How to Become a Better Listener to Advance at Work

Rather than become a better listener, do you tend to zone out while co-workers or even your supervisor are speaking? That makes you human. It’s something that we all do. It makes sense.  The New York Times reported that the average person’s attention span is eight seconds. Now multiple electronic distractions vie for your time and drag your attention away from the worker in front of you. It makes being a good listener pretty challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

become a better listener and advance your career

These days, employees often enter meetings or 1:1 conversations with an agenda.  And everyone’s face reflects this. So, rather than having a dialogue, it descends into two or more workers talking at each other without stopping to hear what the other person is trying to say. It will only get worse, as life grows more hectic.

You have to stop approaching discussions on the job with your agenda in mind. The goal should not be to guide, manipulate, or maneuver the exchange to your benefit. It’s about learning!  You will be a more productive team member.

Here’s 5 steps to become a better listener:

The Balance

The hint that a conversation is more about listening than speaking is the fact that you possess just one mouth, but two ears. When you talk too much, steer the topics too often, it can result in people seeing you as controlling (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03637758909390246?needAccess=true&instName=King%27s+College+London). Everyone should be able to contribute to the conversation equally. So, listen to what others have to say and consider their perspective!

Keep An Open Mind

When you try to make new information and knowledge fit with your existing beliefs of representations you become a poor listener. This can result in you jumping to conclusions and being close-minded. A study from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, demonstrated how often this occurs (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0010028581900086). Students were directed to an office they believed was serving as a sort of waiting room for the experiment they were due to take part in. However, this was part of the experiment. Once they left the office, they were directed to recall any items they’d seen while waiting in the office. They recalled many items associated with offices but were prone to falsely recall items not present simply because they were typical office items.

Focus On the Message

It is really easy to get caught up with the person delivering the message rather than focusing on the message itself. Once you view someone as a friend or foe, you tend to accept their message based on that designation. That doesn’t mean your rival doesn’t have a valid point to make or important information to share. Likewise, it doesn’t mean your friends are always right!

Eye Contact

Eye contact is an important aspect of clear communication, but how does that help you become a better listener? It’s a signal to the other person that they have your attention. You are dialed into the conversation and fully present. If your eyes are on theirs, then your eyes are not wandering and distracted by everything around you. You’ll also take more information in that way.

Ask Questions

When you ask questions relevant to the topic at hand it shows that you are listening to what the person said. It also highlights that you are considering what they have to say. The added benefit of asking questions is that it prevents miscommunication. Asking questions is a great way to check-in and ensure you are understanding the points others are making.

It’s always a good idea to pause before you respond. Take time to consider their comment before you choose to ask a question or form a response.

Summary

There are a wide variety of productivity techniques that improve your listening skills. You can learn far more from listening than you can from speaking over others or wrestling control of the conversation.  And you will gain the support of your supervisor and associates.

 

 

 

 

Ask a Flexpert..What Are 3 Drawbacks Working in Short Bursts

So, what are drawbacks to working in short bursts? Are there any?  Conquering your work by dividing it and completing it in short bursts has long been the favored work method of experts and workers across the country. But, like anything in this environment, there are downsides, but not  as bad as you may think.

3 drawbacks of working in short bursts are:

Working in short bursts is more productive

1.It Doesn’t Work for Every Project

There are some projects or assignments which we can’t break into smaller parts. For example, if you have to transcribe a live lecture, taking a break every twenty-five minutes isn’t feasible, and if you tried, your notes would be inconsistent and incomplete.

Team projects can also be difficult to apply the short burst work method to, because sometimes it can take twenty-five minutes for everyone in the group to reign in their attention and bring the project where it needs to be. Having a timer interrupt this process could be detrimental and slow down the production process.

2. It Doesn’t Work for Everyone

Some people find that having a timer count down as they work makes them too anxious and edgy, and as a result, their work quality will suffer. And experiencing anxiety while you work is never a pleasant experience. If this is you, don’t force the method.

You can still work for short periods and take breaks without the rigid time clock imposed by using a timer. Part of the short burst method of working is to find a work method that helps you get stuff done. If this isn’t that method, that’s okay too.

