Ninety-nine percent of career success hinges on your ability to communicate well, foster mutually beneficial workplace relationships at your job, and earn the respect and loyalty of bosses, coworkers, clients, and customers. In other words, it’s all about your interpersonal skills and behaviors.
Here are 13 behaviors to practice in 2013. If you can master these over the course of the next year, your career will take a giant leap.
1. Confront thoughtfully. Sometimes you want to confront another person about a disruptive behavior, for example, or a performance issue. Many people never learn how to give feedback well, whether positive or negative. Learn best practices in giving feedback.
2. Don’t assume. Assumptions are one of the many culprits in workplace misunderstandings, lost sales, and failed business negotiations. Try to come to every interaction with open eyes and an inquisitive mind. Don’t guess what the other person thinks or wants. Learn to love the question, “Why?”
3. Pay attention to culture. Pay attention to what is acceptable in your environment and what is not. Many people think they are doing the “right” thing but find themselves in trouble because they didn’t pay attention to the cues about values in their organization’s culture.
4. Stop fixing others. It’s often easier to see others’ flaws and missteps than our own. We can identify how others can avoid getting into trouble with a few simple tweaks of their behavior. Instead, focus on yourself and let others make their own mistakes.
5. Avoid difficult people. There will always be difficult coworkers, but you don’t have to constantly engage with them and get stressed out by them. You can stay away from them, but you can also use their behaviors to learn more about yourself. Also, keep in mind that “difficult” isn’t always “bad.”
6. Become a better communicator. Many hard-working employees find that just doing a good job isn’t enough. You also need to learn how to be observant, learn from others, and modify your approach to increase understanding and communication. Commit to working on your communication skills.
7. Don’t interrupt. Here’s an easy way to improve all your interactions. Let the other person finish her thought. This means not interrupting, adding commentary, or giving feedback until she is has finished talking or asking a question.
8. Be an interested observer. Learn by watching others’ reactions. You’ll observe “helpful” people, “I feel sorry for myself” people, and “giving” people, to name a few types. Now watch yourself. Do you also react as a “type” instead of as an objective listener?
9. Explain the “what’s in it for me”. Whether you’re selling a product or making a pitch for a new initiative in your company, you need to show coworkers, clients, and customers how what you’re offering will boost the quality of their life. Make sure your pitch always answers your listener’s “So what?”
10. Broaden your horizons. Think about the process that goes on inside our heads. We observe what’s going on around us, we filter it, and then we label it. We self-talk and lull ourselves into a state where we really believe our labels are the truth. Open your mind and stop making the world only about you.
11. Identify your triggers. Think about people who set you off. Perhaps it’s the coworker who dumps his work and problems in your lap, which puts you in the martyr/rescuer role. Reflect on why this “trigger” keeps popping up and what role you’re playing in perpetuating the pattern.
12. Don’t data dump. Do you unload your problems, ideas, or experiences on someone else in a one-way conversation, without really looking for an interaction? Next time, establish what you want from your interactions. Have a goal at the outset. If you want engagement and not just someone’s ear, set your goal accordingly.
13. Commit to change. In the coming year, vow to identify the communication patterns that cause the most problems in your career and workplace relationships. Then make a conscious effort to correct them.
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Beverly co-founded The Collaborative in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to financial advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently a Lecturer at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly Flaxington is a certified professional behavioral analyst (CPBA), hypnotherapist, and career and business advisor. She's the author of five books, including Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, and her latest book, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012). For more information, visit www.the-collaborative.com