Thanks, Your Body Language Gave Me the Answer

We live in a society where “buzzwords” reign supreme. Buzzword here, Buzzword there, Buzzwords everywhere. “Soft skills” being the word most often plastered on billboards across all industries. Companies want their employees to have this “trait” as if it was some kind of magical formula for better customer service and company cultures. And as with anything else, every company has a different interpretation of what this actually means. I’m not sure if anyone knows what it means. I bet that your idea of “soft skills” is different than mine, and it’s possible our definitions aren’t even similar.

Funny thing is, that neither of us is wrong. The defining factors are simple. Where do you work? and what type of dictionary do you use? Odd. New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” While Business Dictionary defines the same phrase as: “communicating, conflict management, human relations, making presentations, negotiating, team building, and other such ability, defined in terms of expected outcomes and not as a specific method or technique such as statistical analysis.” So, you see, I sort of have a point here. I mean, of course this is my opinion, but I believe soft skills can be simplified to: “the ability to bs with people”. I’m serious, I think it’s as easy as that.

Now I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. To effectively bs with people, you need to interpret body language and act accordingly. I am a very upbeat person, I wake up like “Pinky and The Brain”, ready to take over the world. I’m sure it could be overwhelming early in the morning, but the ability to read body language enables me to tone it down when needed. Your body language tells me exactly how to approach you and what tone of voice to use. Being able to identify with an individual enables you to communicate effectively. When my co-worker sits slouched overlooking overwhelmed, a simple “Good morning. I hope you have a beautiful day” suffices. She realizes I can see something is wrong, and she can compose herself before the rest of the crew arrives. When I walk in and she’s sitting up proud looking like she can’t wait to share something, I open up with a smiling “What’s up?! You look ready to kill it!” and of course, she is full of energy and enthusiasm.

You may think this takes years of practice, and you are right! However, good news is, you have been practicing for years! Much longer than you can even imagine. In many ways, you’ve been developing this skill since a very young age. Think about your personal relationships with friends and family. In social situations, I know what my friends are thinking based on the look they give me or the way they correct their postures. Growing up, I knew when I was in trouble by the way my mom was standing at the door waiting for me, or by the way her eyebrows arched and joined together in the middle. I’m sure if you think about it, you have the same type of skill set. You just hadn’t realized how to use it to your benefit in the professional world. The ability to read your friends and know what each other is thinking without the use of words is a form of synergy. I believe in the workplace this very same concept is considered a “soft skill”, the most important of them all if you ask me.

Think about it. If it works in other places, why wouldn’t it be effective at work? After all, they are people too and have similar tendencies as your friends and family. Understanding the way body language communicates with the outside world is essential to knowing how to approach an individual. Great mood, horrible mood, mood in between, it doesn’t matter! By observing their body language, you will know exactly how to address them and what tone of voice to use. Furthermore, as a leader you’ll notice when someone has a problem, when someone is going through a rough time, or when they just want to share an accomplishment. Many of the questions we have can be answered by observing body language, and vice versa, our body language can give away all our feelings and emotions. Keep an eye out for these things, next interaction you have can make someone’s day, or make it worse.

JH

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Jack of All Trades, Master of Job Security

We have all heard the term “Jack of all trades, master of none” and odds are it was in a negative connotation. Despite what popular belief may be, this can be a very good thing for job security and growth within your career. Now, don’t get me wrong, it can also be very bad, especially if you’re a Jack of all things irrelevant. No knowledge is worthless, but depending on the situation it can be very useless. A plumber with skills that allow him to not only fix pipes, but also install vanities, toilets, and sinks can expand his business by having the ability to work within his setting in a different aspect. However, if this plumber attempts to not only fix pipes but also cars and chimneys, then he might not be as successful. Honing your craft is one thing, but honing your craft and having skills to supplement your work can be extremely beneficial and lucrative.

