You know what it’s like. Some people are so much fun to work with that you actually look forward to seeing their faces come Monday morning.
And others? Well. You wish they worked somewhere else.
It’s great to be a memorable coworker — as long as it’s for the right reasons. There are two kinds of skills that will make people want to work with you: professional and interpersonal.
We all know people who have the most pleasant personalities but can’t make bread in a bakery. And we know others who are the best things since sliced bread when those sales goals need meeting, but they just happen to be the biggest jerks on the planet.
Either combination is sourdough for all concerned. You’re fooling yourself if you think that you can focus on one in the absence of the other.
There are six indispensable interpersonal and professional skills that will make you memorable.
You’re pleasant to be around. You’re cool under pressure. Your focus is on our success — not just your own or the task at hand. You care about and connect with me as a person and a human being.
Relationship Action: Stop saying “hello.” It may sound counterintuitive, but “hello” and “how are things?” have become ubiquitous, impersonal greetings that mostly mean “I see you” — and sometimes not even that. We say them without a second thought and certainly without expecting a response. Instead, take the time to stop and talk. Show interest in the success of others – both in work and outside of it.
If your childhood report cards gave you high marks for playing well with others, then you’re headed in the right direction. Working well with others, providing support, input and guidance when asked and proactive when you see the opportunity will set you — and others — up for success.
Relationship Action: When others ask for your input or advice, stop what you are doing, talk to them, and don’t multi-task. When participating in a team meeting or problem solving discussion, be present.
Far too many professionals get this one wrong. They think they’re too busy, too important or both to “make nice.” And they have the entirely erroneous view that, in order to demonstrate competence, they have to maintain a reign of terror. We may not be best friends, but we do need to work respectfully together.
Relationship Action: Listen to what others are saying. Quiet the inner voice that may be chattering away and distracting you from the conversation at hand. Be curious about what others are asking and experiencing. In doing so, you may just discover that you don’t just respect others, but actually like them.
No one wants to be around someone who’s incompetent. It must be said, however, that everyone is incompetent for the first six months or so in a new job. Notwithstanding the idiosyncrasies involved in doing the job itself, you have to learn the organization’s policies, procedures and more. And as much as you’d like it to be otherwise, you can’t pick up all those things by putting a funnel in your mouth and pouring it in. It takes times to assimilate the nuances.
Relationship Action: Learning is a lifelong journey, but it’s easy to forget this and continue with the it’s-worked-in-the-past-it’ll-work-today approach. It’s up to you to stay abreast of new research, thinking and solutions being introduced in your field. Whether you read, watch TED talks, attend conferences or return to school, it’s absolutely critical to your career success that you actively engage in new learning opportunities on a regular basis.
“Fake it until you make it” may be a clever book title, but it has no place in the working world today. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then whatever else you bring is just smoke and mirrors. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help, advice and guidance is OK. The sky won’t fall in, people won’t think less of you — in fact, people (the ones you want around anyway) want to help you. Success is a team sport — a fact often overlooked — and it’s easier and more fun to achieve when you have others around you.
Relationship Action: Involve others, ask questions, seek input and differing perspectives. You don’t have to act on all the feedback you get, but you’ll find that everyone can achieve more when people have “skin in the game” and are invested in your success.
Decision-making is one of the weakest skills for many professionals. This may be due in part to the deficiencies of the rational decision-making model, which overlook that fact that people are not nearly as rational as they think they are. Those who are memorable for the right reasons know how to think through a problem, and then to make the best of a range of choices.
Relationship Action: Quit making decisions in a vacuum. Look for opinions where needed, and talk about your intended course of action before jumping in headfirst. You’ll find others more willing to implement your decisions when they feel they’ve been heard, and they understand the context and rationale for why a certain course of action was decided upon.
So, what about you? Are people glad to have you on their team, or would they prefer that you took a permanent vacation?
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