3. Sometimes You Work Too Fast

The working in short bursts productivity method is praised for its results in the speed with which its users produce work. But sometimes, as someone is working quickly and up against a ticking clock, they may make careless mistakes that they would have caught if they were working at a slower pace.

If mistakes can be detrimental to your work, you can still try the short burst method of completing tasks; just make sure you go back and check your work more slowly later.

Drawing it  all Together

In general, the positives of working in short bursts far outweigh the drawbacks. And even if you find a situation or project the method can’t be employed on, this doesn’t mean you can’t successfully use the tactic to complete a different project later.

What Are The Benefits Of Short-Burst Productivity

Although it may sound strange, most human productivity experts recommend that workers employ short-burst productivity methods, as they have found numerous benefits of short-burst productivity when humans work in more intense, focused periods.

Benefits off Short-Burst Productivity

It Minimizes Distractions

At this point in time, when every employee has a personal cell phone and access to the internet, it’s extremely easy for them to get distracted from their work. This is because you never know when your phone rings if it’s something which can wait, and you have no specified time of when you should answer it, so there’s no reason not to answer it right then.

Dedicate yourself to working for 25 minutes in the short burst method.  You’re less likely to engage in most distractions because you’ll have a specified break in a few minutes in which to deal with these distractions.

It Keeps You Focused

When you work for long periods of time, it’s not uncommon for workers’ minds to wander.  This is just how the human mind is. Short productivity bursts stops this wandering in its tracks because focusing for 25 minutes is much easier than telling your mind to stay engaged for four or even eight hours.

And when you’re focused, you’ll produce more work than when you keep thinking about what you will do after work every five minutes.

Not only that but focusing for 25 minutes on work in front of you stops multitasking, which many people engage in even if they don’t notice.

It Challenges Your Brain

Another of the benefits of short-burst productivity is it challenges your brain.  One of the main tactics of this approach to work is to pit your mind against a timer.  Place the timer where you can observe it.  This allows you to see the remaining time countdown. Whether you realize it or not, this puts some pressure on your brain.  That helps your mind see the work as a challenge that it needs to complete before the time runs out.

This is a stark difference from sitting at your desk all day knowing you have a deadline.  But it’s hours or even days away, so you don’t worry about it. The timer gives you a sense of urgency, which in turn gives you a sense of motivation.

Wrapping Up – Benefits of Short-Burst Productivity

Overall, there are numerous benefits to short-burst productivity and changing your work style. They are fewer distractions, increased focus, and more of a challenge for your mind. So, give short-burst productivity a day and see what all you can accomplish in your performance.

Pitfalls of Not Being Productive and How to Change

Non-Productive Results

Everyone has a day or two now and then when they aren’t as productive as they could have been. But if you find yourself constantly working but not being productive, this is likely to cause several lasting implications not only on your morale but your future work as well.

Non productive processes lose money

You May Experience Guilt

When you feel you aren’t productive, you may start to feel guilty about it. And this guilt is a vicious cycle. When you feel feelings of guilt, you are much less likely to be able to focus on a project to be productive. So even not being productive for a single day can impact your entire week.

 You’ll Lose Motivation

A huge aspect of motivation is the feeling of accomplishment. If you aren’t feeling productive in your work, you’re likely to miss out on the feeling of accomplishment, and then you won’t have any motivation to work. Like guilt, the lack of motivation is also a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape once initiated.

You’ll Leave A Trail Of Half-Finished Projects

If you aren’t accomplishing anything, you will probably leave a trail of unfinished projects in your wake. And this won’t just affect your morale, but it may make you look bad to your employer or coworkers who have to finish these projects you are constantly abandoning.

It Could Lead To Depression

Often, when employees are not productive, they feel they don’t have a purpose.  They could experience melancholy or depression. This is because workers often tie their emotional well-being in with their sense of accomplishment. And just like everything else on this list, once you’ve fallen into the pit of dejection of thinking you don’t have a purpose, it can be difficult to recover.

Although remaining productive is a difficult and challenging task, it is necessary to maintain your sense of emotional well-being. This is because without productivity, you’re likely to feel guilty, unmotivated, and maybe even depressed, and it’s likely those around you won’t feel too great about having to pick up your slack either.

