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Why You Need 360 Degrees of Feedback to Get Promoted

Making it to the next level of career success can be a frustrating experience. I can remember sitting in my office, mired in middle management, wondering if I would ever be able to make the next step happen. It was a miserable experience. Yet when I discovered the powerful nature that 360 degrees of feedback can provide, I didn’t feel so stuck any more.

Here’s why: the best feedback you can receive won’t come from your family, friends, or your political allies at work. It will come from your biggest critics. Listen to what they have to offer and you may just find a new door is ready to open that you hadn’t seen before.

How Does 360 Degrees of Feedback Work?

I’m a pretty straight-forward manager. I know who likes me, who respects me, and who would rather see me on the first flight to Termination City. It was the last group that I decided to approach because I felt like they would be more willing to tell me the truth I needed to hear.

I’d always felt that I was very good at what I did. I could produce results. Yet when I brought my critics in for an honest feedback session where the gloves could come off, I discovered something that others perceived about me that was potentially holding me back.

Where I felt that I was confident, many felt that I was condescending. Where I felt like I was in control and a team leader, others felt that I was being dismissive of new ideas. And where I felt like I was driving my team forward to new heights of accomplishment, some felt like I was being impatient.

The bottom line that I got out of that conversation was this: many people thought I was trying to further my career at the expense of everyone else. It didn’t matter whether or not that I felt this was true – and it wasn’t true. But because this was the general perception many had about me, that perception would become a reality.

Why Having Diverse Feedback Is Important

William Wrigley Jr. is attributed to this quote: “When two men in business agree, then one of them is unnecessary.” It can be pleasing to have a team of advisors giving you feedback that supports your own point of view, but that can also give you tunnel vision when you look at the future.

You might think you’re finding success. In reality, you’re not finding anything but a lot of “Yes” people telling you what you want to hear.

So here’s what I did: I took those critics and I asked them to be my personal advisors. I told them to be brutally honest with me, but I also told them to be just as honest with themselves when it came to potential positives that I could be doing as well. After all, when people just focus on the negative, that’s what will only be found.

The results have been impressive. I may not have that promotion, but the communication throughout my team is better. I’m no longer arrogant in the eyes of most because more people understand who I am and what my leadership style happens to be.

And it’s all because I listened to the feedback from my critics.

Take the next opportunity you can to embrace your critics and take their feedback seriously. Then implement realistic changes based on what you’re told. When you’ve done that, come back and tell me what happened. I’d love to hear where you found success and what struggles you encountered during this process.

5 Ways to Add Mindfulness Meditation to Your Work Routine

 

Mindfulness meditation. It’s more than a business buzzword these days. It’s a practical action that anyone can take to experience better success in their job duties.

With the application of mindfulness meditation, an individual’s resilience, collaboration skills, and ability to lead are reinforced. And though the benefits are profound, I can tell you that experiencing these benefits isn’t always an easy process.

For mindfulness meditation to work, you’ve got to be willing to commit to the process with 100% of your personal energy. If you’re not “all in,” then the benefits will struggle to appear.

So how can each of us put in the time when we don’t have a lot of time in our schedules? I know there are days when I’m lucky to even find time to eat a sandwich. Here are some ideas that have really helped me be able to include mindfulness into my calendar.

#1. Take away the art of being “busy.” When I took an honest look at my schedule, I found that I was scheduling a lot of time where I was being busy instead of being productive. Since I felt like mindfulness meditation would make me more productive, I forced myself to remove the busy periods of time.

#2. Begin to delegate. I hate delegating. It’s not that I find it hard to let tasks go. I find that I don’t always trust those around me to do a good job. Can you relate to that? So I was brave. I allowed my admin to start reviewing my non-essential emails to let me know what was going on instead of reading through each message. This saved me more time each day than I’d care to admit – but it goes toward my mindfulness time today.

#3. Eliminate the negative self-talk. I’m so bad at this. “Good job, stupid,” tends to come out if I make a mistake. I’ve heard far worse from my colleagues. The only problem is that this negative self-talk enhances the guilt and anxiety we already feel because of failure. So, when we fail at meditation, the negative self-talk tries to show up. I’ll probably never completely eliminate my name calling habit, but by being more conscious about it, I’ve found that I’m more able to embrace mindfulness meditation.

#4. Incorporate it into other business events. When I really can’t find any time to meditate, I’ve found that most of my colleagues are finding a similar struggle on that day. Since my team gets together on a regular basis to discuss what’s going on, I’ve implemented the 5-minute mindfulness introduction. Before we begin the meeting, we have a group meditation session. It’s optional, of course, but it gives us at least a brief respite from what is going on and that helps immensely.

#5. Be realistic. I think this was my biggest mistake. At the very beginning, I expected – no, demanded – that I could make 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation work. Sure enough, it took me only 3 days to start finding excuses as to why I couldn’t make it work. When you’re realistic with your goals, you’ll be more successful. Period.

Mindfulness meditation can change everything. It allows you to connect with your job, your co-workers, and your family in new and exciting ways. How could you add just 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation to your routine today?

