Get that Jimmy Fallon touch!

Good manners provide a path

To popularity and success

I was delighted to hear a radio commentator report that The National League of Junior Cotillions selected Jimmy Fallon to top its “Best-Mannered List for 2014.”

According to the League’s website, Fallon was selected as number one “for maintaining the dignity and respect of others through his comedic disposition as host of ‘The Tonight Show.'”

I couldn’t agree more. Part of what makes Fallon so charming is that he invariably seems delighted to be with his guests and determined to help them look good. Much of our enjoyment comes from his intense interest in their success and his whole body laughter at their jokes.

Even if you don’t think he’s funny, how can you help liking Jimmy Fallon? Perhaps social graces like his are so appealing because they are a low-key application of the Golden Rule. The way he interacts with others seems to say: I’ll be nice to you and I have confidence that you’ll be nice to me.

The ideals of polite behavior may not be discussed in your workplace. But you’ll know what they mean if someone describes a colleague as “a real gentleman,” or “a true lady.” We enjoy being with polite people because they tend to notice us and are so aware of our needs.

For a personal brand that sets you apart from the crowd, learn from Fallon. Develop a reputation for treating everyone with respect. Of course what counts most are the big things, like pitching in to support your colleagues in a crisis. But you can enhance your brand by consistently exhibiting good manners in even small ways:

  • Say “hello.” When we are around other people, it’s decent to acknowledge their presence. Your rude coworkers may act like others are invisible. But with a simple “good morning” you can forge a sense of connection and goodwill.
  • Speak with basic courtesy. Your habits of speech say a lot about you:
    • Be quick to say “please” and “thank you,” to everyone.
    • Say “excuse me” if you bump into or must interrupt someone.
    • Avoid profanity and crude language.
    • Praise or congratulate folks on their achievements, even if it requires you to bite back a twinge of envy.
  • Be considerate of others’ time. When people are busy it’s unkind to waste their minutes and hours:
    • Be punctual for meetings and appointments.
    • Respond quickly to invitations (to save time spent on follow-up).
    • Don’t waste time with rants or lengthy accounts of small matters.
    • Don’t play with your phone during a meeting or conversation.
  • Treat colleagues with class: The way you talk about others can shape your reputation:
    • Don’t gossip with coworkers about coworkers.
    • Don’t bad-mouth your boss, your team or your organization.
    • Share credit, paying special attention to junior team members whose work might otherwise go unnoticed.
  • Debate with civility. Disagreement is part of the creative process and responsible professionals aren’t afraid to speak up. But that’s no excuse for being mean:
    • Express criticism in terms of the work or the concept, and avoid making it about the person.
    • When possible, frame your comments in a positive way.
    • Avoid sarcasm because it’s seldom amusing and can lead to misunderstandings.
    • Let the other side speak, genuinely listen to their views and imagine what it’s like from their perspective.

People with the Jimmy Fallon touch project the message that every individual matters. These folks help build cultures where everyone can collaborate, perform well, and enjoy the work. It’s no wonder that other people like being around them.

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Posted in business etiquette, Career management, personal branding, self improvement

8 vital tips for starting a new job

 To launch a new job

you need a good plan

Are you looking forward to your first day in a different job? Or maybe you’re preparing to welcome a new colleague?

My worst first day at work was 30 years ago, but I still remember it vividly. I was a few years out of law school and shifting to a new firm in the nation’s capital. The title on my business card read “partner,” instead of “associate,” in deference to the clients I was able to bring along with me.

Well in advance, I caught up with all my own client activities. On the day, I arrived in a new suit, with an empty briefcase, eager to make a good impression in the Washington office of this Virginia firm. But the attorneys who had interviewed me all were out of the office that day, and nobody else seemed pleased to meet me.

Welcome Aboard! (c)thinglass fotolia.comI found my way to the most senior Washington partner and introduced myself. Before quickly dismissing me he said, “At the interviews they all thought you were so great, but frankly I don’t see it. You’re going to have to prove yourself before anybody here gives you work.”

The first friendly word was from the kind firm administrator, who took me to lunch and warned me about a few things. She told me that there had been controversy over my title. And she hinted that, in this male-dominated firm, both attorneys and support staff would need some time to get used to the idea of working with a woman lawyer.

