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Work Skills

Below are the articles in the Work Skills category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.

Work Skills

Adaptability: How to Survive in Today’s Business Climate

Survival strategies for tough economic times.

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There’s no getting around the news—foreclosures, bailouts and breathtaking stock market swings. It’s real. It’s upon us. It can be scary.

Though we can’t control the economy, we can control our perception (and reaction) to it. Every crisis creates a positive by-product—opportunity. It’s more important than ever to think creatively and adapt “on-the-fly” to seize those opportunities. Companies that do so will thrive, even during the most challenging times.

Here are some survival strategies for tough times:

Don’t Panic. Be a Leader.

Fear plays a role in the ups and downs of the stock market. Don’t let it create the same volatility in your business. Plan ahead based on facts, not fear.

Developing Dynamite Presentation Skills

Surefire tips to improve presentation skills and make a greater impact.

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When speaking, the goal is to connect to your audience in a personal way so your message will have more of an impact. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to constantly ask questions and aggressively involve your listeners verbally. What it does mean, however, is that you have to build a rapport with them. Although this is developed partially by the verbal content of your presentation, a good portion of it comes from less obvious—and often nonverbal—elements. Below is a list of ways to build rapport…while still being discreet about it.

•Start off with a bang. Begin your presentation with an interesting introduction. Introductions warm up an audience not only to your topic, but to you as a speaker as well. It’s useful to view your introduction as a snapshot of what a listener can expect from the rest of your presentation. First impressions are powerful, so make the most of yours.

•Speak to “one” person. When speaking to a group, it’s easy to get impersonal. To avoid this, imagine you’re speaking to only one person at a time. Powerful presenters have a way of making each listener feel spoken to directly.

•Shake it up. Vary the volume and rate of your speech—appropriate to your point, of course. When we talk to our friends one-on-one, we naturally vary these elements as our emotions and emphases shift. If you do this in your presentation, you’ll come across as more human. And more interesting.

Finding Opportunity in Difficult Times (How Exactly Do You Do That?)

Instead of panicking when it feels like the sky is falling, find the opportunities.

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“Oh dear!” cried Chicken Little, “the sky is falling. I must go tell the king.”

The expression “the sky is falling” has become synonymous with a person jumping to an irrational conclusion and working everyone they meet into a panic.

It can be argued that this is happening with the current economic situation—the public is being whipped into mass hysteria.

Whether or not you believe the economic “sky” is falling (or that it’s already crashed around you), tough times have always provided great (and lucrative) opportunities. The trick is to know what to look for.

Generating Brilliant Ideas

Everyone has ideas, but how does one generate brilliant ideas?

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If you’re alive, you have new ideas at work every day: what would make this process more efficient, how to motivate your key players better, how to win that contract you’re after, etc. But how do you generate brilliant ideas, those blockbusters with the potential to change people, businesses—even destinies?

Consider some of the following ways to go from everyday ideas to brilliance:

Listen and observe. Notice what others are doing and saying. Engage your whole self—your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual self—in viewing your world and the world at large.

Create the spark. Don’t just wait for great ideas to cross your path…do something to stimulate the creative juices. Travel. Read as much and as widely as you can. Make it a habit to meet and talk to new people every day. Or get even more intentional and start a brainstorming group.

Look for problems. What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis that need a different solution? Too often we get inured to problems. We metaphorically walk around the heap of laundry in the middle of the room rather than move it into a laundry basket, or better yet wash it. Give yourself full permission to get negative. What bugs you?

How Well Do You Present?

What does it take to be a great speaker? Take this quiz and see.

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Whether presenting to a group of 10 around a boardroom table or a full house of 3,000, there are a few essential skills that make the difference between an excellent and a ho-hum speaker. Take the following Self-Quiz to see how well you do and whether there might be a few things you can learn.

1. Because studies have shown that using visuals has a dramatic effect on message retention, I use visuals as often as possible. However, I actually make it VISUAL (pictures, graphs, tables, props), and not just a bunch of words on a PowerPoint slide.

2. I make sure before presenting that I have energy, enthusiasm and excitement. I know that if I don’t have them, no one listening will either.

3. Knowing that rehearsing is crucial to a great presentation, I rehearse aloud several times—at least one of which is in front of a practice audience that will give me plain, honest feedback.

Improving Performance Through Collaboration

To secure success, take another look at collaboration.

