displaying empathy and connecting with your teams

Being prepared and present has always been at the core of good leadership. As some of us return to the office while others continue to work from home, it’s important to not only be an organized manager but to ensure you make an emotional connection.

How do we switch gears to foster relationships equally across your entire team? The key is to leverage best practices of communication that work for in-person and remote teams simultaneously.

heard it all before

The biggest mistake you can make during a meeting is to multitask, assuming you know what people are going to say because you’ve “heard it all before.” Take the time to be present, don’t assume or judge. Showing genuine interest and participating will naturally connect you with the team and lead to productive discussions.

Tip: Don’t assume or judge – remember to be present and participate.

positivity

Never underestimate the power of positivity. It’s amazing to see how a “can do,” “we got this,” and “how can I help?” attitude motivates people and turns around a stressful situation. Positive energy is not only reflected in what you say but in your expressions, tone, and body language. Remember to smile and lean in towards your speaker – even if your conversation is over the phone. Just doing these physical acts will increase your positive energy. There’s nothing more disheartening than to see or “sense” our colleague’s disapproval or frown on video or at the other end of the line.

Tip: Remember to smile with open and friendly body language. 

get it right

Make sure you walk away with accurate information after a meeting. Not getting things right after people take the time to communicate wastes time and creates frustration. If needed, reach out to recap what you heard. It builds trust when people know that you care. 

Tip: Get the information right after a meeting. 

Following best practices for communicating with teams in the office or remotely helps build strong emotional connections. Always treat people with empathy and be respectful of the boundaries between work and life. Making yourself present and communicating without judgment will position you as a trusted leader on the team.

 

Mary Poluikis
Group Program Director

there is no “one size fits all”

It was second grade, and I was asked to stand up in front of my class and talk about a current event. My heart was racing, my palms were sweating, and I couldn’t catch my breath, but my teacher kept smiling and saying, “You can do this, just be you.”

The nerves that come with “public speaking” can be crippling and hinder not only your career growth but how you communicate and build confidence. Everyone has something they are working on, but the key to moving forward is diving in and doing the work! Presenting is like a muscle in your body – whether it’s your first time or your 100th, the more you do it, the stronger it gets.

And it all starts with breathing…wait, what??? It sounds so simple but it’s the first thing to go when your mind and nerves take over. Stop and focus on your breath for 10 seconds, right before you go on stage, camera or Zoom. When you breathe it lowers your heart rate and centers you. It will also slow you down, so instead of rushing through your content to “get it over with,” you can take your time so that people can better absorb your content.

And speaking of content – ask yourself a few questions. Why do you care, why should your audience care, and what do you want them to do or feel after your presentation? This is a great way to put your content in context, because if it doesn’t feel like you care, neither will your audience and you’ll lose them quickly. Bring your personality to the presentation and think of it as an engaging conversation rather than a verbal dump. If it’s just about the content – save yourself some time and send the presentation deck!  But if you really want to move people, it’s about how you bring that content to life.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The only way to bring your content to life is to rehearse – A LOT! Out loud, in front of the mirror, to your pets, in the car and anywhere in between. The presenters you admire don’t just “wing it,” they rehearse it!  Know it backwards and forwards but don’t rely on memorization alone. When you rehearse, you add muscle memory to the mix, helping you learn it better, faster and do more than recite – you’ll be able to adapt and think on your feet.

I didn’t know all of these things when I was in 2nd grade, but when I heard “just be you,” I realized I didn’t have to worry about what other people did. Overcoming anxieties and improving how you present is a process, but it starts with simple things like passion, breathing, slowing down and bringing your best “you.” We’re all different, and when presenting, we should embrace our differences rather than thinking there’s only one way to do it. There’s no “one size fits all” – be remarkable and be remembered for being you!

 

Alexandria Hunter-Whalen

the art of feedback

Feedback is an important part of the creative process, and receiving “negative” notes from a client or co-worker can be discouraging. But just because the feedback feels bad doesn’t mean that you’re bad at what you do. As you navigate the workplace, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive feedback, so here are a few ways to help take it less personally.

