Line managers play an essential role in the efficient running of all businesses.
They provide guidance and motivation to staff and ensure that the company operates smoothly.
For anyone with ambitions to work their way up the career ladder, it is a crucial step.
The role allows you to show your leadership skills and gives you direct exposure to senior management.
This article explains everything you need to learn about line management and provides a few tips to make sure that your application is as strong as possible.
Put simply, line management is an employment structure in which someone has direct responsibility for an employee or group of employees.
Usually, a line manager will, in turn, report to their superior, giving the organisation a clear chain of command.
An effective line manager operates as the link between the decision-makers at the top of the company and front-line workers.
A large part of their job is to ensure that the company’s objectives are communicated to front line staff while communicating any staff issues back up the chain of command.
Before you apply for a line management position, you should take the time to understand exactly what it involves.
Line management comes with a wide variety of responsibilities. This is both the appeal and the challenge of the role.
Being promoted to line manager isn’t as simple as being highly competent in your current job – the role requires a new set of skills.
You should set aside some time to think through your strengths and weaknesses before applying for a role.
We look at what the role requires in more detail below.
The biggest change people find when stepping into a line management role is that they are no longer responsible for their own success.
A line manager’s success depends on their team performing well.
This means that communicating clearly and confidently with your team is key.
If you have shown – both to yourself and to your superiors – that you can communicate clearly and confidently with colleagues and gain their trust, then you probably are ready to take the step up.
Line managers have a number of responsibilities that front-line work does not. Many people find the transition to line manager the most challenging of their career.
As a line manager, you are likely to have the following duties:
You will have oversight of the daily operation of your team, both as a collective and as individuals.
Maintaining your team’s productivity is your primary responsibility.
That starts with ensuring you are on top of all of your team’s performance data so that you can see who is meeting expectations and who is not.
Line managers set the goals for the company’s employees and communicate what’s expected of them.
You will need to provide clear, attainable targets for your team and then help them to achieve them.
This may involve using your expertise to educate a new member of staff or encouraging a less confident employee that they are competent and valued.
Each employee is different, and you will need strong interpersonal skills to understand how to get the best out of each member of your team.
See this article for more detail ondelegation and objective setting
Line managers are responsible for the career development of their team members.
They need to monitor staff development needs and pro-actively work with staff members to address them.
This could be mentoring, internal or external training.
Staff who feel that they are learning and growing tend to be highly engaged, so this is a great way to develop individual morale.
Line managers are in charge of delegating workloads, and it is important that tasks are distributed fairly.
An overworked team member is likely to feel stressed and unhappy, which could affect team morale – a good line manager will oversee workloads to ensure that nobody has an unreasonable volume of work and reallocate work where appropriate.
As a line manager, you will be expected to oversee the drawing up of rotas that are fair and meet the needs of your team and the business.
A happy team is a productive team. As a line manager, it will be your responsibility to look after your staff’s wellbeing.
This may be anything from noticing an increase in absence to recognising a change in someone’s behaviour.
Your duty is to spot the signs that an employee is struggling and take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.
Inevitably when you have a group of human beings working together at some point you will get conflict. Learning to manage conflict within your team is another crucial skill that you will need to develop.
Line managers bridge the gap between their team and human resources.
Day-to-day HR issues are dealt with by line managers supported by HR.
For example, if HR initiates a new policy, it will be your duty as line manager to ensure your employees understand it and act upon it.
As a line manager, you will have a long and varied list of duties, and you’ll need to build up the skills to match them:
Your success as a line manager is likely to hinge on your ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
Whether you’re providing a sympathetic ear or undertaking formal performance reviews, as a line manager, you will need to be able to interact with your team members in a variety of ways.
Every day as a line manager is likely to present new challenges, big and small. You will need to master communicating clearly.
Strong leadership is essential in a line management role, and you will need to gain the trust and respect of your team to ensure they follow your example.
A good line manager must be decisive and strong-willed. If you believe that your methods are best for business, it’s key that you show authority in your decision-making and trust your judgement.
Your employees will look to you for instruction, so you will need to show a willingness to be proactive. A good leader can anticipate potential problems, plan ahead and think creatively about ways to improve the business.
The era of managers being cold and unapproachable is long gone; in the modern world, your staff will look to you for support when they are struggling.
An ability to show empathy is important to ensure that your team is happy and productive at work. Knowing that their line manager cares about their wellbeing makes employees feel valued, which improves morale and performance.
As we have seen, a line manager role comes with a host of daily responsibilities. The ability to organise yourself and your work is vital.
You will need to be able to prioritise and delegate work.
Effective delegation will save you time and also offer your team the chance to develop their skills and build their confidence.
Once you have decided that you wish to apply for a line manager position, you will need to make your application as attractive as possible.
This starts with your covering letter – a short note attached to your CV that emphasises your suitability for the specific role you are applying for.
A good covering letter needs to catch the attention of your prospective employer and help you stand out from the other applicants.
Whereas your CV provides a factual account of your education and career history, your covering letter is an opportunity to let them know who you are and highlight your key strengths.
A cover letter is more personal than a CV and allows you to highlight the reasons they should ask you for an interview.
A covering letter should emphasise why you would make a good addition to their team and your reasons for applying.
The key to a good covering letter is brevity. Your letter should be no longer than one page in length but needs to provide as much detail as possible that shows you in a positive light.
Address your covering letter to the hiring manager and show that you have researched the company and the role.
Pick a couple of the strongest points about your skills and motivation and very briefly highlight them.
The aim of this is to ensure that you make the first cut. A good covering letter will never get you the job, but a bad one will make ensure that you don’t get it.
The video below possibly takes brevity too far but offers some really great tips.
While your covering letter allows prospective employers to learn about you as a person, your CV is a more objective summary of your life.
It should summarise your personal details, your academic achievements and, most importantly, your career history.
The first thing to consider is presentation. A poorly designed CV puts you at a disadvantage before it’s even been read. Make sure your CV looks professional.
Put your personal information at the top of your CV.
This acts as an introduction to your application and makes it easy for your employer to find your contact details.
Next, you should provide a brief personal statement. This should explain who you are and why you are right for the position.
This paragraph acts as a condensed version of your covering letter, so make every word count.