In the corporate world, we tend to strive for perfection. We set our sights on being the greatest at what we do, but fail to see the bigger picture. Steve jobs was a great innovator, but he was also great at knowing the way people think and understood their need for simplicity. Because he could use his natural talents, and those he acquired throughout his professional career, he is now considered one of the great entrepreneurs of the past century. I’m not saying you need to be a CEO to succeed, I am just using him as an example because who hasn’t heard of his legacy? Anyway, being good at what you do is not enough to maintain job security and experience constant growth. At times, we wonder how someone that is mediocre at their job got promoted, or why they received a raise. We are quick to jump to conclusions, but instead we should step back and analyze the entire scope of their work.

A Jack of all trades is useful in more than one way because they know a variety of processes and protocols within their office setting. Typically, when there is a request for volunteers to take on a project I am one of the first to raise my hand. Not because I want to please the crowd, but because it is a great learning opportunity and I am exposed to different elements. I get to work with different departments, and I can build relationships that double as quality resources. Given, by no means do I become an expert in the latter fields, but when things need to get done, I know who to reach out to and instead of excuses I can produce results. Sure, there are plenty of things I can learn within my own department, but because many things tend to overlap, not only am I learning more about my position, I am also learning how other departments can supplement my productivity and quality of work.

By making yourself available to others, you grow your knowledge base and your worth. If for whatever reason, someone needs to fill in for a co-worker, your basic understanding of what they do will put you in a position in which you may be able to stand-in and figure out what needs to be done and how. The best part of it is that you don’t necessarily have to be completely successful, you just need to hold down the fort, so to speak, until that person returns, or a replacement is hired. Furthermore, you enhance how others view your work ethic and commitment to the team. Sure, you volunteering can lead to a catastrophe, but it was headed in that direction anyway, and no one else would even dare take the risk. If you do fail, can anyone hold you accountable for attempting to do someone else’s job? But if you succeed, you save the day and just like that, you have shown you can do more than what you were hired and get paid for. If that position becomes available, then you a strong case in your favor, if it’s in another department you not only have your bosses in your corner, but the head of that department remembers when you spun in the phonebooth and came out wearing a cape ready for action.

I am not saying you need to volunteer and go above and beyond to attain the extra knowledge, all I am saying is to keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask your peers about their job duties. A jack of all trades doesn’t have to be good at everything, they just need basic understand and knowledge. Building relationships goes a long way, and those relationships can lead to substantial help with the task at hand. At the end of the day the sole focus is the growth and success of the company, so when the time comes for a promotion the people that come to mind are those that can help in more than one way. These multi-use individuals look like a bargain to management. In addition, if layoffs are around the corner, because of the value you bring to the company and the many things you can do, it will be those with a single purpose that will be the first to go. When push comes to shove, we all know and understand office politics, so instead of gossiping and being part of the group of people that isolate themselves from other departments, don’t be afraid to campaign and learn the many roles and elements of your entire organization. After all, it’s not what you know, but rather who you know. And as my Army 1st Sergeant once said: “There are 3 types of people in this world. Those that make s**t happen, those that watch s**t happen, and those that wonder wtf just happened”.

JH

The Power of Conversation

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The idea of prison scares many of us. Being alone and distant from those you love can take a toll on overall health and well-being. Surprisingly, we don’t have to be in solitary confinement to be alone and distant. Over the years we have come to rely on technology so much, that we have created a prison without bars. We have made ourselves unavailable to the emotional circus we call society. We tend to become lone-wolves and after a while we begin to miss sharing our daily lives with other human beings.

When we find ourselves isolated we begin to feel like outcast and can have a difficult time finding our place in the world. Our productivity and innovation begin to decrease, and it is just a matter of time before we overwhelm ourselves with frustration. Such reasons are why major companies take employees on retreats; to reconnect with themselves and each other.

