Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How to Make Office Politics Work for You

It's a political year and I'm starting to believe that office politics should be a job that Mike Rowe explores on his Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs. One of my clients recently told me of a doozy! After a recent acquisition by my client's company, the newly acquired company planned a sales meeting. The President and other "top people" stayed in the Grand Hyatt Resort while everyone else was booked in a budget hotel a few miles away! Imagine the politics with lobbying to stay in the nicer hotel that took place prior to the meeting.

Even though office politics get a bad rap, they can actually be a good thing. "Political moves are the navigation through your career - not the driver," says Susan DePhillips, former V.P. of Human Resources for Ross Stores.

To be in the Smart Zone you must use Emotional Intelligence to know how to work within the politics of your environment. Here are some Smart Moves for how to make office politics work for you.

  • Start with Relationships. To accomplish your goals you'll need the respect and support of others - both above and below you on the corporate ladder. People change departments and your marketing buddy could move over to the finance department next week and have control over your budget. Support staff often have a special "in" with the boss and know best times and ways to approach the boss. Treat support staff like a good customer - by getting them information they need in a timely manner. It will pay off in the long run.

  • Motivate, Don't Bribe. I recently conducted a workshop where an audience member asked me the difference between motivating someone and a bribe. A bribe is when you receive something in return for your actions such as, "If you book me at the luxury hotel, I won't tell the boss when you leave work early on Friday." Motivating someone looks like this, "I'll book you in the luxury hotel because you deserve to stay somewhere nice." Motivating someone else will keep both of you in your Smart Zone.

  • Don't Use Knowledge as a Weapon. Have you ever worked with someone who set you up to look bad because they had information you didn't have? Have you ever walked into a meeting and felt confused about the discussion? (Just for fun, watch this humorous example). If you have information that will help your boss, subordinates, coworkers, or clients then share it with them. You will gain trust and loyalty from others.

  • Keep up with Gossip. Office gossip is the fastest ticket into office politics and, let's face it, it's a great diversion from the workday routine. Keeping up with office gossip will help you stay informed about tensions and upcoming changes and can help you balance life and work. It's okay to listen to the gossip - but just don't spread it. Chances are, if someone is gossiping with you, they will some day gossip about you.

  • Practice Now. According to University of Pennsylvania Professor John Eldred, politics is a practice that takes networking skills. "You can't wait until you are in a bind to start building networks," he says. Office politics is about building relationships and getting results at the same time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Go Where You Feel Most Like Yourself

This weekend I went away for a girls weekend. Oh, don't get too excited. We don't go to Las Vegas, California, skiing, or even to a spa. We really like each other's company so where we go doesn't matter. Well, it does matter because it is where we go every year.

We go to a place that use to be a hunting lodge. It is now a scrapbook retreat called Big Rock Ranch in East Texas. So now you know I am a scrapbooker. It makes sense. I am sentimental, I like to use different parts of my brain, and it is an easy activity to be productive, enjoy bountiful conversation, and it affords itself to a few snacks, great meals, and some wine between the 6 of us. This is the weekend that I put my business off the radar (there is no signal for Internet), my kids are with my husband (for more than a few make up soccer games), and we get lost not knowing what time it is (watches are really not important). While I always have 50 reasons why I shouldn't go, I have 52 reasons why I am always glad I went.

In my second book, Working in the Smart Zone, there is a quote at the beginning of one of the chapters. It reads "Go where you feel most like yourself". This is a line from a movie that we watched last year on this "Survivor Big Rock" weekend. We rewound the movie more than a few times as the words resonated with each of us. My closest friend in world, Camile, is a landscape architect in business for herself. Our friend Cheryl is a bookkeeper in business for herself. We heard those words and we all stopped in our tracks." Go where you feel most like yourself" is such a powerful message. That is why we protect our Big Rock weekend each year. Together we laugh. We relax. We get silly and we get deep. We catch up on things from the year and we share stories about the pictures that we are putting in our scrapbooks. I know where I feel most like myself. Do you?