You will also need to provide a detailed history of the jobs you have held, starting with the most recent.
You should include the name of the company you worked for, your position, the start and end dates of each role and your responsibilities.
Make sure that you emphasise the areas in which you excelled in each role. Where possible, use facts and figures to back up your claims.
Saying ‘Increased sales by 57% over 12 months” is far more impactful than “Increased sales in first 12 months”.
If there are any gaps in your employment history, acknowledge and explain them as best you can.
It is also important to include brief details of your education. Again do this in reverse chronological order, so start with the most recent academic achievement.
Remember to keep your CV short. It should be no more than two sides of A4.
As we have seen, line management roles require a wide array of skills.
If you are passionate about your line of work and want to progress up the career ladder, then the first step is a line manager position.
Hopefully, you now know what is required and how to go about finding a role – good luck!
While remote working offers proven benefits, the lack of face-to-face interaction makes it more difficult to foster a positive working environment.
Virtual team building provides an effective method of turning a remote team into a cohesive unit that communicates and collaborates effectively.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about virtual team building and offer a few tips on team building activities to help make your business more productive.
Team building describes the ongoing process of increasing your workforce’s efficiency by encouraging employees to communicate and co-operate with one another.
Placing a group of employees in a situation where they must work as a team allows them to bond to pursue a common goal. Building strong relationships between team members helps create a positive working environment.
There are numerous established team-building methods, from specifically designed activities and events to informal get-togethers where employees can learn more about each other.
Each activity offers a proven route towards a happier, more motivated and more productive virtual team while encouraging employees’ professional development.
A harmonious work environment is vital to running a successful company, with a recent study showing a direct link between employee happiness and productivity. With that in mind, a manager must do everything they can to ensure their team is happy at work.
Team building has many benefits. Not only does it lead to improved relationships between employees, but it can also enhance individual skills such as leadership and planning.
Successful team building can also lead to a more motivated workforce – and it is easy to see how a tight-knit, motivated, and highly skilled team will deliver better results for your company.
By encouraging your employees to communicate effectively, develop trust in one another and work together as a team, you will foster a positive atmosphere that should increase your company’s productivity. These are all things that are all big challenges in a virtual world.
A particular challenge is integrating new people into a team. Icebreakers are a great way to introduce them and start the process. However, you will need to think of other ways to build on this and help them develop meaningful relationships with other team members.
To summarise, team building offers several critical advantages to your company:
Historically, the concept of team building has focused on face-to-face communication, building relationships through social interaction either within the workplace or at an outdoor event.
The recent increase in remote working means team building is more important than ever, but managing a virtual team provides a unique challenge. After all, how can your team bond effectively if employees are rarely in the same room?
Virtual team building operates entirely online, using remote team building activities to improve your employees’ communication skills and encourage greater teamwork. These events can be anything from structured activities to develop skills to casual chats over video conferencing software.
Through the implementation of these strategies, employers can ensure that team morale stays high. This, in turn, will lead to a more efficient and successful business.
Having established what virtual team building events can offer and why they are important, you should consider what type of activity would suit your business.
There are many virtual team building activities available, each with its own unique set of benefits.
Here are a few popular options that you may wish to consider:
The after-work social on a Friday night has long been considered a team-building staple, but it isn’t for everyone. Prior engagements, childcare responsibilities or even the onset of a worldwide pandemic can make an evening in the pub impossible.
A virtual team social provides a more convenient opportunity to socialise with workmates away from the stresses of the job, allowing colleagues to get to know each other better.
Whether colleagues enjoy the fun, competitive atmosphere provided by virtual team building games or just want to meet for a casual chat, virtual team events offer an easy way for employees to bond and build team morale.
The remote host invites employees to a virtual room where they can interact via video (or audio if they prefer), helping to foster a positive, collaborative environment.
One of the most popular in-person team-building exercises is the escape room. In an escape room, you solve a series of clues to unlock the door of the room in which you’re trapped.
Escape rooms require problem-solving skills, communication and teamwork, making them an ideal option for team building – and they translate to the virtual world seamlessly.
Virtual escape rooms take place through video conferencing. They split your employees into competing teams and introduce them to a fictional setting that they must ‘escape’ from.
Teams must complete their escape as quickly as possible, with puzzles designed to encourage cooperation between players in a fun but challenging way.
By working as a team focused on a shared goal, players develop interpersonal skills that transfer to the workplace.
One good way to build morale and help employees understand each other better is to set up a virtual club.
Book clubs have always proven popular, but virtual clubs can just as easily be based around movies or even television programmes – the key is finding a subject that everyone is interested in discussing.
Discussion of shared interests is an effective way of increasing trust and rapport between colleagues. It can also help to boost team morale by allowing people to engage with their passions in a social setting and learn more about their colleagues.
Hosting a quiz as part of a virtual team social is a particularly effective way of encouraging collaboration between colleagues while also providing a fun setting that will boost morale.
While in-person quizzes can be great fun, some people find the competitive element intimidating, particularly when prizes are available.
A virtual quiz’s more relaxed environment can help bring quieter staff members out of their shell.
You can even create bespoke quizzes based on people’s interests, helping everyone feel like they are part of the team.
Murder mysteries provide an excellent platform for team building. They allow colleagues to interact socially and do so in a fun, competitive context that encourages teamwork and lateral thinking.
Virtual murder mysteries work in a similar way to their real-world equivalents.
The remote host sets the scene, explaining that a murder has taken place and providing you with a series of clues.
While working in teams, employees are encouraged to collaborate and discuss their thoughts to solve the case.
Virtual team games of this type have been shown to improve communication and inspire greater creativity in employees, leading to a more efficient, productive business.
Keeping your team happy and motivated is essential to running a successful business, and, as we have seen, team-building exercises have a proven positive effect on office morale.
Remote working poses a challenge to your business, but it also brings new opportunities. The flexibility it provides allows everyone in your team to engage with virtual team building activities – you just need to find the right one that suits your team’s needs.
With such a wide range of virtual team events, games, and activities at your fingertips, the opportunity to increase your team’s motivation, morale, and cohesion is at your fingertips.
Image Credit: Pexels
“Journaling is paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” Lee Wise
Journalling is writing about your feelings, thoughts, and emotions in a journal.
