Top 4 Interpersonal Communication Skills You Need to Get Ahead at Work (2021 Update)

What are the most important skills to have to get ahead in your career? Some essential skills include increasing your visibility, getting others to perceive you in a positive light, developing your executive presence and having strong interpersonal communication skills.

What are interpersonal communication skills?

A general definition would be that interpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. According to a recent article in Hubpages, Terersa Coppens groups interpersonal skills into four main categories:

Most interpersonal skills can be grouped under one of four main forms of communication: verbal, listening, written and non-verbal communication. Some skills such as recognition of stress and attitude are important to all forms of interpersonal communication. Effective communication skills result in mutual understanding. Poor communication wastes time and resources, get in the way of accomplishing goals and can sour relationships.

Some people may view interpersonal skills as a natural talent that people either have or don’t. But the truth is that they are skills that can easily be learned and developed. One of the best ways to improve any skill is through active and continuous practice. There are several ways in which all 4 types of interpersonal communication can be improved upon and several reasons why you may want to.

What are the 4 types of interpersonal communication?

Listening skills (possibly the most important of all communication skills) and verbal skills include:

  • Relaxation – a calm, self-confident manner allows for more coherent verbal expression and gives the impression of an active listener.
  • Positive attitude – all people prefer communicating with the happy, accepting person.
  • Empathy – by seeing, understanding and respecting another’s point of view, a person gains respect and the trust of others as a speaker and is seen as an attentive listener.
  • Understanding stress in yourself and others – allows for self-monitoring of your own verbal communication and a greater understanding of a speaker’s motivations; you realize when your tone of voice or word choice is affected by internal feelings of stress and as well understand when you are listening to someone who’s speech is affected by stress; it allows you to compensate accordingly.
  • Assertiveness – this quality is essential and fundamental to negotiation in that the participants express beliefs in a way others can understand but also respect the thoughts and feelings of all involved
  • Teamwork – includes adaptability and flexibility in dealing with differing personalities and differing interpersonal skill levels.

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Active listening – A successful communication skill

When listening to someone speaking, you can simply passively hear their message or actively listen to understand, learn, and respond. When learning how to listen to others actively, you can learn more about different people’s insights, perspectives, and experiences.

Using active listening in the workplace can accelerate growth personally and professionally because it facilitates learning from others and considering new ideas. This is undoubtedly one of the most vital skills that can be developed for personal growth. Since listening is one-half of effective communication exchange, it is almost impossible to communicate at all without it.

When we listen actively, we can respond effectively to ensure a beneficial. That is why listening with focus and effort can be critical while remaining as involved in the discussion as the speaker. Sharpening your listening skills can be an essential part of developing good interpersonal communication skills. Here are a few tips to help you build your active listening:

  • Focus on the conversation at hand. Try not to multitask but give the speaker your undivided attention.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker. Interrupting someone might give off the impression that you don’t find what they are saying very important.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Have patience and allow people to get to the point on their own time and do not try to finish their points for them,
  • Ask questions. This shows that you are interested and would like clarity and context.

Written Communication Skills and Interpersonal Communication

Nearly all jobs will require you to write something at some point. Effective written communication can be a make or break for effectively conveying a message to someone else. The ability to write clearly and concisely ensures that everyone you communicate with will understand the message that you are trying to give.

Written communication can share many of the same attributes as verbal communication, good sentence construction and word choice play a vital role in this type of communication, just as with verbal communication. There are, however, a few differences between written and oral communication. Where verbal communication relies greatly on body language, tone of voice and eye contact for added context clues, written communication must convey a message effectively without any of these.

To develop effective written communication, it is crucial to focus on skills that help you gain greater attention to detail and understanding of grammar, punctuation and word choice.

Written skills include:

  • Analysis – strong analytical and research skills are key in expressing new ideas and getting them accepted by co-workers and senior management.
  • Computer and technical literacy – these skills are essential in the business world as most written communication and all analysis of data occurs on the computer.
  • Professionalism – this quality is important in all forms of interpersonal communication including written communication; standard formats for business correspondence are common, and spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable, eroding a worker’s value in the firm

Non-verbal interpersonal skills include:

  • Body language
  • Eye-contact
  • Micro-facial expressions

Eye contact: Its role in interpersonal communication

Eye contact is one of the best-known aspects of non-verbal communication. From eye contact or a lack thereof, it is possible to tell a lot about someone and their intentions. When someone can establish good eye contact, they are perceived as trustworthy and confident, at least according to western culture.

