set aside some time to talk when you’re both feeling more relaxed.
The Best Leaders Question Everything
It can be difficult for leaders (especially senior ones new to their roles) to pause before acting. But when was the last time you stopped to ask, “Why are we doing it that way?” Leaders must constantly explore new ideas and seek out new thinking from those around them. You need to regularly ask uncomfortable questions and think about whether to change or abandon an existing strategy. The best leaders step back and look at the big picture every so often. They surround themselves with diverse teams and capitalize on opportunities to hear and experiment with new ideas. They give themselves time to surface divergent opinions that ultimately lead to smarter business decisions. Adapted from “When Was the Last Time You Asked ‘Why Are We Doing It This Way?’ by Hal Gregersen.
How to Think About Organizational Culture
Organizational culture shapes both employee productivity and business results, but often it is ambiguous and hard to define. To help, think of culture as three layers with increasing levels of importance: Culture is seen through symbols, rituals, stories, and organizational events — the first things we experience when we join an organization. Culture is reflected in how people in the organization think, behave, and feel — in other words, it appears in individual values, team norms, and unwritten rules. Culture is the company’s identity as perceived by its best customers, representing an outside-in view. For example, Apple wants to be known for its design and simplicity; Marriott, for exceptional service; Google, for innovation. By shifting the focus on culture from symbols (#1) and values (#2) to customer expectations and company identity (#3), leaders can better create and define a culture that wins in the marketplace.
Managing the Naysayer on Your Team
Most teams have at least one “opposer” — that person who always plays the devil’s advocate. The opposer may be brilliant and driven, but their pattern of critiquing and disagreeing can wear a team down. And yet opposition is essential for effective, productive teams. So what can a manager do to welcome a naysayer’s contributions without personalizing what feels like an attack? First, understand that these people almost never have bad intentions — they are usually trying very hard to do something they see as valuable and crucial for the good of the team. Encourage everyone on the team to share an opposing view to normalize and operationalize dissenting opinions. Then really listen to, consider, and evaluate the ideas. And ask everyone to articulate when they are in agreement so their comments will be seen as balanced. Ultimately, you should try to see opposing views as a sign of team health. Adapted from “How to Handle the Naysayer on Your Team,” by Jennifer Porter.
What to Consider Before Joining a Startup
When deciding whether or not to join a startup, there’s a tendency to fantasize about the opportunity and obsess about the risk—neither of which are productive. To determine if you’re ready to take the leap, follow these steps. First, reflect on your motivations. Thinking about what you hope to get out of the experience will help you identify the right opportunity. Second, get to know the team by spending a few days onsite observing how work gets done. If possible, do a side project with the company. Next, do due diligence on the company’s financials. Find out: Is this company pre- or post-revenue? What is its burn rate? Block out the possibility that this startup is your ticket to fabulous wealth. Assume the equity is worth nothing. Finally, weigh the opportunity against all other possible uses of your time. Joining a startup is not just a job. It’s a lifestyle.
Keep Your Team from Burning Out
It’s tough enough to manage your own stress. But how can you help the members of your team handle their feelings of stress, burnout, or disengagement? One approach is to focus on your employees’ personal growth and development. Offer tools like mindfulness and resilience training. Encourage people to take time for exercise or other renewal activities, such as walking meetings. Build buffer time into deliverables schedules so that people can work flexibly and at a manageable pace. Encourage mono-tasking by defining milestones that don’t overlap, and avoid the trap of mistaking the urgent for the important. Allow time and space for people to disconnect outside of work, and be deliberate about helping people pause and recharge during down cycles. Finally, it doesn’t cost anything to be kind. Doing well at work and encouraging people to feel well isn’t just possible — it’s the foundation of a high-performance team. Adapted from “Help Your Team Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout,” by Rich Fernandez
Make Learning a Habit
If you want to keep growing, you need to make learning a habit. To get started, be specific about what you’re asking yourself to do. Resolutions like “read more” or “learn new things” are too vague. Your goals need to be concrete and measurable: “Spend two hours every Thursday afternoon reading all the articles I saved during the week.” Schedule the time on your calendar, and resist the temptation to do other work during that window. Monitor your behavior closely to push yourself in the right direction. If you know that some of your coworkers make on-the-job learning a habit, go out of your way to spend time with them. Studies show that we tend to pick up habits from the people around us. And the most important thing to remember? We must shape our habits to suit ourselves — our own nature, our own interests, our own strengths. When we understand ourselves, we can apply habit-forming strategies with the greatest chance of success.