The is good evidence that doing so regularly reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
Writing a journal is a great way to develop resilience.
In a work context people usually use one of three different journaling techniques.
This is simply recording what you feel or think.
It does not have any rules or structures.
This type of journalling shows the flow of thoughts and focuses on expressive writing.
When doing this type of journaling, do not worry about spelling, syntax, grammar, or punctuation just let the thoughts flow..
Prompt journaling involves using a set list of questions and answers.
Prompt journaling involves answering questions each day (the same or different).
Doing so gets you to place our attention on specific areas of our life.
Specific journaling involves selecting a specific area of concern and just focusing on that for a day.
Many people find this works best with work issues.
They sit down and work on their biggest worry or their biggest project each day to get some more clarity on it.
Journaling and diary-keeping are very similar. The difference is their objective.
A diary is objective and is used mainly to write down events, day-to-day updates, and data collections. It is textual and chronological.
Journaling is a much more subjective and reflective process.
It focuses far less on things that have happened and far more on motions, feelings, and thoughts.
Anne Frank is famous for the journal that she kept as a Jew in hiding during the second world war.
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Serena Williams is a 23-times grand slam champion who has struggled with a number of injuries during her career.
“Writing down your feelings in a journal can help clear out negative thoughts and emotions that keep you feeling stuck.”
Martina Navratilova is arguably the greatest ever women’s tennis player winning 18 Grand Slams during her career.
“Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distil what’s important and what’s not.”
“Journaling helps you to see and appreciate how strong you are within.” Jeremiah Say
Journaling can offer a number of direct benefits at work.
Many people consider journalling to be a form of self-administered therapy.
Journaling can make you more productive.
It is a great way to sort what is important from what is unimportant, the key first step in using the 80:20 principle.
Journaling is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety.
Multiple studies how shown this in multiple contexts.
Two quick examples are:
A study by Northumbria University found that journaling focused on positive experiences had a strong impact on reducing stress and anxiety.
This study from Michigan University demonstrated that students using journaling reduced their levels of anxiety markedly.
A wide range of studies has linked journaling to improvements in a wide range of improvements in physical health.
This study found that injuries healed faster in people who journaled about their issues rather than their daily schedule. The authors speculated that this was attributable to journaling reducing their cortisol levels.
This study on journaling about difficult experiences concluded.
‘writing about earlier traumatic experiences was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems’
Journaling can improve our relationships, and relationships are key to having influence at work.
The more we reflect, the more we can put things in perspective and forgive others and ourselves.
This study demonstrated that journaling significantly improved the odds that a couple would stay together.
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.” Oprah Winfrey
There is no required amount of journaling that you need to do to start enjoying its benefits.
The more you do and the more often you do it, the greater the benefits will be, but don’t let that stop you from starting.
Simply do what you can. Whether it’s a lot or a little, it will still benefit you.
Keeping a journal regularly isn’t easy.
Here are some tips to help you build up the habit.
· Find a private place where you can write without any disturbance.
· Fix a time and keep it. Create your moment.
· Be 100% honest when writing your journal. Don’t hide anything.
Journaling is a great way to reduce stress and improve your mental health.
We’d suggest that you give it a try for just 5 minutes each day for a week and see how it goes. You’ve nothing to lose.
Try not to judge it before the week is up, but once it’s done, see how you feel.
Is life a little easier? Are you a little less anxious? We’re pretty sure you’ll say yes to both.
Image Credits: Unsplash , Unsplash
Put simply, rapport is people’s ability to relate, be empathetic towards each other’s feelings and communicate well.
We all know people who appear to be completely comfortable striking up new relationships and others who struggle to find areas in common or other ways of building rapport.
For some, this is a gift, but this doesn’t mean you can’t treat it like any other skill that you can improve upon.
So why would you be interested in building rapport in the first place?
Well, when you build rapport, you simultaneously establish trust. You can increase your influence at work and make your colleagues and bosses more receptive to your business ideas.
The higher your levels of rapport at work, the more loyalty you will inspire, and the more enjoyable your job will be for you and everyone else you interact with.
Let’s look at eight easy ways to build rapport at work.
Building rapport doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might imagine it to be.
Think of someone you’re trying to build a relationship with. Maybe you both went to the same school or enjoy the same activities.
You can probably find something in common with anyone if you try hard enough.
The problem is that we often don’t take the time to truly listen. Instead, we think about what we want to say next, and we often fail to find that common ground.
Moving on to discussing family life is a fantastic way of taking a strictly business relationship to the next level.
Maybe you have children of the same age, or you both have parents with the same hobbies?
If this is the case, you will be able to empathise with each other’s daily challenges and triumphs both at work and home.
This may be a negative approach, but a shared negative experience often brings people together as it gives them things in common.
Establishing that you have a shared fear or weak point can be even better for building rapport than having something in common that you both like.
We often have passions and goals that we feel we can’t share with other people.
Finding common dreams creates a strong bond.
This is even better if your shared goals are something niche or quirky, like wanting to break a silly world record, discover the meaning of weird words or plans to travel somewhere out of the ordinary.
Research has shown that we respond better when someone acts like us.
Mirroring body language is a powerful psychological tool for bonding with someone.
This doesn’t mean that you need to copy their every move, just look for things like the way they sit and whether they gesture while talking.
Maintain eye contact in a way that seems to make them relax, rather than overdoing it.
We all love to talk about our hobbies, particularly when they are things that not everyone is interested in.
Even if you don’t have exactly the same interests, try and search for common ground that lets you build rapport naturally. You may even end up doing these activities together.
What we eat is another subject that we all love to talk about when connecting with others.
In many cultures, people connect during meals, and food is an important part of socialing.
See if you manage to increase rapport by asking about their favourite recipes and telling them yours.
We all have things that we don’t usually tell people until we develop a lot of trust.
This could be considered oversharing if it’s too soon in the relationship, but it can build rapport once the timing is right.
For example, you can be honest about how you feel really awkward in meetings or how you laugh at things that no one else seems to find funny.
Being vulnerable is a powerful thing, but check the other person’s reaction to see if they can really relate. If they do, that’s great – you’ve built an excellent rapport.