If you walk around most days wondering just who you really are, go where you feel most like yourself. It can be with high school friends, fishing with your kids, at a Mavericks basketball game, or simply out to dinner with your spouse. Protect the times that you feel most like yourself. Do it often. Do it right. That will keep you in the Smart Zone.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How to Find a Good Psychologist or Psychiatrist

We are asked a lot for the name of a good psychologist or psychiatrist by people who live outside of our community. While I know people in my profession who have private practices, I don't know one in every major city in the United States. Just this week, I was asked the question again and it occurred to me, that a lot of people would benefit from knowing how to choose. I have a simple strategy that can help you, or someone you care about, avoid wasting time and money on a psychologist or psychiatrist who is not going to be effective.

To review the difference, a psychologist provides therapy and a psychiatrist typically evaluates for medication. It is expected that psychologists and psychiatrists consult with each other to give a team approach for treatment.

First, I do have a bias. I believe anyone wanting a medication evaluation for depression, AD/HD, anxiety, or other difficulties that interfere with their daily living should see a psychiatrist rather than their family physician for a medication evaluation. I do believe there are family physicians who do seek out specialized training and knowledge to be able to prescribe antidepressants or stimulants but they are few. To be on the safe side, go see a psychiatrist for a medication evaluation, especially for a new diagnosis. He or she is the specialist and you deserve to have a professional with the appropriate specialty do the evaluation for difficulties related to mood and attention.

So here is the simple strategy. It is really important to find someone that you trust, whether it is a psychologist (for therapy) or a psychiatrist (for a medication evaluation). One of the best ways is to call a regular MD's office of a person that has a great reputation in his community and just ask the person who answers the phone who their office refers to for psychologists and/or psychiatrists, depending on what you need. Call about 5-6 doctors offices that are respected in your community and ask that question. You don't even have to give your name or say if you are a patient of their office. One psychologist or psychiatrist's name will continue to come up. That is who you should go to.

We know about this strategy because that is how a lot of people get to our office. they have told us that they have gotten our name from their family physician, their OB/GYN, possibly their child's school or from a pediatrician. You know the person is good if the “good people” in the community refer to him or her. They wouldn’t want to risk their own reputation so they refer to the person that they consider the best.

Click here for my handout on Ways to Find a Psychologist Oustide of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

We hope this helps those of you who know you would benefit from seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist but didn't know where to start. Now you do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

People in the Smart Zone Make it Happen

Last night my husband and I went to a Birthday Party for our friend Wendy Kula. Wendy and her associates are the ones who master our public relations for the clinical practice and for Smart Zone Solutions. They make us look good and have positioned us as experts in print and television media. I have worked with Wendy for almost 8 years. Last night was an opportunity to celebrate Wendy. Meeting more of her associates and neighbors and hearing the stories about her 99 year old cat made us laugh. We enjoyed the banter about someone we admire and enjoy.

How many of us let opportunities for celebrations pass us by? Sure birthdays and anniversary are milestones worth celebrating. But what about business accomplishments, personal milestones or even an expression of thanks? I watch so many top performers meet goals and accomplish something worth celebrating but being high achievers, they tend to just move on to what needs to be accomplished next.

In the next week, organize an event to give thanks to people who support you, look for something to celebrate, and put the event on your calendar. Make it happen. Stop and get out of your head and be deliberate about telling people you appreciate them, celebrate life, and stop moving so fast that you miss the opportunity to pause with people you enjoy.

We enjoyed last night Wendy. We loved meeting people who love you and care about you. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Working in the Smart Zone with People of Different Cultures

Recently I was speaking to an organization which has a global workforce and a focus on diversity. An audience member pointed out to me that one of my presentation points might be different for people from Eastern cultures.

He was referring to my topic of establishing trust by "talking straight;" that is, telling people the truth in 15 seconds or less. He agreed that Eastern cultures strongly value honesty and truthfulness and that they will feel more comfortable if rapport is established first.

Talking straight as defined in Stephen M.R. Covey's book The Speed of Trust means "honesty in action by telling the truth and leaving the right impression." The opposite being to lie or deceive. We all know people who don't talk straight. We may say they are beating around the bush, double-talking, withholding information, using flattery or putting a "spin" on the situation.

