Thursday, July 28, 2011

Networking Skills for Introverts

Networking, at its very core, seems to be an activity better suited to extroverts – those people who gain energy from groups and social interactions and do their best thinking externally. Introverts, on the other hand, are more inward thinkers, often finding social interactions draining. Although, in general, they prefer smaller groups and more one-on-one interactions, that’s not to say that all introverts are bad networkers (or that all extroverts are great networkers) – it just that introverts may have to work a bit harder.

So what can introverts do to make networking a bit easier? Practice and preparation are key. Below is a summary of the networking for introverts tips highlighted in a recent article.
  1. Get to know people before – check social media sites and/or event sponsor’s forums/blogs
  2. Go prepared – bring business cards, know the dress code, and have a map to the location
  3. Start a conversation right away – don’t wait; the longer you do, the harder it will be to get started
  4. Look for another seemingly shy person and engage them in conversation
  5. Don’t talk too fast – ask open-ended questions and actively listen to the response
  6. Don’t overanalyze afterwards – if you made a mistake, don’t beat yourself up
Interested in learning more? Pick up Devora Zack’s Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed and the Underconnected or Carole Cameron’s SPLASH! An Introvert's Guide to Being Seen, Heard and Remembered.

Remember, individuals are complex and multi-faceted. Introversion/Extroversion is just one component of your personality; other components will impact your success in networking and a variety of other business- and career-related activities (e.g., sales, conflict resolution, team building, leadership). One framework for understanding personality that Life Strategies uses is Personality Dimensions (PD). Want to learn more? Book a workshop for your team – contact us at Interested in training to use Personality Dimensions ? Consider becoming a certified facilitator – click here to learn more.

Feel free to share your networking experiences as introverts or extroverts in the comments section. What’s your biggest challenge? How does your personality impact your networking success?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fun in the Workplace

Did you know there are more than 2 million results when you Google “fun in the workplace”?

Clearly I’m not the only one who believes work should be fun! Some of the sites highlight the importance of laughter (e.g., Did you know that preschoolers laugh 400+ times per day compared to 15 times per day for adults? That’s, of course, unless you have preschoolers in your life – our grandchildren definitely make me laugh!) From a practical perspective, laughter releases endorphins (the happy gasses) that do you as much good as strenuous exercise. If you’re struggling to find something to laugh about, there are some pretty funny YouTube videos (try the “office stress” tag).

Other authors link fun and laughter to productivity . Employees who enjoy coming to work are energized and engaged. That energy will fuel their ability to get their work done – even when it means slogging through some unpleasant or tedious tasks. Facilitate resilience by building in fun.

Surprises can bring fun to the workplace. After a particularly challenging project, I once took our staff to the local mall for lunch. I then gave them each a mall gift card and told them they couldn’t come back to the office until it was spent. THAT was FUN!

Sharing funny stories or unusual perspectives can be fun, too. We often laugh over “Freudian” typos (e.g., just yesterday I was reading someone’s description of her siblings as “bothers” rather than “brothers”). Our team also delights in taking what I say out of context, threatening to publicly quote something that sounds completely outrageous.

Fun is good for business. Think about where you shop or seek out services. Are you drawn to the places where people are laughing and seem to enjoy themselves? So am I . . . so I know it’s good business to support a workplace with lots of laughter and unexpected treats.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Keeping the Disconnected Team Connected

With today’s flexible work arrangements (e.g., telecommuting, job sharing) and geographically dispersed teams (e.g., satellite offices and multi-national corporations) it is becoming more difficult for employers to build a sense of “we,” maintain a stable and consistent corporate culture, and foster supportive communication and cooperation between team members. Employees who don’t physically work together may struggle to recognize the priorities of others, lack an understanding of what each member’s “job” really looks like, and be unable to access the resources they need – or even know such resources exists. Furthermore, if they are working alone, whether at home or abroad, they may feel isolated and neglected.

No matter what employee structure you have or are working within, to foster employee engagement and business success, it’s important to make time for the team to connect. Here is a short list of ideas, some of which we’ve used at Life Strategies.

Develop a system for regular updates to keep everyone “in the loop” and help them stay connected
  • Choose a method that works for you – in person, over the phone, via the internet (e.g., GoToMeeting)
  • Use a framework to structure your meeting (e.g., Let’s CHAT!)
Utilize alternative methods of connecting beyond email or phone (e.g., Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Blogger, LinkedIn)
  • However , don’t rely solely on electronic communication; pick up the phone if necessary
Invest in professional development opportunities that get dispersed teams together
  • Attend workshops, seminars, and/or conferences
  • Take part in webinars or teleconferences
  • Provide an opportunity to debrief learning
Set aside time for fun
  • Arrange a potluck at team meetings
  • Participate in a charity event
Celebrate “good news” and recognize team successes
  • Use something quick and simple (e.g., an informal congratulations email, post on company intranet or blog) or more formal (e.g., “employee of the month”)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Employee Engagement Indicator

A popular concept for many of today’s organizations is employee engagement. There is a plethora of information available on the topic; a Google search resulted in over 3.5 million hits. In researching employee engagement as part of my doctoral program, I was somewhat surprised to learn that a wide-variety of definitions exist. Each individual, from consultants to scholars, has his/her own definition – while quite similar when talking employee engagement there is no guarantee everyone is speaking about exactly the same thing. A colleague of mine presented it as everyone talking about apples but some are focussed on Gala and Fugi while others are talking Granny Smith and Red Delicious. The differences may be slight but can still cause confusion and misunderstanding. In our work helping organizations increase engagement, often through career development initiatives, we first recommend establishing or adopting a definition which resonates with the team.  At Life Strategies we’ve adopted a four-factor model of engagement:

Alignment – fit between individual and organizational values
Commitment – loyalty and intent to stay with the organization
Contribution – level of discretionary effort employees are willing to make (i.e., going above and beyond). 
Appreciation –awareness employees are valued and their effort to support the organization’s goals is appreciated

In seeking to measure engagement along these four factors, we developed the Employee Engagement Indicator (EEi). The EEi is a 40 question survey with 10 questions per factor. The total score is intended to indicate an overall level of employee engagement on a continuum from full disengagement to full engagement.  Sub-factor results can also be analyzed (e.g., level of contribution).

While we are still researching the psychometric properties of the EE-i, preliminary results have been interesting and have demonstrated how a low score on one of the factors can drastically impact overall engagement results. Interested in using the EE-i with your own team? Contact us at for more information.