Swap your shoes

When you receive negative comments or change requests on your creative work, take the emotional element out of it by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Instead of asking yourself “Why don’t they like it?” try asking yourself a different question, like “If my coworker or friend received these notes, what advice would I give them?” This shifts the focus from you to the work itself. Problem-solving mode is engaged and you’ll be able to take an objective look at the work rather than letting your confidence take a hit.

Plan a pause

When we are critiqued, it can threaten our ego or identity – it’s human nature to take it personally and have an immediate emotional response. Prepare yourself for creative feedback by building time into your process to pause and absorb the information. A walk outside or a trip to the kitchen for a cup of tea can give you the time you need to calm your mind and assess the notes more objectively. 

Look at the bigger picture

Before you let negative comments impact your self-worth, try to avoid looking in the rearview mirror and instead focus on the road ahead. Consider the opportunity you now have to practice your skills and make your work better, rather than dwelling on mistakes. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I use this feedback to improve and grow?” 

Criticism is a double-edged sword. While feedback allows us to grow and understand when expectations aren’t met, it’s hard to stay creative and motivated when every critique eats away at your confidence. Hopefully these tips can ease the post-review panic and help you find the positive in the negative.

 

Alex Miller

what’s your story?

Hey you…!

Yes, you…the one reading this. Come closer. I’d like to let you in on a little secret.  Story Matters. And telling stories helps create memorable content and drive brand awareness. Okay…so maybe it’s not that big of a secret…but it’s worth repeating. “Story” has become one of the most important communication elements in business today. So much so, that the word “storytelling” for a creative director like myself has almost become an “eye roll” cliché. But just because something is cliché, doesn’t mean it’s not true. And now that grabbing and holding audience attention continues to be our fastest growing commodity, a good story is more important than ever. But what makes a good story? And what stories should we be telling? Let me tell you more about it.

Let’s start by outlining what a good story does. Stories help us understand people, places and processes. They help you connect with your audience. Makes sense, right? The hard part, or at least the part many people struggle with, is communicating this idea in a way that captivates and resonates. The world’s largest brands are successful because the audience identifies with their story. They understand what their audience needs from them – not what they need from their audience. In other words, they tell stories that stick. And doing this effectively starts with telling the right story.

According to Kindra Hall, author of Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business, telling stories is “one of the most powerful means we have to influence, teach and inspire. An organization’s stories, and the stories its leaders tell, help solidify relationships.”  And her book outlines 4 unique stories all businesses should be telling:

  • the Value Story, to convince customers they need what you provide;
  • the Founder Story, to persuade investors and customers your organization is worth the investment;
  • the Purpose Story, to align and inspire your employees and internal customers; and
  • the Customer Story, to allow those who use your product or service to share their authentic experiences with others.

So, if all businesses have these stories at their disposal, the question is – what separates a story worth remembering from the forgettable rest? 

It’s not just about telling an effective story, it’s about telling the right story in a way that captivates and creates value for our audience. In my experience, we often tell the right stories, but weigh them down with too much information, instead of organizing them around the 4 main components every story needs.

As outlined in her book, they are:

  1. Identifiable Characters
  2. Authentic Emotion
  3. A Significant Moment
  4. Specific Details

Now what good would this blog about storytelling be without actually telling a story?

“Once upon a time, a young man left his glasses on an airplane. He tried to buy new glasses, but found them very expensive. ‘Why is it so hard to buy stylish glasses without spending a fortune on them?’ he wondered. He returned to school and told his friends. ‘We should start a company that sells amazing glasses for prices that aren’t insane,’ said one. ‘We should make shopping for glasses fun,’ said the other. ‘We should distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold,’ said a third. Eureka! Warby Parker was born.”

Now that’s a story. And it’s a Founder’s Story, #2 on Kindra Hall’s list of story types…not driven by information, but by her four story components: the company’s founding, what makes it unique and its mission.  In 100 words or less, Warby Parker paints a picture that’s both relatable and easy to understand.

As we know – all good stories come to an end, and fortunately, so do blogs. But what have we learned? That we all have stories to tell and we can all be great storytellers. And that if we identify who our audience is, understand what they are looking for, and follow a few easy-to-remember tips, we can tell the right stories.  Good stories that are effective,  differentiate our brands and captivate our audiences. “Stories that Stick.”

So…what’s your story?

 

Mark Di Tondo