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When it comes to work, are you a lone ranger? See if you identify with any of these statements:

“I can do it better myself.”

“The more people involved, the less control I'll have.”

“I like MY ideas and MY way of doing things.”

The truth is, going it alone can lead to overwork and burnout for you, and can create unnecessary stress and tension in your workplace. It can breed competition, fear, dishonesty, tunnel vision and inefficiency.

So before you limit your chance for success, why not open the door to other people’s skills and experience. Collaboration is a win-win solution with many benefits, including the following:

Keeping Your Cool When Negotiations Get Hot

Whether negotiating a raise, contract, car purchase or business deal, bargaining ability is a key skill worth learning and honing.

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The key word is “learning,” for negotiating skills don’t necessarily come naturally. Sure, some people seem to have been negotiating since they were infants, while others must escape at the first sign of confrontation.

But most of us simply need to learn—and practice—new skills to effectively and successfully negotiate. Here are a few tips to get you started or to help you go to the next level.

Basic DOs and DON’Ts

1. Listen and watch. Take in as much information as you can, even when you’re the one doing the talking. Like a good poker player, if you observe an opponent long enough, you may be able to detect a pattern.

2. Consider negotiation an extended Q&A session. Ask open-ended questions; intense curiosity is an underestimated but extremely valuable tool. Asking the right questions at the right time offers a huge advantage.

Mastering “Must-Have” Speaking Skills

No longer simply a “plus” in the business world, public speaking skills are essential. Fortunately, they can be learned.

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Speaking well in front of an audience is no longer just a great skill to have, a “plus” in the business world. Whether you’re selling a product, submitting a progress report, presenting research results, training or motivating your team, or delivering a keynote address at a business conference, speaking skills are almost expected and are certainly an essential tool for success.

The good news is that public speaking is a measurable skill that can be mastered, not a gift doled out to only a few charismatic individuals.

And the better news is that when you master public speaking, you advance your career. That’s because speaking helps you:

•Strengthen your leadership position.

•Build your personal brand, gaining recognition, visibility and respect.

•Increase your influence, as you put forth your ideas and information.

•Enhance your ability to promote your company and its products or services.

Optimism—a Positively Essential Business Skill

Some people are optimists, others are pessimists. Nothing can be done about it. Right? Wrong. Optimism is a skill even a pessimist can learn.

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Martin Seligman, psychologist and clinical researcher, has spent 25 years studying optimism and pessimism. In his bestselling book, How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, he states that pessimistic thinking can undermine not just our behavior but our success in all areas of our lives.

“Pessimism is escapable,” he writes. “Pessimists can learn to be optimists.”

Optimism is not just a feel-good strategy. When we focus our attention on our innate character strengths (wisdom, courage, compassion) and all we have, rather than our perceived failures and what we don’t have, we boost not only our moods, but our immune system and success levels as well. Research has shown that optimistic people tend to be healthier and experience more success in life.

To alter our lives—and the challenges we face—we must first recognize what we say to ourselves when we experience a setback. By breaking what Seligman calls the “I give up” pattern of thinking and changing our interior negative dialogue, we can encourage optimism.

Pitching A Project Past Resistance

Sara’s proposal is finally ready to present. Her Power Point slides are perfect. She’s even wearing her lucky blouse. So why does she have that gnawing feeling that somehow her proposal is going to get shot down?

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Gaining acceptance for your project is not just about presenting facts and figures. Unless you know how to avoid resistance, and how to position your proposal from the angle of “It’s not about me, it’s about them,” walking into that meeting is like throwing yourself to the lions.

At first glance, resistance may seem as though it’s only about being contrary or obstructionist. Scratch the surface and you’ll quickly discover that it’s typically “code” for: “Is this going to work the way you say it is?” Or, “Why should I risk making a mistake in believing you?” In other words, trust.

Faith is best conveyed by meeting doubts head on. Let your pitch demonstrate that you’ve thought through potential obstacles. Use examples, brief stories or case studies to illustrate and add life to the bullet points on your slides.

Thinking Like an Entrepreneur Within the Corporate Walls

Explore “intrapreneurship,” including the value and benefits of such an approach for both the individual and the organization.

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The words entrepreneur and corporation don’t usually show up in the same sentence. One connotes a penchant for creative, seat-of-the-pants risk-taking, while the other usually suggests “we’ve always done it this way” risk aversion.

