By Barry Breit, Co-Founder, Pro Resume Center, LLC
Part 1 of 2-part article.
Do you like to tell yourself and others at work you do best when you “wing it” on sales calls or during staff meetings, because you perform better that way? Or perhaps you tell people you’re a non-confrontational person and having tough conversations with your team or clients is just “not my thing.”
Saying “winging it” is your style is well, let’s be honest, an excuse, right? Is it more accurate that this is mostly tied to your unwillingness to take the time to prepare as well as you should? As to being unwilling to have the tough talks or passing that along to someone else because you are afraid someone might not like you, is frankly, another excuse. And could be holding you back in your career.
Why is it important to identify these excuses, which many mask as their “working style?” It can help you begin to peel away these self-destructive patterns standing in the way of your success.
Identify these most often used excuses in the work world, make changes and you can begin to guide your direction as a positive and consistent contributor to your company, team and clients. I know from experience it is important to always be reflecting on your actions and goals – in life and in your career – so you can better chart your course to get where you want to go. One of the best ways to do this is to think about how you are portraying yourself to bosses, colleagues and clients and providing the most value.
TELL ME AGAIN ABOUT YOUR “STYLE?”
So, let’s take a look at these “styles” you claim are working for you on the job or in everyday life, break them down and figure out how to do it differently.
Do you see yourself in any of these?
1. I like to wing it (I like to improvise, shoot from the hip, etc.)
2. I like to skip around (and call it multi-tasking)
3. I’m a big picture guy (I’m just too busy to bother with details so this excuses me from thoroughly reading my emails, paying attention, showing up late for meetings, forgetting things, etc.)
4. I’m a lover not a fighter (i.e., I avoid difficult conversations for fear of confrontation)
1 – Winging it vs lack of planning
Perhaps you want to get ahead at your current company but sometimes think they just don’t “get” your improv style even though you think it works for you.
I have news for you – it’s probably not working as well as you think and your colleagues, clients or bosses probably don’t appreciate it either.
Most people who believe that winging it is their best style have never actually used a preparation method or fully prepared over an extended period of time to see how it could impact their results.
Shouldn’t you instead be going into that call, presentation or meeting with an idea of what the outcome should be? Shouldn’t you have done your research and homework to create a tentative agenda aimed at understanding their needs and how your products, services or information will benefit their company?
Take the time to plan for your next presentation, sales call or meeting and you will find that the more you do it, the more productive it will be and the more likely you will see successful results. Start a week ahead of the big meeting or call. Take just 15 or 30 minutes each workday to research their needs and plan your presentation. By the time the meeting rolls around you will be so confident and prepared and those colleagues who are used to seeing you “wing it” will be blown away. Build credibility by being prepared. It works. I Promise.
2 – Jump around works on the dance floor, not in business
“Skipping around” isn't a style. This really means you are unfocused and not having respect for what has been time tested and proven to be the most efficient way to approach any task, any meeting or sales call – with clear direction, purpose and goals. Of course, you can tweak your direction as you are gauging the temperature in the room – are the clients receptive, have you captivated your teammate’s attention, is your boss focused on you? If not, it may be time to adjust but skipping around during a presentation or sales call leaves the attendees or clients confused and your message will get lost. This essentially comes down to lack of preparedness. See above on taking the time to plan ahead.
Maybe you gloss over your emails or memos from colleagues or clients. Maybe you feel you don’t have time to read every single one. Maybe you zone out a bit during meetings and pass it off as doing big picture thinking. No matter how you slice it, the ones who wrote those emails or are presenting in the meeting or talking to you about their needs as a client, will think you are just rude for not reading their emails or memos or paying attention to every word in a meeting.
Lose the ego. Truly successful people do think big picture but they never lose sight of those tiny details that will make their company, their client, their product or service, stand out above all the rest.
4 – Having difficult conversations is just not my thing
Ummm, how well does that ever work out for you, your company, your team, your clients?
Has it resulted in a surprise invoice to clients at the end of the month because you failed to let them know that when they requested edits or tweaks to a project that it would result in additional billing? Did you continue to cover for a colleague who consistently let your team down with excuses on why things were not done, or not turned in on time, only to end up taking the heat yourself from the client or worse, your direct supervisor? Are you afraid to ask for a raise after two years at the same wage but with double the duties you had when hired because you just can’t bear the thought of hearing no, or worse, think they’ll kick you to the curb you for asking? How’s that working out for you then, and your future?
If you don’t approach the difficult topic or fail to have the tough conversations, things won’t change. That’s a promise, too. It’s up to you to help bring change by having the tough conversations. Jot down a plan of action and points you wish to make to the other person, team, boss or client, remembering to start with a positive and end with both parties agreeing, or at least coming to a common understanding. It’s NOT about making accusations. People tend to go on the defensive when accused. It’s about letting them know how you feel. Remember to include suggestions on ways to improve the situation. Don’t attack. Have a conversation and suggest how things could change for the better.
Remember, lack of preparedness does not constitute a “style,” especially in the workplace. If you are unhappy in your current position or conducting a job search, also remember that you don’t want to leave your current company while portraying any of these above so-called “styles.” It won’t reflect well in your references or recommendations. I always say – Leave ‘em smiling and wishing that you would stay.
Learning your working style and that of your bosses, co-workers or clients can have immediate positive impact on your career as you learn how to work best with teammates, supervisors, company owners or clients. See Part 2 of this article, where I help you identify real working styles and how to make this knowledge work best for the success of you and your team.
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Barry Breit is co-founder of Pro Resume Center, LLC and has extensive experience as a sales executive, sales manager, business consultant and life coach. He has hired and unfortunately fired many throughout his decade-long business career. To connect with Barry, email him at email@example.com.
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