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How Would YOU Say It in Only Six Words?

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

What are the chances you can convey your message in 6 words?
Impossible, you say…

A few years ago SMITH Magazine published Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. The book, inspired by a six-word story said to be written by Ernest Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) was a compilation of six-word memoirs submitted by SMITH readers. Since then, SMITH has come out with additional six-word books on a variety of life topics, including love, Dads and work.

So it’s gotten me thinking. What if we look a bit deeper into the work topic and talk, say, about your leadership style? Or how you communicate? Or your learning style? Or the value you bring to the organization. What would that six-word elevator pitch be? I’d love to hear it.

To give you some inspiration, here are a few examples from the original book:

Mistook streetlight for the moon. Climbed. – Zack Wentz

It was worth it, I think. – Annette Laitinen

Still lost on road less traveled. – Joe Quesada

Former band nerd dreams big dreams. – Jesse Poe

And here are a few we’ve come up with on our topics:

Leadership style:

I set the vision. They execute.

Inspire. Support. Let them surprise you.

Communication style:

Two ears. One mouth. Use proportionally.

Learning style:

I learn something new every day.


Turned team around. Now profits soaring.

OK. Now it’s your turn. Let’s hear YOUR six words on leadership, communication, learning or the value you bring.

Please share…

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Learning, Management, Professional and team leadership

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Career Stalled? Spiff Up Your Skills!

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

This whether you are currently employed or among the many who are “between opportunities,” keeping your skills and knowledge current and relevant can mean the difference between moving ahead and lagging behind.

What’s next for you? Is there a promotion you’ve set your sights on, or a job that’s just slightly out of reach? Now is the time to “get real” and put a plan in place to increase your skills and knowledge, improve your marketability, and build your confidence. Here’s a 5-Step Plan to get you going.

1. Take inventory. Get a piece of paper and make a list of your strengths and your development areas. Think about what you want to do next. Do some research to determine the skills and knowledge required to get you there. Is there anything you’re currently lacking? Add it to the list. Is there a certification or license required that you haven’t earned yet? Add it to the list.
2. Create a personal development plan. Determine which of the skills/knowledge you’ve identified in step one will most contribute to you successfully attaining your next career goal. Select one or two you will focus on in the next three months. Seek out resources that will help you develop in those areas – classes, a coach, book learning, volunteer opportunities. Create specific development actions for each skill/knowledge area. Commit to paper a plan that includes:

1. Skill/knowledge to develop/enhance
2. Resource
3. Target completion date

3. Execute the plan. Post your plan somewhere visible – your calendar, your desk, your refrigerator. Stay focused! Concentrate on the one or two areas you’ve prioritized – don’t get distracted by the other areas on your inventory list. Take a “melting pot” approach. Keep your eyes and ears open for articles, blogs by experts, presentations, webinars, etc., related to your focus areas. Learning comes in many forms, from many places. Capture it! Be accountable and/or enlist someone’s help to keep you accountable. Reward yourself for completing your development goals.

4. Update your resume/personal “infomercial.” When you’ve gained proficiency in the skill/knowledge area, add it to your resume, if appropriate. Practice incorporating your new knowledge/skill into your interview discussions. Blend it into the evolving “you.”

5. Review, revisit and revise the plan. How did your plan work? Did you set reasonable goals? Were the resources worthwhile? Did you find additional or alternate ones you’ll use next time? Revisit your inventory. What are the skills/knowledge areas you’re going to work on next? Create and execute a revised personal development plan that reflects your new focus areas and goals.

Too often when we’ve “got the job” we become complacent and/or too busy to think about what’s next and prepare for it. Putting a plan in place to continually add to your abilities and knowledge will keep your market value on an upward trend.

And remember: Don’t stop believing!!

Till next time,


Career, Career planning, Job search, Performance, The Get Real Guide to Your Career

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Imagine this: sitting on the beach, feet in the sand, watching the ocean waves. There are surfers, and kids playing, and swimmers riding the waves. Laughter is all around. You cannot believe you are lucky enough to be surrounded by so much beauty. Oh my…you are actually relaxing…NOT!!!

Suddenly your PDA rings and texts start flying in…there’s another crisis at the office…they need you…and just for a 15-minute call. They promise. Only one, 15-minute call. And…we all know what happens next. You are walking back to the cottage, turning on your laptop and logging in. You tell the family, “I promise, I’ll be back in less than an hour!” They all nod knowingly…there ain’t no chance that will be happening. Three hours later you are back at the beach. Clouds have rolled in, the ocean is roaring, and the lifeguards have called all swimmers out of the water. The decision is made…might as well leave the beach now…it’s too cold to stay. That split-second of relaxation has passed. Oh well, tomorrow is another day, and I just know I’ll be able to recapture that “state of bliss.”

Does this sound familiar? Of course it does. We’ve all been there. And we swear to anyone who will listen that the next vacation will be different. But the words are so empty you don’t even believe them yourself anymore.

Exhausting, isn’t it?