It is possible for talking straight to get you out of your Smart Zone. Cruel or brutal communication used in the name of honesty (a la Simon Cowell on American Idol) is never effective in business. Keep the following Smart Moves in mind when working with people of different cultural backgrounds:

  • Dealing with Conflict. In the U.S. we deal with conflict head on and work through differences as they arise. We may raise our voice, yell, and even stoke the fire during the discussion all in the name of "airing it out." But in many Eastern countries conflict is often seen as embarrassing or demeaning and differences are worked out quietly - or even in writing. Losing one's temper will destroy trust and respect in Eastern countries.
  • Making Decisions. In the U.S. we tend to delegate decision-making authority. But in many European and Latin American cultures there is additional status with being able to make decisions oneself. Also, in the U.S. majority rules when making decisions, but in Japan the focus is put on attaining a consensus (click here for more on this subject).
  • Reading other People. In this month's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology a study of Americans and Japanese revealed that in a group of people Americans read emotions of each individual person within the group. Japanese tend to focus more on the emotions of the whole group. Japanese are more sensitive to the social context of a situation. Keep this in mind when working in a group because a Japanese team member could react negatively to being singled out.
  • The Handshake. In the U.S. a firm, 2-3 second handshake is respectful whereas a limp handshake is a sign of weakness. But in many countries a firm handshake is offensive. Click here for an explanation of handshakes by culture. Keep this in mind when working with people of different cultures and don't force the strong U.S. handshake on someone to show domination.
  • Watch your Body Language. In the Middle East, India specifically, agreement is shown by shaking one's head side to side - whereas in the U.S. this signifies disagreement. Public yawning is not acceptable in most Latin American countries - turn your head and cover your mouth if you feel a yawn coming on. In France someone who smiles too much is considered condescending or stupid - so wipe the smile off your face. (Watch a brief interview on this subject).

To stay in the Smart Zone, don't assume there is only one way to communicate (yours!). Listen and try to put yourself in other's shoes. Cultural diversity brings broader experiences that can give your organization a critical competitive advantage.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Go Get SUCCESS Magazine on Newstands

In our clinical practice and when I am speaking at conferences, we deal mostly with High Achievers. These are the people on the cutting edge in their industry, wanting to make their lives better and who are willing to do the things other people are unwilling to do to be successful. We help High Achievers stay in their Smart Zone.

There is a new publication you have to go and get. It is called SUCCESS Magazine and it is full of the kind of information that High Achievers want to know. It showed up on your newsstand on March 4th. Go get it!

It came to our attention because I was asked to contribute to this first issue (click here to read my contribution and see my picture on page 37). When I got my advanced copy, I was so impressed with the content that I have been telling everyone to add it to their reading list.

Let us know what you think of it. Come to think of it, let us know what you got out of it and how you have applied it to increase your own success. While you are going to find that it is a valuable resource for you, your business, your life, and your success, the real difference comes when you behavior yourself into using the information like you behave yourself to be in your Smart Zone. We look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Why deals are lost

This week, I presented at a conference in San Antonio for a national company. The sales people are consultants who work independently. Each consultant is basically acting as his or her own boss. During the presentation, as I talked about the Smart Zone, we discussed that people tend to leave bosses, not companies.

One of the sales people believed that my comments were not relevant to their sales force. He talked to me as I finished up selling all the inventory of books we had available at the event. "We don't have a boss. We are independent so your comments don't really apply to us." In a way, he is right if you believe the comment is only about the boss-employee relationship. While I value the feedback, I also disagree with the limitations of his interpretation.

How many of you have stopped shopping at a store because of the sales person? How many of us tell a negative story about a poor sales experience? Possibly ALL of us. We stop doing business with companies because of the person representing the company, not because of the company.

While this may seem obvious, the other side of the argument is we stay with companies because of the relationship more times than not. If you have heard me speak, you know about Jennifer at SuperTarget. She created an experience that made me a better customer with Target.

Whether you are in sales or you any other business, ask yourself, "Do people want to do business with me?" Even if your services cost more, if you create a good experience, people will continue to do business with you.

So thanks for the feedback this week in San Antonio. Next time, I will be sure to make the point a little clearer.