Conversely, there are some things that many people think create rapport when that’s not the case.
Pretending to be interested in the same things as your conversation partner isn’t a good strategy.
If you try to fake interest, they will almost certainly notice this and realise you’re not being honest.
The best thing would be to dig deeper and find something you actually have in common.
Pretending to be awfully excited about their latest adventures when you have no genuine interest in them is something that will be spotted fairly easily.
Again, it all comes down to authenticity. You can’t fake enthusiasm, or you’ll come across as manipulative and disingenuous.
It is better to find a few natural connections that come up in your conversations than try to cram in as many as you can.
Pretty much anyone will find it weird if you keep trying to force the issue to discover more and more common ground. Your effort of building rapport should feel completely natural.
Keeping the conversation centred on you won’t give the other person enough of an opportunity to share their side of things or even answer you.
You can’t start building rapport and achieve a genuine connection until you are ready to make this a truly two-way conversation.
Remember that listening to the other person is a huge factor in learning how to connect them.
You can’t just pretend to have things in common either or find common ground where none exists. If there is no genuine connection, you can’t force things.
Instead of making up shared interests or situations, you should learn to back off.
Next time you see them try again. It’s much more likely to work.
No matter how hard you work at building rapport, it can be lost pretty easily if you make a wrong move.
One of the most obvious ways is if you are caught lying to them or talking about them behind their back.
Another more likely possibility is that the relationship slowly gets eroded over time due to a lack of contact or poor communication. Even a strong sense of rapport with someone else may not last long once you are no longer talking to them every relatively frequently.
Good rapport is an ongoing process. It is not a ‘one and done’ thing.
So, what should you do if the rapport you have with someone has been lost?
The good news is that you can easily recover the bond that has been broken. Just go back to what we looked at earlier in terms of the tips to build rapport in the first place. Do the right things to re-establish your credibility and recover the trust that has been lost. You should find that you can start connecting with them once again.
Perhaps the fastest way to rebuild your relationship is by creating shared experiences. When you do things together, it helps you to build stronger, longer-lasting bonds.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbins calls rapport the “ability to enter someone else’s world” and “have a strong common bond”, so consider how you could do this.
Don’t just limit yourself to conversations when you can find other ways to connect, like having lunch together somewhere memorable or enjoying their company while you walk home.
If rapport has broken down because of a break down in trust you’ll need to take a different approach.
In this case, you will need to tackle the issue head-on before you can hope to re-establish the bond.
Sit down and talk the issue through. You can’t brush it under the carpet if you want to re-establish the connection.
We have looked at how to build rapport in the right way and some of the common errors people fall into when attempting to do it.
Perhaps the best single piece of advice when you want to create rapport is to be genuine and honest at all times.
Building rapport with someone should be a positive experience that enhances their day and your day.
Confusingly, although influencing and manipulating are very similar, ‘influence’ has positive connotations, while manipulation has negative connotations.
They’re similar but most definitely not the same.
Influence is the ability to affect someone else’s behaviour because of your (real or perceived) authority, knowledge or relationship with that person.
Manipulation is the power to influence someone else to your advantage. It is often done without the other person’s knowledge.
There are several different ways that other people’s behaviour can be influenced.
Each can be used by itself or combined with other methods to have a more significant impact.
Positional influence is a result of someone’s superior position in a hierarchy.
Your boss influences (possibly a kind way to put it!) you because they are above you in the company hierarchy.
See this article for more details on power in the workplace.
Similarly, a policeman’s position gives them significant influence without the need to invoke the law.
Character influence is a result of liking and/or respecting someone.
If you like and/or respect someone, then you are far more likely to be influenced by them. By going along with their suggestion, you are likely to develop your relationship with them.
The simplest example of this is the enduring use of celebrities to market products. Because you ‘know’ and like them, you are likely to follow their suggestions about which products to buy.
Quid pro quo influence is the giving and returning of favours.
If I have done something for you in the past, you are more likely to do something for me in the future.
Intrinsic influence is probably the ‘purest’ form of influence that there is.
It is influencing because you lay out the details of whatever you would like to encourage openly and honestly, and the other party comes to the same conclusion as you have.
See this great journal article if you would like much more detail.
Manipulation is very similar to influence. It is the ability to affect someone else’s decisions. However, there is a dishonest, underhand nature to it that influence doesn’t have.
If we go to a car dealer, we know that he is trying to influence us to buy a car. That’s fine. We need a car, and it’s his job to sell cars so things are straight forward and he’s trying to help us fix a problem as best he can.
If we go to a car dealer and he knowingly pushes us towards a car that he knows will break down or is dangerous, that’s manipulative. He knows that it won’t help us. The deal is one-sided. It is favourable for him but unfavourable for us.
It is challenging to come up with a definition that differentiates between influence and manipulation clearly, as we’ve seen.
It is easy to identify each of them when looking at a situation, though.
The differences will come down to:
Your intention is one of the most critical factors in judging whether what you’re doing is manipulative.
If you knowingly present an idea that isn’t in the other person’s best interests, you are probably being manipulative. If you believe that it is in their best interests, you are probably just trying to influence them.
Manipulation involves withholding information or distorting the truth to achieve the outcome you want. Influencing involves stressing some facts over others.
The key difference here is, does the other person have all the information they need to decide their own best interests.
If what you are doing will cause damage to your long-term relationship, it is likely to be manipulative. Manipulation emphasises the short-term over the long term.
Another way to look at it is that influence is looking for a win-win outcome, while manipulation is looking for a win-lose situation.
Skilled manipulators are challenging to spot.
The tests above are not that helpful in the moment.
However, helpfully manipulation is usually characterised by the manipulator using negative emotions. So a manipulator will often make you scared or worried about something.
They organise things so that you are moving away from something.
By contrast, someone using influence will often present the positives in a situation in the hopes that you will move towards them.
It is not a foolproof test but if you notice someone making you scared about an outcome, you should probably think twice before committing to anything.
This article offers some more good tips to see if you suspect you’re being manipulated.
You’re at a car dealership. You know what you want and have established the best price for the vehicle. You’re unsure whether to commit or not, so you say you will go away and think about it.