In fact, I’m exhausted just writing this. We all work hard, no matter what our line of work. And for those who are not in the work world right now, you are working probably harder than anyone else just trying to find your next opportunity. Everyone I speak to is just “tired.” It’s as simple as that…and…

We need to get back to basics: we have vacations for a reason.

Let’s compare our bodies and human spirit to a car. We all know that if we don’t properly maintain our car – adequate fuel, regular oil changes, periodic service checks, etc. – it’s going to stop operating effectively. The same can be said for us. Yet how often do we work through lunch, put in the long hours, check emails/voicemails on weekends, put off vacation…in essence, go WAY beyond the recommended mileage for our body/spirit “service checks”? With our car there’s a little light that comes on when it’s time for service or you’re low on gas. Maybe that’s what we need as humans, a yellow light that comes on when it’s time for maintenance: Impending danger ahead if you don’t stop and take care and nurture your body and spirit.

I have a novel idea…how about taking a vacation and actually taking a vacation. Go to the beach or to the mountains or to whatever place makes you happy. Unplug…and enjoy the beauty Mother Nature has provided us. When was the last time you sat long enough to just enjoy nature? How could you possibly do that, you ask? Print out this list:

  • Put your PDA in a drawer. If it has a lock, even better.

  • Tell work you are unavailable. If you have to stretch the truth a bit and say you’ll be in an area with NO cell service, do it. You are NOT available.

  • Wherever you go, ENJOY! Play a bit, sit still, don’t sit still, climb a mountain, don’t climb a mountain…who cares…just breathe.

  • Be ON VACATION. There’s a reason it’s not called a WORKATION!

  • Return recharged, reinvigorated and ready to be “more than just your work.”

Remember what we already know: at the end of our time here on earth, not one of us will be wishing we had worked more and played less. Go on vacation and be on vacation. I promise you, your work will be there when you get back.

Till next time,


Career, Performance, Uncategorized, Work-life balance

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Adapting Your Leadership Style for Improved Results

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

As leaders, each of us has a certain leadership style. Much of it stems from who we are at our core, flavored by the experiences and examples we’ve had on the journey here. With that said, it’s important for us to continue to learn new skills and adapt who we are based on our audience.

As we grow in our leadership role, we need to be very clear about our leadership competencies – both strengths and weaknesses. There are a gazillion leadership models out there. But what does leadership mean to you? Do you lead with vision? Do you lead with drive? Do you lead to deliver? Or do you lead through people? You probably tend toward one or two over the others, but you should have capability in all four competencies. The key is learning to flex them appropriately based on the situation.

Think of the best leader you’ve ever had. What do you think their leadership preference was – Vision, Drive, Deliver, or People? Now think…how well did they adapt to accommodate all four leadership competencies to be the best leader? Each person must flex at certain times to get the desired outcome. If a leader becomes too rigid in doing things their way, they may have people who are only following because they’re afraid of the consequences of doing otherwise. You and I both know that we don’t get the best out of our employees in a fear-based environment.

Our great leaders are clear about who they are as leaders, are capable of flexing when it makes sense, and are willing to hold their ground when it is right for the business. They have a backbone, and will make what they believe is the RIGHT decision, even if it’s not the POPULAR decision.

As a leader, you want people to follow you because they trust you, and because you are stretching them by providing opportunities they would not have without you. You want them to follow you because you have created a vision and they can see the connection between the organization’s goals and their own goals. People will stay…or leave…because of you. We’ve all heard about the Gallup Poll that found people don’t leave organizations, they leave their managers. If you are not willing to adapt your style, you will have a large exodus of employees. There are endless formulas for turnover costs. Let’s just use the one that says turnover costs for a mid-level employee equal 150% of that employee’s annual salary. That isn’t pretty for the bottom line, and won’t reflect very favorably on the leader.

So think about your people. How do you need to adapt these four competencies – Vision, Drive, Deliver, People – to ensure that you create and maintain an environment of trust and productivity for sustainable business results?

Want to learn more about leadership and communication styles? Check out our assessments at PeopleThink.biz.

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Leadership, Management, People, Professional and team leadership, Uncategorized

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Communicating from Your Strengths

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Have you ever walked away from an interview, a meeting or a presentation and had that sinking feeling that what you were saying wasn’t what your audience was hearing? Or have you ever wondered why you can have an amazing connection with someone you’ve just met, yet never seem to be on the same wave length with someone you’ve worked with for ages?

Each of us leans toward a particular communication “style.” Understanding that style, and adjusting it to meet the needs of a situation and/or your audience, will help you communicate so that you are truly “heard.”

Rate the following statements from 1 to 4, with 1 being “most like me” and 4 being “least like me” to determine your preferred style. Then read the corresponding tips to learn how to leverage your strengths and adjust your style for more effective communication. We’ve labeled the four styles A through D as a reference for the tips below.

