Category Archives: career

3 Ways to Diffuse Work Conflict

Uh oh. Confrontation time?

Uh oh. Confrontation time?

Bam: you have been at your company for a few months/years now. Suddenly, you are managing a small team….and suddenly, you have a conflict with one of your teammates. Here are quick, easy, and relatively stress-free tips to handle the conflict:

  1. Be proactive, not passive-aggressive – If the conflict arises slowly, bubbling to the surface, do not just let the situation simmer there: confront the situation with your teammate or the whole team before things get any stickier. Be clear about the conflict and talk about how to work things out…instead of feigning ignorance and letting the tension rise.
  2. If you feel emotional, do not confront during this time – I have mentioned this before in email correspondence etiquette, but this rule should especially apply to in-person confrontations. DO NOT confront when you are especially angry or upset at your teammate. You will most likely say something that will fire back at you, and maybe hurt the other party (or make them angrier).
  3. Map out a plan of solving the conflict – If the conflict is not time-sensitive, cool yourself down and think of some ways to solve the conflict. That way, when you bring things up with your teammate, you will be able to go about the conflict in a constructive manner.

And remember, always keep your cool. If you do lash out at your teammate, remember to apologize. This should not need to be written out, but oftentimes, we get lost in the moment of anger.

Happy work days to you!

7 Lessons from #IncLeadership Forum, June 10-12, 2013

Dr. Brene Brown's autograph inside her book, "Daring Greatly".

Dr. Brene Brown’s autograph inside her book, “Daring Greatly”.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Inc. Leadership Forum in Carlsbad (San Diego area), California. It was 3 days of learning and connecting, and I cannot thank Inc. Magazine enough for sponsoring my pass. There were many great speakers including Brene Brown, Lewis Schiff, and Chester Elton.

Below are my takeaways from the forum:

  • Lesson 1: Company culture is top priority. Felt like Day 2 (June 11) was so full of talk about company culture; it was definitely a big theme of the conference. If company culture is not tailored to you, the leader’s, style, then everyone makes their own micro-cultures. Make sure all leaders are onboard for compromising an effective company culture.
  • Lesson 2: Make hiring process effective from the very beginning. Vanessa Merit Nornberg rocked the stage during her session; some attendees felt she was “too scary”, but I really liked how straightforward she is about her hiring process. She takes no crap, and I feel more employers should take that route. Have a system in place to screen out candidates fairly; screening questions (your own, not auto-screeners) can help determine if the candidate is the right fit or not.
  • Lesson 3: Make company values & mission statement short and memorable. Chester Elton (among other speakers) talked about how these two components of a company’s credo should be easy to remember. Know your company values and mission well, but have it be short enough so that employees (both current and future) will be able to remember them.
  • Lesson 4: Know your priorities. Don’t get lost in the mess of your day-to-day work; remember your priorities and let those preferences fall into place throughout the day. Be true to yourself and your company.
  • Lesson 5: Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Dr. Brene Brown was amazing, and really touched everyone with her talk: yes, it is time for us all to stop thinking vulnerability is a weakness. However, also be picky as to who you share your stories of shame/vulnerability to; people have to earn the right to know your stories.
  • Lesson 6: Reset throughout your days & weeks. Bonnie St. John–so inspirational for everyone! She reminded us of how entrepreneurs just go nonstop…when in reality, even pro athletes take time to recover. We entrepreneurs need to make time to recover as well, mentally and physically. Stretch more, meditate more; just take some time to relax.
  • Lesson 7: Recognize your employees for their great work. Employees (and everyone else for that matter) cannot read your mind; communicate your specific needs/tasks for your employees to execute successfully. When they do a great job, make sure to recognize them for their hard work; no general thank-yous. Make things personable. Thanks to Chester Elton for his royally entertaining yet insightful talks!

This summary does not do the whole Inc. Leadership Forum any justice, but it’ll do.

Admittedly, this information is not new to the world or to myself. Still, it was great to listen to so many inspirational leaders and connect with other likeminded individuals. I made some really great connections and genuine friendships. Finally, I know people from Austin, TX!

I was telling my colleague about how going to a conference is like going to an academic class: we can all read/skim as many articles/books online as we can about a subject matter, but listening to speakers in-person really cements the lessons learned.

Then, it is time to apply what we’ve learned. I need more time to process all the information gained, but soon I will be ready to apply the knowledge.

6 Lessons Learned In the First Year of Starting Up

Perhaps this is my calling with TAOpivot.

Perhaps this is my calling with TAOpivot.

