Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Making Connections

As our series of blogs on Leadership Presence continues, our hope is that you take some of these suggestions into practice, in order to foster leadership presence in yourself, not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.

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Last week we discussed reaching out and empathy, and this week we continue on the topic of reaching out, but specifically reaching out and making connections.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, empathy not only requires seeing and feeling, but also expression. What do they mean by this? It is what you do to communicate and act upon empathy that truly counts.

The focus of this entry is building relationships. The trick to building relationships, which is absolutely necessary if you want to be considered a leader, is to do so with empathy. But how?

 

Rules For Building Empathetic Relationships (Halpern and Lubar 109)

  1. Listen to build relationships
    1. This week again we see the importance of listening. The authors suggest listening for subtext (look for hidden meaning and emotion in the persons words). In addition, they suggest listening for the persons values and strengths, which can be an easy way to connect with someone.
  2. Acknowledge the person
    1. It is important, when listening, to acknowledge feelings, values and strengths that the other person might be trying to get across, but in a not-so-obvious fashion. The idea here is to turn off the “problem-solving” part of the brain when someone comes to you for help, and really listen to what they are saying beneath the words themselves. Another way to do this is to offer positive insights based on what you heard the person say. Remember, “people want to be loves, heard, and made to feel important.”
  3. Share yourself
    1. “Openness is critical for coaching” (119), say Halpern and Lubar in their book. This statement could not be truer, especially in business. It is integral to be vulnerable if you are to be a successful coach. Reveal the chinks in your armor, so to speak, and let others see who you really are; they will be more likely to follow you if you do.

It is important to mention that, although opening up and sharing yourself is necessary if you want to be a successful leader, there is also a limit. The authors suggest doing this in stages (offering bits of information here and there), and seeing how others respond. Don’t tell others your life story the moment you meet them!

The challenge this week is to try to open up and become vulnerable (yes, this will likely be difficult, and possibly even uncomfortable!), and see how others respond to you. Remember, it is all about making connections, and you wont be able to do so if you’re a vault!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

How To Nurture Your Newest Contacts

If you’re a professional, you know the utter power and influence networking possesses. Networking isn’t always a formal event; it can consist of essentially any activity in which the opportunity to meet new people is present (a tennis tournament, your daughters skating arena, lunch with coworkers, or a family get-together).

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As a professional, it’s important to recognize that just about everything you do, and everywhere you go, has the potential to be a networking opportunity. In fact, grocery stores across Canada have picked up on the opportunity for young singles to meet while picking up their essentials, and have created “singles night” to encourage the behaviour (see this link for the detailed article). Opportunities exist all over, and it’s important to seize them.

But then what?

What happens after you meet someone new is more important than meeting them in the first place. It is one thing if you are a networking pro and have no problems approaching strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s what you do with those new contacts that really matters.

Always follow up

It is important not to lose your new contacts’ card somewhere deep in your wallet, only to discover it a year later. No matter how important (or possibly, unimportant) you believe this contact to be, always follow up the following day with a short email. The email might discuss your first meeting, and a suggestion to go for coffee the following week. It is also an opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn.

The idea here is to keep the conversation flowing; to build and nurture the relationship you just formed.

Keep new contacts organized

Having a huge pile of business cards on your desk will not help you nurture your new contacts. As soon as you receive a new card, import the information onto your computer or phone. This will also make it easier to send out greetings during a holiday (another great way to nurture your contacts). If you think you will not remember who the person is or the company they work for, file/tag them by event date or name.

 Remember, it’s a two-way street

 Networking and building your contact base is definitely beneficial to you and your professional career. You recognize the power and importance of having a large network. However it’s also important to remember how you can help your new contacts. Let your knew contacts know about the qualities you possess that may be beneficial to them, and offer your time should they be interested. We call this positive networking.

Don’t take networking for granted, and certainly, don’t take your new contacts for granted! Let them know that they are appreciated, and keep the dialogue flowing.

Etiquette Tips For Summer Weddings

Inspired by our last post on etiquette for the summer barbecue, and in honour of wedding season, here are a few tips and tricks to get you through you’re increasingly expanding list of impending weddings.