When someone subsequently fails to maintain eye contact, they are perceived as less credible or reliable when they look down or if their eyes constantly stray. That being said, there is also a more refined nuance when it comes to breaks of gaze. When expressing condolences, a drop of gaze might portray genuine sympathy or compassion. A drop in gaze may also display guilt or remorse when someone is being questioned.

Similarly, there are many different ways in which eye contact can be very revealing during a conversation. For example, an active listener will most likely focus their gaze on the speaker’s lips when conversing. If the listener breaks this gaze and makes eye contact with the speaker, it can be seen as a non-verbal cue that they would like to interject or say something.

Understanding these subtle nuances of non-verbal communication through eye contact can help you gain more context clues from the conversation and seem more credible and confident during discussions with others.

Body language in interpersonal communication

Body language is what you are saying when you aren’t saying anything. Often, your body language can speak the loudest when you are engaged in conversation with others. Your facial expressions, gestures, posture and tone of voice can reveal a lot about how you are feeling within a conversation.

Non-verbal cues, portrayed in the way you listen, look, move and react are essential in showing other participants in a conversation that you care, are trustworthy and that you are actively listening. Body language gets picked up subconsciously by others. When faced with believing your verbal message or the message portrayed by your body language, most people will feel inclined to judge you by your body language.

Body language is often instinctive and not conscious, which is why it can be a very good indicator of a person’s true feelings and intent. Most of us are constantly analyzing each other’s body language without even realizing it, which is why it can be very beneficial to be aware of your body and the messages you are conveying with it during conversations.

In his pioneering fieldwork, Professor Mehrabian made two key points:

  1. a) There are 3 elements in face-to-face communications, often called the “3-Vs:”
  • Verbal, or words
  • Vocal, or tone of voice
  • Visual, meaning non-verbal behaviours or Body Language
  1. b) Visual components communicate far more than verbal – in situations where the words are not compatible with the non-verbal signals – and people tend to believe the behaviour and the tone of voice, not the verbal message.

According to Professor Mehrabian, we evaluate the 3-Vs quite differently. His findings are often called the 7%-38%-55% rule or the Mehrabian formula:

  • 7% Verbal
  • 38% Vocal
  • 55% Visual

His formula was refined under research conditions where there was incompatibility, or incongruence, between words and facial expressions when communicating feelings and attitudes.

Why do interpersonal communication skills matter?

All of the above can reinforce the honesty, integrity and trust of personal interaction with co-workers and clients. In verbal exchanges, a person lacking eye contact is seen as dishonest and/ or lacking confidence in their words. Reliability and responsibility are also conveyed by positive gestures and body language that match the tone and content of the speaker’s voice. Excessive hand gestures and invasion of another’s personal space are intimidating and detracts from the value of the conversation. Leaders with poor non-verbal communication skills are not viewed as effective and leading to lower productivity and poor office morale.

Having good technical and professional skills paired with good communication skills can help professionals stay ahead of the competition. Having the ability to communicate effectively with co-workers, employees and customers can be very beneficial in building effective, solid and lasting interpersonal relationships.

These skills can help collaboration with others, provide guidance, support and reassurance, and convey information effectively. Understanding these skills will also enable you to read a room, understand how your actions affect others, and help you fully grasp what others are trying to tell you.

Interpersonal communication skills in the workplace

While it is imperative that employees possess the technical abilities to fulfill their duties, a well-functioning, effective team highly relies on each team member being able to communicate and highlight concerns with their peers. Technical skills are the hard skills needed to complete tasks, whereas people skills are the soft skills necessary for interpersonal communication and understanding.

A lack of interpersonal skills in a work environment can lead to many issues within the workflow and satisfaction within teams. Lack of communication can easily lead to frustration, disconnect and lowered morale and productivity. The team may not feel that they can function as a team. Communication can also be vital in ensuring that clients do not feel neglected or forgotten. This is why all employees must be able to communicate, provide feedback and listen to concerns.

