How Communication and Connection Boost
One of the trickiest parts of
leadership is finding a way to strike a balance between your employees as
subordinates and your employees as real, live people. Read on for some important
points to keep in mind as you work to build relationships with those around you.
Not a leader? I hope you’ll read on anyway. Managing relationships with the
people you work with (and for) is as important to your everyday productivity as
it is to your career.
Teach people how to treat you. You know how you want to be treated. But do you
actively take the steps to make sure it happens? Always think about the
precedents you are setting as you interact with other people – whether you work
with them every day or are meeting them for the first time.
If you let others speak to you disrespectfully or second-guess your decisions,
not only are they going to continue that behavior, but it is only going to get
worse as time goes on.
This mindset where you actively teach others how to treat you doesn’t come
naturally to everyone, but once you make it a habit you may be surprised at how
easy it is to do. After all, it is much easier to gently correct one of your
employees the first time they take an inappropriate tone with you than it is to
break the pattern of behavior once you have let it fester over time. Nip it in
the bud and speak up the first time it comes up.
This is an important tool when you are dealing with subordinates, but it is also
goes a long way with your other relationships.
You might not be able to be as forceful and direct with others as you can with
your employees, but the basic philosophy holds true for your friends, your
family members, and even your boss. You are entitled to certain boundaries and
expectations, no matter who you are dealing with.
Communicate and connect. Just as it is important to take a stand for how you
would like to be treated, it is also important to build relationships in more
subtle ways. Obviously you don’t want to treat work like it is a social
situation, but to build strong, effective relationships with others, you can’t
keep things 100 percent professional all the time. As hard as it may be to
imagine, people do have lives outside of work and it’s critical that you
recognize that the world does not always revolve around the workday.
But how do you connect without compromising your professionalism? Chances are
that you are a busy person who isn’t particularly interested in spending large
chunks of your valuable time socializing and chatting about life outside the
Nor should you be. But that doesn’t mean that you never take off your
“professional” hat and take an interest in those around you. It only takes a few
minutes to show that you care about life outside of nine to five.
Is someone requesting vacation time? Ask them where they’re headed and find out
about what they like to do for fun. When they get back, make sure to take five
minutes to see how the trip went. You don’t need to pry – just show an interest.
Do your employees and coworkers have families? Those families are the number one
priorities in their lives. Shouldn’t you know a little bit about them? The more
you are able to show you care about the people you work with every day, the
better off you’ll be. Who would you rather work for – a real live person with or
a stuffy robot in a business suit?
Establish boundaries. On the other hand, you don’t want things to get too
personal. Depending on the culture where you work and the individuals that you
work with, there may be a tendency for office relationships to stray too far
from the professional and too close to the personal.
The bottom line is that you are there to work. You want to get things done and
you want those around you to do the same, whether they are your office peers or
your direct reports.
People say it all the time: “I’m just trying to get my work done and all Pat
wants to do is chat!” That may be true, but nine times out of ten, it takes two
to tango when it comes to socializing at work. If you are faced with an office
gossip or someone who just can’t seem to help going on and on about their
personal lives, you have probably done something to encourage the behavior.
Perhaps, just to be polite, you make it a habit of engaging people like this by
simply listening to them talk or even joining in a little yourself. They
wouldn’t keep coming back if you weren’t providing some sort of social payback.
If you stop showing interest, they will probably find someone else to bother.
If it is one of your Employees who is the office chatterbox, you’ll need to
address the issue more directly. It might never have occurred to the person that
they are spending an undue amount of time socializing.
Keep them in the loop. One of the biggest sources of workplace anxiety is a lack
of information. Especially in times of change, it is often assumed that
decisions made at the top are being communicated down through the ranks. As a
leader, the best thing that you can do for your people is make sure they have
good, accurate information and that they receive it in a timely manner.
Don’t take for granted that you know what is going on and don’t assume that
those beneath you have all the facts. The water cooler can breed some wild
stories when people aren’t kept informed. Be open and honest. Others will
When it comes right down to it, connecting with others is all about respect.
Respect their boundaries, respect their need to know what’s going on, and
respect that they are more than employees – they are people.
If you do that, you’ll help create an environment with the type of work-life
balance conducive to everyday productivity and overall satisfaction.
Make it a productive day! (TM)
(C) Copyright 2008 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.
|Ask the Audience|
All contributors received a free 21-day eCourse
on The Exhaustion Cure. We are ready for our next question. Send your query to
and our readers will help YOU out with your productivity dilemma.
Q: "Readers, I just started a new job as an Executive Assistant. My new supervisor seems to be very high maintenance, but not nit picky nor micro managing. How do I start with getting all the paperwork off of her desk and get her organized? Your help is greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you."
