Reading time: 2,942 words, 8 pages, 7 to 11 minutes.
Updated Aug. 6, 2017
This is the second of a three-part series. See Part 1 if you haven’t already read it. Categories are in simple alphabetical order, so it doesn’t matter in which order you read these articles.
Herewith is Part 2.
Elevator Speech – Many people have short attention spans. Many people also ramble on and on and never get to the point. That’s a dangerous combination in an era where effective communication is paramount. How do you overcome this? One way is to learn to make ‘elevator speeches.’
An elevator speech is a brief, clear, persuasive message delivered in 20 to 30 seconds (about the time it takes to ride an elevator.) Think of it as a short sales pitch.
An elevator speech is usually prepared ahead of time and practiced until you’ve memorized it and you’re comfortable with it. Try to find that spot between passionate and constraint without sounding like a pre-recorded message (even though it is.)
First, write it down and make sure you get to the point by highlighting just what’s important. Then practice in front of a mirror. The more you practice, the better you become at getting to the point, and the more you’ll be able to create elevator speeches on the spot without preparation.
If you want to improve your communication skills by learning to get to the point, consider reading How to get your point across.
Familiarity – As you get to know coworkers, colleagues, vendors, etc. your familiarity with them increases. That can be perilous. Don’t let familiarity overcome your professionalism by becoming a wise guy. Remain polite and professional and let the idiots crack wise.
Formal Debates – Yeah, I know! Listening to a formal debate is about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, doing formal debates in High School enabled me to think on my feet and gave me the flexibility to change direction quickly.
I doubt our Public Indoctrination Education systems still have formal debates, but consider finding and joining a debating club. As with everything else, at first it’s as frightening as public speaking, but practice leads to improvement and increased confidence.
Friendship or Respect? – Whether you move into a leadership position or just dealing with coworkers, you face a tough choice between either being liked or respected. Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways. It’s one or the other.
Respect is more useful and gives you more traction to get things done than does friendship. If you want a friend, get a dog.
Glory-hounds & Superstars – Everybody wants recognition, but if you grab all the glory you’ll alienate coworkers as well as your boss. Superstars eventually get sidelined because they care only for themselves, and not others or the company as a whole.
Don’t hesitate to give credit where it’s due. When you receive praise for something, be humble and share the credit. People are much more willing to cooperate with someone who doesn’t hog the limelight. On the other hand, don’t downplay your successes. The key word is ‘share.’
Health – There’s only one person responsible for your health, and that’s you, not your doctor. Your doctor only looks after your illnesses. It’s called ‘health care,’ but it’s really ‘sick care.’
Do the things your Mother told you; exercise, eat healthy food, get proper rest, etc. You can’t overcome your genetics, but you can improve your odds of staying healthy. If you don’t, you’ll fight an uphill battle with the medical industry, increased absence from work and poorer job performance. Besides, no one likes being sick.
Hello – Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most. Something as simple as saying, “Hello” or “Good morning” or “Hi” or “Hey” will put you far ahead of the grunting troglodytes. This is valuable advice especially for today’s young people encumbered with iGadgets and unencumbered with social skills.
It takes so little effort to greet people with a smile, and it pays big dividends to your career.
Help Others – Many people have helped you, so pay it forward by helping others. The person you help today may become your boss, a client or a life-long friend. The benefits of helping others may not be immediately apparent, but it will pay off for yourself and others in ways you don’t know yet.
IT Dept. – When you’re dealing with computer people, remember these are computer-people, not people-people. With a few exceptions, many aren’t noted for social skills, so they’d rather hide behind their computer screens.
- If they’re developing something for you, you must check with them regularly, ask to see or discuss their progress and request changes if needed. Otherwise, they’ll develop what they think you want, give it to you and get on with their next assignment. And, you’re stuck with what you get.
- If you approach them with a problem (i.e. Help Desk), their first inclination is to blow you off. Keep trying, but be polite. Re-word your request if necessary. Persistence pays because you show you’re not going to give up and go away.
Jerks Miss Opportunities – Most of us will never know the opportunities we miss for a variety of reasons. Being a jerk is one way. Here’s an example.
I once owned a 1976 2-door Chevelle Malibu Classic with the optional Rally Wheel package. It consisted of small bullet hubcaps, and chrome beauty rings that, unfortunately, were prone to falling off. Corvettes of this vintage had them and only a few Malibu’s, so they are relatively rare.
I lost two beauty rings, and despite searching the U.S. and Canada, I was unable to find replacements. Because they’re uncommon and sought after by car restorers they rarely appear on the retail market and, instead, are often sold privately.
I removed the remaining wheel package, replaced them with cheap hubcaps and threw the package in the trunk thinking I might find a new home for them some day. A while later, I saw a beautifully restored ’67 Malibu with the Rally Wheel package. The owner was standing beside the car talking to another fellow. I was so impressed with his restoration; I decided to give him the package for free.
