Work Efficiently, Not Hastily

Have you ever heard the phrase “haste makes waste”? There is truth to this expression, especially in the workplace – as making decisions and producing work too quickly can have negative effects. However, getting caught up in a rush can be difficult to avoid: the fast-paced environments of many workplaces demand immediate results.

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How, then, do you reconcile the requirement for prompt action and production with high-quality work? There are a few strategies to take so that you can work efficiently but not hastily.

When Making Decisions

Especially for major decisions, a hasty choice made with poor judgement can have repercussions that carry far into the future.

  • Even if a decision requires a fast response, ensure that there is enough time for proper reflection and consideration of possible results. This not only includes your own reflection, but also implies that there is enough time to reach all other individuals who should be consulted in the process.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in the decision-making process agrees on an appropriate timeline to reach a conclusion. This will set expectations and clarify uncertainties. If you do not set a proper timeline, certain individuals may feel more urgency, stress, and anxiety when an answer isn’t reached within their expectations.

When Responding to Emails

The immediate nature of email sets the tone for constant and prompt communication. However, do not be tempted to send messages quickly that may require further contemplation.

  • For simple emails such as meeting requests, it is fine to respond promptly. But if a question or request over email demands a more lengthy response, don’t feel tempted to type as fast as you can to appear efficient to your contact. Under most normal circumstances, a good benchmark for responding to emails is within 24 hours. Use that time to think about how to convey just what you want to say.
  • Never send an angry email in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a confrontation and type an emotional response, do not hit send – instead, save the email to your draft folder and revisit it a few hours later when you are calmer. Chances are, you will revise the email or start over from scratch.

When Producing Work

The quality of your work reflects directly on you as a professional. Ensure that it is a positive representation of your abilities.

  • Proofreading a document, spreadsheet, or report can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a close colleague can spare a few minutes, ask him or her to look over your work as well. Taking even a small amount of time to ensure you have done a good job can make a huge difference. For more on this topic, see our previous post, “How the Little Details Matter for Executive Presence.”

Adding time for proper reflection and review of your work does not have to compromise your promptness and efficiency. Instead, it will prevent you from working in a hasty, thoughtless manner – and your conscientiousness will enhance your presence in and out of the office.

 

The (Often Dreaded) Conference Call: Survival Tips and Tricks

Conference calls are often an inevitable part of any major company’s management system, and they are, more often than not, a dreaded exercise for those involved. We live in an age where we expect instant gratification and in which we’ve developed short attention spans; we anticipate our questions being answered immediately, we expect those to whom we’re talking to listen effectively and react accordingly, and we hope (and often expect) that our problems will be solved promptly. This is due, in large part, to the age of technology. Technology, such as email, text messages and Internet on-the-go, has led to this sense of entitlement, this desire for instantaneity. During a conference call, the likelihood of instant gratification is slim, and your full attention is required to get the most out of the call. It is imperative that you take this into account and adjust your behaviour accordingly in order to protect your EP (executive presence).

conference call        The reason why instant gratification is unlikely during a conference call is simply due to the amount of people on the phone at the same time; there are many opinions on the line, many voices to be heard, and many questions to be asked and answered. Our egos can often get in the way and we may abandon what we know to be good, professional behaviour in order to get our thoughts heard. We may also think that our EP is protected because our colleagues can’t see our face, but that is not the case.

Of course, every conference call has a different purpose, however there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you make it through your conference call, all while protecting, and perhaps even enhancing, your EP.

Conference call tips and tricks:

  1. Keep excellent track of conference call dates and times, as missing a call due to disorganization definitely doesn’t enhance your EP. It is also often a good idea to call in a few minutes early to ensure you will be on time.
  2. Eliminate background noise! There is enough going on over the phone already without the need for those on the call to hear your Starbucks barista grinding coffee beans for ten minutes.
  3. Remember, you can’t read body language over the phone. That’s why it’s so important that you ask for clarification if you’re not sure what a colleague meant. We can often tell, by a person’s body language, if what they are saying is positive, negative, or neutral (or something else for that matter), but this gift is not available to us over the phone.
  4. It is important to always state your name before speaking. Because all attendees are not in the same room together, it is important for the effectiveness of the call that all members know who is speaking.
  5. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting someone mid-sentence can be perceived as a huge EP blunder.
  6. If, however, you feel it necessary to interject because you have something integral to add, it is important, to protect your EP as well as your colleagues confidence and ego, to bring the conversation back to what they were saying before you broke into the conversation.

It can often be harder to protect and enhance your EP over the phone, mostly due to the lack of visual cues that are so integral to thorough and complete communication. That is why it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to adopting proper conference call etiquette – these manners and communication skills will serve you well over the course of your career, and can often translate into the physical workspace.

 

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.

 

 

Outstanding Professional Skills Training for Graduate Students & Post-Doctoral Fellows

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.46.24 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.45.12 PMPost-graduate studies can provide an in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular field. In any field, however, there is one common set of skills necessary for success: professional skills. Yet in many academic programs, there are few opportunities to refine these skills or enhance students’ abilities outside of the program requirements.