The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to do your best to remain productive in your everyday work. And remember, even if one day you may not finish what you want, the next day is a new and productive day.

4 Powerful Benefits of Mini-Habits Bring Potent Change

Mini-habits too Small to Fail

If you haven’t heard of mini-habits, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Imagine making only small adjustments, and still managing to create impactful and meaningful change.

The mini-habit is just what it sounds like – it’s taking the idea that doing a whole lot of small things will eventually add up to something superb. Think, for example, of what would happen if you only read a couple of news articles every day? Before you know it, you’d have accomplished the goal of becoming more informed, and would be better able to handle discussions with co-workers about the state of your industry given the current environment.

Small habits - Big results

Change and Success

Mini-habits don’t stop there though. Not only can your mini-habit change how you get your work done, but they impact your mind and body as well.

Read on to discover 4 powerful benefits of Mini-habits.

Mini-Habits Lead to Big Results

1.You create an atmosphere of success

By setting small goals, you’re much more likely to meet them. So instead of telling yourself that you’re going to return all your phone calls promptly, you instead focus on returning the next phone call on time. That takes off the huge expectations that always felt so overwhelming in the past and left you with a feeling of failure when you couldn’t quite make it. What’s even better is that meeting these small goals means you get to where you start expecting success, which leads to the mindset that will generate that success you’re expecting.

2. You change how you view your capabilities

By accomplishing mini-goals, you start to realize that you do have the ability and power to accomplish work results. Your confidence grows, and you gain a better, more positive sense of your abilities.

3. You rediscover motivation

Motivation is sometimes hard to come by and gets used up quickly. That’s why mini-habits are important. Rather they don’t rely on motivation to accomplish projects, they grow from your willpower instead. Then as you reach those goals, you start to feel the energy of that success, which in turn creates motivation to keep going.

4. You create a series of changes that you will carry with you through your career and life

Mini-habits done daily will build up those larger habits that you’ve been trying to build all along. Like making it to work on time every day and creating almost as a by-product that habit of daily productivity that had seemed so difficult not all that long ago.

Final Thought

Mini-Habits not only change how you do work assignments but change how you think and act. By making a practice of following mini-habits, you will affect some pretty major change.

 

 

How to Stand Out At Work Without Standing Out

Successful careers start with standing out from the crowd.

But, many workers will contribute only what their job requirements call for and not perform much more. A select few will work really hard at their job and do extremely well.  However, there is a small subset of workers who really put themselves out and chip in in any way possible. To advance with your employer, you must be a member of that group.

So, what are some ways you can stand out at work?

How to stand out at work

If you perform your work duties well, you will be recognized as a worker good at his job. However, when it comes time to promote, the management team looks for leaders. Leaders are those workers who are totally involved with the success of the company. They pay attention to their job and responsibility but also are dedicated to the entire business, its goals and vision.

What other activities must an employee take on in addition to his job to stand out?

Many people do not realize that while they were hired to do a job, Management believes it’s also their responsibility to do whatever it takes for the company to flourish. You need to continuously find ways to save or earn the company money, to be get ahead and to demonstrate your value to the firm.

Here are the top 10 ways you can stand out at work and advance your career:

1.Create Your Own Side-projects

Excelling at an assigned project is expected.  Excelling at a side-project helps you stand out.  Create a project and work on it on your own time at home. Your side project will make you ‘that guy.’

It is especially true if you create something for customers.  Test out your ideas for a special product or deliver a unique service with a particular client in mind.  Management will appreciate you even more especially if it locks-in a customer to your company or if the new product or service idea can then be sold to other customers

2. Do Things Without Being Asked

If you see that something needs to be done and nobody is doing it, DO IT. It’s always surprising how few employees do this.

It’s really quite simple: people who step in and help out stand out.

3. Do MORE Than What Your Job Requires

Go beyond offering “standard help.” I’m always impressed in a supermarket if I ask a stocking clerk where an item is located and s/he takes me directly to it rather that saying, “It’s on aisle 8.”  So, at work, don’t give a standard reply on how to do it.  Do it for them!

