Five Business Networking Faux-Pas To Avoid For Young Professionals

business-networking-young-professionalsStarting your career in your chosen field is certainly an exciting time in your life. As your career begins to take off and flourish, there are certain activities and behaviours you can engage in to make the transition into work like more successful and fulfilling. One of these activities is often dreaded and feared by most, let alone young professionals who have little to no practice engaging in it: networking.

Despite this inherent fear, many people choose to overcome it and engage in as many networking opportunities as possible. They do so because they’ve realized one simple truth: your network is your net-worth. The more people you know, the more relationships you form, the more you will succeed in your field, whatever field that may be and regardless of the position you hold.

Now that we’ve established the importance of networking, there are some behaviours to stay away from when at a networking event. These behaviours will serve to not only undermine your executive presence, but will also result in a less-than-stellar networking “performance.” Here are four faux-pas to avoid while networking:

  1. Smelling like smoke
    It is understandable that many people smoke these days. However, if you are a smoker, it is really important that you do not go into a networking event right after smoking a cigarette. Non-smokers (and even many smokers) can’t handle the smell of second hand smoke on someone else. Remember, you are going to this event to meet people and engage them, and turning them off with cigarette smoke is not a great way to start.
  2. Trying to talk to everyoneIt is true that in networking and in business networking, the idea is to touch as many people as possible. You definitely do not want to be talking to the same person the whole night, as that defeats the purpose! However, you don’t want to be simply introducing yourself to someone, handing them your card and then moving on. It is important to establish a rapport with someone before you exit the conversation, to ensure they remember you. Handing them your card is simply not enough to do that.
  1. Have professional-looking business cards, no matter what stage you’re at
    Even if you are still a student, it is important to have professional-looking business cards (and enough of them!). Heavy card stock is always good, and a simple, clean look can go a long way. Make sure your information is easy to read and straightforward. If you are a student, your school likely has a business card format that you could use.
  2. Don’t bring a friend
    The idea at networking events is to meet new people, not to catch up with a friend. Often, when friends go to networking events together, they spend most of their time talking to each other. Going alone will force you to engage with and talk to others.
  3. Don’t drink too much
    This may seem like an obvious one, but often in stressful situations where we don’t feel the most comfortable, another glass of wine usually seems like a great idea. Having a few drinks over the course of the evening is acceptable; overdoing it to the point of inebriation will seriously damper your chances of a successful evening of networking. Pace yourself to one drink an hour, alternate with a glass of water or soft drink, with an absolute limit or three.

Networking can sometimes be scary and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are equipped with the right tools and know what behaviours to avoid, chances are you will have a fun and successful networking experience! Networking doesn’t always have be done at organized networking events, either. Check out our post on unique places you can network!

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Empathy

This week we continue our series on leadership presence – what it is and how we can attain it. Last week we looked at the first aspect of leadership presence, and arguably it’s foundation, being present.

For this next instalment, we will discuss the next step on the path to attaining leadership presence: reaching out with empathy. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, reaching out means “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection” (77).

This may sounds easy or obvious, but in fact is it not. A true leader is someone who reaches out first, and does not wait for opportunities to cross them by. In addition, it is one thing to reach out to others, to seek out opportunities, but if one does so without empathy and compassion, the effect will be lackluster. Both of these characteristics compliment each other and work together to foster leadership.

How Can I Learn to Reach Out and be Empathetic?

There is a saying: “people want to be loved, heard, and made to feel important.” This statement is true in every aspect of life, and especially in business. A true leader will make their colleagues feel heard, and their actions and ideas integral to any business situation. This includes, for example, active listening, as opposed to passive listening, and sensitivity in dealing with potentially awkward situations (such as someone’s terrible idea for a proposal to a potential client). Halpern and Lubar state: “When you know and acknowledge your people and their feelings, they feel more motivated, work more productively, and they’re more likely to stay, even if the going gets though” (89). If you can learn to reach out and be empathetic with your employees, they will be loyal to you and will work harder for you.

If empathy and the ability to reach out doesn’t exactly come natural to you, there are certain actions you can take to encourage this behavior in yourself.

Know What Makes People Tick

Being empathetic does not mean having warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness for the entire population; it simply means understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings. To do this adequately, it is important to get to know the person, and find out what makes them tick, so that you may better understand them in any situation.

Make The Link to Your Own Feelings

 In opposition to sympathy, empathy involves feeling with someone, as opposed to for someone. Therefore, empathy requires you to connect with your own feelings and inner self. Many leaders have the “bad habit” of leaving all their feelings at home before coming to the office. If you do this, your ability to empathize will be gravely affected. We often see this be the case for some in our 360 with clients. Categories of respondents differ in their opinions of the subject. Friends and family will rate their empathy high while colleagues, direct reports and bosses rate it low.