This is where the Mitacs Step program makes a difference. Mitacs Step provides professional skills development workshops for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows across Canada. The free workshops offered by Mitacs Step give students a competitive advantage as they launch their careers and enhance skills that will be necessary for a lifetime. Here at Corporate Class Inc., we excited to be part of this exceptional and accessible programming with our Business Etiquette and Networking Skills workshops in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

How Mitacs Step Lends a Competitive Advantage
The Mitacs Step program aims to build competencies for graduate and post-graduate students in four key areas that are recognized as essential for professional success. All of the Mitacs Step workshops address at least one of the following competencies; some address all four:

  • Leadership & Management
    From “big picture” management issues (such as influencing future outcomes, risks and impacts) to day-to-day organizational processes (such as planning, budgeting and performance management), participants learn skills necessary to lead and manage people and projects.
  • Communication & Relationship Building
    Working with people – and doing it well – is essential to success. Mitacs Step helps participants assess situations and communicate solutions, while fostering collaborative environments and offering constructive feedback to a team.
  • Personal & Professional Management
    For individual success, Mitacs Step aims to help students find self-management techniques to achieve their career and personal goals.

  • Entrepreneurialism
    Participants are encouraged to identify professional surroundings as a professional marketplace – then acquire the tools to take advantage of opportunities within that marketplace.

To address these four competencies, Mitacs Step offers a range of workshops that are hands-on and interactive and help students apply these skills to both academic and non-academic settings. Further, the workshops provide access to networking opportunities and industry expertise.

Corporate Class Inc. in the Mitacs Step Program
We are excited to be part of the Mitacs Step programming. With sessions on both Business Etiquette and Networking Skills, our team connects with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in universities across Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

  • Business Etiquette: This full-day workshop aims to increase awareness of how one’s actions and behaviours matter in building personal and professional relationships and reputation. The session begins with an overview on business etiquette. It then discusses the role of business etiquette in and out of the workplace environment, using technology appropriately, running and participating in effective meetings, and personal appearance.

    Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

  • Networking Skills: In the full-day Networking Skills session, participants gain insight on how to build and sustain professional relationships through effective networking. Participants then have the opportunity to try out the skills learned during the workshop during an in-session networking opportunity.

Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the upcoming Mitacs Step workshops. For extraordinary skill development for emerging Canadian professionals, find a workshop here or share this link with a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow today!

Workplace Culture: What Defines it, and Why is it Important?

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Workplace culture: this general term is often used to describe the atmosphere of an office, and can be an indicator for workplace attire and other formalities of a company. However, workplace culture can encompass so much more than simply office attire – and can even influence the direction of your company. In this post we examine workplace culture, and what a good culture can do for your organization.

What defines workplace culture?

Workplace culture is influenced by the fundamentals of your company, as well as the daily behaviours of your employees.

  • The foundation of workplace culture is based on the foundation of your organization itself. The mission and vision of your company, its products and services, and the target audience or consumer of your company’s message all influence the way it is both projected to the public and reflected internally.
  • On a daily basis, your employees and colleagues also influence workplace culture. Their attitudes toward work, their behaviours and work habits, as well as their styles – in the broad sense of the term, which could include style of dress, character, communicating and more – all contribute to the overall environment.
  • Finally, the way in which the management team runs the company and treats its employees significantly influences the office culture.

What does workplace culture influence?

Workplace culture has an effect on both the internal employees and external stakeholders of an organization.

  • The feel of an office in turn affects how the employees feel – and function – on a daily basis. If a workplace culture is unwelcoming, overly formal, unreceptive, or any number of negative atmospheres, the employees will internalize these sentiments and perhaps even begin to reflect them. On the other hand, in an office that promotes good communication and strong but not rigid structure, staff usually will function well under these parameters.
  • Workplace culture also influences how clients and other external stakeholders perceive a company. On a superficial level, if a client steps in to a company on any given day, it should look professional and tidy. Additionally, workplace culture can indicate to a client or partner just how efficiently and effectively a team is working.

Why is a good workplace culture important?

Simply by reviewing the myriad components and effects of workplace culture, we can already see that the culture of an office can influence its success greatly.

  • In a good workplace culture, employees will thrive. An effective workplace culture will make employees feel comfortable, not only on a daily basis, but also in serious situations where a serious issue may arise and employees can trust that it will be handled appropriately.

For employees, an effective workplace culture also means that there is structure and professionalism, which will facilitate efficiency and structure in their own work. In turn, when employees thrive and feel valued, companies often see a higher retention rate and a greater value of work from its staff.

  • Also, no matter what the level of formality, from business casual to business formal, a good workplace culture means that a client or key stakeholder can walk in at any time and perceive the company as high-caliber and professional. Workplace culture is flexible and subjective, but good quality is not.

All employees influence the culture of their workplace, simply by their presence. Managers and other leaders of a company, however, have a truly significant influence by setting a precedent and creating a trusting and professional environment. If you are in a leadership role, reflect on how you influence your workplace culture – and if you have the power to make changes to improve it.

