Quick tip: Improve your proofing skills

If possible, don’t edit your writing right after you draft it. Instead, sleep on it and edit it first thing the next morning. With some distance between your first draft and proofing, you are likely to catch more errors.

Make a ‘Thank you’ meaningful

Even if you are polite enough to say “Thank you” throughout the workday, you can turn those two words into powerful recognition for your employees. Spend a few minutes this month showing staff members how much you truly appreciate them. Say “Thank you” with actions like these:

  • Put it in writing. Send your staff member a letter on professional-looking stationery. You don’t need to write much, just a few lines saying specifically why you are glad that this person works with you. Mention details such as the actions, skills or attributes that the person brings to the workplace.
  • Reinforce the behaviors you value. Note progress that the person has made over the past few months or well-established actions that you value. Example: “Rita, your positive attitude always raises the team’s morale. I recall just last week when …”
  • Make the delivery special. Hand the note to the person with a few brief remarks, such as “I want to tell you how much we value your contributions.” Or mail the letter to the employee’s home, where the recipient can savor the praise with his or her family.
  • Ratchet up the praise. Instead of thanking the staff member yourself, ask your boss or another executive to deliver the words with a call or note. Knowing that you have told others about the person’s good work will make it more meaningful.


Ask questions that empower

If your employees have low accountability, you might be part of the problem. Questions can help you empower employees, but they can also take their power away. Examples:

  • Questions that ask “What’s wrong?” don’t empower. Examples: “Why are you behind schedule?” “What’s the problem with this project?” “Why are you so far behind the rest of the team?” “Why did you do that?”
  • Questions that ask “What’s right?” and “What do we want more of ?” empower team members. Examples: “How do you feel about the project so far?” “What key things need to happen to achieve your objectives?” “What kind of support do you need to ensure success?”

Discover how to turn accountability into bottom-line performance. Order now to reap the benefits of our newest training toolkit: No Excuses! Making Accountability a Must in the Workplace. Your toolkit includes a CD with ready-to-use forms, a training/reference binder, and two webinars led by internationally recognized “people development” expert Natalie Manor. It’s everything you need to trade a culture of backstabbing, turf wars and shirking for a workplace where everyone works together to move forward faster. Pre-order now!


Words in action: “Censure” vs. “censor”

Censure means “to criticize strongly.” Example: “The organization faces internal censure for its unethical business practices.” Censor means “to review and suppress anything that is deemed objectionable.” Example: “The station censored her speech before airing it.”

Boost performance with journaling

Journaling has surprising benefits for professionals. Whether you use pen and paper or an online platform, journaling can help you tune in to yourself and your habits—and chart a path for improvement.

Take a few minutes—no more than 10—to write down your thoughts when:

  • A training session or learning opportunity ends. Jot down everything you learned to cement it in your brain. Also, use your journal to look back and refresh your memory.
  • The workday is over. Reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Not only does that give you a sense of accomplishment for your successes, but it allows you to think about how to prevent or overcome failures going forward.
  • You have an idea. Keeping a journal nearby allows you to quickly jot down those great ideas that pop in your head at random times, ensuring that you don’t forget them.
  • Stress gets to you. Venting about a problem you are having often helps. If you can’t vent to a real person, spilling your frustrations out on a piece of paper can help you refocus. Sometimes the act of writing it down makes you realize that you are blowing things out of proportion or spurs you to come up with solutions.

Note to managers: Looking for an inexpensive gift for your staff members? Present them with a journal and a copy of this article to encourage them to adopt the practice of journaling.

— Adapted from “Journaling for Professional Development,” Mind Tools Staff, http://www.mindtools.com.

Inspire when saying “No”

When you say “No” to someone who passionately shares an idea, you deflate the person’s enthusiasm at best. At worst, you deliver a spirit-crushing blow.

Instead, formulate answers that are interactive rather than dismissive. Respond by constructively investigating the idea. Examples:

  • Respond with a “Let’s explore” answer if the idea shows promise. Listen and discuss the idea further. Maybe the timing isn’t right or the idea needs more development, but you offer the person an opportunity to contribute. Besides, with some modifications, the idea could work.
  • Create a “What if” answer that alters the original idea into a better idea with the same result. That response recognizes the merit of the idea and encourages future input.

— Adapted from “Leadership: How to Say ‘No’ While Also Inspiring People,” Steve Denning, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com.

How to receive bad news

Keep these guidelines in mind, and you will avoid the temptation to “kill the messenger” when an employee delivers bad news:

  • Make information-gathering your goal. If you develop a reputation for blowing up at the first murmur of bad news, others will hesitate to come to you when plans go awry. Stay calm and gather the facts – who, what, when, where and why.
  • Focus on damage control. As quickly as possible, define the extent of the problem. Then create a plan to control it as you convene a task force to focus on long-term solutions.
  • Keep information flowing. Inform interested employees of the steps you have initiated and how they can help. Then report the situation to your own supervisors. If you have contained the problem, report the details. If you need assistance, outline what you have accomplished so far and ask for what you need.