How to Take Your Career to the Next Level

There’s a familiar saying that nice guys finish last. That’s not always true, but it is a reminder that you may not get what you deserve out of life, while others seem to get more than their fair share. We often see this in the workplace. It’s not always the smartest or most qualified person who gets the raise or the promotion or the corner office with a view.   Don’t be discouraged. Early in my career I was dismissed as just another pretty face or the wife of someone famous, and dealt with many who felt that a woman had no place in the executive ranks of the music, film or television industry. I had to work hard to prove myself and eventually achieved successes above and beyond the obstacles I faced. To this day I'm still fighting to prove myself and I’m still winning.   Getting to the next level can be a full-time job in and of itself. There are strategies and skills you need to succeed.  Often times knowing and exhibiting those skills will indicate that you are qualified for the position that you seek.   Here are some tips and strategies to make sure that you get not only what you want, but what you deserve out of your career.   Know Your Stuff   Be a master of your craft.  If there’s a new product, do the research.  If something is discontinued or didn’t work, learn why.  Know all there is to know about whatever it is that you want to do. When I first started as a producer, I took film classes and watched EVERY movie on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 films.  I also reached out to experts in my field to pick their brains for advice and information and gained a few mentors and contacts that I’ve stayed in touch with throughout my career.   Speak On It   People aren’t mind readers, especially people in leadership positions. You may think you are exhibiting all the qualities of someone who should to be promoted, but you have to let people know that career advancement is part of your plan.  Many people are good at their job and want to be “lifers” in their position.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity because someone else was willing to ask for it.  Make sure you wait for the appropriate time, be patient, and not pushy.  But let people in positions of authority know what you want. Ask Questions   The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question.  It’s an easy way to develop a dialogue, especially with superiors, new clients or colleagues.  People love to talk about themselves or the projects they are working on.  Do your research. Find out what they’ve got going on, then ask them about it.  Even if it’s a question you know the answer to.  It will give you an opportunity to start a discussion.   Participation [...]

2018-01-10T13:27:36+00:00 By |

The Heart of Listening

Imagine a world where every world leader, parent, teacher, manager, and friend has become an effective listener. What would a world populated with truly effective listeners be like? How would it be different? In this kind of world, conversations would not lead to arguments, discussions would not escalate into altercations, and everyone would thoroughly listen to what a speaker had to say in order to better understand what was said the first time it was spoken. For 15 years I have been bringing the transformative power of effective listening tools to corporations, universities, non-profits, and the helping professions.  This column is dedicated to bringing practical and reflective tools and information to you, so that you may become more effective in your listening, and help others do the same. The Foundation The foundation of my work on listening began when I reflected on why my grandmother was so successful at building relationships with her family, friends, and people she met. People changed their demeanor in a positive way when they were in conversation with her. The residents in her building always flocked to her apartment to have conversations. I always looked forward to our Saturday afternoons together. Why? Every Saturday during my adolescence in Boston I would ride the trolley to Grandmother’s six-story apartment house to visit. Together Grammy and I would make breaded chicken wings for dinner, entertain her friends living in the building, and then walk arm in arm on the shady side of the street down to Howard Johnson’s, some ten blocks away, to indulge in my favorite dish, fried clams. Along the way, Grammy would ask me about my hobbies, home, and school. Her questions were simple, asked to discover what was happening in my life. She listened to every word I spoke, even, it seemed, the unspoken ones. When we sat down to have our meal, we talked about what was happening in her life and the life of her friends. Since my grandmother was the conversational hub around which the 1440 Beacon Street apartment revolved, there was an ample supply of matters to talk about. On the walk back, minor incidents became magical. On the other side of the street, which was lined with all kinds of shops, all the proprietors knew who my grandmother was. Clerks at the local grocery store, hardware store, and other shops knew her by name. The hair salon owner, who would usher her into her weekly appointment with a reverence I didn’t understand at first, would wave a greeting. By the time we got back to her apartment, she had managed to acquaint me with the lives of a number of shopkeepers she knew. I’d be in awe of her memory, her easy way of talking with the people she met, and the way in which she would change their demeanor from one of distance to closeness because of her presence. During high school years, my conversations with Grammy turned to deeper subjects – [...]

2018-01-07T19:32:52+00:00 By |

Don’t Want to Answer the Question? Find Out How!

Each one of us have had the experience multiple times of being asked a question that we don’t want to answer. This happens in our professional and personal life, and we often don’t know how to proceed quickly or gracefully.   Essentially, the reason you don’t want to answer a question is what gives you your strategy for responding: The asker has not earned the right to have that question answered due to the level of personal relationship they have with you. The asker has not earned the right to have that question answered due to the level of professional relationship they have with you, or the professional need for the information. The asker has a question about someone else, and is asking for gossip fodder   Personal Questions Normally, the reason you don’t want to answer the question is because it is inappropriate, goes over a personal boundary, or is asking something that the person has not earned the right to know.  So, it’s no wonder that you want to dodge the question.   Who has earned the right to know? Perhaps the following exercise will help you be decisive in internally answering this question. Using the following image as a guide, put in the circles what you would be willing to disclose or not be willing to disclose to people that are intimates, those that influence you, those you have an affiliation with, and those that are acquaintances.  Once you have made these decisions, you will be able to respond to dubious questions quickly.   The best way I have found to handle this type of situation gracefully is to ask, “What an interesting question. Why do you ask?”  The trick behind answering a question with a question is to force the asker to get clear about what they are asking and why, or get them to understand gracefully that the question is not appropriate. The more questions you respond to with a question, the faster they’ll get to that point.   Eventually they may wise up to this strategy, but by then they realize this is a question you are not going to answer. During this conversation however, you have held your boundary and you have handled it without being rude, condescending, or angry.   Professional Questions In a professional environment, some questions are asked to find out business information the asker shouldn’t be privy to, or how you feel about a situation at work, or to find out personal information about you or others, or add your answer to the rumor mill.   Who has earned the right to get an answer? Perhaps the following exercise will help you be decisive in internally answering this question. Using the following image as a guide, put in the circles who you would be willing to disclose professional information to.  You are in the middle of the circle. The numbers refer to the approximate number of people in that professional circle. Your influence on [...]