Learn more about workplace culture and Toronto workplace etiquette classes at Corporate Class Inc.

 

Leadership Toolbox: Facilitating Effective Meetings

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As a leader in your company, you will encounter various roles and responsibilities that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership. One example is in facilitating effective meetings. In a productive meeting, the organizer communicates their ideas while incorporating the valuable contributions from other participants, while simultaneously managing time and direction of the meeting to ensure efficiency. In doing so, the meeting facilitator demonstrates the ability to guide and contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

Below are several tips on facilitating the most effective – and efficient – meetings.

Prepare in advance

It may seem obvious, but the universal motto to “be prepared” applies for several different components of a great meeting:

  • Write the itinerary ahead of time and email it to meeting participants. Seeing the schedule on paper and running through the length of the meeting in advance will help you to gauge whether the meeting time will run long and if you need to cut out any items from the itinerary.

Also, emailing the itinerary to participants will allow them to know what to expect. This will let them ruminate over discussion points in advance and likely better ensure the meeting stays on track.

  • Circulate any pre-reading at least two days in advance, if possible. Background reading, if relevant, is an excellent addition to a meeting in that it will facilitate a more robust and informed discussion. Just make sure you give participants enough time to review the materials.
  • Avoid technical difficulties during meeting time by testing any technical components – presentations, teleconference lines or otherwise – in advance.

During the meeting

During the meeting, a few tactics can help you to address the main points of discussion clearly and concisely:

  • Use materials to illustrate key concepts. Presentations, handouts, binders or other materials that lay out ideas visually for participants will help them to follow along and internalize the messages.
  • Incorporate discussion throughout the meeting. The primary difference between a meeting and a presentation is that the role of the meeting participant is essential in the outcome of meeting – so let their opinions play a part! To capture the points of discussion, ensure someone is designated to take notes during the meeting.

Follow up

The process is not over when a meeting concludes. Take the appropriate follow-up steps to ensure the effectiveness of your meeting:

  • By the end of the meeting, determine a list of action items and who is assigned to complete each task. Also, decide what will be addressed at the next meeting. Shortly after the meeting concludes, email these items to attendees while they are still present in your mind.

Running an effective meeting includes more than simply keeping the conversation on topic. A valuable meeting can influence the overall strategy of your organization – and show your leadership skills in doing so.

 

The New Job, Part 2: Helping a Colleague Settle In

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Last week, we blogged about the pressures of starting a new job and offered a few tips about putting your best foot forward in an unknown office environment. But what about the best practices when a colleague or employee is the new face in the company?

Those just starting off may feel under stress trying to find their place within the office culture. By offering your support, even through minor gestures, you are working to build solid relationships within your company – and you even may be fostering a connection that could prove strategic in the future.

Here are some methods for building great connections between colleagues, starting from the first day onward:

First Things First: Introductions

This may seem obvious, but if there is no organized introduction of the new staff member to the office, it can be easy to get distracted with work and completely miss a formal introduction! Take two minutes out of your routine to approach a new colleague and introduce yourself and your role within your organization. Learn about his or her work history and interests. Starting with an introduction beyond simply names will help the new colleague to get to know the staff faster.

Be Available to Help – But Don’t Overdo It

Make it clear to the new employee that you are available for questions and assistance if necessary. However, one of the best ways to learn is through experience, and in a new job we all learn from trial and error and on-the-spot training. So, don’t crowd your new colleague or impede on his or her learning process, but even knowing you are there to help will prove comforting to a new employee when an answer or process is not clear.

Extend an Invitation

Do you and your co-workers go out to dinner on Fridays, or do you occasionally leave the office for lunch off-site? If so, invite your new colleague along to one of these outings. Socializing with staff members in a more casual setting will help the new person to feel more comfortable in the office environment. If you don’t go out with colleagues on a regular basis, consider organizing a lunch date and provide an open invitation to the office as an opportunity to get to know your latest employee.

Office Culture and Environment

Helping a new colleague understand the office culture can be immensely useful as they are finding a place within the company. However, be wary of engaging in gossip; don’t share negative information about colleagues or behaviours in the office as a means to explain the office atmosphere.

Providing guidance on the office space will also be beneficial to a new member of the team. Help to orient, not only in the office itself but also in the surrounding area – such as where the best lunch spots are or the nearest bank and post office.

Mentorship: What’s in it for you

Reaching out to a new colleague from day one could develop into a mentor-mentee relationship. There are many benefits to becoming a mentor: as time passes, you could learn new things as your mentee shares his or her own perspective or an alternative generational outlook. This relationship will also allow you to refine and display your management skills, which may help you to advance in your company.

For more information: check out this great blog post from Forbes.com, which advises women in the workplace on how mentorship can boost a career.

Being “the new person” is an experience that everyone must undergo at some point. Make the most of this situation by lending a helping hand to a new colleague – and watch its benefits unfold for the both of you!

 

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 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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