Your Next Presentation Needs a Villain and a Hero
Make your next presentation more compelling by focusing on its three main actors: the villain, the victim, and the hero. In software, the villain might be slow or unreliable programs, the victims are frustrated users, and the hero is new or updated technology that works correctly and efficiently. In manufacturing, the villain might be expensive or defective products, the victims are the consumers paying for them, and the hero is safe merchandise that performs as promised. When you’re telling a story, paint a colorful picture of your customers’ difficulties while displaying ample sympathy for their plight. If you depict the consumer’s predicament in gritty, sympathetic terms, then the “virtue” of your company should resonate with customers, colleagues, and media alike.
Turn Conference Introductions into Ongoing
After your next conference, social media tools can help you follow up with the people you really want to make a part of your professional network. Try these strategies:
- Install a business-card-processing app on your smartphone that can scan cards with a camera and convert them to contact information.
- If you meet someone and hit it off, connect right away. Send your pal a tweet from your smartphone right then and there.
- At the end of each trip, make a “keeper” pile of business cards for people you want to stay in touch with, then use your business card app to capture them.
- Use your business card app’s social networking function to send each person a LinkedIn connection invitation.
- Send your “keepers” a personal e-mail saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and suggesting when or how
- you’ll follow up.
Use Conferences to Inspire, not Stress Yourself Out
Going to conferences can be a terrific perk, but it can make you feel that you have to prove your attendance was worth the time and money. Some people try to bring back as much knowledge and as many contacts as possible; others spend hours writing up a conference report for their boss and colleagues. But if you’re too focused on proving the conference was a good investment, you may forget to make the most of it in the first place. So instead of trying to be a “super attender,” simply focus on learning something new and meeting a few people you wouldn’t have otherwise. The point of getting out of the office is to recharge your batteries. Use your time to explore things that excite you and to attend the panels and talks that you’re interested in — even if they aren’t necessarily the ones you “should” attend.
Ease the Transition for an Employee You’re Letting Go
All companies need different kinds of talent at different points in their life cycles. Sometimes you have to part ways with collegial, talented employees who just aren’t the right fit anymore. Here’s how to help ease their transition out of your organization:
- Don’t wait to say what isn’t working. When you have to give someone negative feedback, ask them if they see the same performance gaps that you see. Be respectful and compassionate, and get them talking so they don’t shut down.
- Once you decide someone isn’t a long-term fit, tell them. Don’t fire them on the spot; give them as much time as possible to figure out their next move. Help them think through their strengths and where they might go from here.
- Don’t forget the survivors. After helping the employee exit with grace, focus on your remaining team. Be clear about what’s happening, and spell out what success looks like going forward.
Learn How to Manage Your Inner Critic
Self-doubt can have a tremendous negative impact. If you’re hampered by a harsh inner critic, you’re likely to talk yourself out of sharing your ideas and insights, which hurts you, your team, and the company. One of the most powerful ways you can deal with your inner critic is to develop a toolkit for managing self-doubt. To start, first understand that your inner critic isn’t driven by logic, so arguing with it is a waste of time. Instead of arguing, ask yourself where the self-criticism is coming from. Inner critics often stem from inflated fears about vulnerability and failure. Then learn to manage the inner critic. Notice when you hear the voice and what it’s criticizing. Are there certain situations or issues that trigger it? Remind yourself that what you’re hearing is unfounded criticism — then decide that you simply won’t take direction from it.
Ease the Transition to Managing Former Peers
Being promoted into a manager position is exciting, but it can be awkward if your new team is made up of your former peers. When you’re promoted over people who have always been friends (or rivals), the power relationship is inevitably altered. Here’s how to ease the transition:
- Meet with each team member one-on-one. Individual meetings let you personalize your message and be more candid than a group setting allows. Talk to each person about what they do and how you can help them.
- Hold a team meeting. Using some ideas from the one-on-ones, discuss the purpose of the team, what should change, and what should stay the same. Explain how you like to operate and how you want your team to work together.