The salesperson tells you the offer is limited, and if you don’t purchase today, you’ll miss out, when in fact, the offer is available for another week. The salesperson is distorting the truth to manipulate you into buying the car now.
You’re at a car dealership. You’re about to purchase the car you’ve found when the salesperson lists a number of extra options. They list all the features and benefits of the options, highlighting their advantages. You ultimately opt to take the extras with the car.
In future, you realise you didn’t need the extras but don’t feel manipulated. The salesperson honestly explained the benefits, but you miscalculated the value that you would get from them.
You’re getting ready to go out for the night.
You want your significant other to dress a specific way.
You are influencing if you say ‘ I wish you’d wear XXX because I think you look great in it’ or ‘I wish you’d wear XXX because it looks great on you’. You are encouraging them transparently towards an outcome you would like.
You are manipulating if you way ‘It will ruin my evening if you don’t wear XXX.’.
The outcome may well be the same but the process is very different.
Learning to influence people ethically is a fundamental career skill that all of us need.
There is nothing wrong with seeking to influence someone else so long as you do it honestly.
When you do it dishonestly, it becomes manipulation. Sometimes people’s intense desire to get their desired outcome leads them to overstep the boundaries of honest behaviour.
The ability to identify the two and ensure that you stay on the right side of the line is a crucial long-term career skill. Manipulation is a very short-term strategy that ultimately destroys careers and relationships.
Active listeners tend to make more money, have better relationships and enjoy relatively better overall well-being.
Because active listening helps you pick on communication cues most other people miss.
Salespeople rely on communication to identify a customer’s real needs and close the deal.
A salesperson using active listening notices the small but critical verbal and non-verbal cues the customer give off. She uses these cues to tweak her sales pitch on the fly.
Contrast that to a salesperson who does not use active listening and tries to ram their product sale through, despite the obvious cold reception.
One closes the deal—the other walks away with nothing. Worse still, they perpetuate the traditional myths about salespeople.
Today we’ll guide you step-by-step through how to become a master active listener.
Active listening is a form of listening that emphasizes engagement and positive interactions.
An active listener listens attentively when some else speaks, it means really paying attention carefully. They paraphrase and reflect on what is said, withholding any judgement or advice.
Active listening lets you pick on non-verbal cues. Also when you listen carefully without interrupting it makes the other person feel heard.
Active listening involves:
● Paying close attention to the other person.
● Reflecting on what’s said (or unsaid).
● Observing verbal and non-verbal cues.
● Minimizing distractions and avoiding interruptions.
● Using a mixture of closed and open-ended questions.
● Asking questions and clarifying
● Withholding judgement and unsolicited advice
The listening process has five main stages: receiving, understanding, evaluating, remembering, and responding.
In “regular” or passive listening, people breeze through all five stages, leading to complete misunderstanding at worst.
Active listening emphasizes focusing on what the other person is saying. It doesn’t mean that you can’t speak but generally when you do it will be to acknowledge what they’ve just said, to clarify something or to give them feedback.
|Basis For Comparison||Active Listening||Passive Listening|
|What is it?||Focused, engaged listening||Unfocused, impatient listening|
|Listener’s role||Actively involved. Shows interest with questions and body language.||Passive. Shows few or no signs of interests with questions or body language.|
|Communication||Two-way and responsive to other person’s comments / points||One-way with little reaction to other person’s comments / points|
|Feedback & questions||Yes – Large part of the conversation||No – Little or no feedback|
|Listeners non-verbal cues||Shows interest with facial expressions, gestures and body posture||Show lack of interest by looking at phone / elsewhere, interrupting and other signs of boredom|
|Responses||Considered and show listener has understood what has been said||Tend to not follow 100% from the points just made|
Most people spend anywhere between 45-75% of their waking hours listening. Good active listening skills will improve the quality of those interactions.
The benefits of active listening skills extend beyond mere day-to-day interactions.
● Builds rapport and good relations while cementing trust.
● Fosters collaboration and reduces the need for conflict resolution
● Minimizes communication gaps, errors and mistakes
● Increases knowledge and understanding of diverse topics
● Increases your ability to identify and solve problems quickly
● Builds empathy and enhances emotional intelligence and influencing skills
Do you find yourself listening intently, asking probing questions or noticing non-verbal cues, like facial expressions and the posture of the other person? If so, you are probably an active listener.
Active listeners also recap, paraphrase, summarize and tend not to think about responses when the other person is speaking.
By recapping, for example, active listeners ensure that both parties are on the same page, even on seemingly agreeable points.
Unlike passive listeners, active listeners allow the speaker to finish before responding. They don’t just hear the words; they listen and observe to understand the context, enabling them to give considered responses.
Patience and empathy are other hallmarks of the active listening process.
Here is an example of a conversation that emphasises the active listening process:
Sophia: “I’m stressed. I had a big fight with my sister, and now we’re not on speaking terms. I’m upset and not sure what to do.”
Charlotte: “Oh I’m sorry to hear that. Tell me more, what happened?
Sophia: ‘Well, we argued about the preparations for my upcoming wedding. She thinks I’m nuts for choosing the florist I did.”
Charlotte: “That’s tough. You must feel angry that you’re not speaking because of it.”
Sophia: “Very angry. She assumed I’d go with her florist friend, but I didn’t like her work. This is my big day, and it’s like she doesn’t see my perspective at all.”
Charlotte: “That’s too bad. How did it make you feel?”
Sophia: “Frustrated, really frustrated. The wedding is soon, and I hope she can support me on this one. I don’t know how to get her on board.”
Charlotte: “Sounds pretty complicated. You should probably take a bit of time to think things through.”
Sophia: “Yes, definitely. Thanks for listening. With the stress I am under, I just really needed to vent and get that off my chest.”
In the above conversation, Charlotte has listened to Sophia and encourage her to tell her more about the situation.
She hasn’t dived in with an opinion, or a suggested solution, but has instead asked questions and asked open questions encouraging Sophia to say more.
Below are other examples statements and questions used with active listening:
● Verbal affirmation – “I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me.”
● Open-ended questions – “I understand you’re not happy with your new role here. What can we do to improve it?”
● Asking specific questions – “How many off-days did you take during the first quarter of this year?”