The cool welcome was a challenge, but the most uncomfortable part of the day was that I had absolutely nothing to do. This was back before there was a web to surf, and I struggled to look busy. Instead of hustling over the weekend to finish my client work, I should have prepared a long list of things to do.

That night, I called my father, holding back tears. Thinking to cheer me up, he described his experience with new jobs: “The first day is always the worst day. The first week is always the worst week. The first month is the worst month. And the first year is the worst year.”

I don’t buy into the pessimism embedded in Dad’s view of new jobs. But in that case he was prophetic. In successive days, weeks, months and years my life in the firm continued to improve, and I soon felt fully accepted. But things got better partly because I learned a critical lesson. I went to work on my second day with a plan of how I would keep busy, and I never again assumed that the firm leaders would carry the responsibility for my success.

These days I find it hard to imagine even a law firm making so little effort on employee orientation. Often, in a process human resource experts call “onboarding,” organizations develop elaborate plans to assure that a new hire can quickly get to know key insiders and stakeholders, learn about performance expectations, and become familiar with the culture. Leaders may work hard to help recruits get a feel for the environment and develop realistic expectations about their roles.

But even when you’re supported by onboarding pros, at the start of a new job it makes sense to have your own plan. And whether you are joining a new company or changing slots in the same outfit, you can ease your entry into a new position by focusing on basic principles of workplace success:

  1. Learn what your boss wants. Perhaps at the start your boss will be vague about what she needs from you. Of course, you should ask about your expected deliverables and the best way to report on your progress. But don’t count on clear, complete answers. Do some detective work as well. Notice how your boss interacts with her other direct reports, what she typically wants to know, and how she sends information up the line. Get a sense of what she must do in order to be successful, and look for ways to help. Study the organization’s mission and consider how your contribution — and hers — fit within the big picture.
  2. Get to know people. When managers and professionals run into trouble with new positions or projects it’s generally not because they don’t have the technical skills. They are more likely to fail because they misunderstand the culture or don’t establish working relationships with the right people. During your first months be methodical as you reach out to teammates, customers and anybody else with information to share.
  3. Listen and learn. When you meet individuals and attend meetings, ask questions and actively listen to each new person. Resist the urge to talk about yourself and your successes in the old job. Keep an open mind, avoid offering criticism before you understand the history, and be cautious about choosing sides among warring factions.
  4. Set short-term goals. As you start to feel that your feet are on the ground, create realistic objectives for your first few months, then for the first year. Reconfirm your understanding of your boss’s expectations, focus on areas that seem to be high priority, and identify some relatively easy near-term achievements. Don’t try to do everything at once, but identify specific preliminary steps — like introductory meetings — to move you in the right direction.
  5. Do what you say you will. One of the worst ways to start out is to create a trail of broken promises. Deliver on every commitment you make, no matter how small. For example, if you offer to make a phone call or send along information, do so immediately.
  6. Be on time. A simple way to demonstrate respect and enthusiasm is to meet all deadlines and show up on time for every meeting and appointment. This can be more challenging than usual if you’re following a different schedule and in an unfamiliar environment. But it’s worth the extra effort.
  7. Adjust your attitude. It’s not unusual to experience a letdown soon after you start your job. Once you are beyond the excitement of the move, you may realize that not everything is meeting your expectations. If you get the feeling that the honeymoon is over, it will be time to make an important choice. You can give in to your disappointment and become preoccupied with how they’ve let you down. Or you can choose to focus on the positive aspects of your situation and commit yourself to doing what it takes to reach your goals.
  8. Manage stress. Recognize that the process of adjusting to your new assignment will involve moments of uncertainty, which can translate into a high level of stress. Have a plan for managing anxiety, and be sure to include a fitness program. You may feel like you have no time to work out, but that’s shortsighted. The time you spend on keeping your cool and boosting your energy is an investment in success.

It’s more common than it used to be to have an onboarding program and first year roadmap. But even if that’s the case, keep your personal objectives in mind as well. Ask yourself: what do I need to do to get off to a great start? And what are the next steps?

image credit: © thinglass –

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Posted in Career management, career resilience, career success, First day at work

When to stop worrying about prestige

Your best work adventures

may begin when you

stop worrying about status

Last week I wondered about “Lucy,” an acquaintance who had a chance to move to a different kind of job. She thought the shift would put her on a career track with more interesting opportunities than her current role. But she seemed likely to decline because she would lose her “VP” title.

