I confess that I love the entire concept of the New Year. To me New Year’s Eve gets me ready for a fresh start. I clean my cabinets; go through each and every drawer in my desk, shredding and organizing. I carefully list expenses preparing for the accountant. And I think carefully about my resolutions, intending to usher in the New Year with an improved version of myself.
But I didn’t get to be a Crone without years of management and leadership experience, giving me license to suggest some resolutions for my younger readers looking to get ahead at work or readers of any age just trying to appreciate their lives more. Take what you will from this list. I only ask you to really think about each suggestion and what it might mean for you.
• Unless you have a loved one on life support or a toddler in pre-school do NOT look at your phone during a meeting.
I lead meetings and I attend meetings. Nothing is more irritating than having a bunch of people with their brains half there, indirectly telling you that what they have to do is more important than this meeting – and, by extension, you. If you really feel that way, don’t attend. But stop insulting your colleagues by looking at your phone while they are trying to get some business done that requires your presence.
• Do everything in your power to not be late for anything. If you cannot help it, apologize profusely. If you are in charge of a meeting, begin it on time and end it on time.
Our energy is drained and our very souls are sucked dry by waiting for others. Some of us seethe. Why is your time more important than my time? I understand that sometimes there are accidents on the road, subways stall, buses break down and unpredictable things happen. It wasn’t your fault. It won’t happen again. It’s still your responsibility to coax the other person into a forgiving mood.
• Check your facts again…and again…and again.
We are living in interesting times and social media along with cable TV news have replaced credible newsgathering institutions as our primary information sources. We must consider the views that are different than our own and begin engaging in real conversations about all sorts of issues BUT we must get our facts straight. Please take personal responsibility for the accuracy of what you share. If you cannot verify it, don’t share it. While this goes beyond work, it is crucial in a work setting as well. Don’t ever stretch the truth or paint a rosy picture that you know is not accurate.
• Even if you’re shy – particularly if you’re shy – learn to have a conversation with strangers.
There is an art to having a conversation and when you are an introvert or nervous about a social event you can freeze or babble. Practice beforehand. Have a handful of questions prepared that will get anyone talking, and remember: people like to talk about themselves if you ask the right questions. One of my favorites that I use to get a boring, work-related conversation up and running is, “What did you want to be in seventh grade? What changed that dream for you?” This conversational thread can go in so many different directions and before you know it you’ve really gotten to know a person better…and that’s a good thing.
• Listen. Most people listen to answer, not to hear. Really listen. Give someone your attention.
We get so caught up in our own brains that we only hear ourselves most of the time even when we think we are listening to others. Practice. Repeat back what you think you heard. In small meetings ask participants to repeat back what the team agreed on. You’ll be shocked to hear how often five people sat in a room and heard entirely different things.
• Every time you feel aggravated, try to look at the issue from the other person’s perspective.
I’ve saved the best until last. Empathy, or that ability to identity with how another may be feeling, is a critical emotional intelligence skill for success in work or in life. It is hard to call up when we are most aggrieved. But shift the narrative and think about identifying and addressing possible concerns from a potential client. To do so effectively you must put yourself in the client’s shoes. This approach assumes the best intentions from people. It doesn’t mean you can’t complain or express discontent. But it allows you to do so with respect and acknowledging the strength of their viewpoint.
So, as you resolve to exercise more or donate blood or call your mother more frequently (all positive resolutions), I hope you’ll consider some of these that may guide us in being more interested in and more respectful of one another.
Happy New Year.
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. Benjamin Franklin