But “out-of-the-box” thinking is more necessary than ever in today’s marketplace, as corporations respond to changes in the world economy. Professionals working within corporations are being increasingly rewarded for using entrepreneurial skills to meet challenges in innovative ways....

Professionals with an entrepreneurial bent—intrapreneurs—feel a degree of ownership, take risks, make decisions and take responsibility willingly. Intrapreneurs are visionary and independent. They thrive on change, but they also know how the changes they want align with their company’s objectives. They have good communications skills, and a high sense of curiosity and self-worth. Their mindset is more of creating a business than running a business. Intrapreneurs definitely don’t buy into the “It’s not my job” way of thinking, and they are more concerned with achieving results than gaining influence.

Top 10 Best Email Habits

What’s the secret to success? The joke’s twist of the adage answers: 10 percent hard work, 90 percent ignoring email. Luckily, we don’t have to go that far.

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Improving your email habits can drastically increase your productivity. Like any new approach, these take focus and practice. But after awhile, they will become habits that support you.

1. Check email only at scheduled times for a specified amount of time. Twice a day for 30-60 minutes works well for many. Unplug until the next scheduled time.

2. Unsubscribe relentlessly. Make sure you receive only the things you really want to—and do—read.

3. Reduce the amount of routed email (i.e., cc’d from coworkers) to only that which is essential.

4. “Slash and burn” on your first pass through your inbox. Use the second pass for replies and other follow-up actions.

Top 10 Good Communication Practices

Techniques and skills to improve your communication practices that will get you noticed in email, voicemail, phone calls, written comunication and conversations.

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They say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Here are some communication basics to help you do that:

1. Email subject line. Short, catchy and specific will get a quicker response than "following up" or "hi" Let your readers know the topic.

2. Email message. In a business-related email, leave out the emoticons.

3. Voice mail greeting. Smile when you record it. Listen to the difference it makes—it might surprise you.

Top 10 Myths About Public Speaking

A speaker memorizes the speech, uses a lectern, and doesn’t worry about the introduction. Isn’t that right? No?

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Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to speak publicly and have a smooth, successful, enjoyable experience. For that to happen, though, you may need to debunk a few of these common myths about public speaking.

1. You must memorize your speech. Yes, practice your speech repeatedly, but it’s more effective to memorize concepts than words.

2. Introductions aren’t that important. Because they prepare the audience for your message, introductions should be carefully written—by you!

3. A powerful speaker uses a lectern. Ditch this barrier between you and your audience. Step out and connect!

Top 10 Powerful Writing Tips

Article offers ten ways to improve your writing’s effectiveness.

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More is not always better. Here are 10 tips to help your writing be concise, focused and powerful.

1. Get clear and focused before you start. Muddy thinking leads to muddy writing.

2. Know your audience. Put yourself in their shoes…what do they need (do you want them to get) from your article or report?

3. What’s the point? Don’t bury this. Make sure your readers understand why it’s important to read your piece.

Top 10 Tips for Great Idea Generation

Generating great ideas can be a challenge. Here are ten ways to get the juices flowing.

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Great ideas can mean the difference between mediocrity and huge success, between boredom and passion. Whether you want to streamline a process, write a best-selling headline or start a killer business, consider the following tips:

1. Stimulate creativity. What helps take your mind in different directions? A day off? Chasing your 2-year-old? Dancing? A mastermind group?

2. Notice what’s not working. The heart of a problem is rich with possibility for creative solutions.

3. Get your pen moving. This writers’ trick works in all kinds of scenarios to generate great ideas. Just start writing.

Top 10 Ways to Have Productive Business Meetings

Business meetings: stressful, a waste of time, nothing ever changes or gets done. They don’t have to be that way.

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Like a football team’s huddle, meetings should be held to bring players together, assign individual responsibility and energize the participants—all as quickly as possible. And yet a common complaint is that too many meetings are stressful and a waste of time. Below are some guidelines for successful meetings.

1. Define the purpose of the meeting. Without a clear purpose, achieving results is almost impossible.

2. Make an agenda. Be sure to focus meetings on key issues that require a meeting.As with anything else, poor planning produces poor performance.

3. Rigorously stick to your agenda. Allow discussion only on agenda items.

4. Begin and end on time. Doing so shows that you value the participants’ time and builds trust.

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