- Deal swiftly with challenges to your authority. If someone resists your leadership or goes behind your back, state your displeasure firmly and ask what’s causing their dissent.
Stop Good Ideas from Going Nowhere
Anyone who’s worked inside a large company can name a few reasons why good ideas die: conflict with existing businesses, naysayers, insufficient resources, and so on. Yet when companies decide to “get more innovative,” they typically forget to address the things that kill promising ideas. Here’s how to change that:
- Start with a survey. Ask your innovation MVPs about the company dynamics that strangle new ideas — then take action on their answers.
- Get external validation. Selling an idea is easier when customers know about it and can express their desire for it.
- Invest real money. Ideas can’t succeed unless companies allocate sufficient resources for them to do so.
- Reward decision makers who back winning ideas. But make sure that backing losing ones isn’t a career-ending move.
- Think weekly, not quarterly. Moving slowly kills ideas and demoralizes investors. Looks for ways to speed up the building process.
Change How You Think About Presentations
- Bless, don’t impress. Instead of worrying what people will think of you, focus on what they’ll get out of your talk.
- Rehearse, but don’t obsess. Practice three times: Once you’ve prepared the talk, the day before you give it, and a few hours before you go on.
- Create rest stops. Presenting for 180 minutes is a huge task. Think of your talk as a series of 10-minute chunks instead.
- Breathe. There’s nothing innately stressful about presenting – the stress comes from us. Breathe deeply and slowly and use a power pose to calm your last-minute jitters.
Adapted from “6 Ways to Reduce the Stress of Presenting,” by Joseph Grenny.
Micromanagement Limits Your Team’s Growth
- Understand why you do it. Micromanaging often comes from a place of insecurity. To help, think about the reasons you shouldn’t micromanage instead.
- Prioritize what actually matters. Determine which tasks truly need to be done by you. The real work of leaders is to think strategically, not to do their team’s jobs for them.
- Talk to your team. Be clear about when you want updates on their work, so they can help ease your anxiety. Ask them how you can change your behavior to better support them.
- Step back slowly. Tell your employees you trust them to make decisions. And try not to overreact when things don’t go exactly as you’d like.
Adapted from “How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team,” by Rebecca Knight.
Don’t Be Afraid of Managing People Who Are Smarter Than You
- Consider whether your fears are based in reality. Insecurity can affect your interactions with your team, so don’t ignore feelings of self-doubt.
- Reach out to other managers for advice. Share your concerns and ask how they’ve handled similar situations.
- Give, and take, feedback. Don’t try to evaluate your direct reports on areas where you have no knowledge – stick to areas where you have authority. And tell your employees that you’re comfortable receiving feedback from them.
- Empower your employees. Use your skills to support them in their goals, and give them room to do what they do best.
- Project confidence, but not too much. Be calm, respectful, and take yourself and others seriously.
Adapted from “How to Manage People Who Are Smarter than You,” by Rebecca Knight.
Two Ways to Grow at Work Without a Promotion
Beware of Humblebragging About Yourself
Influence Others Even If You’re Not an Expert
Make Networking Events Easier
- Bringing a friend. When you have a “wingman” to help highlight your accomplishments at events, it can give you the confidence you need to approach others. Just avoid spending the entire evening talking to that person
- Preparing a few opening lines. Develop a few questions to help you kickstart a dialogue. What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now? How do you spend most of your time? How did you hear about the event?
- Researching in advance. It’s easier to talk to someone if they don’t feel like a stranger. Looking up speakers and attendees ahead of time will help you come up with topics of conversation.
Adapted from “Networking When You Hate Talking to Strangers,” by Dorie Clark.
Avoid the Pitfalls of Emotions in Email
- People overestimate their ability to convey emotions in email. The simplest way to avoid confusion is to explicitly state the emotion you want to relay. For example, “I’m very happy with this…” or “I’m confused…”
- People also read and interpret emotions differently. Prevent misunderstandings by imagining how your email will sound to the recipient.
- We tend to trust those who act like us. Mimicking the style of the person you’re emailing, whether through emoticons, exclamation points, or slang, can help you come across the way you intend.