As you can probably tell from the title, today’s post is focused on entrepreneurship. I have had TAOpivot since February 2012 and only started going full-speed with the business last June. Today, at the pre-conference talk at Inc. Leadership Forum, Norm Brodsky was telling the crowd about how “starting one’s own business is not easy.” Immediately, I heard my parents telling me the same thing throughout my young life.

So, before I gain more insight into how to be a better business owner and overall leader at the Leadership Forum, here are some lessons learned from this past year:

  1. Listen to the customer – No really; LISTEN. I have read this piece of advice many times from different sources, but I had to experience the lesson firsthand. I had originally priced all my services at a large premium because I did not want to appear “cheap”. However, the way my original pricing structure was organized, I wanted clients to pay the total service fee upfront with no guarantee of success rendering services. After getting rejected many times by different prospects over the price being “too much”, I changed the structure (and the prices) at the beginning of this year to include a nonrefundable deposit of a reasonable amount. That change has helped bring in many more clients than my original process last year.
  2. I do not have to do everything alone – Before TAOpivot came to being, I was already working with my idea coach, ideavist. During most of last year, I continued my work with him because I felt I needed help. There were a few periods of time this past year where I did not have help via ideavist nor intern. I was alone, and I thought I could do it all by myself. Nope. Luckily these days, I have more entrepreneurial friends so we can bounce ideas and advice off one another. Having others around for support and company assistance (interns) has helped me out a lot. I want to wear all the hats of the company, but I know I cannot.
  3. Know my weaknesses well & delegate – As mentioned above, I want to wear all the hats at TAOpivot, but I know I cannot. There are areas I have recognized as genuine weaknesses: even though I studied marketing in undergrad, I know I am rusty with different deliverables and seeing the big picture objectively. Also, the fact that I interact with foreign nationals as part of my business is another weakness I have found–sure, I communicate with all my prospects and clients in English. But I understand that my way of marketing to them is not so effective without someone from that same culture. Hence the reason why I have taken on interns from the majority client base’s culture (in this case, China).
  4. Be wise with my time – The entrepreneur’s forever task on the to-do list. There have been periods this past year where I would inundate my schedule with a lot of meetings. Granted, these meetings were set with good intentions: learn about possible partnerships and basically connect with more businesspeople in the community. However–having so many meetings in a short amount of time is so draining…and sometimes, the meetings would have been best done via email or shorter periods. I have learned that I must be more selfish about my time: set how long the meeting will last, have an agenda mapped out, and talk about just that. Lately, I have been shying away from meetings in general due to my ‘overdose’ early last month. Slowly easing back in…
  5. Agendas are important – I naturally like to stay organized, but somehow the part about meeting agendas had slipped through the cracks this past year. This relates to my time management issue above: I go to a meeting without a somewhat clear vision of what I want out of it and then end up babbling with colleagues over insignificant things. Last week, I had a meeting with my intern to check up on how things were going on his end and what we needed to do next. I drew up a small list of topics we were to talk about; the meeting went so much more smoothly (and faster!) with my preparation.
  6. Stay focused and on my OWN path – I admit, I love going to tech events and meeting tech entrepreneurs in Denver/around the country. There’s this electricity that builds up at tech gatherings that I just want to be a part of. However, over and over, I am reminded that TAOpivot is NOT a tech company. Nor will it ever be (at least, it won’t ever have a primary tech focus as far as I can see). Only a few days ago, I was mumbling about the lack of funding TAOpivot had. A colleague of mine put me in my place: “Your business is better off being a SMB (small- to medium-sized business). You want to be 100% in control, right?” That put my thoughts into perspective: why should I keep striving to be what I know TAOpivot cannot be? Play upon the strengths I know for TAOpivot; stop worrying about the tech industry and “not fitting in” with the crowd. Stay unique and focused.

There are many other lessons I have learned, but those can be for another day. For now, I hope these lessons I have learned will help you with your venture as well.

10 Rules for Business Email Etiquette

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Have you ever received a supposedly professional email before and find out how crude and unprofessional the other party is? How about receiving an email essentially yelling at you for something small? We have all received at least one of those kinds of emails. Has etiquette gone by the wayside with technology? I outline ten rules below of what to do and what NOT to do with email in the business world (and beyond):