Determine your style – Rate each style from 1 (most) to 4 (least)

___I tend to focus on facts and details, and take a structured approach to my work. I like to have all relevant information before making a decision. I don’t do hugs at work. (A)

___I am naturally informal and laid back. People often confide in me because I’m a good listener. I tend not to direct where a conversation goes. I’m uncomfortable with conflict. (B)

___I am energetic and animated when speaking. I love to discuss creative ideas. I may switch from topic to topic within the same conversation. I prefer big picture, vision talk. Spare me the details! (C)

___I get to the point quickly and appreciate others who do the same. I focus on action. I don’t shy away from conflict. If a meeting or project is stalled, I’ll get it going. (D)

Leverage your strengths

Each style brings unique value to a team, a project, an organization. You have all four styles within you. The key is knowing when to pull from your less dominant styles to adapt to a situation and communicate more effectively with the people around you.

If you rated yourself highest in “A” your strengths are ensuring that all details are covered so that nothing falls through the cracks. You like structure and process. You need to be aware, though, that overusing your strengths can turn off others, meaning you won’t be heard. Those who are higher “D” will want a quicker decision. Those who rate higher as “C” will want less detail.

If you rated yourself highest in “B” your strengths are promoting harmony and ensuring that everyone’s input is heard. Remember that conflict can be a good thing when managed constructively and often leads to innovative ideas. Engage those who are high “D” by discussing the tough topics.

If you rated yourself highest in “C” your strengths are creating a vision and bringing energy and a sense of fun to the task at hand. Recognize, though, that others may interpret your energy and fun as a lack of commitment and focus. Have details available for those who need them. Get to the point quicker when communicating with those who focus on action. And stay on topic for those who are strong “B”s.

If you rated yourself highest in “D” your key strengths are decisiveness and moving a conversation, a team or a project forward. You are direct in the way you communicate. Understand that others may interpret your directness as arrogance, or worry that a speedy decision will miss important details. To ensure that you are heard, slow your pace a bit for those who are high in “B”. Outline the decision process for those who need the details. And map to the vision for those who focus on creativity.

Want to learn more about your style and how to recognize and adapt to others? Check out the PeopleThink assessments.

Till next time,


Communication, Leadership, Uncategorized

Cranky Employees Rule!

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Yep…you read it correctly, Cranky Employees are Ruling our world. And…that is not a good thing.

There have been two surveys providing us the data. The first one, Right Management’s snapshot survey, showed the satisfaction of the U.S. and Canadian worker: 19% Satisfied; 16% Somewhat satisfied; 21% Somewhat unsatisfied; 44% Unsatisfied.

YIKES…that means 60+% of employees are not happy!
Mercer’s What’s Working™ survey showed that a third of employees throughout the U.S. and Canada are looking to leave their organization. To translate, this means 1 in 3 employees are thinking about moving to another company.

No matter how you slice and dice the above numbers, it’s not looking good for business. Think about this – if you are leading an organization of 9 people, 3 of them at this very moment are thinking about jumping ship. Do you know who they might be? Can you afford to lose 3 of your team members? Now, ask yourself this question – are you one of the team members who would like to jump? If yes, are you showing signs of dissatisfaction to your team or to your leader?

I think we all have a pretty good idea of “why” employees are dissatisfied. Let me provide a short recap: Since the global economic downturn that started in 2008, there have been layoffs; more work with fewer people to do the work; long hours with expectations of availability 24/7; cuts in pay and benefits; reduced job security – uncertainty of position and job; fewer advancement opportunities; limited training and development; colleagues throwing team members under the bus; tempers flaring; leaders demanding more and more; less appreciation; stress off the charts. You get the idea…

We have become a fear-based, working-wounded culture. And, how will we move an organization forward and build a first-class employee base if we are coming from a place of fear and stress? We won’t.

Here are 4 things employees need and want. Leaders, pay attention. Employees need to feel:

  1. Valued: Treat your employees with respect. Let them know that what they bring to the organization is appreciated, needed and valued. Say “thank you” and mean it. Look them in the eye. Have their back. Let them know they can count on you. Smile. Laugh.

  2. Connected: We all need a community. Build your group so they want to be part of the team. Create a team environment of trust and accountability. Hold everyone to the same standards. Build loyalty and be loyal. Smile. Laugh.

  3. Challenged: People want to grow and learn. Provide your team members with stretch goals that help build their skills. Sit down with them and “ask” what they want to do. They are responsible for their career growth, and you are the one who can provide accessibility to growth opportunities. Have a conversation and help them attain their goals. Smile. Laugh.

  4. Recognized: Pay your employees competitively. Duh!!!! And then, ask how they want to be recognized outside of salary/benefits, etc., when they have done something above the call of duty. Do they like to be called out in an email to the entire organization; do they like a pat on the back; do they like one-on-one recognition? Do not assume everyone likes to be recognized in the same way. Smile. Laugh.

There are endless formulas for calculating turnover costs. Let’s just use the one that indicates turnover costs equal 150% of annual salary for a mid-level employee. You do the math and decide whether your organization can handle having dissatisfied employees who want to and will leave your organization.

Most of us are not trying to find a cure for cancer (and if you are, thank you). We need to pay attention to the human aspect of our business. People will stay in their organizations because they are intrinsically motivated. And, right now people are cranky!

Did I say…smile…laugh…

Till next time,


People, Teams, Uncategorized

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