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Weddings are no doubt a fun, joyous and exciting experience for not only the bride and groom, but also for the guests. The nuptials, followed by cocktail hour and then (hopefully) the formal sit-down dinner usually lend themselves to a good time, and a romantic one at that. As much as the bride and the groom are the focus of this special day (as they should be), many people also see weddings as an opportunity to network, as they have the chance to meet many people they wouldn’t normally come into contact with. This can be a great opportunity for the eager networker, however there are definitely some guidelines to follow.

Handing out business cards.

As always, it is a good idea to carry business cards with you wherever you go, and a wedding is no exception. Weddings can be a goldmine when it comes to meeting people that could add significant value to your life, personally and professionally. It is always a good idea to have business cards handy (bring lots!) in the event that someone asks you for your information.

It is imperative, however, that you wait to be asked for your business card as opposed to simply offering it. Remember, this is a wedding, not simply an opportunity for you to network and meet potential new clients.

In addition, when someone asks you for your information, that does not mean everyone at the table has asked as well – simply give the interested party your card, and ask for theirs in return.

Easy on the alcohol.

Yes, weddings are, more often than not, a fabulously good time with lots of food, cocktails and dancing. However, for any professional, it is important to recognize that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, your behavior is a direct reflection upon you as a person and as a professional.

Taking this into consideration, it is important to limit your alcohol intake at weddings. Yes, the open bar can be extremely tempting, but remember, this day is about the bride and groom and you do not want to take attention away from them by acting obnoxiously. In addition, consuming too much alcohol will likely impede your ability to network effectively, possibly letting some really great contacts slip by.

Remember your manners.

It is usually a good idea to review your table manners before attending an event that includes a formal dinner. Eating with proper table manners is respectful, and is also a really great way to show those around you that you are aware and professional in all settings. For more information on formal dining etiquette, you may review our post entitled: “Formal Dining Etiquette Rule You MUST Know.”

The music, the dancing, the romance. Weddings can be a magical experience for all those involved, and although your first thought may not be “oh, I should brush up on my etiquette/networking skills before they tie the knot”, you may find that it was well worth it in the end.

Etiquette for The Summer Barbecue

Summer is the long-awaited and much anticipated season; dresses, patios, and of course, summer barbecues. In recent years, barbeques have grown in popularity as an easy, fun, and delicious way of getting people together. They have also spilled over into the professional world and have become an informal setting for colleagues get together outside of the office

bbqOffice barbecues can be a great place to get to know your colleagues, and perhaps even your superiors, on a more personal level, given the informal and relaxed setting.

Although the term “barbecue” holds many connotations (such as informal, fun, relaxed, and beer), there are still some etiquette rules to abide by, especially when the barbecue in question is one filled with colleagues and/or superiors. Many of the same rules in effect at a holiday cocktail party still hold true at an informal barbecue.

Never arrive ravenous

 It is important to not show up to the barbeque on an empty stomach.

  • Think of the barbecue as an incredible opportunity to network in a new space – and a comfortable one at that – where others are likely feeling relaxed and happy. Can you say the same when you are trying to network in an office setting? Don’t focus all your time on the food!
  • Have a few snacks before you arrive, so that you’re not immediately drawn to the food. Of course, it is important to indulge in what is offered so as not to offend the host.
  • Start with a small portion of what is being offered (don’t bombard your plate with a mountain of BBQ’d ribs). If it was so delicious that you must have more, make sure others have eaten first before getting seconds.

Do not drink in excess

It is sometimes easy to drink one-too-many beers when you’re in someone’s backyard, on a bright and sunny afternoon. However, you must keep in mind that this is still a work function, and there are lots of important eyes on you.

  • Pace yourself with the alcohol. After each drink, switch to a glass of water, and try to limit yourself to two, maybe three drinks total.
  • Try to stick with one kind of alcohol throughout the barbecue. As the widely known rhyme goes: “beer before liquor, makes you sicker.”
  • Snack throughout the barbeque – if you’re going to be drinking for a few consecutive hours, it is imperative that you are also eating (which is also why it’s a good idea to have some snacks before you arrive!).

Try to reach everyone, at least once

Barbecues can be a gift for those who might struggle with the idea of networking. It is much easier to network, and get to know others, when everyone is in a wonderful mood, relaxing in the sunshine and drinking sangria.

