How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable

The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.2%, 6.2% in Canada, 4.3% in the U.K., and 5.5% in Australia. Employment is considered to be at “full-employment” when the unemployment rate is at 6%. At this level, most people who want to work, have a job. At 4.2% unemployment in the U.S., companies are struggling to fill open positions with the best candidates. It is common practice for companies to poach the best talent from the competition. Making yourself valuable to your current employer may also attract the attention of other employers. Your ability to communicate effectively will give you options. If you are not currently satisfied with your work environment, learning to communicate with power and influence can help you interview more effectively and improve your upward mobility.

Communicate With Power & Influence

Learning the art of communicating with power and influence will pay big dividends in your career and life. Much of what you as a leader, manager, or project manager do requires the support of your teams, and support from cross-functional teams. In today’s workplace there is a premium on collaboration. Managers that can do it well will find their services in greater demand and their responsibility and earning power increasing. Communicating with power and influence can help you advance in your career, earn more money, effectively navigate conflict, and get buy-in for your ideas.

I graduated with a master’s degree in economics in 1992. I remember having little initial success in my job hunt. As I felt less and less confident, it hurt my chances for several opportunities. I remember interviewing with Mark, the Vice President of the International Division of Franklin Covey. He asked me how much I was worth. I was so beat up I said the minimum I would take was $30,000/yr. He said if I was not worth $100k why would he hire me? If I had learned to speak more powerfully and feel more confident in the moment, the outcome might have been different. Instead, I actually started to cry in the interview. Mark had compassion on me and encouraged me. Though I never worked for the company, we became friends and we are still in touch 25 years later.

After this experience, I was hired by an international public company and I soon became the vice president of operations. As part of the hiring process, I was taken on a trip together with my wife to see the site of a future project development. My experience is that my behavior and ability to communicate was under the microscope. With my wife by my side my confidence was high. When the CEO trusted that I had the character and qualities necessary secure the support of the shareholders, I was offered the job.

Trust Me, This Is Important

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, says that when people meet you they instantly judge if they can 1. trust and 2. respect you. Psychologists describe these two factors as warmth and competence. While most business professionals and certainly job seekers believe respect and competence rule, Ms. Cuddy argues that trust must come first. Of course competence is a prerequisite for any job. Let’s call it a ‘pay to play’ or threshold requirement. If we are not trusted, we may never have the opportunity to demonstrate our competence. It is not just what we do and say that matters, but how we do it and how we say it that matters today. It is not merely style over substance. Substance is required. But substance with no style is often a non-starter. To emphasize this point, HR.com reports that 90% of companies hire for skill, yet 90% fire for behavior. So hiring mangers are getting wiser, your style, your brand, and how you engender trust matters.

Enhance Your Brand

Your brand and how you engender trust are influenced by your communication style. Some people are naturally assertive and controlling. Others are encouraging motivators who appreciate recognition. Some are naturally supportive and avoid confrontation. Finally, some prefer accuracy and rules and have a need to be correct in everything they do and say. Knowing your natural communication style will help you manage your brand. Armed with the knowledge of your natural tendencies, you can begin to enhance your natural style for improved results.

I eventually became a CEO of leadership training development company. Over the years I developed a reputation or ‘brand’ as a manager. I was most interested in people doing what I wanted them to do. To be sure, I wanted their buy-in, but if I didn’t get it I would bulldoze them. This also showed up at home with my kids. I was more focused on the task than on connection. I was not getting the results I wanted. I decided to change my brand. I worked hard at changing my natural style to become more empowering and motivating. I worked with coaches and mentors to help me improve. I have become a personal and executive coach. My experiences have been a powerful catalyst in my life and the life of my clients.

You May Be Creating Your Own Problems

In the workplace, it is common for managers to create problems with their employees based on their individual communication and leadership styles. One way managers create their own problems is by controlling employee behavior instead empowering them to solve their own problems. When we have problems with our employees, what do we usually do? Tell them to fix it. Sometimes we tell them how to fix it. Usually how we would fix it. The problem with that approach is if they are not fully in agreement with your idea and it doesn’t work, they blame you!

