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3 Proven Ways To Succeed At Work Today

3 Proven Ways To Succeed At Work Today

When I began my career as a letter carrier, I knew that was my entryway into the federal workforce. But I also knew that IT was not my final destination. If I wanted to advance in my career, I had to do what my co-workers were not willing to do. So I volunteered for extra work assignments, helped my supervisors with their workload, and whenever I saw a void, I quickly filled it. In less than three years, I was supervising the very office that I had started out in as a letter carrier. And not only that, I had the respect and cooperation of every employee in the building because they saw my strong work ethic.

Do you want to advance in your chosen career field? If so, then take the following examples as a lesson.

1. Look for ways to add value.

In his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, author Adam Grant shows that those who give in business are the ones that get ahead. When you proactively seek out ways to add value for others, you set yourself up to receive what you want in the future.

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Venture capitalist David Hornik, profiled in Grant’s book, gives entrepreneurs a chance to present ideas to him. If he’s intrigued, he backs the deal with his own money. He also gives in other ways. He openly shares information on his blog and even responds to emails from complete strangers. That’s how I was able to interview him. Hornik believes that success comes when you routinely pay attention to the needs of other people and find a way to fulfill that need. As Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” When you strive to be of value, your success is sure to follow. Who can you add value to in your company?

Action Item: Set an alarm on your cell-phone and block out 15-20 minutes once a week to jot down new ideas you can begin implementing at your workplace that will help add value to your employer.

2. Give with no expectation to receive.

I recently subscribed to the email list of Selena Soo. She is a publicity and business coach. In a case study she sent me, she mentions that she went from $0 to $157,000 in her first year as a coach. How you might ask? She did it by giving. That was a game-changer for her. When she realized giving with no expectation of return was the way to ethically get ahead, she did just that. She shares how she helped New York Times Best-Seller Ramit Sethi. He asked her for some feedback on his new website, and instead of just saying she liked version A or B, she dissected his website with some friends and sent him a detailed report with her feedback. She didn’t have to do this, but she did. She gave him more than what he asked for and was able to stand out. When she needed his assistance in the future, he was more than happy to help.

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What can you take away from Soo’s example? At your place of employment, how can you give more? How can you do more of what is expected of you? What would you want someone to do for you? Why not do that for someone at your job, whether it’s a co-worker or your boss?

Action Item: Get into the habit of skimming a lot of publications. Bookmark articles of interest and send the articles to key people in your organization with an email saying: “FYI, thought this might interest you.”

 3. Focus on helping others succeed.

The 2015 Dream Project Symposium is the brainchild of CEO Teneshia Jackson Warner. This is not just your ordinary business conference, but a symposium for all individuals who dare to dream bigger for their lives and businesses. I had the opportunity to interview Warner, and she made one bold move that can help anyone be successful in their job.

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“One day while at a conference, I bumped into Russel Simmons,” Warner said. “I knew this was my opportunity, so I pitched myself to him and told him I wanted to volunteer to work for him in exchange for an opportunity to learn from him. He gave me his fax number, when faxes were in vogue, and for 30 days straight, I faxed him my resume.” It worked. She eventually began working for Simmons as a volunteer and gained valuable experience that led to her starting her own business.

Did you happen to catch what Warner did that helped her to succeed? She volunteered. She discovered that you have to give first in order to get. One of my favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar, which says, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you help others succeed by volunteering to help them, you will be remembered by them. After Warner helped Simmons for free, wouldn’t you know that he became her very first client? How can this help you in your career? Who could you help? What could you volunteer to do?

Action Item: Identify who you can help in your job. Research what they need help with. Make a list of how you can add value. Do it. Rinse and repeat. Remember, it can be as simple as forwarding an article that interests them, saying thank you, or congratulating them on a job well done.

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Featured photo credit: Steve Wilson via flickr.com

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meiko patton

Founder - Never Ever Give Up

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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