  • Try to connect with everyone at the barbeque at least once. If you talk to the same group of people throughout the event, think of all the potential new contacts you didn’t
  • Although you likely work with most of the people at the party, colleagues may have brought guests. It’s always a good idea to bring business cards so that you’re prepared if and when someone asks you for your information.

Just like any other office party, barbecues can be a great place to relax, enjoy, and get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Although they are often informal and casual, the same etiquette rules of a fancy Christmas party still apply! Remember, if you’re surrounded by colleagues and/or superiors, you’re still working!

Is it time to rebrand?

Many companies choose to rebrand from time to time in order to stay relevant and up-to-date, or to establish a new direction for their organization. This does not mean changing the core foundations of a company, but rather refreshing its look or brand imagery, repositioning its strengths, or changing its marketing tactics for a new target audience.

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Just as rebranding occurs on a corporate level, it is also a good idea to consider whether your personal brand needs a refresh. Here are three tips to re-positioning your brand so it best reflects you and your professional goals.

  • Before You Begin: Self-Reflection
    Before you even think about what kind of changes you will implement to your brand, first consider high-level questions about how you see yourself as a professional. Where do you want to be in five years? What are your key strengths that could help you reach your goal? Who are important contacts that you should connect with?

    Revising a personal brand is not a decision to be made on a whim – it should be viewed as a long-term strategy in helping you establish your name, accomplishments, skills, and ideas to get you where you want to be now and in the future. Once you consider big questions about your professional path, it will be easier to think of how to position your brand.

  • Refreshing Your Brand Image
    Even if you are not planning for major career changes in the near future, it is still advisable to keep your personal brand image current.

    Replace your headshot at least every ten years to ensure that you are recognizable to new and existing contacts on your website and LinkedIn profile. For personalized stationery, business cards, and digital platforms like your website, ensure that visual elements such as colour scheme and typeface still represent you properly and do not appear outdated.

    If you choose to change up colours, fonts, or your professional headshot, make sure that the visual elements align on all platforms associated with your brand. This includes your resume, stationery, business cards, email signature, blog, website, and social media accounts. A mixture of old and new branding can appear sloppy.

  • Rethinking Self-Marketing Strategies
    How you present yourself to new contacts, on both digital platforms and face-to-face contexts, is an essential part of your personal brand.

    For meeting new professionals, it is helpful to have a clear and concise “elevator pitch” about yourself, including your interests and experience. Developing a self-summary will enable you to introduce yourself consistently to different people and will assist you in considering your objectives.

    Ensure that your self-introduction on digital platforms serves the same purpose. Your LinkedIn summary and profile should highlight the same elements of your verbal self-introduction. Further, the content you create on digital platforms, such as LinkedIn updates, blog posts, and tweets, should at least indirectly align with your brand identity.

Do not take a personal rebrand lightly: it should set the tone for your personal brand in years to come. Yet when done properly, a personal rebrand can set you on the right path to reach your professional goals.

For more on this topic, see our previous blog post, “Building Your Personal Brand.”

The Pros and Cons of Limited Email Use

Email guide1For so many of us, email supplies constant tasks throughout the workday. No matter what projects we have lined up or meetings we have scheduled, there is always the possibility of an email adding yet another task to our growing to-do lists.

But instead of checking email every time a new message pops into our inboxes, what if we had set (and limited) times to read emails throughout the day? This emerging trend is helping some professionals to manage the constant distraction of emails and to become more focused on tasks at hand. Could it work for you? In this blog post, we discuss the pros and cons of setting pre-determined times to check email.

Pros of Limiting Email Use
As much as we would like to become more efficient by multitasking, scientific research shows that multitasking simply does not make us more productive. In fact, it can actually limit our productivity by spreading our focus too thin.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Professor Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University addresses the problems of multitasking. According to Dr. Levitin, avoiding multitasking and instead focusing on a single activity at a time can increase creativity and productivity. And this includes limiting our dependence on our inboxes: Dr. Levitin suggests that you “partition your day into project periods,” which includes checking email at designated times. Otherwise, says Dr. Levitin, email and social networking can “sap attentional resources” in your brain.

In addition, limiting email use at work – and outside of the office – can positively impact your work-life balance. On evenings and weekends, many of us feel tied to our smartphones, ready to respond to urgent – and not so urgent – requests at a moment’s notice. By deciding to check your email only at designated times between 9 and 5, you are leaving necessary time for family, friends and hobbies outside of work.

