It helps others get to know you when you have different interests outside of work that you enjoy talking about. I am not saying that you need to share your life story, on the contrary. But there are certain interests that you can proactively share, whether that be travel, sports or a hobby, to help people know other dimensions of you and therefore feel more interested and linked in to working with you. If you were stuck in an airport with a colleague, would they be intrigued to talk with you for the duration or would they reach for their laptop? Much of this is up to you.
Be interested in what you are pursuing. Be intrigued by what others around you are spending their time on. One of the best ways I know to satisfy your curiosity about something is to ask questions and lots of them. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. Being curious and asking questions helps you become smarter, assures that you understand the inner workings of the topic and showcases your interest.
To get the most out of your meetings, it is important to be engaged. This involves more than active listening. It requires active and thoughtful participation in the discussion. It means pulling in ideas that you may have to share, volunteering information or generating new ways to approach a problem. It may also mean challenging other ideas and pressure testing the current thinking. It can involve asking questions to improve and clarify your understanding. There are many ways to participate but it does mean you need to lean in and engage. By engaging you can help the meetings make progress and solidify yourself as a key ingredient in the progress.
Don’t underestimate the power of showing up. Your schedule is not always within your control. Others may schedule meetings or events earlier or later than you would like. You are being invited for a reason and others want you to attend. If you don’t show up, your absence will be noticed. So if there are meetings outside your regular schedule, check to see if you can bend your personal schedule to attend. If you have a meeting conflict, make sure you know the trade offs of going to/missing the meeting. If you decide not to attend, be courteous and decline early and proactively ask about how you might still be able to add value even though you can’t attend. You don’t want to be out of site, out of mind.
I have to say smiling and frowning probably take the same amount of energy yet it seems people hold back from smiling too much. Smiling doesn’t take much effort yet it helps you seem more open to others, it draws people in, and serves to disarm those that don’t. It is contagious and makes people happy to see you. You are responsible for setting your own tone and smiling outwardly is an easy way of communicating the positive tone you can choose to set.
This sounds easy but it’s not. There are so many distractions during meetings: your email is piling up, you are thinking about your part of the presentation, about what you have to deliver by the end of the day that is not getting done, the recent assignment you were given, etc. But you will get more out of every exchange and meeting if you don’t worry about checking your phone, facebook, email, electronics in general and focus on the person talking. Really listen to what they are saying and what they are communicating by what they are not saying. If you are fully engaged in the conversation you will pick up the subtle nuances that others miss and then understand the different layers of what is being shared. More importantly you will really understand what your colleague is requesting, needing, teaching, so you can get more out of the exchange and be ready to respond thoughtfully and with insight.
I am not what you would call a fashion guru, not even close, but there is an art to accessorizing. Your look extends from head to toe and your shoes, belt, watch, jewelry, etc help pull everything together. In the business world it does not stop there. The reality is that you will probably need to carry a notebook, laptop, phone, pens, cords, etc with you to various meetings. You can use a leather satchel or a back pack to tote your mobile office accessories around, but know that this becomes part of your look too. Accessorizing applies to men and women alike so when you think about your full look, think about how all the little accessories help you tie together the overall image you want.
Now working at Microsoft where casual attire can be the norm, it has taken me a while to really internalize this one. I do suggest that you dress one step nicer than the norm. Why? First, dressing nicely makes you feel good and that is a great way to start the day. Secondly, it gives you more confidence and confirms that this is the stand out image that you are trying to communicate. But also because it is observable that you are making an effort, people seem to take you a little more seriously, like they know you come to play and you are likely to be successful. Your appearance is a starting point to making and keeping a good impression.
I find that people are more receptive to you if you remember their name and use it within your conversation. This is easy with the colleagues you already know and are working with but this is more important for people you have just met. But that means you need to remember the names of your new acquaintances. The traditional business card exchange comes in handy when meeting new external contacts but what about all the new internal colleagues. There are tips that you can use to help. If you are attending a meeting, before you go review the invite so you can see who should be attending. You can jot down the first names of the new people so you can look to connect the face with the name. At meetings when people are introducing themselves, you can write down their names in the position of where they are sitting at the table. You can refer to it during the meeting, especially if there are many new people being introduced at once. I have also found it useful to say their name quickly in conversation early because it helps reinforce it in your memory. Then at the end of the meeting I try to use their name one final time as I personalize the fact that I am looking forward to working with them in the future..
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and know that their contributions are adding value. When someone does something to help you or adds value to a project, don’t be shy about telling them thank you and that you appreciate what they have contributed. They deserve to be rewarded for their contribution because remember in almost everything you will do, you will need others to help you accomplish it. Appreciating others for their contribution is easy, free and pays dividends. There is not usually enough praise to go around so it will be noticed. If this becomes part of the way you work, you may find that you can help create a culture of appreciating other peoples work around you. Colleagues may be more interested in collaborating with you because they know their efforts will be recognized. All this is goodness so don’t miss the opportunity to thank someone who has helped you.