I felt sorry for Lucy. She had a chance to try something that looked exciting. But she was tortured by the thought that her colleagues would think her work life had hit a snag.

Then I read a compassionate passage in Michael Korda’s entertaining book, “Horse People.” Writing about the herd behavior of horses, Korda said, “However peaceful horses may look grazing in their fields or dozing solemnly on their feet in their stall, they are always busy, in the sense that their mind is constantly aware of their status, and brooding over anything that might seem likely to change or challenge it. In short, it ain’t easy being a horse…”

That’s just like Lucy, I thought. Just like a lot of people. As social animals, humans may become preoccupied by their status, fretting over anything that challenges it. They might even pass up a wise move because others could regard it as a step down. In short, it ain’t easy being human.

Unlike herd animals, however, we don’t have to always give in to the pressure from the crowd.

 Gold vip iconOf course it’s normal to want respect from our colleagues. In his classic theory of human motivation, psychologist Abraham Maslow identified the need for esteem as a basic driver of human behavior. And leaders understand how important it can be for team members to feel accepted and valued by the group.

At work, the desire to look like a winner can keep us hustling when we secretly want to just throw in the towel. And praise and appreciation from our peers can make it all feel worth it, once a big push is finished.

The desire to move up and look good may bring energy to your career. But sometimes the wish for status or accolades can waste your time or lead you to the wrong choices. Read more ›

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Posted in Career management, professional growth Tagged with: ,

How to love your job again

Feeling workplace blues?

Try 7 tips from Kerry Hannon

For making work fun again

My pal and occasional colleague Kerry Hannon has written two books and countless articles about following your heart to find the work you love. In the last few years Hannon has traveled across the country, interviewing folks who have reinvented their work lives and speaking frequently about how to navigate career transitions.

Hannon says that many people love the dream of starting over with a different kind of career. But the truth is that often a big shift may not be practical. In her latest book, Hannon has changed gears to focus on how you can make your current job more satisfying.

Love Your Job – The New Rules for Career Happiness” is Hannon’s guide for people looking to find or reignite purpose and joy in their work. She says, “If you want to be happier, you have to do something, to take action.” That doesn’t always mean a big swerve from the past. “It does, however, often call on the courage to make necessary but sometimes uncomfortable and even painful changes.” Read more ›

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Posted in Uncategorized

6 ways to get more from meetings

Stuck in endless meetings?

Make better use of that time.

How much time do you devote to meetings? Your first answer might be: “Too much!” But seriously, do you have any idea what percentage of your work life is spent meeting with people? Try calculating it. And if meetings take just 20 percent of your time, and you work 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, that’s a whopping 400 hours annually.

I often talk with coaching clients about how to cut down the number of hours they spend sitting at a conference table. You can reduce meeting time by:

  • Agreeing with your colleagues to maintain shorter default times. For example, if your team always gathers on Monday mornings for an hour, commit to a new time limit of 45 minutes.
  • Say “no.” Sometimes your presence isn’t all that important, and you can be excused simply by explaining that you have another commitment.
  • Run better discussions.       Particularly if you’re the leader, you can recapture wasted time by establishing good group habits, like always having an agenda, and insisting on punctuality.

Business meeting, brainstorming in flat style.But no matter how adept you are at managing your own meetings, and avoiding some others, you probably still spend a big chunk of your work time convening with colleagues.

You may sometimes feel like my client “Sharon,” who was frustrated because she felt stuck. Sharon wanted the chance to lead a team. But Jenny, her mentor, warned that some senior colleagues felt Sharon wasn’t ready to be a manager.

Sharon complained, “If I didn’t have to waste so much time sitting in their useless meetings I could really show them what I can do.”

Jenny countered, “You can’t get out of those meetings, so why not make better use of them? Read more ›

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Posted in professional growth, workplace issues Tagged with: ,

Tips for talks that keep them engaged

 Have a speech coming up?

Want to sharpen your style?

Finding more opportunities to make presentations can bring new energy to your career. Public speaking allows you to stand out, show what you know, and connect with a wider group of people. The more talks you give, the more you build your confidence and polish your style. And the prospect of presenting helps you identify what’s important and work harder to know your stuff.

I often encourage clients to raise their profiles by finding speaking venues. This might mean offering remarks at a company meeting or sitting on a convention panel. Or it could involve inventing an event that gives you the chance you need.

