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If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

If You Want To Shine At Work, Do These 5 Things

Do you want to have a career you love?

The people who have the most successful, happiest careers are the ones who are truly superstars at what they do. They invest in things that matter and focus energy on becoming the best. So how can you be someone who doesn’t just show up and get the work done, but who shines and excels while doing it?

Standing out in the work environment is difficult, especially if you work on a big team or at a company where excellence is the norm. To help you become a career superstar, take a look through a list of our top five lessons to help you shine as a leader and make the most out of your career.

1. Write down your goals

Accomplishing your goals is similar to planning a trip: once you decide where you want to go, you have to plan how you’re going to get there, your time frame, and which steps you need to take along the way to reach your destination if you want to actually arrive there. Having goals is important for staying focused in the long run, since just showing up for the daily grind isn’t enough to help you take big career leaps.

Everyone shows up. You have to plan if you want to do more: you need to know what you want to accomplish and what steps you’ll need to get there. When goal setting, think in terms of three different time frames: what do you want to accomplish in the short-term (6 months – 1 year), the intermediate-term (3 – 5 years), and long-term (12 – 15 years).

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This can be extremely daunting, but short-term goals help build toward long-term goals. Do you want to own your own software company? Well, if you aren’t able to start that company today, figure out what is standing in your way and make a plan to knock down those hurdles before you start your business, or you risk letting the years go by and nothing happening.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

Putting your plans on a concrete time frame will help you stay on track so you don’t put your big goals and dreams on the back burner when life, work and other responsibilities get in the way. Prioritize your goals to make them happen.

Schedule time each week to work specifically towards accomplishing your goal and set aside an additional 15 minutes each week to monitor your progress, investigate next steps, and correct the course.

2. Ask for feedback

As the saying goes, we are often hardest on ourselves. At work, superstars tend to push themselves to be better at everything (which is a good thing), but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to improve yourself and truly be amazing at your job. After all, you only have one perspective. That’s where asking for feedback comes in.

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When you invite feedback, you make it possible for yourself to truly become great. By getting outside opinions on your work, you are suddenly able to improve more quickly than if you are relying solely on your own evaluations. Other people have different perspectives, values and insights to share — by inviting as many of them as possible, you provide yourself a wealth of knowledge to make yourself even better.

If you’re just starting out asking for feedback, a great place to start is with your boss, since he or she has the closest understanding of what success in your role looks like. Not only will getting feedback from your boss help you do more of the work that matters more successfully, but increased communication and face-time is valuable for building trust and rapport that helps to make you stand out on your team.

When asking for feedback, there are important factors to keep in mind. Most importantly, don’t get defensive. Even if you disagree with the feedback, rather than arguing, ask for an example of the negative behavior and get more context so you can understand his or her perspective. (Even if you don’t end up using the feedback, this can be valuable for understanding what matters to this person so you can work better with him or her in the future.)

The next important factor to asking for feedback is to try what’s recommended. Feedback can’t help if you don’t do anything with it. You may later decide you don’t like the new method, but trying it shows you are open to critique and doing things a new way if it’s better.

3. Handle bad situations like a leader

Not every day at work is great, and as a leader, sometimes it’s your job to tell everyone when there’s bad news. Whether it’s a negative performance review or announcing a cancelled project, here are important tips for delivering bad news effectively.

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Deliver the news in person to show you care and so you can respond to the employee or team’s reaction in an appropriate and timely manner. If an employee isn’t performing, tell him or her immediately, rather than waiting until the only option left is firing the person. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt, listen to his or her concerns, and be open to emotion — remember you’ve had time to process your feelings, but this bad news is brand new to the other person.

Also, be straightforward and tell people exactly what is going wrong, so they know what they need to do to make changes and how success or failure will be measured.

Lastly, follow up – give your employee or team a reasonable amount of time to make the changes requested and then check in with them again to show you are aware of their progress. Ask questions, and make it clear you’re there to help. You want to always be an ally, even in a tough situation, since positive relationships are much harder to rebuild than a cancelled project or rough quarter.

4. Banish multitasking

Multitask is a misnomer – what we actually do is task-switch, and it’s no good. Humans can only do one cognitive task at a time, so “multitasking” is just about the worst mechanism for being efficient. Studies show task-switching can cost a person as much as 40% of productive time.

Instead of switching back and forth between projects, try following the OHIO principle: Only Handle It Once. This means if you start something, finish it before moving on to your next task. A great way to stick to the OHIO principle is to schedule blocks of time for you to check emails, respond to messages, check voice mails, or any other necessary tasks that pose distractions during the day. This way, instead of stopping everything to respond to an email every time you get a desktop notification (and incurring the extra time to find your place again in your work, try to remember what you were doing, etc.) you only check three times a day.

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If necessary, you can prevent distracting emails, texts, phone calls or websites that tempt you to task-switch. Turn off desktop notifications, put your phone on silent (and in a drawer, so it’s out of sight), and use applications that help you block distracting websites, like the SelfControl App for Mac users, or Cold Turkey if you run Windows.

5. Get to know your team

No matter how much you prefer to work alone, or how much of a genius you are, we all need other people to help us succeed. It’s not practical to do everything yourself, and it is simply true that opportunities come from other people — they don’t appear out of thin air. Authentic relationships are necessary for success, so instead of trying to build a relationship when you need something, start building those relationships now.

All it takes is an hour of your time: every week, take a peer or someone in your department out to coffee. Let them know it’s your treat and all you want to do is get together and chat. Ask them about their background, their goals, their career trajectory… become invested in who they are. When you get to know your work community, you will understand their personalities and work habits, and the better you’ll be able to work together.

On top of that, you’ll be investing in trust and good communication with the people who have the closest and biggest impact on your career success. The stronger your team relationships, the better the overall performance and the more successful you all become.

These five tips are simple, effective and help improve your career success trajectory, so there’s no time to waste – pick a tip to try out this week, get started, and watch yourself transform into a career superstar!

Featured photo credit: 136:365 – I’s Kaptain Cookiedough!!/Nomadic Lass via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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