Catching up with a friend helps me with motivation and creativity. Refreshes me. Conversations are an integral part to our being. It opens us up to new perspectives and ideas. Spreads knowledge worth sharing. We tend to occupy ourselves with digital activities and close ourselves off to others. The world is a beautiful place, full of amazing stories and personalities. Our phones and computers have replaced the feeling you get from spending quality time with someone you appreciate having in your life. Almost as if we have desensitized ourselves towards the human touch.

If you find yourself feeling burned out, sad, or even angry, call a loved one. It might change your outlook and your mood. It will help you regain your focus and composure. Your mind will reset. Your motivation and creativity will live on and flourish. Most importantly, it’s nice to hear a familiar laugh. Share interesting thoughts and observations. After all, life is about moments with friends and family. The more you share, the more learn.  

JH

The Art of The Excuse

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Creativity is one of mankind’s most precious gifts. It allows us to create beautiful stories, pictures, sculptures, and make medical and scientific advancements. Yet it is one of the most abused and wasted skill sets. Often, true creativity is buried underneath a thick layer of excuses and lies. It is a vehicle for diverting blame and not owning up to our faults and lack of effort. Having an extraordinary mind can lead us to becoming visionaries, or excuse generating machines. I believe every individual has the power to achieve either greatness or mediocrity, and it is as simple as employing our creativity to better ourselves.

In the work place, creativity is often expressed through convoluted traffic stories or evil fairies turning off alarms in the middle of the night, for the 10th time this month. Being late to work is unacceptable, at times life happens, I understand that, but when you are 15 minutes late and you have a Starbucks cup in your hand, you need to address priorities. The traffic excuse is no longer valid. If you had time to stop to buy coffee, it leads me to believe there was traffic in the drive-thru lane and not the road. When you are constantly late, you need to employ your creativity to create believable excuses, many of which are so detailed a stranger might believe them.

Excuses are nothing but creative stories generated in attempts to avoid having to discuss the real problem, you. If you are constantly late to work, yet your creative excuses never fail to appear, perhaps you should explore those talents. Maybe you are working in the wrong field, your job is no longer satisfactory, and subconsciously you are late on purpose because your brain enjoys tapping into this creative realm. Self-analysis might help you discover your true passions and calling, your constant lateness might be your mind telling you it’s time for a change, or maybe it’s just time you grow up and start acting like an adult. Whatever the case may be, excuses are an art form, and if you find yourself lost in the details of your own made up stories, you might be more talented than you think.

JH

The 3 Types of Individuals You Work With

imagesMonday morning usually sets the tone for the day, and sometimes for the rest of the week. Our outlook can be influenced by how we let these first few hours affect us or shape us. It’s sad to say, but it’s not much of a surprise, many of our co-workers don’t get anything done. The “Monday Blues” as they are known, can take a toll on your production and in some cases, roll over and create a Tuesday hangover effect, next thing you know it’s Friday afternoon and you are yet to accomplish all your tasks. Being able to recognize the mentioned behavior is crucial to putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed. Not only will you feel more productive and refreshed, but you will begin to hone your craft and take charge of your mornings and weeks.

As I see it, there are 3 types of people in the professional world, all mixed and intertwined, blended and liquefied together, but the crème of the crop always rises to the top. It is not a difficult task, if you can keep yourself from falling victim to negative emotions and influences. As human beings, our behavior is indirectly manipulated by those around us; if we allow them to. I spent many hours in the Army observing and studying other soldiers, now in the corporate world I find myself doing the same. Without surprise, I have found that my peers once again fall into the same 3 categories I had discovered in the past.

1.People That Make Things Happen

This is self-explanatory on several different aspects, but in my individual observations these individuals not only complete their task, but reach out to help others. They don’t like seeing things waiting to get done, and furthermore, they hate having to rush and work late when deadlines are approaching and their bosses are losing their angry minds. These types of individuals are hard-working, reliable, great team players, but at risk of being over worked and overwhelmed. If you are one of these individuals I suggest you practice self-care and find ways to reduce stress and keep yourself grounded. It is very easy to get upset at others when you are the hardest working of the bunch.  However, when you can find ways to keep your composure and let your true leadership skills shine, your sky truly is the limit.

