Ninety-nine percent of career success hinges on your ability to communicate well, foster mutually beneficial relationships at work, and earn the respect and loyalty of employees, coworkers, clients, and customers. In other words, it’s all about your interpersonal skills and behaviors.
Here are 13 behaviors to practice in 2013. If you can master these over the course of the next year, your career will take a big leap.
1. Confront thoughtfully.
Sometimes you want to confront another person about a disruptive behavior, for example, or a performance issue. Many people never learn how to give feedback well — positively or negatively. Learn best practices in giving feedback.
2. Don’t assume.
Assumptions are one of the many culprits in workplace misunderstandings, lost sales, and failed business negotiations. Try to come to every interaction with open eyes and an inquisitive mind. Don’t guess what the other person thinks or wants; learn to love the question, “Why?”
3. Pay attention to culture.
Watch what is acceptable in your environment and what is not. Many people think they are doing the “right” thing but find themselves in trouble because they didn’t pay attention to the cues about values in the culture.
4. Stop fixing others.
We’re great at seeing others’ flaws and missteps, and we can often see how they can avoid getting into trouble with a few simple tweaks of their behavior — much better than we can do this for ourselves. Focus on you, and let them make their own mistakes.
5. Get away from difficult people.
There will always be difficult coworkers, but you don’t have to constantly engage with them and get stressed out by them. You can avoid them, but you can also use them to learn more about yourself. “Difficult” isn’t always “bad.”
6. Communicate better.
Many unfortunate employees find that just doing a good job isn’t enough. It’s about learning how to be observant, learn from others, and modify your approach to increase understanding and communication. Commit to working on your communication.
7. Let others finish completely.
Here’s an easy way to improve all your interactions. Let the other person finish her thought completely. This means not interrupting, adding commentary, or giving feedback until she is completely through talking or asking.
8. Be an interested observer.
Learn by watching others’ reactions to things being said. You’ll observe “helpful” people, “I feel sorry for myself” people, and “giving” people, to name a few types. Now watch yourself. Do you also react as a “type” instead of as an objective listener?
9. Take time to illustrate the benefits.
Whether you’re selling a product or making a pitch for a new initiative in your company, you need to show coworkers, clients, and customers how what you offer will boost the quality of their life. Make sure your pitch or presentation always includes a “So what?” for the listener.
10. Give up labeling.
Think about the process that goes on inside our heads. We look out at reality, we filter it, and then we label it. We self-talk and lull ourselves into a state where we really believe our labels are the truth. Open your mind and stop making the world only about you.
11. Identify your triggers.
Think about people who set you off. Perhaps it’s the coworker who dumps his work and problems in your lap, which puts you in the martyr/rescuer role. Reflect on why this “trigger” keeps popping up, and what role you’re playing in perpetuating the pattern.
12. Don’t data dump.
Do you unload your problems, ideas, or experiences on someone else without really looking for an interaction? Next time, establish what you want from your interactions — have a goal at the outset. If you want engagement and not just an ear, your goal will be different.
13. Commit to change.
In the coming year, see if you can identify the communication patterns that cause the most problems in your career and workplace relationships. Make a conscious effort to look at them, work on them, and correct them.
Beverly Flaxington is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), hypnotherapist, and career and business adviser who specializes in helping managers and employees deal with difficult workplace relationships, performance issues, and goal achievement. She’s the author of five business and financial books, including the award-winning book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, and her latest book, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012). Learn more at www.the-collaborative.com.
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