We often write posts to help the more introverted among us improve their communication skills. The people who don’t know how to start a conversation or keep it going are obviously the ones who need help. The thing is introverts are often actually really great communicators because of their innate skills at listening. We rarely think of offering advice to extroverts because they’re already at the front of the room in full-on communication mode.
However just because a person is talking up a storm that doesn’t mean they are great communicators. They could actually be terrible communicators. Their constant talking can be more noise than communication. Their self-absorbed chatter more off-putting than interesting.
Get to the point
Some people are so enamored of listening to themselves speak they don’t pay attention to what they’re saying. Or that they lost their audience a long time ago. Not every detail of your story or experience needs to be shared. You don’t need to give more than an example or two of what you’re trying to convey. Strong communicators are concise and to the point. They leave people wanting more. The time for more is in answer to a question at the end.
As we talked about with introverts, one of most important communication skills has nothing at all to do with speaking. It’s all about listening with focus and attention to what the person you are speaking to is saying. That way when you do open your mouth you can actually discuss the topic at hand without dancing around it. Listening doesn’t start and stop with the ears. It involves paying attention to body language (and getting in sync with the person you’re speaking to). It also involves full attention. That means, not thinking about your responses or where the discussion is going, but staying fully with it at all times.
Give people space to have their say
Some extroverts get so excited about what they have to say they let their words bowl right over the words of the person they’re speaking with. If you have a tendency to just jump in as soon as a thought enters your head learn to reign it in. Your point will wait – and you won’t lose the respect/attention of the other person. Even if you think you know what the other person is going to say, keep it to yourself. Finishing someone else’s sentence might build camaraderie the first time you do it. After that it diminishes what the other person is trying to say.
Maintain eye contact
You know how you know when someone is listening to you. You see it in their eyes. The eyes that are maintaining contact with yours. Conversely, if a person’s eyes are scanning all over the room you can be pretty sure their mind is equally absorbed elsewhere. A distracted mind makes for a distracted conversation.
Great communicators put the person in front of them first. The one who is feeling seen and heard – and is happily listening to what they’re being told.
You will often hear that having an employment gap on your resume is bad news. It raises red flags about your ambition and your dedication to your work.
The fact is there are lots of reasons for an employment gap. Maybe you decided to take time off to travel or to go back to school. Maybe you were busy taking care of a loved one. Rather than thinking of the negative aspects of a career gap, think about the ways you can talk about it positively.
Learned new things in an nontraditional way
Let’s say you did take the time to travel. Even if you spent all your time exploring the nooks and crannies of new cities without a thought about career or professional development, you still learned new things. Talk about personal growth. Talk about learning to think on your feet. The communication skills you built talking to people from all over the world. The new perceptions you bring to life and work in this country. Frame the experience as an opportunity for personal growth.
Learned new things in a more traditional fashion
If you decided to take time off work to go back to school that’s a total plus. You realized the fast track to getting ahead is improved qualifications. You are now far more prepared for the changing employment market and bring brand new skills and determination to your new job.
Whether you took courses specifically to increase your skill set and employability or out of personal interest, the take away is you are invested in improving yourself. Talk about what your new skills/outlook bring to the job at hand. How you can’t wait to put what you’ve learned to practice.
The importance of priorities
Maybe you had to take time off to care for a loved one or yourself. Sometimes life chooses our priorities for us. When it comes times to talk about that gap during the interview quickly explain it the way and go to the positives. This is what happened. The most important thing for me during that time was X. That’s behind me now and I’m ready to focus on my career.
What do you think about your abilities? Do you think you are a competent person? Do you believe you are capable of achieving your goals and your aspirations? Why do you think what you do? Is it because people have told you that you have certain talents? Is it because people have told you that you don’t?
Who do you listen to?
How would you feel about your potential if a random person on the street told you that you could achieve your goals? What if it was the person who knows you best in the world?
Obviously you’re going to feel better about the opinion of the person who knows you best in the world than a random person on the street.
A matter of perspective
That is precisely why your opinion of yourself and your abilities matters so much. If you feel like you can be successful you will wake up, throw the covers off and face the day with determination and excitement. If you feel like trying is a waste of time then you simply won’t have the energy to try.
Your abilities don’t actually have to factor into the equation either way. Because if you feel like you can be a success, you are going to put yourself in situations where you will learn what you need to succeed. You will practice and succeed and fail and come back to do both again. You will turn yourself into the person you already believe in.
If you feel like you can’t succeed, no amount of talent in the world will make up for your attitude.
Start with the person in the mirror
The opinions of others are great validations, but the first and most important person you need to convince of your worth is the one who looks back at you in the mirror. The opinions of others will come in response.
Every great leader has his or her own style of leadership. But just about every one of them share these five pillars as a base.
A strong leader has a vision for what needs to get done. However that doesn’t mean they believe they have to (or can) get it all done themselves. They have the ability to see the unique talents of each member of the team. Therefore they make a point of allowing each person to excel where they can. A strong leader creates an atmosphere of collaboration where different aspects of the project are led by the individual most capable of doing so. They create teams where everyone feels heard and valued.
If people on the team don’t have a clear perspective of what’s expected of them individually and as part of the whole group they cannot possibly do the best they can do. The very best leaders are expert communicators. They encourage questions, they are generous with praise and advice and they are not embarrassed or afraid to admit when they are wrong or when they’ve set a wrong path.