Improved interpersonal communication in the workplace can be crucial to business success. It falls upon all employers and employees to develop self-awareness of their own interpersonal skills and work on the areas where they might be lacking. A business might be able to motivate its employees to strengthen their communication through incentives and training.

How to assess your own interpersonal communication skills

When assessing your interpersonal skills, many online tools and questionnaires may help you analyze how effectively you communicate with others. Knowing how to discern between effective and ineffective interpersonal skills can be very important as these skills can be the hardest to self-analyze. One way to assess your interpersonal skills is to evaluate all of the aspects of interpersonal communication individually and to determine how effectively you can master each.

Businesses can assess the interpersonal skills of their employees using tests, reports such as reference letters or peer feedback, and conversations with each employee. Employees might even be asked to evaluate each other on several aspects of interpersonal communication. Written and listening skills can be evaluated using comprehension and writing tests.

Although these assessments can be valuable in identifying employees that could benefit from interpersonal skills training, it is important to note that they can be indicative of previous performance and behaviour and might not be an accurate reflection of future performance. Therefore it may also be beneficial to observe employees outside of these assessments to see how they perform on a daily basis.

5 tips to improve your interpersonal communication skills

Developing strong interpersonal skills can be beneficial for both your professional and personal life.  There are many different ways in which these skills can be improved and perfected with some effort and dedication. Here are 5 tips to help you if you are looking to improve your interpersonal communication skills:

  • Practice maintaining appropriate eye contact – Actively work on giving attention to others during conversations to portray interest, validation and focus. This will also help you to avoid distractions around you.
  • Be truthful – Many times, people can be very intuitive, and it is surprisingly easy to pick up on defeat. Being honest with others will strengthen your relationships and maintain your reputation and integrity.
  • Become more aware of your gestures and posture during conversations – No matter how subtle your gestures may be, they can say a lot about you. For example, try not to cross your arms or slouch as this may show disinterest or boredom.
  • Stay positive – If you appear happy and optimistic, others will be more open to speaking with you as you appear non-judgemental, welcoming and accepting. Focus on how things can improve and develop instead of focussing on the negatives.
  • Read more – Reading will help you to grow your vocabulary and become more articulate. Being aware of global news, scientific developments and general knowledge will also help you communicate more effectively. Reading will also help you to improve your writing skills.

Reflect on your personal development regularly to continuously improve and learn. Be open to opportunities that might help you grow and understand the intricacies of interpersonal, verbal and non-verbal communication. It goes without saying that interpersonal communication skills are essential in any career or business as person-to-person interaction is required at any level and for virtually any job. Build key interpersonal skills by developing executive presence.

Master your leadership, social and interpersonal skills with CCI’s Online Self-Paced Leadership Presence System!

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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!

Self-Knowing and Authenticity

Alas! We have finally reached the last blog post on Leadership Presence – self-knowing and authenticity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered what leadership presence means, what it can do for you, and how to attain it. Last week we began to dissect the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to obtaining leadership presence: self-knowing. This week, we continue with this theme but discuss it in terms of authenticity.

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What is authenticity? Well, at its most basic level, it means to be genuine. To be genuine is to be oneself. The ability to connect with others in the business world is of the utmost importance, however the connecting must be done genuinely, or authentically, for it to have any meaning or impact.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, there are three rules for authenticity. We shall discuss each in detail below.

Rule #1: Accept yourself and be open to growth (Halpern and Lubar 230)

Many of the greatest leaders feel comfortable and happy with themselves, despite their shortcomings. They know of their weaknesses and work to improve them, however they also accept them. When you’re aware of, and accepting of, your limitations it will allow you to develop the skills you need to overcome them. In addition, a good leader will know if their limitations cannot be overcome, at least in a timely manner, and in that case will delegate the task to someone more appropriately equipped to handle the situation. One of the best ways to accept yourself is to be open to hearing commentary about yourself and your performance, including criticism.