2018-01-02T16:13:25+00:00 By |

Gal Interrupted: Gender Communication in the Workplace

by Leslie Shore From the kindergarten classroom to the corporate boardroom, men and women are socialized to communicate differently. Unfortunately, instead of taking advantage of the different styles in a positive way, we see colleagues at odds with each other and not understanding why the conversation is going awry.  There are two main differences in gender communication styles: how they listen and why they speak, and disproportionate interrupting of women by men. Men and women listen in conversations for different things. It has long been known that men, because they are wired to be fixers, will listen for that need; and women, who are wired for empathy and relationship building, will listen with that filter in place.  To add to this differential, men and women also structure their speaking differently. Communication expert Deborah Tannen defines the difference in gender style as "rapport-talk" and "report-talk."(Githens, 1991) Men get to the point quickly, frontload information, leave out what they consider unimportant information, and don’t sugarcoat their responses. Women give the listener as much context as possible, and as much information as possible in order for the listener to understand the situation, and are more diplomatic in their responses. Lastly, men see conversation as a way to share information, and women see conversation as a way to create or deepen a relationship. Although some of each gender don’t adhere to that behavior, the reality is that the workplace highlights this communication difference on a daily basis. How does this play out at work? Let’s say you ask your colleague Joe to give you feedback on a PowerPoint, and his comment is, “Why the heck did you chose that approach?” The directness with which it was said puts you on the defensive. When you ask Judy for feedback she says, “That’s an interesting approach. Can you tell me why you chose it?” This response is asking for critical thinking. Joe’s response was clearly expressing disagreement with the approach YOU chose, making it personal. Judy’s response was curiosity as to the rationale, making her response about getting clarity, and perhaps having you re-look at that decision. We generally don’t know why something we said landed well or poorly because there is no understanding as to how socialization affects communication choices at a core level. Here are some tips to help navigate these treacherous conversational waters. Men Understand that women speak to give context, so work on being patient with their way of talking about an issue. Keep in mind the women react to negative communication more personally than men, as they feel self-respect is on the line. Have your word choice lean toward asking questions rather than using absolute or negative statements. Remember that women react positively to conversation that enhances connection. Women Instead of showing frustration because of the lack of context you are getting, ask questions to get what you need. Say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” when something that was said lands in you negatively. This [...]

2018-01-10T13:53:58+00:00 By |

Is Balance possible? Can I do it all with Creativity and Ease?

I am a single mom of two, an author, a filmmaker, I blog for multiple magazines and I manage to get laid on a regular basis and find time to take naps, and many people ask me   “How the heck do you do all that?”   It’s a really great question… how do we live our lives to the fullest, with meaning and purpose, feeling pretty good about it all?   The honest answer is, I don’t, not the way one might think about always feeling good, having a shower everyvday and getting it “all”done. After being asked this question so often I decided to really look at why it is, that even when it sucks, I feel a deep sense of happiness about my life and it came down to 3 things.   Gratitude: I am truly grateful for my life, even when I went on food stamps, wasn’t sure if the electricity would be on, wondered if I would ever find love and the first time my pre-teen said “I hate you”. I would still take time every day, usually in the morning, before I fully awoke to the realities of life, to say thank you. Because I have realized that life is a tremendous gift, an adventure I get to go on every day and that is amazing. I am in awe every day at the little things, for instance today my cat Ollie took a flying leap at a butterfly and landed full belly flop into the bushes and it was epic, he seemingly flew 20 feet across the yard and if I hadn’t just taken a moment to look up from all the “things” I had to do, I would have missed out on a profoundly fulfilling guffaw. That is what life is about, when you’re stuck in the quagmire, to look up in awe.   Step 1- find awe every day, find it multiple times a day- make it a practice to find something as often as possible that makes you step back and say wow.   Let go of Control: OMG we LOVE LOVE LOVE to control things, especially as Mothers, Jeez Louise it’s the only way we’ll actually survive… Right?!! Well the truth is, it isn’t. Have you ever noticed that the harder you try to control something, the more that booger wiggles more than your two-year-old while you’re trying to get their PJ’s on! There is a big difference between organization and planning and control, know the difference.   Step 2– Research, Plan and organize what you need to do to accomplish your goal and then let go and allow, be flexible. Remember, the only thing you can actually control is your perspective and attitude.   Let Go of the Outcome: Of course, when you have a dream or desire you want it to happen, otherwise it wouldn’t be a dream or desire! After 46 years I’ve come to learn that the outcome often comes, but not in the way [...]

2018-01-10T13:54:48+00:00 By |