● Showing concern – “I know you’re going through some difficult challenges. I’m here to help.”
● Waiting to respond – “Tell me more about your proposal to cut our spending.”
● Establishing rapport – “Your resume was impressive. I was amazed by how you helped grow your employer’s revenue.”
● Relating similar situations – “I was in a similar situation when I lost my job during the early days of the pandemic.”
Winston Churchill – Former UK Prime Minister
He said: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Larry King – TV talk show host
He said: “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
Robert Baden-Powell, first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts Association
He said: “If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talking.”
Lets look at some ways to develop your active listening
1. Limit distractions.
Active listening has taken a hit in the increasingly connected world we live in. People try to split their attention between the speaker and their screens but that means they don’t concentrate properly.
Silence distractions and give the other person your undivided attention. Notice their posture, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues.
2. Let the silence roll.
Most passive listeners are uncomfortable with silent moments in conversations.
To become a better active listener, embrace these moments of silence. You don’t always have to comment or reply. Use breaks in the conversation to collect your thoughts, and also let the other person collect theirs.
3. Pay attention to what is being said, not your planned response.
Can you repeat the last statement that was made? Your goal should be to be able to repeat the last statement that was made at all times. That will keep your mind and full attention on the conversation.
4. Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
The majority of communication is non-verbal. Think about the impact that eye contact can make.
Even on the phone, you can learn a great deal about a person’s emotional state just from their tone of voice. Take time to notice any cues in conversation in the expression of the speaker’s eyes, their posture etc.
Remember that the words you hear convey only a fraction of the message.
5. Show that you’re listening.
Use gestures and body language to show that you’re listening and engaged in the conversation.
● Smile, frown, squint eyes and use other facial expressions.
● Adopt an open posture to show that you’re interested.
● Encourage the speaker to go on with any verbal comments like “uh-huh.”
● Nod occasionally
6. Paraphrase and provide feedback.
Try to understand the message without letting your assumptions or judgement cloud things by asking questions.
● “Sounds like you are saying…”
● “What I’m hearing is…”
● “What do you mean when you say…”
7. Defer judgement and advice.
Let the other person speak without interruptions.
Allow them to finish making their points before asking questions or interjecting. Also, don’t interrupt with counter ideas.
8. Encourage others to suggest ideas or solutions before giving yours.
Most people already have a workable solution in mind before they state their problem.
They often want a little space in the conversation to work through them though. Give them that opportunity. In any discussion, aim to do more listening (80%) and less talking (20%).
Active listening is an incredibly valuable skill. Whether you’re towards the start of the end of your career it will benefit you.
Give it a go in the next conversation you have. Try one of the active listening techniques above or just try to withhold judgement and draw the other person out, you’ll see the benefits immediately in how they react to you which will show you how much this can help.
Article Image Source: Pexels
Mental toughness is the ability to manage your thoughts, emotions and energy in difficult situations.
It means that you don’t suffer from overwhelming stress and anxiety when things don’t go your way.
Mental tough people are better able to deal with hardships and negative events because their mindset continues to be positive. They don’t worry about the future or start criticizing themselves.
History contains all sorts of examples of mentally tough people.
Grant was famously a failure before the US civil war. He had a history of multiple failures and drinking problems which led to him leaving the US Army.
However, when the civil war came he didn’t let that stop him from applying for the army, where he went from success to success ultimately becoming overall commander for the North.
Roger Federer lost in the first round of Wimbledon for three years in a row when he was starting out.
He didn’t let that stop him and went on to become one of the greatest players in tennis history, winning 20 grand slams including seven Wimbledon titles.
Resilience and mental toughness are slightly different, although they are often used interchangeably.
Being mentally tough is a large part of being resilient but not all of it, being resilient is a broader term.
Mental toughness is a specific personality trait. It refers to how you deal mentally with a setback. If you deal well with setbacks and pressure you are mentally tough, you don’t crumble.
Resilience is the general ability to withstand difficulties and keep going no matter how you do that.
Some people are very mentally tough. They don’t particularly need resilience strategies.
Other people may need to take some time off and manage their stress (because they’re less mentally tough) after a setback before they come back.
Both people are resilient, they keep going, but only one is mentally tough.
Being mentally tough means that you don’t feel as much stress and anxiety as someone less mentally tough when you’re in a difficult situation.
You have better control of your thoughts and emotions and so experience fewer negative effects.
This means that you need fewer strategies to manage your stress and mindset to make you resilient.
Mental toughness makes it far easier to be resilient but isn’t the whole story.
Mentally tough people take full responsibility for their lives and actions. They do not blame others to avoid and escape negative situations.
Mentally strong people don’t complain about their problems. They instead focus on finding solutions to their problems.
Taking responsibility for your failures helps you to grow and learn from them, thus increasing mental strength.
Mentally strong people are optimistic and don’t waste their time worrying about things that they can’t control.
They control their attitude towards the problem and try to focus on things that they can control, and ways that they can allow them to prosper.
By focusing on solutions rather than feeling sorry for themselves they give themselves a feeling of agency and control and keep moving forwards.
Mentally strong people have their own set of clear values. They know what is important to them and set their priorities accordingly.
Knowing what’s important in life and setting their priorities accordingly, helps them to deal with challenges and not giving up on important things.
Mentally strong people face their mistakes, examine them and find ways to correct and learn from them. They do not shy away from mistakes and problems.
Similarly, they are able to accept constructive criticism.
They understand that feedback is a part of the learning process, even if it is uncomfortable.
Mentally strong people learn from failures. They learn each time and don’t give up until they have succeeded.
Everyone is unique and has different skills and traits. Some people are naturally mentally tougher than others inevitably.
However, a variety of research has shown that approximately half of mental toughness is learned.
So everyone can learn strategies to build their mental toughness.
As we noted above you need to focus on the part that you can control if you want to be mentally tough!
Finding your purpose gives you a reason to persevere through hardships and keep going until you get the outcome you require.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Finding your purpose and working to achieve it will help you to keep pushing despite obstacles in your path to success, thus adding mental strength.
Build a strong and positive mindset. Be optimistic and look for the good in negative situations.
An easy way to stay positive is to create a mission statement that inspires you.
