15 Things Successful Professionals Do: Part 3 of 3

And here’s the final installment of the 15 point list. . .

11) Persevere – You will encounter many challenges in your career.  Your response to those challenges will say more about you than your successes.

Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try. ~YODA, Jedi Grand Master

12) Communicate with confidence – Communication via the spoken and written word are one way to demonstrate your professional abilities.  Practice public speaking and perfect your writing skills, until you far surpass your peers—the bar is usually not that high.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

13) Display humility – Demonstrate humility and personal accountability in your career and you’ll never go wrong.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. ~Ernest Hemingway, Author

14) Be flexible – As a recent graduate or new professional, be flexible in your career path.  Build career skills that transcend your current function, role and industry make you invaluable in the marketplace and provide more opportunities.

Change is the only constant. ~Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher

15) Make connections – Networking is a key professional skill.  If you focus on what you can do for others, networking won’t feel like a chore.  Your efforts will be rewarded in what you’ve given and what you will receive.

Dig the well before you are thirsty. ~Chinese Proverb

One thing at a Time

This is a natural follow up to my post last week, Focus on FocusTony Schwartz‘s post on the Harvard Business Review blog challenges the common practice of multitasking and claims that we are more effective and efficient when we focus. Schwartz estimates we a task takes an average of 25% more time when we divide our attention and the drain on our energy levels are even more costly.  Schwartz offers suggestions for both managers and individual contributors:

For managers:

  1. Maintain meeting discipline.
  2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day.
  3. Encourage renewal.

For individual contributors:

  1. Do the most important thing first in the morning.
  2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically.
  3. Take real and regular vacations.

Focus on Focus

Harvard Business Review wordmark

Harvard Business Review wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, has written two outstanding articles for Harvard Business Review | HBR.org which focus on, well. . . focus.  New professionals and CEOs will benefit alike.  After implementing these habits, you will gain laser-like focus in as little as 10 minutes per day.

In Two Lists You Should Look At Every Morning, Bregman recommends creating two lists: 1) Your Focus List; and 2) Your Ignore List and reviewing them every morning.  These are not to do lists, but rather major areas of focus for your life and serve as a guide when deciding how you spend your time each day– “because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can’t work 25/8” as Bregman notes.

In The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day, Bregman recommends reserving Read more

The Problem With Your Elevator Pitch–And How To Fix It

To be fully prepared for a networking event, you need to have your elevator pitch.  Much has been written about crafting this short 20-30 second introduction about yourself and your business, company or services.  Much of what has been written is not good advice.

My advice to craft your elevator pitch (also referred to as your “30-second pitch”) is to provide at least one interesting hook which prompts the listener to ask another question about what you do.  Alternatively, it should provide enough color that it is memorable while also easily conveying what it is that you actually do.

Deborah Greyson Riegel offers some very sound, practical advice in her Fast Company article.  Here are the highlights:

  • Don’t speak the way you write.
  • Utilize common vernacular (aka, use the simplest language possible).
  • Turn your pitch into a question.
  • Practice saying your pitch out loud, with feedback.
  • Be willing to forgo your pitch entirely.

Read the full article.

Deborah Grayson Riegel is a communication and behavior expert, and is the president of Elevated Training Inc. and MyJewishCoach.com. She is the author of “Oy Vey! Isn’t a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success.”

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, identifies four myths found in many organizations:

  • Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.
  • Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.
  • Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.
  • Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

Are these myths present in your organization?  It is easy to adopt the practices and habits of the organization in which you work– is this how you want to work?

Read the full post.

READING LIST: Speaking Mastery

If you are looking for a great book on public speaking and presentation skills, here it is: Speaking Mastery: The Keys to Delivering High Impact Presentations by David & Michael Hutchison.

The book is based on the author’s real-world, practical experience gained from over 1,000 presentations.

Part 1 focuses on how to deliver your message including your eye contact with the audience, your movement on stage, and tuning up your voice.

Part 2 focuses on the developing the content of your message including determining the point of your presentation, a great mind-mapping exercise for developing content, and getting the audience to commit to your purpose.

Part 3 focuses on building the “internal muscles” necessary to be a great public speaker including your identity, your thoughts and your emotions.  The tactics presented here can be applied to many areas of life, but are especially important for speakers who are uncertain about speaking or presenting in front of an audience.

Lessons from the Olympics

The Summer Olympics are over and already I miss watching these amazing athletes.  While watching the post-event interviews with the athletes, there were several themes that you can apply to your career:

  • Practice is Everything – The athletes had practiced 8+ hours per day for many years in order to prepare for their event. How much time do you dedicate to practice for important meetings, presentations, speeches related to your career?  Do you practice the skills that are necessary for professional success such as writing, public speaking and networking?
  • Individual Responsibility – Most of the athletes acknowledged the invaluable contribution and support of their coaches and teammates.  None of the athletes blamed anyone else for their own poor performance.   Do you take responsibility for your own career or do you blame your boss, colleagues or the organization when things don’t go your way?
  • Focus and Excellence – Many of the athletes described a level of intense focus and standard of personal excellence that is often overlooked in today’s organizations.  Do you focus on your work like an athlete focuses on their game, event, competition?  What if you did?  What is the standard you set for yourself when it comes to you career?  Do you strive for excellence in your career?

These lessons from the Olympics are at the core of Career-ology.

Go Team USA!  See you in Buenos Aires in 2016.

Don’t Miss the Moment

Last week while on vacation at a beautiful Florida beach, I went “offline.”  I didn’t check email or voice mail and only went online to find a local restaurant.  It was great!

Being without my iPhone, made me hyper-aware how other people were using their smart-devices.  The most striking example was the teenager at the beach who was texting for hours at a time.  While I swam in the surf, listened to the sound of the birds and watched a pod of dolphins swim along the coast, this teenager was so focused on his smartphone that he missed it all.  He was at the beach, but not really at the beach– he was missing the moment.

While this blog is not a commentary on teenager’s behavior, this vivid example, made me think about how professionals divide their attention especially during a meeting.  Humans cannot effectively divide their attention between two similar, complex tasks such as reading and listening.  No one can read an email on their smartphone while simultaneously listening to someone speak during a meeting.

Get in to the office early or stay late, but don’t text, send or read email while participating in a meeting with other people– don’t miss the moment to hear what is being said or weigh in with your own opinion on the subject.  You’ll miss the moment like the teenager on the beach.

In-person conversations need to happen

Last week, while discussing an earlier blog post, Downsides of Digital Conflict Resolution, with a young professional, I used the following example which really seemed to bring Tjan’s point to life and wanted to share it here.

Imagine sitting in the same room with a good friend.  You and your friend sit  back-to-back and you may only communicate by passing written notes back and forth. No verbal communication or sounds are allowed and of course, you cannot see each others face.

Think of how much communication would be missing from that interaction.  That is what happens during an email exchange.