Take the first step to understand and improve your communication style. Find an effective behavioral survey. I have used many and I recommend the ProScan for accuracy. Take the survey here and schedule a brief initial consultation today! This awareness will instantly make you more valuable. Armed with this information you will be able to immediately make adjustments to enhance your natural communication style.

Improving you are ability to communicate with power and influence has many components. This is just the first article of many on the topic.

Related topics: How To Make a Stronger ImpressionLeadership Is About Impact Not Intention, What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You? How Asking Questions Strengthens Your TeamWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You,

The Author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?

Have you ever gone to a movie when the theater was packed and you scanned the theater for open seats? You finally find them and take your seats. After the movie, you run into some friends who happened to be at the same show. They said they had two seats next to them and were waving at you when you came in, but you did not seem them? Or perhaps you were watching your favorite sports team on TV and you did not notice your significant other asking for your help. Have you ever been so focused on something that you missed what was going on around you?

This phenomenon is called innattentional blindness, and was first discovered by Ulric Niesser, known as the “father of cognitive psychology”, at Cornell University in the 1970’s. It is also known as perceptual blindness and occurs when an individual fails to perceive or recognize an unplanned stimulus clearly in their field of vision. When we are focused on something specific, it is possible to miss other plainly visible details that may appear.

Niesser’s experiments gained interest and popularity in the following decades. Harvard Psychologists, Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris tested his experiments further. Their findings are reported in their article, Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. The research points out we are missing a great deal of what is happening all around us. They have since written a book about their findings, The Invisible Gorilla.

When I first saw the monkey business video, I was focusing on a specific task and I completely missed the man in gorilla suit who appeared on the screen for a full 9 seconds and pounded his chest. I was happy to learn that I am not the only blind casualty of this psychology experiment. About 50% of people, under the same conditions, do not see the gorilla. So what does this have to do with you and I? This implies, that to our detriment, we miss a great deal of what goes on around us. I work with many hard charging, results oriented, get it done now, professionals. These are certainly good qualities, but they come with cost, if we are not careful. Just as with the above example; of someone not noticing their partner while watching a sporting event, it is possible for us to not see how we are impacting important people, in our business, by our narrow focus.

As a CEO, I remember I was so focused on accomplishing a particular task, that I gave my administrative assistant some assignments, almost unconsciously. I failed to notice she was under tremendous stress because we had multiple clients in the office, she was supporting. At the end of the day, I could see more clearly and recognized that I had created a great deal of stress for my good employee. She was not about to tell me no for several reasons: My position power as CEO made it hard for her to say something like, “now is not a good time” or “can I complete these tomorrow?” Additionally, she was generally conflict avoidant, a behavior I knew to be a part of her behavioral traits and personality profile.

At the end of the day, I apologized to her because I wanted her to be a happy engaged employee. I did not WANT to put her under unnecessary stress. She was working hard and helping our customers. What I asked for was important, but it surely could have waited for a day. I was just hyper focused on getting things done; I did not notice the impact of my focus. The apology was accepted, yet how often do we repeat the same behavior. What happens to our team member’s engagement when the leaders poor behavior is repeated again and again? Employees become disengaged. They lose trust in leadership and the culture is weakened.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to get the job done (results). However, we can never get everything we need done alone. We must enlist the help of our team. We get so much more done when we have a team that is engaged and motivated. Leaders who have developed relationships of trust most easily achieve this condition. To get our desired results, we must also pay attention to relationships. Some leaders seem to have a natural talent for this. Some leaders can spend too much time on relationships, sometimes at the expense of results. The best leaders learn how to effectively balance tasks and relationships.