I walked over and politely waited to be acknowledged … and waited … and waited. The car’s owner was deliberately ignoring me. I waited some more then turned around and left. He will never know the great opportunity he missed by being a jerk.
Lesson: don’t be a jerk. You’ll never know the opportunities you missed.
Knew It – When someone tells you something you already know, it’s tempting to say, “I knew that.” Don’t say it. You’ll snub your source of information, and they’ll remember the snub the next time and may withhold valuable information.
Instead, be humble and say, “Thank You” and you’ll keep the lines of information open. Remember, it’s the information age.
Lead by example – You don’t need to be a supervisor or manager or CEO to lead people. Quiet leadership means people see you doing the right thing. You’ll never know how many people are watching you, but it’s likely more than you think.
Do it even if no one is watching. Someone probably is. Ever notice how many people pick their noses behind their windshield as if no one sees them?
Life-long Learning – I mentioned this before, but it’s so critical to your success that it must be said again. If you want to get ahead and stay ahead, you’ll never stop learning both on the job and in your free time.
The key element in the education system, whether public, private or home-schooling is teaching us to learn. After that, learning how to teach yourself produces the greatest results. If you stop learning, you’re no longer preparing for the challenges ahead. Your brain is like a muscle; use it or lose it.
Loyalty – Be loyal to yourself. Period. Many companies pay lip service to loyalty, but most will let you go in a heartbeat when times get tough. You don’t need to show them any more loyalty than they’ll show you.
Make Your Boss Look Good – No matter what your objectives are; your number one priority is making your boss look good. Your boss has more on his plate than he can handle so, if you help make him look good, that’ll give him the incentive to cover your backside. This enables you to stick your neck out and outdo your co-workers. It’s a symbiotic relationship that helps both of you.
Ask your boss what his biggest problem is and find a way to solve it. Rinse, repeat.
Meet People – It is critical that you go out of your way to meet and introduce yourself to new people whether it’s coworkers, customers, suppliers, the neighbors or whoever. This is especially critical for people warped by the plethora of electronic gadgets that has left them shy and socially-challenged. Many Millennials would rather text than talk. Building a social network provides an essential safety net as well as creating opportunities.
On the other hand, everybody is busy at work so you must pay attention, be sensitive to people and know when to let people do their jobs.
Microwave – Never cook fish in the microwave at work.
Mistakes – ALWAYS admit a mistake. It will usually come out, and it’s better coming from you than someone else where it’ll look like you were trying to cover it up. The cover-up is worse than the mistake itself.
Proper preparation and planning can avoid mistakes. However, mistakes happen despite your best efforts so make sure you learn from it. It’s not Ok to repeat the same error. That’s a sign of incompetence.
More than Money – No doubt you’ve heard you shouldn’t settle for a job unless you’re passionate about it. But, let’s get real. There simply aren’t that many jobs out there to suit our passions.
Some of my old schoolmates have retired from high-paying jobs at the mine in my old home town. The atmosphere in that workplace was toxic, and I don’t mean chemical, but psychological. I avoid them when I visit home because most of them are now bitter, nasty and noxious. Sure, they made a lot of money, but they lost their hearts and souls.
I’ve read numerous articles stating that about two-thirds of people hate their jobs. You don’t need to be passionate about your work, but if you can find a job that you enjoy you’ll be miles ahead of the crowd. Enjoyment is that sweet spot between hateful and passionate. Aim for that, and the job you enjoy will grow on you.
Name Please – If you make a telephone request to an outside party you’ve never dealt with, end the call by asking them to repeat their name. If necessary, ask them to spell it (unless it’s simple.) Then say, “Just a moment please, while I write that down.” Now they know you have their name. You’ve made it personal; you’ve made them accountable, more likely to fulfill your request and maybe even prioritize it higher than they normally would.
Network – the best jobs are rarely advertised and are often filled by someone who knows someone. By the time companies ‘post’ a job, they often have a candidate in mind, or they’re checking if someone even better applies. Forget ‘job boards’ because they’re usually the crummiest positions. Start networking early in your career and never quit.
It doesn’t matter if it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever. Make and grow your connections. The global workforce for good jobs is fiercely competitive so the more people who know you, the better your opportunities.
Never say ‘No” – Not saying “No” does not mean you have to say “Yes.” Suppose you’re asked a question or do something that you know probably isn’t possible and if you say no, there can be adverse consequences.
- You appear negative
- You don’t look like a ‘team player’
- It invites argument
Instead, say that that’s an excellent question and you’ll look into it. Then, ask an expert and report back what the expert said and the reasons they gave. Now you don’t sound negative; you’re only the messenger. If he wants to argue, he’ll have to argue with the expert and not with you.