If one of your goals is to do more speaking, take note of how successful delivery styles have evolved over the years.

LibbyheadshotMy favorite expert on public speaking and workplace communications is Libby Vick, who once worked on Capitol Hill and is now a member of the faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. When I asked her about recent trends, Libby (who also is my sister) said, “Speeches are shorter and the audience of today is much more visually oriented. And, for better or worse, the younger the audience the more they expect an element of ‘entertainment.’”

A format Libby now uses in her classroom is based on the increasingly popular Ignite talk videos, where the motto is “enlighten us, but make it quick.” Ignite presenters talk for exactly five minutes, and during that time the audience sees 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Libby said, “The idea of having visuals – without words – throughout the speech is a new concept, and it seems to work.”

“Another interesting aspect of Ignite is the premise that storytelling is the key to a successful presentation. And this can be applied to any subject,” Libby said. “For example, business audiences are often bored by PowerPoint charts and graphs, even in pretty colors.”

“So let’s say the ‘story’ you want to tell is that a once thriving industry is now suffering layoffs. Instead of a graph, you can have a slide that’s a photograph showing a plant at full production, followed by a slide that shows the same plant half empty. The story is told and the point is still made, but in a way that holds the audience’s interest,” Libby said.

If you want a fresher approach for your next talk, Libby’s advice is: Read more ›

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Posted in career success, personal branding Tagged with: ,

6 times listening may be the best strategy

Have a problem at work?

Listening may be a solution.

Regardless of how you define your key workplace objectives, I’m willing to bet that better listening skills could help you achieve at least one of them.

By “listening” I mean you not only keep your mouth shut long enough for the other person to talk, but you also shut down the voice in your head when it tries to tell you what to say next. You concentrate on the speaker, and you hear what they say even if it means you have to fight an urge to judge or be defensive.

Humans have a deep and often unmet need to be heard and understood. Neuroscience suggests that people go through life aching to have their concerns acknowledged and their presence felt. When we truly listen we meet that need and connect with the speaker in a special way, even though it might not seem like that at the time.

 listening  @Voyagerix - FotoliaAnd listening is such a fundamental part of human interaction that at some level we can usually tell if someone is actually hearing us, or just pretending. Research on “mindful listening” shows that people, and even animals, can sense whether we’re engaged in the moment or just waiting for our turn to talk. And when we deeply listen without feeling defensive or judgmental, we’re more likely to come across as genuine, charismatic and attractive.

Becoming a stronger listener can be like building your physical strength. You build your listening “muscle” by noticing your reactions to a speaker and then putting them aside. For example, let’s imagine your friend says, “you let me down.” You instantly think “that’s not true!” But instead of interrupting, you put that defensive thought aside and hear what else your friend has to say. Read more ›

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Posted in Career management, listening

8 times to stop worrying about looking like a suck up

Fear looking like an apple polisher?

It’s probably time to get over it.

One of the greatest TV characters ever was Eddie Haskell, Wally Cleaver’s oily conniving friend, still to be seen on reruns of “Leave It To Beaver.” Eddie was an archetype who no decent person wants to resemble — a two-faced sycophant, always scheming and currying favor to promote his plans

The fear of looking like a brown noser is so powerful among professionals that sometimes they shy away from obvious opportunities to make a friend or pursue a goal. Among my clients, the people who worry the most about resembling Eddie Haskell are often the straight shooters who look the least like him.

A good example is “Trish,” a quiet but talented financial wizard who wanted to eventually move to her dream job in another division of the company. Trish said she’d probably need support from Al, a senior colleague who knew the leaders there. She described Al as smart and accomplished, but self-absorbed and eager to be the center of attention.

I suggested Trish find ways to build her relationship with Al, and speculated that he might respond well to a bit of flattery. She said, “Yep – he probably would. But I couldn’t do it. I just don’t like to suck up.”

Even though it could mean a lot for her future, Trish didn’t want to cultivate a friendship with Al because he seemed arrogant and might expect her to kowtow. I said she needn’t grovel, and asked her to simply make a list of Al’s strengths and areas of expertise. Next, I suggested she spot opportunities where Al’s advice might actually be helpful.