Cons of Designated Email Time
Of course, many industries and careers do not allow for such careful regulation of email. If the nature of your work functions on last-minute requests and urgent messages, maintaining a strict email schedule could hinder your performance. It may mean that you miss a fleeting opportunity, or it could make you appear unreliable or unresponsive. Especially if you do not communicate your email schedule to colleagues or clients, important contacts may be left wondering about the delay in your responses.

And for some, a full inbox can be even more stressful than managing email throughout the day. The prospect of tackling a barrage of emails, albeit only once or twice in the day, can leave many of us uneasy. In some cases, it is simply more straightforward to deal with an issue as soon as it arises.

The Bottom Line
While there are many pros and cons to setting limited times to check email, the effectiveness of this strategy all depends on your position, your workplace culture, and the expectations of your colleagues and clients. That said, keeping a limit on constant email checking – in the workday and during evenings and on weekends – is necessary for your health and your productivity.

Looking to Change Careers? 5 Steps You Need to Take First

CareerChangeAre you stuck in a professional rut and are looking to change careers? Have you learned as much as you can from your current job and are simply ready to move on? Chances are, at some point in your life you will have a career change: while exact numbers are up for debate, US surveys show that most people will change careers between three and seven times in their lives. Before you make such a sweeping change, consider five factors that may determine your choices – and your success – in a new profession.

1. Refine Your Resume
Has your resume been sitting in a file folder or in an unopened document since you landed your current job? Not surprising, as the need to keep your resume up-to-date may seem like a rainy day task when you’re gainfully employed.

Nevertheless, today might be the day to take a fresh look at your resume and bring it back up to speed. If you are unsure in which career path you are headed next, this should be an activity to start narrowing down your choices. Updating your current and recent work experience will remind you what your key skills are, as well as what tasks and challenges you enjoyed – and what you didn’t – in your work. Focusing on these aspects will help you decide both what to highlight about your skills and to determine what you might want to pursue next.

Additionally, take the time to clean up old information, which is no longer relevant to your current applications. For example, a retail job from over 10 years ago may no longer have a place on your resume.

2. Practice Your Dining Etiquette Skills
When it comes to dining etiquette, business dining is a category on its own. Business dining incorporates etiquette for formal, informal and cocktail settings, and includes interview and conversational skills.

As your next interview may take place over a meal, brush up on your business dining etiquette skills even before you receive any interview requests. You will want to be confident in your knowledge of not only which utensils to use or where to place your napkin when you get up, but also when to talk business – or not – and field interview questions over dinner.

Key networking activities may also take place during a meal or at a cocktail reception, so keep your business dining etiquette skills sharp to make the most of these opportunities.

3. Network – Effectively
Simply put, networking isn’t as easy as it sounds. First, if you are looking to dive into an entirely new industry, you have to research extensively at what locations and events the most effective networking would even take place, and whom you should connect with.

Or, if you are looking for new opportunities within your current industry, the places where you should network might be more readily apparent – however, this does not mean no research is required: you will still want to make meaningful contacts in key organizations or companies, which will mean targeted thinking and planning in advance.

4. Polish Your Look and Manners
If you want new contacts in your ideal company or industry to take you into consideration, you must look and act like you are one step ahead of the game. First, make sure you have a go-to set of business suits, blouses, shoes, and other apparel and accessories that fit both you and the corporate culture well. This will help you to make a great first impression.

How you act influences a first impression as much as how you look. Ensure you are equally as polished in your business etiquette skills as in your physical appearance. At this early stage in a new career as well as throughout, your communication skills (including over email, phone and in person), interview etiquette and, as discussed above, dining etiquette, will all help your unique professional qualities look their best. To see how your etiquette skills rank, take the Corporate Class Inc. free Etiquette IQ test.

5. Clean Up Your Online Image
Before future employers get to know you in person, most likely they will get to know you online first. It is now routine for employers to check a candidate’s background on Facebook or other social media platforms before hiring. Additionally, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for making professional connections and sharing your skills and work history with contacts.