You Can Empathize With Anyone

Naturally, it is easier to empathize with people we like. Empathizing and connecting with others that you may not like or respect can be a challenge, but it is certainly not impossible. Halpern and Lubar suggest thinking about the person with whom you cannot connect with, and trying to find at least one thing (however, the more the better) that you admire about that person, and connecting with them surrounding that. The authors state: “In the end, though, empathy doesn’t involve finding what you like in someone else. It involves finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weakness, and connecting that humanity to your own” (98).

A study of over 38,000 leaders and their organizations (conducted by Hay/McBer), found that “leadership styles that rely heavily on empathy tended to create a more positive company climate {…}” (99), and as we can imagine, a more positive company climate will lead to positive company results.

This week, challenge yourself to connect with others, and especially to those whom you may know you’ll have trouble connecting with. See what a difference empathy can make on your path to developing your leadership presence.

Works Cited

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

Before Your Next Trip Overseas…

Travelling abroad for work can often be an exciting and rewarding perk of your career. It is an opportunity to visit a new place, meet new people and see new sights. Often, traveling abroad for work isn’t always just about work, and usually involves some leisure time as well.

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You will be conducting business with those you are traveling to meet, and perhaps even travelling around the city or country with them as well during some leisure time.

As much as your mind is (and should be) focused on the important meetings to come, it is imperative that you take the time to do some research on the culture you will be visiting before you leave the comfort of your home. Ed Fuller from Marriott International, details the importance of knowing about others’ culture while traveling, in his article for Forbes Magazine.

Before you leave on your trip, consider completing some of the following exercises so that you can get the most out of your business trip, which will benefit both you personally, as well as the company you represent.

Watch YouTube videos

YouTube videos are a great way to see and hear about a foreign culture. Videos might be the most effective research tool, as you get both sound and movement, and can really start to appreciate the culture of a certain country.

There are also endless videos out there, and so finding appropriate ones should be fairly simple. For instance, you can search “traditional Peruvian meal” and watch how a meal might be cooked as well as consumed. You may also search things such as “traditional Indian dance” or “Moroccan cultural ceremonies.”

Learn your “hello’s” and “goodbye’s”

It is always a good idea to learn a few basic words or phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only will it show that you did your research (this will likely be viewed as a sign of respect), but it is a great way to connect with others on a deeper level, which may help to foster and grow professional relationships.

If you don’t have a great memory, or if you don’t have time to sit and memorize how to say “thank you” in Swahili, create a cheat sheet before you leave that you can study on your 24 flight to Kenya. 

Pick up a small travel guide of your destination 

Many bookstores sell small travel guides to the majority of popular destinations. In them, you’ll find a plethora of information on the country in question in a(n often) very small package, one that you can likely take with you in your carry-on. It will outline many common phrases, places to eat, and sights to see.

The fact that this is a business trip, as opposed to a leisure vacation, indicates that it is important to learn as much about the new culture as possible. This will reflect extremely well on you as a business professional, which will also translate back to your company. Present your best and most informed self, especially when traveling for business.

 

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.

How to Nail Your Next Skype Call

There is no question that technology has integrated itself so seamlessly in the world of business that almost no business transaction can be completed without its use. The need to keep up with the world of technology has never been so pronounced, especially when it comes to your career.

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A relatively recent technology that has proven extremely valuable in the world of business is Skype. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a software application that allows two people who have access to a computer to contact each other via the Internet; the webcam is also frequently used for video calling. Skype has allowed people from around the world to video-call each other for free.

More and more, Skype is becoming a convenient way of conducting meetings and interviews when a face-to-face situation is not possible. An interview over the phone is one thing, but the ability to see the other person is invaluable (we all know how important body language can be, especially in an interview setting). Skype interviews and meetings can sometimes be unnerving, so here we offer you some tips for the preparation of your next Skype call, so you can be as prepared as possible and nail it!

It’s all in the preparation

  • Although you may be in the comfort of your own home or office, that does not mean that you do not have to adequately prepare because you may have access to notes or documents that might help you through the call. It’s good to have some notes jotted down, but do not rely on them to get you through.
  • Because the individual on the other end of the call can see your home/office, it is integral that you clean before the interview! What will a potential employer think when he sees the messy room behind you?
  • Be sure to always use the washroom before your call. This may seem silly, but it won’t when you’re in the middle of explaining why you are the best candidate for the job and you have to excuse yourself to visit the restroom. This can be easy to forget, as you are already in a familiar setting.
  • Be sure to have anything you foresee yourself needing during the call at your nearest disposal. For example, it is always a good idea to have a glass of water nearby.
  • Be sure to do a test call just before your scheduled call to ensure that the framing of your computer is right, and that the lighting in the room is perfect.

Because of the comfort often associated with a Skype call (you are often in your safe space), it can be easy to forget some basic principles of a traditional job interview, such as adequate preparation, and even your self-presentation. It is important to remember, however, that the stakes are always high, and that the way you prepare for and present during a Skype call has profound and lasting effects on your executive presence!

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.