No matter your job, going above and beyond your standard job duties will help you grow your career.

4. Take the Lead When You Can

Someone must be the leader. Why shouldn’t it be you? If it’s not you, still contribute at a high level. Provide ideas and suggestions. Challenge things that do not make sense. If you do this respectfully, you will stand out.

Once again, silence does not get you noticed; it gets you overlooked. Engage in your career and try to become the leader where possible, but don’t step on anyone’s toes while you’re trying to take over the lead.

Talk it up and do your job as if you already ARE a leader there. If you do not agree with something, ask questions.

5. Be Proactive

Learn all about the organization and how your role can bring maximize benefit to it.  Learn a skill that will help you stand out.  For example, you might become the person everybody goes to for assistance with developing an important presentation to Management or for help with operating a particular computer software.

Anticipate problems that might arise and think about ways to fix them before they even occur. Do not wait for things to happen and be a “reactive” employee.

Most workers know they could do more if they wanted to. So be that person and come up with a plan.  But plans are not enough.  Put the plan into action and mention what you’re doing to your boss.

6. Always Offer Ideas and Suggestions

Start with your own job and if you have an idea or two about how it can be done more efficiently, suggest it. Even if your manager balks at it, keep making suggestions wherever you can.

Eventually, one of your ideas will gain support and you’ll make a difference at work. Sometimes the smallest ideas can have the greatest impact.

7. Do Not Sit Quietly in Meetings

Every meeting has employees who talk and those who do not. Strengthen the discussion any way you can and contribute at a high level. When management is in meetings with you, they take notice of the contributors.  But don’t talk just for the sake of hearing your voice.  Then you will stand out as a blowhard that managers will want to muzzle.

Leaders are not silent in meetings. Advance in your career by being active in it.

8. Be Dependable and Reliable

Show up on time every day. Let appropriate people know well ahead of time if you must be late or absent.  Be on time, whether you’re arriving for work, returning from lunch, going to staff meetings, or completing tasks.

Be prepared. Come to work willing to pay attention, follow directions, and do the job.

Do what you say you’ll do.

Keep your work area organized. This habit shows your boss and co-workers that you’re in control of what you’re doing.

Review the quality of your own work.  It shouldn’t take your supervisor to point out your errors or faulty judgement.

9. Work Harder Than Anyone Else

Nothing is an alternative for hard work. Observe the people working around you: How many of them are working as hard as they could?

Very few.

The best way to stand out is to out-work all your co-workers.  It’s also the easiest way because you’ll be the only one trying.

10. Always Offer to Help Others

Become the “go-to” person—the person that can be counted on to help. If you are that person, it will go a long way!

What-if your company announced layoffs. An employee who is the “go-to” person and adds value to the organization will be considerably less likely to be laid off than an employee who just sits quietly and does their job.  A quiet employee that does their job well doesn’t stand out as an indispensable employee.

By offering to help others and having expertise, you’ll stand out as an impressive employee—one most companies wouldn’t want to lose.

Conclusion

When you are at work, always seek out ways to improve the company. Become an integral part of taking your company to the next level.

If you show your interest lies far beyond yourself, your specific job responsibilities, and your salary, you’ll stand out and you’ll be setting yourself up to become a future leader in the company.

How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on the state of mental health in Americans. You’ve been limited in how you can celebrate birthdays, graduations, and weddings and even funerals. You’ve seen loved ones hooked up to a ventilator fighting for their lives. You’ve got an entire hygienic routine every time you leave the house: Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and repeat.

Staying Grounded

Here’s what you can do to protect your mental health during this ongoing pandemic.

Get Some Exercise

You don’t have to go to the gym to stay in shape. There are actually plenty of exercises and routines that you can do from the comfort of your own living room. That includes exercises like push-ups, jumping jacks, and even going for a walk or jog around the block.

On top of building your endurance and strength, exercise can trigger the release of endorphins in your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are known as the “feel-good” hormone and will naturally boost a low mood during such trying times.