Make a mission statement and repeat it to yourself during challenges. This helps you to focus on the desired outcome and will increase your confidence to deal with temporary setbacks.
Create a clear mental image or movie of your desired outcome and visualize it periodically.
Visualizing the process and the desired outcome will increase your motivation and confidence and so help you face hardships.
You can’t make progress and expect to be mentally tougher while staying in your comfort zone.
Mental toughness is built with time by getting out of your comfort zone repeatedly
Get uncomfortable daily and increase your tolerance. Take cold showers, do one more rep at the gym, run an extra half mile.
Mental toughness is developed by keeping your attention on long-term goals and not getting distracted by temporary setbacks.
Don’t let short-term failures, negative feedback, or a busy schedule prevent you from taking the next step towards your goal.
Mental toughness is a skill that is required in all areas of life. Mental toughness increases your resilience as it means you suffer less from stress and anxiety when you face hardships and failure.
Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Being mentally tough means that problems will throw you off less.
Image Credit: Pexels
We’ve all had crazy weeks at work.
The key question is what happens at the weekend.
Do you look back tired but satisfied (impressed even?) with what you’ve achieved.
Or do you look back and just feel exhausted and dread that you have to do it all again next week?
Put very simply that is the difference between good stress and bad stress.
Good stress leads to improved performance and outcomes.
Bad stress less to poorer performance and can have a serious impact on your health.
In this article, we look at the difference between the two, what bad stress is and ways to deal with stress to make you more resilient.
Stress is described as a state of physical or emotional tension, usually in reaction to an impending challenge or threat.
It is the activation of the body’s fight or flight mechanism.
In the past, this would have been in response to a physical threat. In recent times, this has mostly been in response to perceived threats or challenges.
A perceived threat can be anything from a dispute with a colleague to worrying about future uncertainties. If you brain is ‘concerned’ then it will activate your flight or flight mechanism.
However, the key issue with stress is that the body can not differentiate between physical threats and psychological threats.
Its response to both is the same.
Stress increases your heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure in preparation for either fighting or running away from the threat.
At the same time, it slows down your digestion and deactivates your immune system. Both of these processes can wait until the threat has passed.
In the short-term stress can be highly beneficial. The physical changes it brings about increase your focus and energy.
However, the issues come when a system designed to be used occasionally for short-term threats is used continuously for longer-term threats.
To differentiate between the two types of stress we call them:
Stress is very common and ‘bad’ stress makes up most of it.
Different surveys get different results but most put chronic stress at over 50% of the working population.
According to a 2020 workplace stress survey, 79% of employed British adults saying they experience commonly experience work-related stress.
However, reading down only 10% of the respondents said that stress was positive. It either made them more productive or more engaged. On that basis, 69% of respondents didn’t feel that the stress they were suffering was positive.
The media isn’t exaggerating when they say there is an epidemic of stress.
It may sound like a silly question, but when you’re in the thick of things you may not readily notice.
Similarly, if you have been chronically stressed for a long time you may forget what it is like to not be stressed!
Common symptoms of stress over the short term cover a lot of ground!
However, the more concerning issue is that chronic stress is a major contributor to:
The big question is how do you benefit from short-term stress while avoiding long-term stress.
Resilience is the ability to “power through” difficult situations and come out the other side.
Many people assume that resilient people don’t feel stress. This is not the case.
A resilient person will feel stress when things don’t go their way, as others do.
However, the key difference is that they know how to manage their stress so that they can keep it under control.
So resilience is a characteristic that people show in the face of chronic stress. It allows them to manage their stress.
An example of this would be that many highly resilient people actually exercise more regularly when they are very busy at work.
They know that exercise is a powerful way to manage stress. When they get stressed they know that they need to make time for exercise to manage their stress.
Someone less resilient might skip exercising sleep poorly as a result and find that their performance was dipping and so stress increasing.
At heart, resilience is a combination of being self-aware enough to know that you are stressed and proactive enough to do something about it.
Everyone is different. You must figure out what works best for you.
There are a number of standard practices that are used to counter stress.
See this article for more details on managing stress.
If stress is the pain then resilience is the antidote.
Resilience is the trait of being able to manage your response to stressful situations so that you don’t get overwhelmed but manage to come through them.
Different people will manage their stress in different ways but all resilient people will have strategies that they use to help them through difficult times.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius
Resilience is the ability to bounce back, to rise again after falling or difficulties.
“It’s your ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns,” according to Amit Sood, MD, the executive director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being, creator of the Resilient Option program.
Being resilient does not mean avoiding difficulties but working through emotional pain and suffering without compromising your mental health.
Resilience is a skill. Resilience can be learned and developed. It isn’t something that you have or you don’t have, you develop resilience.
At work, we are faced with stress in too many forms.
Modern workplaces in recent times have been stressful places. Coronavirus has led to staff layoff, unreasonable and changing workloads, and endless organizational changes.
Resilience building will allow you to succeed despite the stress.
If resilience is what allows you to thrive despite stress then we need to start by defining stress.
Stress varies from person to person. It is the response to feeling threatened, or under pressure.
In small and moderate amounts stress can be a good thing but when it is excessive or present for extended periods it is harmful.
There are clear signs of stress that include the following:
• Mood changes
• Digestive problems
• Feeling anxious
• Physical aches and pains
• Difficulty sleeping
• Low energy
The WHO defines work-related stress as follows:
“Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.”
One of the most common triggers of stress at work is poor time management.
The more you are in control of your time and workload the less pressure you feel.
Feeling overwhelmed with work and unable to prioritize clearly is a major cause of stress cause.
While it isn’t the only solution good time management is a foundational skill for being resilient.
It allows you to get more done in less time and also to be confident that you are putting your energy into your most important tasks.
Another frequent cause of stress is being uncertain.
Where people lack problem-solving skills they find they get ‘stuck’ and this is very stressful.
Resilience people tend to be good at problem-solving.
They also tend to have good social support. This means they can find answers when they are stuck and also helps when bouncing back from a failure.
Your level of resilience depends on your behaviours and attitudes to stress and pressure.
Resilient people “bounce back” from stressful situations, but they are also able to succeed in the face of adversity.
The ability to move forward after a setback or stressful situation is one of the keys to success.