 

How to Motivate Colleagues for Effective and Balanced Teamwork

iStock_000002328740XSmallLeading a group project or team initiative is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your leadership and management skills. However, little is more frustrating than when team members do not contribute equally to the task at hand. Uncooperative group members may not complete their work on time, refrain from participating in group meetings, or approach work with a negative attitude.

While unequal contributions from team members make projects unnecessarily difficult, this behaviour occurs more often than you may think. Such behaviour can hinder the success of a project – both the process and the end result.

As team leader, how can you motivate all team members to be engaged and supportive during a group effort? Last week’s post discussed how to motivate yourself; this week, we focus on others around you. Here are three suggestions for managing a balanced and effective team.

  • Delegate Tasks According to the Interests of Group Members
    When employees are not pursuing tasks that they are passionate about, interested in, or skilled at, they can be far less committed to approach them with an enthusiastic outlook.

    When assigning tasks for a group initiative, pay attention to the interests and abilities of your team. If you customize your division of labour to these characteristics, your project may proceed more smoothly. Further, it will show that you are interested in the needs of each individual group member, which could boost their morale and trust in you.

  • Foster Good Communication on All Platforms
    Practically speaking, all group contributions should be readily and easily accessible for all other team members to access. If your team does not work from a shared server at the office, ensure that files are available through cloud-based sharing platforms or other formats that are easy to use for group members. This tactic, as well as setting clear goals and due dates, will help everyone to stay aware of the progress of the work as a whole and better enable others to contribute their portions on time.

    Logistical matters aside, it is also important to foster effective communication among group members and provide opportunities to discuss issues. When issues remain unaddressed for long periods of time, they can grow until they are no longer manageable and may hinder the success of the project.

  • Create a Tone of Friendliness and Respect
    You do not need to become great friends with all of the members of your team. However, it is important to generate an atmosphere of friendliness and respect among all team members. When you maintain a friendly tone (even in the face of issues!), the group dynamic will be far more pleasant and it will be easier for team members to commit themselves to their work – and remain committed throughout the process.

    Further, as team members begin to produce results, ensure that you are recognizing each colleague equally for their efforts. Imbalanced recognition can make it seem that you prioritize or favour certain individuals, which will reflect poorly on your leadership skills.

For further reading on managing effective teams and motivating team members, see our previous blog post on “Top Team Building Activities” or the Harvard Business Review’s “Make Your Good Team Great.”

Create a Workplace Culture that Fosters Executive Presence

Developing Executive Presence is a personal journey. After all, Executive Presence reflects an individual’s self-presentation, conduct, attitude and reputation.

However, environment can have a great effect on Executive Presence as well. In order to encourage your employees to recognize and improve their own Executive Presence, as a leader in your company you can aim to create a workplace culture that fosters Executive Presence.

The more that your employees are aware of and committed to developing their own Executive Presence, the better your company’s image will be. The behaviour of your employees will reflect positively on your organization, allowing it to maintain a great reputation and make excellent first impressions on outside clients and partners. This can only lead to success for your company.

How can you promote Executive Presence as part of your workplace culture?

  • If you lead, others will follow.
    Staff members often follow the lead that management-level employees establish. For example, if the boss is consistently late, certain employees may begin to believe that this is acceptable behaviour in the company.As a leader, you can inspire staff to develop their Executive Presence by exhibiting it yourself. Set positive standards by demonstrating composure under pressure, maintaining an excellent reputation, communicating effectively, keeping a polished professional image, and other qualities that are included in the three pillars of Executive Presence.
  • Be clear about dress policy.
    You do not need to be aggressive about enforcing rules, but a clear and consistent policy for the dress code will allow professional image to be the norm in your office culture.Especially for organizations that uphold a “business casual” dress code, lack of a clear policy can lead to image and attire slipping farther and farther away from professional standards. A defined policy – and adhering to that policy – will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Foster good communication among employees.
    Communication is one of the key pillars of Executive Presence. Therefore it is essential that your employees can communicate well with each other and with external contacts.To ensure this in your office, it is important once again that you set the tone by demonstrating good standards. Maintain a good rapport with your employees, position yourself as friendly and approachable, and establish clear and preferred channels of communication. To encourage your staff to communicate well with one another, promote team-building activities that will establish trust among staff.
  • Invite staff to participate in Executive Presence Lunch and Learns.

There is no better way to foster Executive Presence than by providing your employees the opportunity to learn about it firsthand. A Lunch and Learn is an excellent context to do so: it is a learning opportunity that is effective and does not require staff to give up too much time out of their days.

Our Lunch and Learn series on the Executive Presence System is a series of interactive workshops formulated to develop Executive Presence. These fast-paced 60 to 90 minute sessions encourage participants to play an active role throughout the process, ensuring that participants are engaged during the entire session.

Remember that Executive Presence can benefit not only an individual, but also a company as a whole. How does your workplace culture encourage Executive Presence?

 

 

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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