2.People That Watch Things Happen

These individuals are comparable to those that create morning traffic jams when they slow down to see what happened on the opposite side of the highway. They can be very toxic, especially if you have a close relationship with them and they feel the need to share their drunken weekend escapades or personal problems with you. I am not saying you shouldn’t have close relationships with co-workers, all I am saying is that there is a time and a place for that type of interaction. In my experience these individuals linger around those diligently working, are chatterboxes, and tend to get sidetracked and contribute very little outside of gibberish. It is important to recognize who these individuals are because although they are “assisting” they can stretch the time needed to complete the task at hand, and when deadlines are not met, your reputation and work ethic will be questioned without asking who did or did not contribute like they should have.

 

  1. People That Wonder What the Heck Just Happened

I don’t believe much of an explanation is needed for this type of individual. However, a nice story will do. Back to my Army days it is! No easy way to say this, but the individual I am thinking about was the biggest scam artist I have ever known. Whenever something needed to get done and word got out, he was quick to disappear into a bathroom stall. When weekend duty rosters were put out, he always had a soldier that needed his assistance that same day. If someone was needed to supervise young privates, he always had a doctor’s appointment. You get the picture. These types of individuals are also sitting among us in our corporations, schools, and medical offices. Whether we would like to admit it or not, they are there. You know a few of them. They are quick to disappear and quick to add their name to the list of those that deserve credit. They think no one has noticed, but everyone has. These people are the easiest to point out because usually they have no idea what is going on, or what just happened. You don’t ask them questions because you don’t want to have to call them out on their crap. You simple know they are, to an extent, useless.

As you progress through your day and week, keep an eye out for these types of individuals and surround yourself with those that will help you succeed. If you find yourself being either number two or number three, maybe it’s time to self-reflect and find the root cause of your behavior. Perhaps you are unhappy, or unmotivated, your health is suffering, or you hate your job. Whatever the reason may be, it is not too late to become the type of induvial that makes things happen, rather than the individual that quickly finds himself in the unemployment line.

 

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We love ’em. We hate ’em. We become ‘em

Having parents is sort of a weird thing. It’s easy to get tired of them, and really hard to distance yourself to discover the real you. We miss them when they haven’t been around in a few days. We want to mean to our kids, what they mean to us. Our children shouldn’t see you as simply parents, but also as friends and confidants. They need access to our lessons and knowledge as individuals. They should want to call us when they need simple everyday advice; but it tends to go away if all they receive is lectures. I know it happened to me with my parents.

I try to find a balance between educating/helping guide my son through life, and instilling discipline. I truly believe this will help me fill two roles, as father and friend. So go ahead and be like your parents, simply try to improve on areas you think they lack. Some of us that grew up in traditional households, specially first generation Americans, sometimes lack that friendship piece in our relationship with them. We can’t hold back sharing something with them, but sometimes, many times, they don’t understand.

On this fathers day weekend I catch myself missing my dad, whom is 2,000 miles, or a few facetime rings away. Maybe he misses me too, or maybe he wants to enjoy fathers doing things on his own accord. After all, it is his personal day. I caught myself wanting to wake up my son this morning. For once, I was up before him and couldn’t wait to spend the morning hanging out watching MLB Network highlights as he swings his bat and pretends to run bases. To me, nothing else could’ve made the morning any better.

If you are lucky enough to be near by; spend the day with your dad or simply stop by to check up on him. If your not within driving distance, pick up that phone and call your old man, let him know you were thinking about him. Then say what’s up to your mom, she is always happy to hear from you. At the end of the day, as angry as I got with him at times, I find myself doing similar parent-like things with my little guy. Now, once today comes to a conclusion, don’t forget about your dad until next year! He’s shaped you in more ways than you can imagine, for good or bad. The jury is still out on that one 😉

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

JH.

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