- It’s easy to appear fake or ungenuine over email. Sometimes, making an intentional typo can help you seem warmer and more authentic, especially when you’re in a position of power.
Adapted from “The Dos and Don’ts of Work Email, from Emojis to Typos,” by Andrew Brodsky.
Make Public Speaking Less Scary
- Prepare thoroughly. Research your topic, anticipate tough questions, and practice your delivery.
- Imagine giving the presentation. How will it feel? How will you begin? What will the audience look like?
- Stay calm and loose. In most cases, people can’t tell that you’re nervous. If you stumble, act as though it didn’t happen.
- Get used to looking at blank faces. When you’re talking to someone one-on-one, they give physical and verbal cues that they’re listening. Groups of people don’t always do that.
- Get comfortable with uncertainty. At a certain point you have to trust that you’ve done all you can to prepare. Remember: the likelihood that your worst fears will come true is slim.
Adapted from “Conquer Your Nerves Before Your Presentation,” by Nancy Duarte.
Get the Credit You Deserve
Know When It’s Time to Start Looking for a New Job
We’re wired to avoid change — even when we are unhappy. That’s why it’s so difficult to leave a job, no matter how uninspiring or monotonous it may be. But sometimes a career switch is in your best interest. A few key signs can help you decide to make a move:
- You’re not learning. Studies have shown that the happiest progression to old age involves work that stimulates the mind into continuous learning.
- You’re underperforming. If you could do your job in your sleep, you’re almost certainly underperforming. Sooner or later, this will harm your résumé and employability. You’re better off finding a job that entices you to perform at your highest level.
- You feel undervalued. You won’t enjoy your work unless you feel appreciated, especially by your manager. And feeling undervalued makes you more likely to burn out and engage in counterproductive work behaviors, like absenteeism and sabotage.
Adapted from “5 Signs It’s Time for a New Job,” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.
Meetings Need a Clear Decision-Making Process
The more prep you do before a meeting, the more productive it will be. That’s why we’re careful to identify a meeting’s purpose (do you need to make a decision, solve a problem, rally the troops, etc.), create an agenda, and invite the right people. But there’s another important step that many forget: identifying the decision-making process. Choosing a method ahead of time helps ensure that you leave with a clear outcome. Here are some options:
- A majority vote lets every voice be heard, though some people might not be comfortable declaring their opinion publicly.
- Group consensus allows participants to share their expertise and enhances the chance for buy-in from all parties.
- Leader’s choice is usually the fastest approach, so you’d opt for this during appropriate in a crisis, for example. But you may need to work harder to get skeptics on board.
Adapted from “A Checklist for Planning Your Next Big Meeting,” by Harvard Business Review Staff.
Follow the 8-18-1800 Rule for Meetings
For a meeting to be useful, you have to have the right people – and only the right people – in the room. With too many attendees, you’ll have trouble focusing everyone’s time and attention and accomplishing anything; with too few, you might not have the right decision makers or stakeholders in the room. Before your next meeting, think about the 8-18-1800 rule:
- If you want to solve a problem or make a decision, invite no more than 8 people.
- If you want to brainstorm, you can go up to 18 people.
- If the purpose of the meeting is for you to provide updates, invite however many people need to hear those updates. But if everyone will be giving updates, limit the number of participants to no more than 18.
- If the purpose of the meeting is for you to rally the troops, go for 1,800 – or more.
Be a Less Autocratic Leader
Trying to lead a seasoned, highly skilled team through command-and-control won’t work. These groups need leaders who are emotionally and intellectually agile, and able to modulate styles as needed. To be less autocratic, try shifting:
- From self-awareness to social awareness. It’s not enough to know your own strengths and weaknesses. You have to know how your behavior affects people. Ask: What is the impact of your management style on others? How do you know what others are feeling?
- From directive to inquisitive. When you’re trying to foster creativity, you need to be less declarative and more curious. Ask: How much time do you spend listening rather than speaking? How do you leverage diverse perspectives?
- From power over to power with. When you flaunt authority, people will often shut down or hide, and the team loses momentum. Ask: How do you stimulate the best thinking from your team? How often do team members make decisions?
Adapted from “Learn to Become a Less Autocratic Manager,” by Jeffrey W. Hull.