Let me give a personal example of balancing task and relationship. I have five children and I want a great relationship with each of my children. I also enjoy having a clean house and order especially when I come home after a long day at work. It just so happens, that some of my kids come home from school and immediately take off their shoes and socks. They just leave them where they are, which is usually on the family room floor. If I am just focused on the task when I come home, I see the socks and the first thing I say to my son, “why are your shoes and socks on the floor again?! Go put them away!” He gets up after rolling his eyes and takes his things stomping out of the room. When he returns, I want now focus on the relationship. I ask, “How was your day? How did your math test go?” My efforts at relationship building are not well received. My son is no mood to talk to me now.

Let me change the scenario. I come home tired, and I notice the socks and shoes on the floor. Instead of immediately focusing on the task of creating order, and a clean house, I focus on the relationship I want with my son. I ask him about his day and math test. I ask him how volleyball practice went and if the girl he asked to the prom responded to his proposal. We have a great conversation. I then turn my attention to the socks and shoes and say, “where are those supposed to be?” he says, “Away.” I say, “go take care of that please.” In this scenario, the outcome is so much greater. I have strengthened the relationship and improved household order. You can have both, and in the long run, balancing both is so much more effective and rewarding.

If you are like me, and get too focused on “task”, there is hope. You can improve your awareness and perceptional limitations. It takes a desire to improve your self-awareness. Improving your emotional intelligence will be a great help. Some of the suggestions I have given in other articles about emotional intelligence will apply here and some are unique. (See links at the end of the article.)

5 Suggestions To Improve Your Vision:

  1. Think about the end result:

    Sometimes in our rush to get things done, we may not think about the consequences of our actions and behavior. Slow down a little and think about the outcomes. We may still be innattentionally blind to some of the outcomes even when we slow down, however, this practice will help us to improve more and more over time.

  2. Change your focus:

    I find that if I am watching TV and focused on a sporting event and my wife talks to me, I may not hear her. I have learned to stop, disengage in what I am doing, and focus on her. The benefits of this to my relationship should be obvious.

  1. Schedule time to focus:

    As a busy executive, I am often focused on important tasks. If you are like me, you get many interruptions throughout your day. People constantly stop by my office with “got a minute?” situations. Several problems arise in these situations. Possibly, you ignore them because you are so focused, and they leave disappointed. Or you keep doing what you are doing and pay only partial attention to what is needed. You miss important details and send a message the employees concerns and the employee is not important. Maybe, you continually stop what you are doing, to focus on the needs of your employees, because you value the relationship. This can cause your own tasks to suffer.

    A better option is to let your team member know they are important. Tell them you want to give them the time they deserve, however, right now is not a good time, unless it is an emergency. You schedule time when you can give your complete attention to their concerns. You can effectively balance task and relationship.

  2. Identify your blind spots:

    Become aware of when you have blind spots. When you are talking on your cell phone, watching TV, in a stressful situation, giving a presentation, managing a project, etc. Our behavior in these situations is often predictable and tied to our preferred behavioral traits. Knowing your behavioral trait patterns will help you identify your blind spots. Use a behavioral assessment you trust and work with a trusted advisor to help you understand the implications of your behavior traits.

  3. Be vulnerable:

    Give others permission to give you feedback on what you may be missing. In order to see what we are missing, it is helpful to understand situations where this occurs. This help will come to you when you encourage feedback and avoid being defensive. That takes admitting you may occasionally miss things and it requires a willingness to improve.

The cost of not improving your vision is great. When you are so focused on the task, much is missed. We can miss changes in competitive landscape. Changes in market conditions. We can miss changes in our employee’s engagement. We miss opportunities to strengthen and improve important relationships with our team, clients, family, and friends. We miss areas in our behavior, which may be holding us back from being as successful and happy as we want to be.

Related Topics: Cure For The CEO Disease, How To Defeat The Fog of War in Business, One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence, Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?

The author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.

One Reason a Healthy Culture is Essential

Are you having a hard time attracting the best talent? Here is one reason and one thing that will help.