 

What It Really Means to Be an Active Listener

 

Ever had someone cut you off mid-thought because they just couldn’t hold their comments back? It seems to happen to me all the time – and even more so recently. The art of active listening seems to have gone away.

From my experience, being an active listener generally comes down to three traits in the eyes of most. You need to not talk when someone else is speaking, be conscious of your body language, and be able to summarize what has been said to you.

That might make it seem like you’re listening to the other person… but did you really hear what they had to say? Your Management 101 class would say that you did. I’m thinking that something may have been missed in translation. Here’s why.

#1. Active listening means more than encouraging silence.

When you’re listening to someone speak, there will be times when something might come up that is factually wrong. Or someone might need a moment to think about what it is they actually want to say. These moments deserve more than mere silence. I believe that in order to be an active listener, we must ask meaningful questions to challenge false assumptions or to break up moments of silence.

For example:

Them: “It’s so nice to know that the sky is always yellow.”

You: “I appreciate a daytime sky that’s blue with a yellow sun.”

#2. Active listening also means respecting the opinion of others.

I’ve found that the best active listeners look for ways to build up a person’s self-esteem. They seek out moments of confidence and then look to build upon them. This creates a safe environment for even more conversation to be had.

For example:

Them: “It’s so nice to know that the sky is always yellow.”

You: “I like the fact that the stars twinkle yellow in the dark night sky.”

#3. Active listening involves cooperation.

There must be a certain level of back-and-forth within the dialogue of a conversation in order for it to be meaningful. Have you ever noticed how much more rewarding a conversation happens to be when you know that you don’t have to be defensive about what you want to say? So many conversations today are competitive in nature. The goal in active listening isn’t to prove that your opinions are superior to theirs.

It’s to create a give and take so that it feels like you’re trying to help. I’ve found that trying to win an argument is pointless. Trying to listen for cooperative moments where mutual learning can happen? That’s when a conversation becomes rewarding.

#4. Active listening offers suggestions.

I like to call this the “plan of action” stage for active listening.

This is where you can give the other person in the conversation some feedback. Most people tend to talk when they need to vent their frustrations about something. Once they have finished discussing the problem and there’s a moment of silence, that’s your cue to know that they’re potentially receptive to a suggestion.

So suggest something. As an added bonus, if your suggestion calls for a specific action to be taken, then make the time to practice that action in some way.

Active listening isn’t a race. It is a moment for you to get to know someone else in a deeper, meaningful way if you create the structure which allows it. By following these steps, it becomes much easier to make that happen.

How do you apply active listening skills to your conversations?

How You Can Be Intelligent Instead of Sounding Smart When Writing

 

Do you spend a lot of time trying to sound smarter than you really are?

The art of writing is a lot like the art of refereeing. You know it’s good when it goes unnoticed. Unfortunately, many professionals today are spending more time trying to figure out how to sound smart instead of working on being intelligent.

Whether you’re writing a blog post, a grant letter, or a basic email, your goal should be to drive an outcome with every word offered. There must be a purpose to what is being written that goes beyond trying to establish a better reputation.

I know that I’ve really struggled with this in the past. I used to think that if I sounded smart, then those who read my content would feel that I was intelligent. That would make everyone want to read more of what I had. Now I work on checking these things before posting or sending anything.

#1. Eliminate jargon or unusual words. I love strange words in the English language. It used to be fun for me to talk about my lamprophony within my content. Using words that people have to use a Google search to figure out is a fast way to drive them away from what you’ve written. The goal of writing isn’t just to communicate. It must also establish a relationship.

#2. Use your words correctly. Buzzwords are fine when they’re used properly. The only problem is that you don’t sound intelligent or smart if you use those buzzwords incorrectly. My biggest pet peeve is the use of “empathetic” and “empathic.” If you’re empathetic, then you are able to share another person’s feelings. Empathic can mean the same thing, but it is only supposed to be used in non-scientific writing.

So in this instance, where we’re discussing how to write better, we would actually say that an individual is an empathic listener. If we were talking about a research study about listening, then they would be an empathetic listener.

Or we could just describe someone as a good listener who can sense the feelings of others and avoid misuse altogether.

#3. Include bullet points when they make sense. Bullet points can really help a bit of content stand out. The structure naturally draws the reader to the key points you’re trying to make. The only problem is that when the bullet points don’t flow together well, the reader becomes disengaged from the content. Each bullet point must have the same form of grammar in order for it to be effective.

#4. Stay out of the passive voice whenever possible. “I will write this content today.” That’s active voice. “This content will be completed by the end of the day by me.” That’s passive voice. Active writing creates confidence. It inspires accountability. That’s not to say that passive voice is bad. It’s just a way to offer yourself a method of escape as a writer if someone happens to disagree with what you’ve written.

Being intelligent with your writing means that you are writing for your reader. Sounding smart with your writing means that you’re writing for yourself. So think about what the reader needs, provide that, and your writing will improve.

How do you avoid the traps of sounding smart when you write? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.