Get Better at Remembering People’s Names
It’s a problem many of us have experienced: You meet someone new and two seconds later you can’t remember his or her name. This is hugely important in building business connections, so here are a few tips:
- Get it right the first time. If you’re introduced to someone and don’t catch her name right away, ask her to say it again. If it’s a name you don’t recognize, ask about its origin or how it’s spelled.
- Use it right away. “It’s nice to meet you, John.” Don’t overdo it, but try to work the name into the conversation a few times as you start talking.
- Ask for a business card. Don’t just stick it in your pocket. Take a look at it and comment on the logo or something else while you focus on the name.
- Connect the name to something familiar. This will help you remember it later.
Adapted from “How to Remember a Name,” by Diane Darling.
Turn Your Business Case into a Compelling Story
Know When It’s Time to Kill a Project
Adapted from “Zombie Projects: How to Find Them and Kill Them,” by Scott Anthony, David Duncan, and Pontus M.A. Siren.
Use the Right Pronouns When Trying to Calm Your Nerves
Don’t Let Searching for More Evidence Delay a Decision
Let Your Employees Nap at 3 PM
Keep Checking In on Your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be strengthened over time with commitment and discipline. But those who most need to develop it often realize that too late. So here are some telltale signs that you need to work on your emotional intelligence:
- You get impatient and frustrated when you think that others don’t get to the point soon enough.
- You’re surprised when others are sensitive to your comments or jokes, and you think they’re overreacting.
- You think being liked at work is overrated.
- You weigh in early with your opinions and stand behind them no matter what.
- You hold others to the same high expectations you hold for yourself.
- You find others are to blame for most of the issues on your team.
- You find it annoying when others expect you to know how they feel.
Adapted from “Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence” by Muriel Maignan Wilkins.
Apologize Quickly If You Send an Embarrassing Email
Befriend Your Boss Without Causing Resentment
To Get Candid Feedback, Ask for It
Add Social Fluency to Your Leadership Skills
Make Good Writing a Part of Your Skill Set
Are You Sure You’re Not a Micromanager?
Greater Engagement Starts with Leaders
Find Your Footing After a Bad Performance Review
Use Your Commute to Practice Mindfulness
Have a Strategy for Speaking to a Small Audience
4 Ways to Improve Your Storytelling Skills
People are wired for good stories. If you can weave a compelling story into your presentation or meeting, your message will be more memorable. Hone your storytelling skills:
- Parachute in. Avoid “Let me tell you a story about a time I learned…” Drop your audience immediately into the action and draw the lesson out later.
- Follow the “Goldilocks” rule for details. Give too much detail and your audience is lost or bored; too little, and they lack enough context. Test your story with friends to find the right level of detail.
- Focus on one person with one thought. Focus on one person at a time, for four to seven seconds, and try to connect with as many people as possible.
- Use silence for impact. Silence draws emphasis to what was just said or what is about to come, and it allows others to contribute their own interpretations.
Adapted from “A Refresher on Storytelling 101” by JD Schramm.
Rebuild a Work Relationship That’s Gone Sour
Don’t Be Afraid to Cold-Email Powerful People
We’re often hesitant to reach out to senior leaders who are only an email away. But a concise email to the right person can open up new possibilities for learning and growth – it’s happened for many people. And besides, what’s the worst that could happen? So the next time you want to cold-email someone powerful, consider these tips:
- Expect a 50–90% failure rate (i.e., no response) the first time you cold-email someone.
- Emailing once every two days is politely persistent, but you should probably give up after three or four tries without a reply.
- Weekends are often the best time to send busy executives a note, since they may have more time to read something.
- Keeping your message short and to the point increases the chance it will actually get read – and you may even get a response.
Turn Your Boring Q&A Session Around
A lot of Q&As fall flat. Not all speakers are good at handling questions, not everyone participates, and not all questions are relevant. Luckily, there are ways to make these sessions better:
- Do an inverse Q&A. The speaker poses a question to the audience, letting people discuss it with their neighbors.
- Ask for reactions, not just questions. Invite people to share observations.
- Have people vet questions in groups. Ask people to think of good, relevant questions in small groups. Then ask for some examples.
- Tell a final story after the Q&A. Stop the Q&A session a few minutes before the end to share one final example. That way, even if it falls flat, you can still end your session with a bang instead of a fizzle.