There is no substitute for communication. Open the
dialog with her to determine the level of organization the exec is comfortable
with and where / how organized they want to get to. Offer your assistance, and
suggest a workable system. Then you can start exercising Laura's system or the
Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen, or whatever other systems will work
for them. Most of the time, they'll happily dump everything off the desk, put it
in the In Box and work with you to go through it. If you can manage it, get them
to stay late or come in the next weekend to get organized together. A couple of
hours up front will prevent endless hours of aggravations!
Gary Johnson, Sr. Manager, Internal Audit
EchoStar Satellite, LLC
I took everything off of my boss’ desk and sorted it
into folders: Signature Required, Action Required, Read, and Other/Misc. These
folders reside in an expandable folder on my desk. I put his mail/notes, any
paper that he will let me run off with and put it in one of these folders. When
he’s in the office and has a few moments, I give him all of them and pick it up
later that day when empty. If there’s something that needs a signature or
action, it’s placed on his desk in full sight immediately. He knows that any red
folder is from me. I have different colors for each manager. Now that they know
I’m watching out for the important stuff, most of the other/misc (junk mail)
goes into the trash after a cursory glance. I also scan many things into
electronic files so that we have access to them without shuffling through
Teri Stuecken, CPS/CAP, CITRMS
Senior Administrative Assistant
First and foremost, I would schedule an
"appointment" with her to discuss her access needs. Are the papers some that she
needs to have immediate access to or some that she could relinquish to a file
system in your area? If they are papers that she needs immediate access to, work
with her on her comfort level of storage (i.e. labeled desk trays, desk drawer
hanging files, file cabinet). If they are papers that could be filed in your
area...make sure she feels comfortable with that system as well so that if you
are away for the day she knows where they would be. I read a helpful hind many
years ago that stated that we should try to handle each piece of paper only one
time. I think with a new storage / filing system in place, handling each paper
just once will be a much easier task to accomplish.
Jessie McLaughlin, Fair Coordinator
Spokane County Interstate Fair
Congratulations on your new position! Whether you
are an established professional Executive Assistant or if being an Executive
Assistant is new to you, here are three places to start:
1. Ask questions and check her calendar
a. Find out what papers, presentations, etc., she will need
immediately and within the next two weeks. Make sure that in your zeal to
organize, key papers don’t get mislaid or deadlines are missed.
2. Ask how she wants to be organized and/or offer suggestions after review
a. If she gives you some parameters, incorporate them as much
as possible into the new system. It might not be that she doesn’t have a system,
but time/lack of an assistant may have caused that system to falter.
b. If she says for you to do your own thing, establish no
more than two systems to offer. Combine elements of the two if necessary.
3. Check her personal filing system and the previous assistant’s filing system
a. This will give you a clue as to what the precedents were,
where improvements can be or whether a total re-do is in order.
My suggestion is to start by marking each piece of
paper with a Post-It on the upper right corner and then a one word description
of the paper. If it’s something that is reference oriented or will be filed, the
description will probably be a noun. If it is an action paper, it will be a
verb. In this way you can quickly sort out work that needs to be done from
papers that she is simply holding onto. Needless to say, toss as many as
possible in the recycling bin! It may also be helpful to have file folders
labeled with the same nouns or verbs so you’re not left with stacks all over the
desk (or floor). Good luck!
Your boss may only need a good filing system. That
was my problem – in fact, your boss sounds a lot like me many years ago! My PA
set up a fantastic filing system for me and firmly made me promise to file
everything away when I wasn’t using it (the files were all at arm’s reach, so
not a big ask!) If I wasn’t working on something – away it went. I complied
because I knew I would find it when I needed it again a lot more easily than
searching through the mess on my desk! My desk became gloriously clear, allowing
me to concentrate on what I was working on at the time and not become distracted
with all the things I could be working on.
Good luck with your boss!
The first thing to be done is schedule a meeting
with her to discuss her expectations (and, of course, yours). Have a plan (in
writing) ready to provide her, explaining what you propose. By getting her
organized, it will also help you ensure deadlines are met, meetings are kept,
and responses to correspondence are provided in a timely manner. Ultimately,
getting her organized will help you do your job better.
Linda F. Johannes
Office of the Chief Postal Inspector
|Letters to the Editor|
I just had the pleasure of hearing you at the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
Luncheon. I was the African American woman who had the beat up copy of "Leave
the Office Earlier".
I wanted to formally thank you again for spreading the message of productivity
and know that even though you sometimes only get 50 minutes to speak, it is
making a difference. I heard you last March in San Francisco at the ADP Meeting
of the Minds and bought "Leave the Office" that same day. As you noticed my quiz
results were on a Delta napkin because I took it on the plane ride back. I
really approached the book as intended, focusing on my weakest areas first and
spent almost 4 months plowing through the different areas. Your practical
approach to making changes really gave the results oriented, task master side of
me the tools and tips needed to creating a balance while increasing
productivity. The result of the changes gave me enough energy/motivation to stay
in my current company through some tough transitions.