How Mindfulness Can Rejuvenate Your Career

 

Everyone has a bad day or two. But maybe you’re stuck in a bad month or two. Or maybe it’s been a year or two. These things happen.

Mindfulness isn’t a magic pill you can take to fix everything. It is a form of meditation that can help you gain more control over your thinking. This is important for those times when you’re stuck in a rut because thinking leads to feelings. Feelings lead to choices. Choices lead to actions.

If you try to stop a poor action by making a different choice, but do not address the thinking and feeling behind the choice in the first place, then your odds of success will be quite low. Mindfulness can be used to address those thoughts and feelings so that your career choices can be better.

This is why mindfulness can make a bad day better. It can even rejuvenate your entire career.

Why Is Mindfulness So Popular in Today’s Workplace?

There are many reasons why mindfulness meditation has become popular in today’s workplace, but the top reason is that it provides a retreat for the busy professional. By scheduling in time for mindfulness, you’re really scheduling time for yourself.

When was the last time you had 30 minutes without an interruption? Without your phone, tablet, or TV? Where you could just sit in silence and not need to worry about what is next on your schedule?

It doesn’t happen often. Since almost 3 of every 4 dollars in the US is spent on stress-related expenses, it needs to happen more. We’re literally working ourselves to death. That’s why mindfulness is being embraced by many companies in the Fortune 100 today.

It’s not about making people more productive. It’s about saving people so they can actually have a career.

How Come Thoughts and Feelings Need to Be Addressed?

We could talk about how mindfulness improves your focus or boost your creativity, but the real benefit comes with an improvement in your emotional intelligence. This is how you manage your behavior, both personally and with others. When you know how you are thinking and feeling, then you can make a better choice to take a more effective action.

If you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, you probably reach for the coffee pot first, right? Or maybe it is an energy drink. I tend to crave waffles in these circumstances. Our choices are not the same as they would be with 7-8 hours of sleep because our thought patterns are affected by fatigue.

The same principle is found in the modern workplace. People are fatigued at work. They feel burned-out.

What mindfulness meditation is able to do is help you and I be able to recognize this fatigue, identify problematic thoughts that may be generated because of being tired, and then stop those thoughts from becoming feelings that we all act upon.

I’ve found that mindfulness has helped me get through the toughest days at work because it gives me a better perspective of life. Work is important, but so are the personal moments with family and friends.

Have you tried mindfulness meditation to deal with the stress in your career? Has it helped you be able to save your job? Your career? I’d love to hear your story!

How You Can Make Time for Work that Really Matters

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have 25 hours in the day?

The fact is that we often say we wish there was more time in the day, but what we’re really saying is that we wished we had less to do. Now here’s the good news: the average person can actually free up nearly 90 minutes of time on an 8-hour work day just by setting realistic and rigid priorities.

This is because our days are often filled with an emphasis on “being busy” instead of an emphasis on “being productive.”

So here’s what I’ve found can be done to make sure there is enough time for the work that really matters, which will help us all become less busy and more productive every day.

#1. Identify all of your low-value tasks.

Nearly 25% of the tasks you perform at work are either going to be relatively easy to stop doing or aren’t really important to the future of your company or your position. Something as simple as dropping a needless meeting can free up 1-3 hours in your weekly schedule instantly. You might also be too involved in the daily details of a project, wasting time by sorting documents, or bogged down in other routine administrative tasks that may not even need to be completed.

#2. Make sure you’re not being a martyr.

If it seems like you’re too busy at work, then there’s a good chance that you’ve chosen to be this way. There are ways that you can lessen your workloads, even if there are tasks that rise above low-value status. You may be able to delegate these tasks to other members of your team if you cannot drop them completely. It may also be possible to restructure how that work is being completed so you can become more efficient at it.

#3. Find a way to let the worries fade away.

One of the biggest struggles we all face in terms of delegation is fear. Because we’re letting other people finish the tasks for us, we’re essentially vouching for that person. My first issues with delegation certainly hovered around this. Yet at the end of the day, when I could get past worrying about the tasks I’d delegated, I learned that developing an entire team is just as important as learning when to delegate.

#4. Use your new free time wisely.

The first time I had freed up my schedule enough where I had an extra 30 minutes, I just sat behind my desk and did nothing. I unplugged my phone, put my feet up, and enjoyed the silence. That was useful for one day, but it wouldn’t make me productive from a long-term perspective. When you’ve got extra time, make a list of the things you should be doing, but are not. Then keep a log of what you do during your free time to make sure you’re remaining productive.

#5. Commit to your plan.

None of this is going to work unless you stay committed to the goal of making time for work that really matters. You can’t go back to being a martyr. You must keep delegating. You must take advantage of the free time you have. You must look to the future instead of worrying about the past. Not every day will be easy – I can vouch for that – but there is the potential to be rewarded with more time every day.

Stop being busy. Start being productive. That way you can enjoy all 24 hours that we have in the day.

What has been your biggest struggle in making time for the work that really matters? I’d love to hear how you were able to overcome these challenges.

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