Trish identified Al’s types of special knowledge and found projects where she could use his insights. Then she began to ask him for occasional guidance. To her surprise, Al responded warmly, and eventually became her mentor. Ultimately he guided her into the transfer she’d been dreaming about.

Trish’s reluctance to appear unctuous almost prevented her from getting to know the man who became her champion. She is not alone. Modest but otherwise self-aware people sometimes have a disproportionate fear of looking like a bootlicker.

Hand with appleAre you one of those who is reluctant to offer a heartfelt tribute for fear it will be taken as apple-polishing? Read more ›

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Posted in mentoring, networking, professional advancement Tagged with: ,

Celebrations support a healthy workplace culture

Build your team & boost productivity

with 13 ideas for workplace celebrations

Celebrations can enhance your workplace culture and help team members do even better work. Sharing appreciation for success and good fortune can support the well-being of individuals, foster a sense of community and promote the health of your whole organization.

open book with ribbonCreating a celebration can be a wonderful way to acknowledge achievements and encourage people to continue to excel. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator and a celebratory event can be a smart way to offer good feedback.

Celebrations provide times when colleagues come together, get to know each other better and develop a shared perspective. Enjoying festive occasions helps workers become friends, and having friends at the office helps you do your best.

Arranging celebrations can provide a moment for reflection, allowing people to develop a collective focus on the right stuff. It’s a way to draw attention to the organization’s goals and values, and to remind participants that they work at a great place.

Consider these 13 ways to celebrate at work: Read more ›

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Posted in leadership, motivation, organizational techniques, team building, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

The way you talk can transform your team

 To help your team thrive,

agree on some structure &

communicate widely and often!

When I want a quick sense of whether a team is working well, I take a look at how the members communicate.

“Jenna” was an agency branch chief who wanted to help her 14 direct reports become more innovative and productive. Years ago her branch had been organized into cascading layers, with three deputy chiefs each managing two to four people. That kind of top-down organization made sense when it was the only way to assure the distribution of accurate information. But the old command-and-control model went out of date with the advent of email and other technology. So now the agency was much flatter, and its leaders were exploring new ways to organize the workload.

To foster collaboration and mentoring, Jenna had organized her group into project-focused teams. Since each person might be on more than one team, and some teams included professionals from other branches, Jenna was keeping her eye on six teams, each with three to five members. Several teams were active, energetic and highly productive. But a couple of them had gone dormant before they really got started.

As part of an effort to evaluate and restructure the teams, Jenna asked me to interview each branch employee. “Don,” an experienced and technically gifted lawyer, led one of the teams that hadn’t gelled. When I asked Don about how his team operated, he said he called meetings “only when they were absolutely necessary.” He said he was available to answer individual questions, but he didn’t want to encourage people “to waste time talking about each other’s problems.”

I said to myself, “Wow! Don’s poor team never had a chance.” Don had no idea that frequent and effective communications are key to building a team that gets things done.

TeamIt’s long been intuitively obvious that talking frequently is a basic step of teambuilding. But the new science of mapping team communication patterns suggests that how team members talk with one another may be more important than their skill, personality, intelligence and discussion topics combined.

A 2012 Harvard Business Review article offered a fascinating account of how MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory can chart and portray the interactions that characterize high-performing teams. When working with a client organization, the Lab’s experts equip members of the client’s teams with electronic badges that collect data on communication behavior. Read more ›

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Posted in team building Tagged with: ,

Beverly E. Jones

Watch for the book!

Think Like an Entrepreneur,
Act Like a CEO

50 Indispensable Tips to Help
Your Stay Afloat, Bounce Back, and Get Ahead at Work

Coming in late 2015
from Career Press

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Links to occasional colleagues

ECCA - Website
ThreeJoy - Website
Kerry Hannon - Website
Ohio University's Voinovich School - Website
Senior Entrepreneurship Works - Website
Congressional Management Foundation - Website
WOUB - Website
ShadowComm LLC - Website

Books with Bev’s Tips

Bev’s tips on career change are featured in the books and other writing of leading journalist Kerry Hannon. If you’re thinking about a career transition, try:

Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness

What’s Next? Find Your Passion and Your Dream Job in You Forties, Fifties and Beyond

“Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy and Pays the Bills”

Bev at Ohio University,
where she is a visiting
executive with the
Voinovich School of
Leadership & Public Affairs

Bev's garden at Buckeye Farm