Stay in Contact With Positive Co-Workers

Not being able to meet with those you regularly work with can be detrimental to your mental health. Prolonged loneliness and social isolation can lower your productivity and increase your risk of certain mental health disorders, substance abuse issues, or even suicide.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that loneliness increases the risk of serious health disorders. The best way to avoid these consequences is by staying in touch with loved ones via daily or weekly phone calls, video calls, or text messages.

Leave the House

Some states still have limitations when it comes to where you can go, what you can do, and who you can see. Yet at this point in the pandemic, you realize that your mood declines and you feel fatigued the longer you stay put in the house.

In a study published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vitamin D, which can be absorbed by the body from sunlight, is a great mood booster and actually is used to treat depression. So, if you’re feeling down and lonely in the house without physical interactions with your team members, spend some time in the backyard or go for a walk at the park.

Reach Out to a Therapist

If you were already struggling with your mental health prior to the pandemic, there’s a good chance that your situation has actually worsened as the months continued. Luckily, the forced closure of most mental health facilities doesn’t mean that you currently have no access to care. Many counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists have moved to telemedicine for the time being. Scheduling an appointment with a therapist via video call is a great way to process your emotions and learn how to cope.

Get a Pet (We’re not joking)

Most people would appreciate coming home from work every day to be greeted by a friendly dog or cat. But when loneliness and sadness become excessive during quarantine, a pet may be exactly what you need to feel better.

The connection between pet ownership and mental health has been long studied. In fact, a survey conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, mental health improvements were seen in about 74% of pet owners.

Final Thoughts

During a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon with new variants popping up periodically, it’s important that you prioritize your mental health. Not only will this make you feel less lonely and like you have a greater purpose, but it’ll also save you from a ton of emotional turmoil that you’ll have to sort through once COVID-19 is gone for good.

7 Simple Ways Managers Can Offer Employees Appreciation

Research indicates most employees lack a feeling of appreciation or acknowledgement.  HR personnel, executive coaches and trainers hear that frequently from employees. So what is necessary to change that phenomenon?Employee Appreciation

Here are seven easy techniques to show employees appreciation and help them feel their work is valued.

1. Thank Them

A simple way to give workers recognition is to thank them verbally for their hard work or  for their performance above expectations. A simple word of encouragement can boost morale and it only takes about 15 seconds.  When you take time to write employees a hand-written note, it makes a big impression and is important to them.

2. Hand Out Small Rewards

You could give out $10 gift cards to supervisors that they could provide to their team members when they excel. Frankly, it may be only a simple gift card and it may only be for $10, but the perceived value is much higher.

3. Provide an Extracurricular Opportunity

When a worker performs at a very high level, give them an opportunity as a token of your appreciation. Express your appreciation for their high-level performance  and show your appreciation by sending them to a training program they wanted or allow them to attend an external conference where they will hear about new industry trends that will support their jobs.

4. Reflect Employees’ Goals

Get together with workers regularly and consistently to ask them their short-term and longer-term goals. Let them know that you, as their supervisor want to help them achieve those goals. They will appreciate your willingness to support their success.

5. Spread the Word to Co-Workers about a Worker’s Achievement

When an employee contributes outstanding performance, distribute a ‘congrats’ group text or email to anyone on the team or those outside the team who interact closely with that worker and include key executives. Discuss the employee’s achievement with others and thank him/her for their creativity and their hard work. Doing this illustrates that you value their result  and  stimulates praise and recognition from their associates.

6. Assign Them to a High-Profile Assignment

A simple approach to express appreciation is to assign a high performer to a high-profile project that illustrates confidence in their abilities and talent. This also gives them a chance to have a higher profile in the company. Make known that you designated them for the project because of how you’ve appreciated their high achievement.

7. Make Praise Specific

To recognize the achievement of workers, inform them specifically what it is you appreciate. Don’t praise their hard work.  Many employees work hard and put in overtime. Rather, express your appreciation for their accomplishment on a specific assignment. Point out how you liked that it was well organized and the implementation was well done and the results were outstanding.  This also makes them and associates want to repeat that behavior so they get praise and feel valued on the next project.

Need Help Finding Top Performers for your Team?