Rule #2: Live your values (Halpern and Lubar 235)

 In the last blog, we discussed values and how important they are to a leader. Well, it’s one thing to have values, however it’s another to put them into practice, especially in a workplace setting. Halpern and Lubar suggest leaders take two related steps in order to make sure their actions are congruent with their values:

  1. Ask others straight up if they believe you are someone who lives your values.
  2. Every time you speak of your values, ask others to tell you when your actions don’t align with your values.

It’s one thing to realize or discover that your actions don’t align with your values. If and when you do realize this, it is imperative you do some soul searching in order to figure out why this discrepancy exists, and then come up with a plan to correct the discrepancy. Remember, when your actions and values don’t align, you risk being perceived as inauthentic.

Rule #3: Create an authentic connection to work (Halpern and Lubar 240)

In order for a leader to be their most inspiring, authentic self, they must connect their values and interior life to the work that they do, similarly to how actors need to create a true connection to the characters they are portraying. At the end of the day, it is simply about creating meaning; if you truly believe in what you do and say, others will recognize that and will want to follow you. Connecting authentically with others allows the leader, as well as the led, to connect with something “bigger than themselves and their own self-interest” (Halpern and Lubar 247).

Being a leader is not about being “the boss”; it is about much more than that. It’s about inspiring, connecting, and motivating others to succeed and reach their highest potential. It is about communication, values, and the ability to make decisions. The steps we’ve outlined over the past few weeks are not necessarily the easiest things to do (opening up to others and becoming vulnerable is typically an anxiety-causing activity for most), however, if put into practice, they will help you achieve the leadership presence you deserve and need to reach the next level.

Works Cited

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

 

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.

 

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.

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!

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 (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.

 

Your Selfie, Your Professional Self

How much information do you share about yourself online? On your personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts, how large of a window do you let into your life?

selfie

Posting personal photos and updates on social media is nothing new or unusual. If you do it, you are among millions of other users worldwide who share some elements of their private lives on a public platform. When this becomes an issue, however, is if the presentation of yourself on social media – whether through group photos, self-taken images or “selfies,” or written posts – is vastly different from the image you try to cultivate in the workplace.

“But this is my personal profile,” many have argued. “I have a separate profile for my work-related tweets and Facebook posts.” This may be the case, but lines become blurred between personal and professional on social media. A boss, client, or potential employer could have access to both – and it may not work to your advantage.

  • Be Careful What You Selfie For
    In some cases, the selfie and its subjects have acquired a connotation of being self-centred, overly indulgent, and simply unnecessary. Aside from this annoyance that some people feel when viewing the selfies of others, such images can harm the photographer if they reveal him or her participating in inappropriate behaviour.

    Although selfies have become normalized and encouraged – there is now even a professional camera designed for taking selfies – be wary of your own selfie-image and how often you post them. Before posting a selfie to social media, ask yourself if it aligns with the image you present in the office. One useful tip is to think of an actual person in your professional circle – whether an employer, client, or otherwise – and ask yourself whether you would mind if that individual saw the selfie you were about to post.

  • Don’t Compromise Your Reputation
    Reputation is an indispensible component of Executive Presence. However, even if you have worked for years to build up a flawless reputation in the boardroom, inappropriate online posts or images on personal accounts can shatter that reputation in an instant. Although you can heal a bruised reputation, it takes much more time and effort than maintaining a good reputation in the first place.

    Not only can questionable images hinder your reputation, but also hateful or negative written posts can do damage as well. Even something that seems like a harmless complaint can have a massive effect, especially if it is related to your company or line of work.

  • First Impressions Are Not Always in Person
    First impressions do not always occur face-to-face. In fact, an increasing number of employers admit to reviewing job candidates’ social media accounts before hiring. According to a 2014 Jobvite poll, some employers not only factor in appropriate images and posts, but also details such as spelling and grammar.

    If you are concerned about your online first impression, take steps to improve its quality – or limit its accessibility. If others tag you in images you would not like to be widely available, remove the tag and ask friends not to tag you in the future. Increase the privacy settings on your Facebook account and consider making your Twitter private as well.

Remember that if your social media accounts are widely accessible, there is no difference between your professional and personal image – anyone can see both. For more on social media and professionalism, see our previous posts “Dining Etiquette in the Age of Food Selfies” and “Spring Cleaning for Your LinkedIn Profile.”