Furthermore, the expert can sometimes suggest a way of getting it done that you hadn’t considered. Remember, two heads are better than one.
Note Pad & Pen – I remember maybe three things, and that’s on a good day. I always carried a small notepad and pen (or digital) rather than rely on memory. Being told or asked to do something and then forgetting it is a career-killer.
Writing it down shows you care enough to record it in a world where nobody seems to give a f**K. It reassures the person giving the information that what they said is important enough for you to record. And, it encourages further communication. Remember, this is the information age and the more lines of communication you have, the better.
Opinions – Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one. That doesn’t mean you have to listen to opinions or express yours. Opinions are nothing more than personal preferences. Some people like chocolate, some like strawberry.
Be wise and keep your opinions to yourself. If you’re going to spread something, spread knowledge.
Passion – You’ll be advised to “follow your passion” or “do what you love and the money will follow.” That’s utter bullshit. Following your passion is listening to your heart. Hearts are for pumping blood. Brains are for thinking.
If I followed my passion, I’d be an alcoholic snowboarder in winter and an inebriated sport fisherman in summer. Where’s the money in that?
I know a fellow who’s passionate about playing video games so he became a video game programmer. If he had used his brains instead of his heart, he’d have realized there’s a big difference between playing video games and programming them.
Furthermore, programming requires writing short, elegant code. He’s scatter-brained, and lacking in discipline and focus. He speaks in incomplete and incoherent sentences. Consequently, his coding is garbage.
The peak of his career was working for a major video game producer. He didn’t last and drifted down the ladder from one contract position to another. He’s currently a low-paid website developer for an equipment manufacturer; a far cry from video games. He’s a people person and would do better as a sales rep.
Instead of following your passion; do what you’re good at and the better you become, the more you’ll enjoy your work. You’ll develop a passion for doing enjoyable work.
Persistence – Be persistent and tenacious on the job. Everybody’s busy, so they often try to blow you off. If you chase down someone for something and you don’t get it the first time, keep at it until you do get it. You’ll build a reputation as an insistent bulldog, and fewer people will try to ignore you because they know that you don’t give up.
Personal Life – Most people like to talk particularly about themselves. Keep your personal life to yourself. The more your co-workers know about your private life, the more they’ll use it against you.
As well, the more they know about you, the more you lower yourself to their level. Do you want to be only as good as your coworkers or better?
Phone – Let it Ring – Effective sales people know to let the phone ring when they’re dealing face-to-face with a customer. Someone else can answer the call if it’s a land-line or it can go to message. You’ll never overcome snubbing a client by making him wait while you take a phone call. You’re telling them someone else is more important than they are. This is tough advice for a generation with its face buried in smartphones.
The phone companies have indoctrinated us to answer the phone quickly. The first few generations of phones were deliberately made with a shrill ring to encourage people to answer immediately, and this culture still prevails.
At home, I can make guests squirm by letting the phone ring.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” they ask.
“No, if it’s important, they’ll leave a message.”
“But what if it’s an emergency?”
“Then they have the wrong number and should dial 9-1-1.”
Overcome your indoctrination and let the damn phone ring. That’s why there’s an answering service. And, if it’s an emergency … you know the rest.
Point? – If you can’t get your point across in a conversation, you’re wasting your breath and someone else’s time. If you ramble, you’re in good company, but you’ll never rise above the herd.
If you want to improve your communication skills by learning to get to the point, consider reading How to get your point across if you haven’t already done so.
Promises – Underpromise & Overdeliver – Everyone is my boss. Although I’ve been in the union, on staff, a supervisor and management, I learned that everyone is my boss. If you survive in the working world, it’s because you learned to serve no matter your position.
We have been trained to deliver so it’s easy to agree to something and then later regret the commitment. It’s a lot easier to make a promise than deliver on it.
That being the case, you must learn to under promise. It’s not easy because most of us want to please. However, constantly over-promising and under-delivering will ruin your reputation. Do what you say you will do.
On the other hand, it’s not enough to say you’ll ‘try.’ They’ll reply, “don’t try; just do it.” Somewhere between these two extremes is a target you need to find for yourself because everyone and every job is different.
Quarrels – Never argue at work or in your personal life. That’s your ego getting in the way. The more you argue with someone, the more they resist, and the more concrete becomes their position, so they never change their minds.
Instead, state your case and let it go. Numerous times, weeks or months later, people will tell me what I told them. It’s tempting to say, “I told you that.” Don’t do it. Instead, thank them for that great information. You’ve just created and encouraged a new source of information.
We, humans, are a funny bunch. One of our many biases is we remember the information, but forget the source. You remember how to tie your shoe laces, but do you remember who taught you?
This is the second of a three-part series that continues with Part 3. Click here for Part 1 if you haven’t already read it. Categories are in alphabetical order, so it doesn’t matter in which order you read them.
June 7, 2017
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