Don’t Let “Viral” Get in the Way of Good Marketing
Working Quickly Isn’t Always the Best Idea
Push Your Team Out of a Rut
To Delegate Successfully, Make Expectations Clear
Tell a Good Story When Presenting a Business Case
How to Spot Abusive Behavior on Your Team
Abusive behavior at work stems from three distinct roles: the manager who is preying on the weak, the victim who fails to defend himself, and the witness who does nothing to stop it. No matter which role you’re in, you can disrupt the unhealthy dynamic by behaving differently.
- As the manager: Ask yourself if you’re taking your frustrations out on the person who’s least likely to fight back. Find a better way to channel your stress, so you don’t project onto your team.
- As the victim: Stand up for yourself. Not pushing back only invites more aggression. Next time, say something strong: “I think we can resolve this without raising voices.”
- As the witness: Do something. Reach out to your teammate to provide support, advice, and coaching. Try to defuse abusive behavior in meetings. If someone continually interrupts the person, ask everyone to hear her out.
Learn to Say the Perfect “No”
Recognize When You’re Being Passive-Aggressive
Stop Bragging About Being Busy
We’re all too busy — and we’re proud of it. We want to do it all, have it all, and achieve it all. It’s no wonder why we backdoor-brag about being swamped: it’s code for being successful and important. But in the long run, all this motion leads to burnout. The antidote is to pursue less: design your life around what is essential and eliminate everything else. Disciplined prioritizing can leave you with work-free weekends, more thinking time, and time with friends.
- Set up a personal quarterly offsite. Here’s a simple rule of 3: every three months take three hours to identify the three things you want to accomplish over the next three months.
- Add expiration dates on new activities. Not every new activity has to become a tradition.
- Say no to a good opportunity every week. This is counterintuitive, but if we don’t do it, we’ll never have enough time to figure out what we really want to invest our time in.
Three Rules for More Productive Meetings
- Keep the invitee list to seven. The Rule of 7 states that every attendee over seven reduces the likelihood of making a good, quick, executable decision by 10%. So once you hit 16 to 17, your decision effectiveness is basically zero.
- Make most meetings under an hour. Most of us schedule 60-minute meetings by default. Every additional minute generates more cost, so try blocking off shorter amounts of time that can be spent more productively. Can you get through your agenda in 30 or 45 minutes instead?
- Use longer meetings sparingly. Create (and enforce) a new rule: any meetings scheduled to be 90 minutes or longer need senior approval.
Overcome Your Fear of Conflict
Regroup from a Failing Project
Accommodate Older Workers
Treat Your Next Work Interruption like an Opportunity
A Winning Business Model Starts with One Primary Customer
Stop Trying to Control Employees or Make Them Happy
For decades, two common thought processes have influenced management. Managers take a “hard” approach when it comes to addressing challenges − creating new structures, processes, and systems. And they opt for a “soft” approach when they need to boost morale − launching initiatives like off-sites or lunchtime yoga. The problem is that both of these are outdated in an age of mounting complexity. Stop trying to control people or make them happy; instead, give your employees more autonomy and encourage them to work with each other. Start by understanding what your employees do and why they do it, and foster cooperation by giving people the power and interest to do so. If you increase the total quantity of power (don’t just shift existing power around), create direct feedback loops, and reward those who cooperate, employees will feel liberated and empowered to make critical judgments and to come up with creative solutions to problems.
How Bosses Can Maintain Friendships at Work
It’s not always easy to have friends at work when you’re the boss. The critical skill senior leaders need to maintain their leadership and friendships is emotional courage – the willingness to act powerfully in the face of deep emotion. Three tactics can help you navigate this complexity – and make you a more capable leader overall. Have a strong, clear commitment to your business objectives. If you want to achieve something, you must be willing to make hard decisions. Be transparent, upfront, and passionate, even as others, including friends, disagree with you. Develop your friendship skills. Certain skills, like unwavering integrity, empathetic listening, and strong boundaries, can help you manage dual roles of friend and business leader. Be prepared to lose the friendship. Recognize that you ultimately can’t control what happens to the friendship. Some people just might not be able to live with your decisions. Learn to feel the sadness and move on.