Everyone will find that different techniques work differently for them. It is a case of trying them out and figuring out what works best for you.
The techniques that people find most helpful are:
Let’s take a look at each in order.
Self-awareness means being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions.
It is the ability to predict your responses to stress and adversity and handle them. Self-awareness is essential to resilience. Resilient people are aware of their emotions and reactions and can control them in the face of diversity.
Mindfulness is the idea of learning how to be fully present, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment.
According to the definition coined by Kabat-Zinn, “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
By being mindful of what is happening now and separating it from how we feel, we can build resilience. Doing this allows you to understand and control your emotions (to an extent!) rather than be controlled by them.
Mindfulness can be developed in a number of different ways which include:
If you would like more details on mindfulness see this great article.
Positive relationships are all about support.
Having a strong support system is integral to being resilient.
“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others.” Dalai Lama XIV
Taking time to build effective relationships with others will make you more fulfilled, supported, connected, and so resilient.
You have to look after yourself if you are to deal effectively with what life throws at you. Healthy people are resilient people.
Self-care is simply the act of taking time to look after yourself. Many people spend more time maintaining their car than they do themselves with predictable consequences.
In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function under individual control, deliberate, and self-initiated.
At it’s simplest self-care can be very simple acts you practice daily, such as getting enough sleep time, eating healthy food, or exercising.
Knowing your purpose is knowing your why.
If your actions, and so the stress that they lead to, are all in service of a large, exciting goal then that makes the difficulties far easier to bear.
Without a why the stresses and strains become far more difficult.
So try to relate yours actions to a larger purpose. This could be faith, family, friends, saving the environment, or any else that is important to you.
Defining your purpose will make the inevitable ups and downs far easier to bear.
Resilient people are the same as everyone else they face stress every day and are affected by it.
The difference is that resilient people use coping strategies to manage stressful situations, face adversity, and improve their mental health.
They are aware of their triggers and know how to limit the effect they have on their mental health.
Their response to stress is what makes them resilient. They control their stress rather than the other way round.
In our recent set of posts looking at time management, we’ve looked at ‘big ideas’ like OHIO and pomodoro and procrastination. These are techniques that you can build a strong time management practice around.
You need to work with them, optimise them and then, most importantly, stick with them but they are foundational ideas.
In this post, we are going to look at some of the ‘smaller’ ideas to help with your time management.
Individually they will not have such an effect, but in aggregate they add up to a big improvement and they’re quick and simple to implement.
TURN THEM OFF!
Turn all of your notifications off. Whether it’s email, twitter, WhatsApp, or texts all your notifications need to be turned off permanently if you can.
If you can’t bring yourself to do that then reduce them as much as possible. Each time one goes off it distracts you and slows you down.
In an ideal world, people won’t look at or be able to hear their phones for most of the day. They would sit down to work and only pick up their phone at specific times.
I appreciate that this isn’t realistic but do think about and experiment with reducing your level of notifications, especially if you’re struggling with your time management.
For example, turning off email notifications. For many people this is difficult. They have colleagues that expect prompt responses and they don’t like to feel ‘unplugged’.
However, almost everyone is happy to wait at least an hour for a reply by definition. If it was important and urgent then they would have called.
So try changing the settings in Outlook so that your email only updates every hour. This is much less difficult for people but still gives them decent periods uninterrupted to work on projects. I know one person that actually uses this to schedule their work. The pings of their email updating are part of their time management as it helps them keep track of their time throughout the day.
2. Reflect And Experiment
Everyone works differently and everyone has different demands on them.
We have lots of tried and tested time management techniques to show you on our time management training day but the exact implementation of them will need to be personalised.
The best way to do this is to commit to a brief period of reflection every week. Put aside 15 minutes to think about the previous week. What went well and what poorly? Then look at the week to come.
If things are going well then recommit to your system and keep going. If things went badly think about a way that you could adjust things to try to improve.
At the end of the week again see how things have gone and keep going until you find that your weeks are generally going well.
Committing to a period of experimentation is the best way to optimise your time management.
Although this is a further burden for someone that is overstretched (and if you’re thinking about time management the odds are high that you’re feeling stretched!) it is a sure way to improve.
If you want to make a change then you’re going to have to invest in it to make it work, and done properly a 15 minute period of reflection and planning should save you more than 15 minutes over a working week.
Ideally, you would start with a full time audit but if that feels overwhelming don’t worry, the most important things are that 1) you get started and 2) that you stick to the system that you have committed to for long enough to have a real impact.
3. Improve Your Confidence
Time management and confidence are very closely linked. Many people think that good time management is actually driven by good self-esteem and confidence and that poor time management is a symptom of low self-esteem.
If you are confident you believe that good things will happen (on average!) and so are enthusiastic about driving things forward and don’t worry unduly. You are happy delegating and will stand up for yourself appropriately.
So one fix for your time management that is well worth trying is building your confidence and self-esteem. After all, even if it doesn’t help with your time management you’ll feel better!
Body language is a really quick fix here. Although some of the research is controversial, there is a body of evidence that shows that your brain actually follows your body’s lead when trying to figure out how you feel.
It’s as if your brain isn’t sure what to tell you when you wonder how you’re feeling at any given moment. So when asked that question it then pings your body to try and find out.
If you are smiling, your body is open and you’re speaking slowly, for example, then your brain would take all of those things as signs that you are relaxed and happy. It would then tell your conscious brain that you are relaxed and happy.
So if you accept that this is how the process works then it’s relatively easy to fix.
Make a conscious effort to smile more, speak slowly and adopt positive body language and you will start to feel more confident.
One intriguing experiment relating to this was done with Russian weightlifters. A coach noticed that when weightlifters lifted a weight repeatedly to exhaustion they inevitably started to grimace just before they reached exhaustion. He then got them to start consciously smiling when they reached the point at which they would usually grimace.
When they did this they were able to do two or three more repetitions than they have been able to previously. It was as if the grimace was sending a message to the brain saying, “This is really difficult you’ve reached your limit and should stop” and by smiling that process was delayed.
Hopefully, these smaller tips will help you build on and improve your time management. Good time management is a practice rather than a ‘one and done’ type exercise so we would encourage you to keep experimenting and trying out new things.