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Leadership Skills Every Employee Needs

May 26th, 2017

You might not believe your current job requires anything that can be defined as “leadership”. In fact, you may look around your work environment and see yourself as the lowest person on multiple totem poles. Or you may not interact with your coworkers in a way that suggests hierarchy or levels of influence. You may contribute to a team of equals, or you may be the newest and least influential person in every room you occupy. But we have news for you: this won’t always be the case. You have a greater impact on others than you realize, and your influence will only grow with time. So in order to thrive, you’ll need to build a few critical leadership skills. Start now and within a few years, you’ll be on your way up the ladder.

Speak up.

Practice raising your voice in order to make your thoughts and feelings heard. Don’t wait for an invitation; just speak, even if it means interrupting someone or setting yourself up to be interrupted by others. Words have no power if you don’t use them, and speaking up usually brings lower risk than you might imagine. Gather your courage and join the conversation.

When you want someone to do something, tell them.

Instead of hinting or insinuating, just make your request. When you need a pen from distant shelf, say “Can you hand me that pen, please” or simply “Grab me that pen over there, thanks.” If you simply express abstract sorrow regarding your lack of writing equipment, or go to impractical lengths to get the pen yourself, you miss out on an opportunity to practice issuing a request and enlisting the help of others to get things done.

Take up space.

Gracefully accept what’s yours. In fact, assert yourself a little bit in order to reach out and take it. When you’re offered a chair, take possession of the entire chair, including the armrests; don’t perch nervously at the edge. The same applies to your work area, your salary, and the resources you require in order to do your job. None of these things are gifts. You deserve them, you earned them, and they’re yours by right. So take them and say thank you. Then move on.

When you’re right, stand your ground.

If several members of your team suggest opposing plans, and you know that yours is the best idea on the table, don’t let go until you receive evidence that an alternate plan may offer more benefits. Push for your ideas and suggestions, and while you’re at it, stand up for others who propose great ideas, and don’t let them be shouted down. Amplify the voices of those who have something to say that might benefit the team.

For more on how to exercise your small but growing influence in the workplace, reach out to the Connecticut career management professionals at Merritt Staffing.

Is Procrastination Costing Your Company Big?

December 9th, 2016

Procrastination and distraction can easily derail any one of us, and no matter how naturally organized we may be, we’ve all felt the pull of these productivity drainers at one point or another during the course of our careers. The temptation to procrastinate rises up when and where we least expect; intelligent people are more likely to succumb to it, and—for reasons that defy science—the projects that excite us and inspire our passion the most tend to be the ones that we’re most likely to put off…probably because these projects can seem overwhelming and the bar of expectation we set for ourselves can be unrealistically high.

But if you have serial procrastinators on your team, or employees who procrastinate for so long that their deadlines come and go before they begin to buckle down, then it may be time to take action. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Talk to your procrastinators; don’t scold them.

Don’t assume that your most incorrigible procrastinators are lazy or uncommitted—In fact, the opposite may be true. But this doesn’t excuse behavior that can undermine your company and alienate your clients. Sit down with your worst offenders and ask them to explain why they’re having trouble getting started. Ask what you can do to remove the obstacles from their path. Encourage them to be honest about their hang-ups, and make it clear that you’re here to help, not to punish.

Avoid swooping to the rescue repeatedly.

If you talk to your procrastinators, and coach them in good faith, and swoop to the rescue when they’re in a crunch, then you’re doing your job as a manager. But if you find yourself bailing out the same person over and over again, or constantly shifting the workload away from a distracted employee and burdening his coworkers at the last minute, it may be time to consider a transfer, or a formal evaluation and performance improvement plan.

Hire non-procrastinators and stop the problem before it starts.

The best way to solve any specific performance or behavior problem is to avoid it in the first place, and recognize red flags during your candidate selection process. Create a list of interview behaviors, resume giveaways, or questionable statements that may suggest your candidate has an issue with deadlines. If you see any of these red flags, ask follow up questions. Keep your questions open ended, for example: “If you have to choose between submitting quality work and keeping a deadline, and you can’t do both, which do you prioritize and why?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you faced a really tough deadline and had to make some hard decisions.” Listen carefully as the candidate answers.

For more on how to spot signs of trouble—or signs of brilliance—during the candidate selection process, turn to the Westchester County staffing team at Merritt.

Soft Skills Top Candidates Possess

October 14th, 2016

The best candidates in your applicant pool are likely to demonstrate a set of skills that are difficult to measure (often called “soft” skills for this reason). These skills can serve as a strong predictor of long term success, and if you’re watching carefully, they’re often easy to spot. If you see a candidate who can handle the day-to-day demands of this specific role while also bringing these intangible benefits to the table, don’t let that candidate get away.

Listening skill.

For almost any position, you’ll want candidates who can speak boldly and articulate their thoughts and opinions. Employees who can charm, persuade, and motivate using words can boost your reputation as well as your sales numbers and can help any company grow and thrive. But there’s one thing that’s more important—and harder to find—than good talkers: good listeners. Listeners are the candidates who understand your words, process your intentions accurately, and remember the things you say. They can read nuance and inflection, and they truly care about the success of any given interaction.

Friendliness and approachability.

Again, skilled communicators all have one thing in common: They really want to want to understand and be understood. They have a personal desire for connection, and they work hard to reach out and to make themselves available to others.

Executive functioning skill.

Great candidates can do several things at one time (multitask), and they have strong memories. They can break off one conversation, pick up another, and return to the first where they left off without missing a beat. They can handle the complexities of scheduling, budgeting, teamwork, and leadership all on the same day, and sometimes during the same minute.

Culture-building.

The best candidates can read a person’s mood, but they also read the mood of a room, or an entire workplace. They know the difference between a toxic conversation, culture or mission, and a healthy one. And they know how to set a personal example and steer the ship in the right direction.

Fearlessness.

When change needs to happen, the best candidates face it head-on. They aren’t afraid to speak up for what’s right or stand up for a person or an idea. Ask your candidate to describe a moment from the past in which she demonstrated courage by taking action against the status quo.

Resilience and determination.

What happens to your candidate when she experiences a setback? What happens when he doesn’t get what he wants or doesn’t experience immediate results? Choose the candidates who get up when they get knocked down—the ones who aren’t phased by minor obstacles and who don’t take rejection personally.

For more on how to recognize signs of success in your applicants, turn to the staffing and hiring experts at Merritt.

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