Call Flexicrew. As one of  the Southeast’s top staffing agencies, we have 14 years experience serving employers – and helping them find truly exceptional people. Contact us today to learn more!

Ask the Flexpert…What are Some Simple Tricks to Stick to your New Year’s Resolutions

In January (and every January), about 40% of all Americans vowed to change one thing or another about themselves.

New Year ’s resolutions usually fall under the following categories:

New Years Resolutions

  • Finance
  • Career
  • Personal development
  • Stress management
  • Health and diet
  • Fitness
  • Weight loss
  • Focusing on personal relationships

Fast forward 6 months later, 60% will have completely forgotten all about their resolutions.

But carrying out your resolutions, whether for work or in your personal lifestyle, can be done. Read on to find out how.

1. Define your Motivation

There are 2 types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic – this means your motivation comes from inside. For example, you prefer making a presentation, going to a business seminar, or doing research by yourself because you like how you feel afterwards.
  • Extrinsic – you’re pushed forward by actions outside your personal scope. In other words, you prefer working on a team project, and work harder when there’s a reward system in place.

Once you figure out your motivation type is, then all you have to do is put yourself in situations that make you more excited to accomplish even more.

2. Actions speak louder than results

Deciding on a goal for the new year is always easier said than done. However, it’s the steps you take to reach that goal that’s the tricky part. If you want to stick to your resolutions, it’s wise to break each step down into smaller goals, if possible, to make them more manageable.

Moreover, each time you achieve one, reward yourself and feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. Positive reinforcement is crucial to help guide you as you push toward your goal and commit to your responsibilities.

One way to keep everything in check is to make sure your actions are SMART:

  • Specific. Having a specific end result prevents you from making excuses.
  • Measurable. Evaluating your progress will give your motivation a boost.
  • Achievable. You can set daily goals as a building block to bigger goals.
  • Relevant. Otherwise, if it’s not relevant, why bother?
  • Time-bound. Goals need to have a defined end date.
Characiture of Flexpert
3. Be Honest with yourself

The more realistic your resolutions, the more likely you’ll see them through. If your goal for this year is to exercise more, then start small. Instead of planning a 5-day workout week, go for 20 minutes a day then increase gradually.

You’ll find that, as with all goals, as soon as you start seeing what you’ve accomplished, you’ll be pumped to do even more. However, it’s crucial that you stay away from the “all-or-nothing” approach. Doing something, even if it’s a small piece of what you’d originally planned, is much better and more productive than doing nothing at all.

Moreover, it’s equally important to not have too many resolutions up in the air at once. Make a list, prioritize them, and go from there. Once you feel the first one’s in the bag, go for the second, and so on. Focusing on one goal at a time will channel your energy and efforts there, helping you reach your target faster.

4. Think things through

Having a positive mindset is key when progressing towards your goals, but let’s be honest; every plan is bound for failure if you’re careful. Be smart and anticipate these obstacles so that when they do appear, you’ll be prepared.

For example, if you get bored when you exercise, choose upbeat workout music that’ll get you revved up. Or you can workout at home, as you catch up on your favorite TV shows. If your motivation method is extrinsic, ask a co-worker to be your accountability partner. The idea is to nip it in the bud before it becomes stronger than your willpower so that you can surmount any obstacle that comes between you and your goal.

5. Be accountable for your actions

Accountability means you’re taking responsibility for the choices you’re making. This may seem easy to do at work when you have a deadline and a boss reinforcing it. It may not seem as easy when you’re home alone and skip cooking a healthy meal, and order take-out instead.

You can enlist the help of a peer or join a support group where you’d know that you made a certain commitment to someone, if it’s simply sending a photo of your home-cooked meal on social media or, you can hang a calendar on your wall with progress notes so you can keep tabs on how far you’ve gotten and what still lies ahead.

Keeping your resolution can seem scary at first. However, with these 5 steps, you can do anything you put your mind to. Moreover, once you accomplish your first resolution, you’ll find that it’s not only beneficial, it’s fun as well!

Need Assistance Hiring Resilient Workers

If you need some assistance in recruiting and hiring more resilient workers in this uncertain labor market, contact Flexicrew today.