Everyone wants the project they’re working on to succeed. People who are strong leaders do everything they can to get that project to the finish line, but once it’s there they don’t feel the need to stand around collecting all the glory for themselves. They share the praise, and give recognition to everyone who contributed. They celebrate the accomplishment rather than seek recognition for their part in it, understanding that a shared success is much sweeter than a success devoured alone.
In the process of achieving a leadership position, the leader has learned a great deal about many aspects of the project they’re overseeing. When people come to them for help it might be easy to simply tell people under them everything they need to know and do in an easy to follow step-by-step process. But strong leaders understand the value of letting people find the solution for themselves. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from having the opportunity to create your own success. They provide support and encouragement in an environment that promotes learning and growth.
The leader sets the tone
for the whole group. If a leader is passionate, he or she inspires passion. By having conviction in the success of the project and the people involved they will see that same conviction staring back at them on the faces of the people on their team.
If you want to achieve anything you need to have a very clear idea of what you want to accomplish and why. That’s why it’s so important to make a specific list of your goals including the whys. I want to earn $60K a year isn’t enough. I want to earn $60K a year so I can buy a new car and live in a nicer apartment is better. Adding the why to your goal helps you stay motivated. It keeps you on track.
Give yourself a deadline
If you want to achieve a goal sometime in the future then you’ll probably get around to it sometime in the future. If you’re serious about achieving your goal then set yourself an achievable deadline. Not too close that you’ll freak out about not having enough time and not so far away that you can put off working toward it. A Goldilocks deadline that keeps you on your toes and motivated to keep at it.
Keep a running list
Maybe in order to achieve your goal you need to take a class or have lunch with a certain individual or achieve a smaller goal first. To keep yourself on track it’s helpful to keep a running list of what you need to accomplish on the way to achieving the goal. The list isn’t something that needs to be written in stone. It’s more fluid and changeable, something that grows and shrinks as the goal evolves. As you think of new items, add them to your list.
When we have a list of things to do, sometimes it’s tempting to do the easiest things first, or the ones we like to do most. Which leaves the hardest things and the things we least want to do for the end where they may fall through the cracks left by a loss in motivation. Look at your list and prioritize it, then set about accomplishing those things in order.
Keep the momentum going
Working towards goals is something that needs to be part of everyday. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about staying motivated and continuing to believe in yourself and what you can accomplish.
Interviews are nerve wracking and even though you may have great experiences or qualifications that would make you an idea candidate, sometimes it’s hard to get that across in the moment. Unless you prepared to answer the questions using the STAR (Situation/Task/Action/Result) technique.
By thinking about all your answers within a STAR framework you’ll be able to describe the work Situation or Task, the Actions you took to either finish the task or improve the situation and the fantastic Results of your efforts.
Question: What kind of experience do you have working in a team?
Start by describing the situation. The people involved, the challenges, goals the team had to work with/deal with. If were negatives associated with the experience, frame them as challenges that had to be overcome. Be specific. Don’t say I have worked in many teams. Talk about a specific team and the specific goals.
Approach task the same way you approached situation. Be specific about what exactly the team needed to accomplish. The skills people brought to the table and what (if anything) was lacking. If you can, describe a task or situation that is pertinent to the job you are applying for.
This is the time to highlight your role in the situation. What specific, measurable things did you do to bring about positive results. This is where you want to spend the most time in your answer. Talk about how you came to the action. Steps you took, people you connected with etc.
You’ve already talked about the actions you took, now you get to highlight the benefits of those actions. Give concrete examples of the result. The team was able to achieve 30% more efficiency, sales were increased by 15%, work flow was improved in XYZ ways.
During an interview people might remember to talk about actions taken then forget to discuss the result of those actions. Results are the icing on the cake!
Check out the answers to these questions using the STAR technique from Zety.com
Some people are natural born leaders. It seems like they always know what to do or say to inspire others. While others generally inspire eye rolls among the people they work with. Most people fall somewhere in between those two. But, there are certain things every leader can to make themselves people that people want to follow.
One of the most important things you can do for someone is to ensure that they feel seen and listened to. That means creating a relationship with them. Learn about each member of your team. Ask them about their families, their interests outside of work, their aspirations. Make sure they understand you care about them both as members of your team and as individual human beings.
It is your job as a leader to ensure that every person on your team knows exactly what is expected of them. Don’t assume they know what’s in your head or what your plans for the future are, articulate them. Then provide feedback, both on the positives and on the negatives. People should feel good about what they’ve done right and hear about what they’ve done wrong so they can do better in the future.
Set team goals
People will feel invested in what they’re doing when they see success. Provide them with opportunities for that success. Set goals, both long term and short term. You can all celebrate the short-term goals on the way to achieving the big ones. Celebrating success is another way of ensuring people feel seen and appreciated. Small successes can be acknowledged privately, but the big ones should be shared. Give them the opportunity to shine in front of their co-workers.
People will work with more dedication and enthusiasm if they feel like what they’re doing has a purpose. Take the time to explain the big picture to your team. Let them know how what they are doing is going to affect the whole organization. Provide qualitative numbers, share the impact their work is going to have. Explain how and why what they’re doing is meaningful. Make is so they follow you because they want to, not because they have to!