  1. DO NOT write an email when you are emotional – This just happened to me last week; a colleague of mine had emailed me, stating some terms of service to me, but essentially wrote the email in a threatening tone. This colleague was just trying to get a point across, but I found the email had no tact (and was terribly rude). The person was probably emotional about something else in life and got triggered by something I had done improperly. I understand; we all get emotional sometimes. But that is when we really SHOULD NOT write any emails, when we are upset, angry, etc. Next time, check your mood before you send out an email to someone; you do not want to come across as hostile.
  2. DO follow up within 24-48 hours with contacts – Nobody likes waiting around for a response to a job application, an interview, a request, and so forth (this is one of my biggest pet peeves). Make it a habit to reply to emails with 1-2 days, even if it’s just to say “No, not interested”. The other party may appreciate just the simple fact that you took time to let them know.
  3. DO NOT use slang or jargon in messages outside of your industry/work – Sure, you might have learned some pretty cool terminology at your previous or current job. Using that terminology outside of your job or industry is pretty pointless though: you may think you are trying to sound smart, but you are just confusing the other party more. Use terms that everyone can understand. Also, use professional writing at all times. You do not want to receive an email that says, “Yo what up?” from your co-worker, do you?
  4. DO spell-check and read over your messages before sending – The email is “just” an email, right? Yes…and no. You are still writing something for someone else to read, and leaving big, ugly typos will not help your cause out at all. Read over your message; even read it out loud if you can. Look for spelling errors not captured by your resident spell-check tool. You do not want to send an email about “the coroner office” to your supervisor.
  5. DO NOT use fancy fonts or formatting – You may think your email editor is super awesome and you want to show the fancy fonts off to your colleagues. Save that for personal emails; fancy fonts and weird formatting will not help you get your point across. At the very least, it will just be annoying for your colleagues to read through the email.
  6. DO break up your email into paragraphs – Should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how many emails we receive that are all words and no break in between thoughts. Nobody wants to read a big long blurb of text on a blog post; who wants to read that in their inbox? Break up topics in your email message so the other party can digest each bite slowly.
  7. DO NOT USE ALL CAPS – See what I did there? And this is another no-brainer/goes-without-saying rule. But there are still people out there who will write all in caps, not realizing they are, in fact, yelling at the other party. Do not be that person.
  8. DO make sure you are sending the email to the right person – There should be a rule to not write any personal messages from an email account primarily used for business…but I realize not everyone wants to check several inboxes. Best alternative–pay attention when your email client auto-guesses who you are sending the email to. You do not want to send an email talking about embarrassing yourself at a business gathering over the weekend to Ted, your supervisor, as opposed to Terri, your sister. Also, if you are copying and pasting a form email to several of your colleagues, make sure to change the name in the salutation so you are not exposing your mass email effort.
  9. DO NOT reply all – Another irksome late 20th century/early 21st century broken rule; unless you are replying all to your friends about a party or a gathering, I highly advise not replying all in a company message. If you are the sender of a mass email, please add people to the BCC line instead of the CC line.
  10. DO keep your emails somewhat short and to-the-point – Yes, there is rule #6 talking about breaking up paragraphs. But this rule is stating that, although your email might run long, make sure the details are supporting what you are requesting/asking for. Do not beat around the bush on a request. Make it short, and, if details ARE necessary, make sure it only makes your case stronger, not weaker.

And there you have it; email etiquette you can apply to both professional and personal usage. If you have other rules you would like to add, feel free to leave a comment below.

8 Things NOT to Do on Your First Day of Work

Congratulations on landing a job! Do you feel ready to absorb everything about Company X and get to know your new co-workers?

Ready to carpe diem!

Ready to carpe diem!

Optimism aside, make sure you do not commit any of these mistakes on the first day (or maybe, ever? Then again, we’re all human…):