Because of the myriad ways you can make a first impression online, be sure that your online accounts represent your best self. Keep your LinkedIn profile as updated as your resume, select a professional headshot for your picture, and clean up any questionable photos or language on your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media profiles. For a full guide on making the most of your online presence, we recommend Elizabeth Charnock’s E-Habits: What You Must Do to Optimize Your Professional Digital Presence.

Business Networking in Toronto: Joining a Group

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Whether you’re attending a business networking event in Toronto or anywhere else, one issue that makes most people nervous is going up and talking to someone or joining a group already deep in conversation.

An article in the Economic Times states that, “when entering a roomful of strangers, our inner critic overpowers us with the fear of rejection making us battle with thoughts like “Hope I don’t come across as desperate/ pushy / incompetent”.

So how do you overpower your inner critic?

The article suggests that “the best way to conquer this inner critic is by convincing yourself that everyone in the room has a single objective — to enhance their network by meeting more people.” And you’re there for that exact same reason.

Here are answers to a few pressing networking questions that most people have:

Whom should I join?

Always introduce yourself to a person standing alone or to a large group. While introverts are happier with one-on-one interactions, bigger groups are better as the discussion is already underway, taking away the pressure from you to initiate conversation. Also, bigger groups keep breaking into smaller sub-groups, automatically offering you a chance to connect with more people if you stay put.

The best way to identify the group to join is to see which one has the speaker/ panelist/host or a renowned business leader as its member.

How do I enter the group?

Look for one member who is displaying open body language signals (a smile, brief eye contact or feet angled away from the centre), allowing you access. Wait for a momentary pause in their conversation before you join the group.

What should I say after joining?

Shake hands with everyone, exchange business cards and introduce yourself briefly with your name, company’s name or chosen field of work. Don’t get bogged down by your own awkwardness; instead, focus on remembering the names of people in the group. If you have met any of the group members earlier, jog their memory with “We had met at the xyz event” .

How do I contribute to the conversation?

First, invest time comprehending the conversation thread before you feel pressured to contribute – here introverts score as they display better listening skills. The best way to contribute is to ask relevant questions related to the current topic of conversation.

Business networking in Toronto is a great way to build connections and expand your list of influential contacts.

Your body language and how you present yourself are critical in how you are perceived by others.

Click to learn more about business networking training in Toronto.

 

How Business Etiquette Contributes to Engaged Workplaces

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Communication
Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a comprehensive training that can enhance professional presence in virtually every business interaction. This training, the Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
Culture
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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LinkedIn Etiquette – Using the New Endorsement Tool

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No matter if you’re a job seeker or a business owner LinkedIn can prove to be a great way to network and find new career opportunities or build strong business connections.

With LinkedIn’s most recent feature, the Endorsement tool, it’s now easier than ever to recommend someone. However it’s certainly not the end all as hiring managers for example, will still obviously take into account your references, past work experience and more.

That being said, this tool is great for “voting” for someone so as to validate their skills, but if you’re not sure exactly how to approach the tool in terms of the LinkedIn etiquette to using it here are some answers to pressing questions offered by the U.S. News:

1. Do I need to thank someone for an endorsement?

LinkedIn’s new Endorsements feature is promoted as a way to give kudos with one click. Yet, if it is so simple to give, what does it really indicate? Is it valid to measure someone’s skills if there is no context assigned? And why can any connection be qualified to make these endorsements? The feature raises many issues, but the better question is, do these endorsements justify your response? Old-fashioned etiquette would say, yes, you can and probably should thank someone in a message through LinkedIn. However, that takes time and effort; more time and effort than it took the person to endorse you. If you chose to return the favor and endorse them, that is another option and decision you can make.

2.  I don’t remember (or know) the person who has endorsed me. What should I do?

Have you ever received a request to connect on LinkedIn from someone you didn’t know or can’t remember? If you are open to new connections, then most likely you will accept the request to connect. If you prefer to connect only with people you know, then your choice is a bit more difficult. Maybe you did meet this person and they haven’t reminded you. You could chose to send a message to them and ask for a reminder of how you have met or how each other. Or you could simply ignore their request. If you do chose to ignore the request, also think about the potential opportunities you may miss out on or the additional relationships you may not forge.

Every person on LinkedIn will use the new tool differently – you need to decide how to use it based on what you wish to gain from it. At all times, it’s important to “always keep in mind standard business etiquette and be polite, considerate, and respectful of differing opinions and views.”