I'm anxious to start working through the "Exhaustion Cure" as I find that some
of my challenge today is just getting the energy to do what I've carefully
organized myself to complete. Glad you've UP'D yours, hoping to UP mine too.
With gratitude for your mission,
Director HR Services
Have Laura speak to your company, conference or organization. How do you know if Laura would be perfect for your next event, meeting, or training? View the "Laura Stack Is Perfect For This Group" fact sheet.
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP
Message from Laura
HURRY HURRY! Day-Timers is offering an unbelievable
bargain on The Productivity ProŽ DayTimerŽ. They have a limited number of sets
including black genuine leather binder, refill pages, and storage binder.
Individually, these items sell for over $120. The bundle price is $89.99, AND
for a limited time, they are giving a 20% off introductory price, which brings
your cost to $71.99. The pages start July 2008, so gets yours quickly before
they sell out. Visit
to attend Laura’s seminar “Become a Productivity ProŽ!” in Denver, Colorado, on
June 19. Print this flier and post it on the bulletin board at work or forward
it to a friend who is working too hard and needs to leave the office earlier.
Thank you! Due to your support, The Exhaustion Cure: Up Your Energy from Low to
Go in 21 Days debuted at #3 in Healthy Living on Amazon.com on May 13, 2008. The
response was so large that we are extending our special offer.
Buy the book at Amazon and email your receipt to [email protected]
You will receive a special link to download bonus resources from Mark Sanborn,
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Time Tips and Traps Offered by Subscribers
Special article: Bully Free At Work: Surprising
Facts You Need to Know About Workplace Bullying Stress
Stress is the result of unmanaged exposure to workplace bullying. The fear,
uncertainty, doubt and emotional devastation that result from being bullied
plays out frequently in a target’s emotional, mental and physical abilities.
According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, the top health
• Severe anxiety (94%)
• Sleep disruption (84%)
• Loss of concentration (82%)
These consequences result in a loss of productivity on the job. Many people ask
“How is Workplace Bullying different from working with difficult people, and
what exactly is workplace bullying anyway?”
Workplace bullying is repeated, deliberate, disrespectful behavior by one or
more people toward another for their own gratification, which in turn harms the
• Bullying is deliberate, not accidental.
• Bullying is always disrespectful with intent.
• Bullying results in gratification for the bully, where the target feels
Difficult people are not necessarily out to harm another; they are out to
protect their own needs. Therefore, if you can reason with a difficult person in
order to show good will for their needs, they may change. A bully will not
change. Not understanding this creates unwanted stress.
Workplace bullying occurs in every country of the world, and one out of six
people will report having being bullied in their lifetime. Statistics would be
even higher if employees were more aware of what workplace bullying actually is.
As a result, the top consequences for an organization are:
• Good morale (a positive culture) is traded for a fearful culture where people
become hesitant, less free and less open.
• Teamwork will deteriorate into group-work or individual efforts.
• The agreeable, cooperative and supportive environment becomes hostile,
secretive and dead.
So, how can workplace bullying be stopped and prevented? The first step is an
educated workforce: knowing what workplace bullying is, how it occurs, and who
is likely to be the targets. In addition, systems and accountabilities need to
be put in place to protect and create the kind of workplace culture that is
respectful. The second step is to empower employees to create and enforce
workplace-bullying policies that protect a respectful workplace, and hold a
bullying culture accountable to becoming a respectful culture.
We know that people want to be treated with respect. Workplace bullying demeans
the individual and destroys the trust needed to do high quality work.
Workplace bullying can be stopped, but it must not rest only on the target’s
shoulders to stop this behavior. Stopping workplace bullying is everyone’s
responsibility. Upper management must use their authority to ensure that a
respectful workplace exists.
We want to help you eliminate bullying from your workplace. It is a top
contributor to workplace stress. Together we can make the workplace a welcoming
environment for you and your co-workers alike. To Receive Your Free Weekly Tip
to Stop the Stress of Workplace Bullying Click here
Valerie Cade is a world-wide authority and speaker on Workplace Bullying and
author of Bully Free at Work ™ and she can be reached at
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Š 2008 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office EarlierŽ with Maximum Results in Minimum Time(TM). She is the president of The Productivity ProŽ, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today's workplaces. She is the bestselling author of the books Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004). Her newest productivity book, The Exhaustion Cure (Broadway Books), hits bookstores in May 2008. To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401. Visit www.TheProductivityPro.com to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.