  1. Show up wearing clothing not matching the company’s dress code – You must have visited the office for your job interview. If you observed that everyone was wearing suits and ties, do not show up on the first day like a surfer. Be observant during that interview and, for your first day, err on the side of a little more dressy if you could not figure out the dress code at the interview. Unless you are going to work for a tech startup, it is best to wear nice slacks and blouse/button-down shirt for the first day.
  2. Wear a ton of perfume or cologne – You might accidentally douse yourself with perfume or cologne before getting to Company X because you feel nervous. Refrain from pouring on the scents! You do not want to be that one, super-scented person in the office and have everyone remember you for this in the long run. I would hope you do not normally toss on a ton of perfume for other occasions either.
  3. Using your smartphone anytime during the day – Unless you are receiving urgent calls from loved ones, there is no need for you to have your smartphone out at work at all. Leave your phone at your desk or in your briefcase/purse during meetings. And, even though lunch time would normally be a good time to check in with your phone, this is your first day: see if you can mingle with your co-workers at lunch to maximize networking opportunities.
  4. Talk crap about your personal life – You are trying to make a great first impression, right? Well, keep your personal life details out of the office/group lunch. At this point, nobody cares to know that you and your partner got into a fight last night, or that your friend backstabbed you. In general, keep personal stuff out of work life, even after the first day. You do not want to be known as the “poisonous” co-worker.
  5. Refuse asking questions to your supervisor about your duties/tasks at hand – Hopefully Company X has some training going for you on your first day. Even so, when there are times for you to get stuff done without supervision and you get into some confusion, do not hesitate to ask your supervisor to help you out. It is better to seek help instead of trying to fix the problem yourself and causing a big hullaballoo in the company database due to your fear of asking questions. Just. Ask.
  6. Use overly colloquial language – Unless your work environment is uber casual, keep yourself always at the professional language when speaking and writing. Keep your “hey GUYS this is da SHIT!” language for when you hang out with your buddies. Also, when sending emails to your supervisor or co-workers, double-check the grammar and spelling to make sure everything makes sense. You would be surprised at how many people fail at this simple task on a daily basis.
  7. Distract your co-worker with babble throughout the day – You will probably be busy training for your position anyway, but still, try to keep your small-talk down to a minimum. You do not need to tell your co-worker or your supervisor about the wonderful sandwich you ate while you were in Paris last week; bring that topic up another day when you figure out who is a foodie in the office.
  8. Sit idle when you are finished with your tasks for the moment – Seems like common sense to NOT do this, but this happens a lot. I know at a few of my first jobs I did feel a bit stuck on what to do next, but I made sure to ask my supervisors what to do next when I noticed my idleness. You can do the same with your supervisor: ask what needs to be completed next. If there is truly nothing for you to do at the moment, offer to help your co-workers out. Show the office that you are proactive with your work, even on day one.

And there you have it. Some of the situations above may seem ludicrous, but these things happen to many people on their first days and beyond. If you do end up committing one of these blunders, hold yourself accountable….but, also, do not be too hard on yourself. You may have a co-worker empathize with you considering you are new to Company X. So, cheer up and enjoy your time at Company X from day one and beyond.

5 Essentials For a Successful Networking Experience

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Whether you are attending a general social mixer, networking event, or a conference, these are five things you must bring along for a great experience:

1. Business Cards- Always have a way for others to follow up and contact you. Even if you have a brand new startup or are unemployed, get some cards made before the big event.

2. Your Smartphone- If you want to get others’ contact info into your phone right away (or make a reminder to follow up with a new connection), remember to bring a fully-charged phone with you. If you are at a conference, you also beed your phone if you want to partake in the event hashtag via social media.

3. A Strong Pitch- Have a strong pitch practiced and ready so it will be a breeze introducing yourself to others. Boil the pitch down to around 30-45 seconds. My pitch usually includes my name, my title and my company, and an explanation of what my company TAOpivot does.

4. Suitable Bag/Tote- Always good to have something to carry all the cards, brochures, etc. you may get at an event. I always make sure to have a spacious bag in case there’s schwag handed out; frees up my hands!

5. An Open Mind- You might talk with a few people who have differing views than you do on current events, the economy, etc. Don’t get into an argument with others! That’s embarrassing for you and may soil the whole experience. Listen to others and take what you will from their words and your interactions. If you feel the connection isn’t a good fit, then leave it at that. No follow-up is needed.

Of course, none of the above is required (well, besides the open mind!), but I have found that having all these things handy has helped me maximize my success at networking events and conferences. Hope these help you, too.

3 Steps to Exit a Company Gracefully

My last day at work in 2010; got flowers for my departure. :)

My last day at work in 2010; got flowers for my departure. :)

From my work history, I know the anxiety all too well of leaving one job for another one, or just to leave and start out on my own. Have you ever wondered how to exit gracefully? These are the steps I took when I was about to leave each of my previous jobs:

  1. Notify in-person and in writing when you will be leaving – Talk to your manager about your impending departure but also put it in writing. Best to let your manager know a month or two weeks in advance (I recommend one month). The written notice will be good for both your records and for the business’s records.
  2. Offer help in finding your replacement – Depending on the size of the company, you may be able to help out HR by offering to sift through incoming resumes for your position. I volunteered to do this at my last job in San Francisco, and it helped cut down on all the noise for the director. If your manager refuses help from you, then that’s fine–let it be.
  3. Stay polite & leave on the best terms possible – As your days wind down at the company, make sure to maintain good relations with your co-workers and supervisors. Contain your excitement for your next move if others do not inquire about your decision. Who knows–maybe on the last day you’re at the company, you’ll get a surprise from your co-workers and supervisors (like I did; see above).

Even if you had a less-than-stellar time at the job you’re leaving, it’s always best to keep things polite between you and the company. You never know; might need a favor from them later on.