How to be a good communicator at work

Top Things to Remember about Being a Good Communicator at Work

  1. Be a good listener. Make the effort to listen to your boss, your teammates, and your customers.  Don’t be the person who over-chats to the extent that your fellow team members begin to avoid you.
  2. Be positive. Minimize the negatives. Play up the positives.  Make sure your tone and body language match that positivity.
  3. Encourage new team members. Be welcoming.  Help the new person fit in.
  4. Give others a heads up. Tell other employees what you know.  You may know something about the work that they don’t.
  5. Be a friend. Be friendly but stay professional.
  6. Have a sense of humor. It is good to have a sense of humor just make sure your humor is not hurtful and is not aimed at another person.

“THINK before you speak.

T – is it true, H – is it helpful, I – is it inspiring, N – is it necessary, and K – is it kind?”

– Author Unknown


Top Ten Team Member Qualities

“What are the top qualities or attributes you would look for in a good employee, (whether it is someone who would work for you or as a peer)?”  During a personal survey asking this question, here is what I discovered:

  1. Dependable, reliable – you can be depended upon, you do what you say you are going to do.
  2. Honest, integrity – you tell the truth even when you have made a misstep, you are trustworthy.
  3. Hard-working – you put in your best effort.
  4. Gets along with customers and co-workers – you are pleasant and harmonious in your interactions with others.
  5. Takes initiative – when you see something that needs to be done, you do it.
  6. Willingness to learn, motivated to learn – you learn something new every day.
  7. Personable – you are sociable, but professional.
  8. Knowledgeable, educated – you know your stuff.
  9. Desire to please – you want to satisfy your boss and your customers.
  10. Straightforward – your communication is clear, honest, and easy to understand.

As I continued to ask the same question, the list did not get any longer.


Career – a job or profession someone does for a long time

The operative word in the definition of career is “long”.   You need to find, if you have not already, the work you want to do for a long time.  I know very few people who choose their career from the start.  One of the funny lines about careers – “The reason adults ask young children what they want to be when they grow up is because they are looking for hints”.

Typically careers take a meandering path.  Recently at the pool, our older grandson told a perfect stranger that he wanted to live on a ranch out west, design video games, and teach fencing when he is an adult.  The younger grandson, not to be outdone, said “I want to be a sushi restaurant owner.”  We shall see what the future holds.

You may know someone who got their degree in one thing but the opportunities took them somewhere else.  We would hope that ‘somewhere else’ sparked something in them and that they enjoy what they do.

You know your job is well-suited if:

  1. Everything comes naturally.  In other words, you know what to do next in differing situations but you don’t know why you know.  It just flows out of you.
  2. You receive consistently positive feedback.  The things you do and the results you achieve receive high praise.
  3. You find co-workers you are in-sync with.  This is the opposite of feeling odd-man-out.  Being in-sync with those you work with and your work environment is especially gratifying.  You know you are in the right place at the right time with the right people.
  4. You are passionate about what you are doing.  You are having fun because you know the work you are doing matters.  Every positive impact you have on others brings you great joy.
  5. Pay is not the most important thing.  Because you are being allowed to use the competencies and skills that energize you; the money is secondary.
  6. You can be you.  You don’t have to pretend.  It feels good because who you really are can shine through.

One story…

Kay was in the television industry.  She worked her way up to managing a t.v. station, putting in long hours and great effort to make it a success.  She was a high-achiever.  The people she was working with loved her.  But… something was missing.  After great angst, she left the industry and moved to Chile for a couple of years teaching English as a second language at an elementary school.  She discovered she loved working with children and loved teaching.  That is what was missing for her.  She completed her Masters in Education (previous degree had been in communications) while working at a predominantly-Spanish-speaking elementary school in Boston.  When she graduated, she accepted a teacher position in a 2nd grade classroom in a small town outside of Boston. Her career and path to true success was launched!  She has been happily teaching full-time for five years.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.  Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

“It is highly impossible for you to be successful at what you don’t love.  Do what you love and love what you do.” –  Israelmore Ayiyor

It’s a Rainy Day…

Rainy days create a change in the normal schedule.  You can get things done that may have been on your to do list for a long day.  Business is a little slower, staying inside is the tune of the day, and time weighs on you in such a way that you may even be able to contemplate a bit.


Rainy days should be celebrated.  That is a difficult thing for me to say.  Sunny days create an energy in me.  I need to learn to accept the gift of a rainy day, too. 

We have a friend who loves, loves, loves the rain.  On rainy days,  he intentionally takes a walk outside…a long walk.  I often wondered what was the appeal.  But, if you do it yourself, you will understand.  Maybe not in the rain AND wind but a soaking rain.  Put on a good raincoat and enjoy it.  It has its own beauty.

If you need to work, go ahead, get it done.  Make a to do list of tasks you can be productive in on a rainy day.  Keep the list on your desktop or laptop as your rainy-day list. Your list might include:


 -Get organized

-Catch up on emails

-Write a letter (yes, a letter)

– Talk to someone on the phone

-Read a leadership book or article

-Make repairs around the house or in life

-Start working on a long-term project that you can work on during other rainy days

-Take a step back for the day and reflect

These are all things you can accomplish on a rainy day. Maybe at the end of the day, you’ll see a rainbow.

“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day,

give thanks for your blessings, and pray for guidance every day.”

– John Wooden


Leadership Skill: Encouragement

“The secret of leadership is simple.  Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future and go there.  People will follow.

                                                                                                         – Seth Godin

Encourage: give support, confidence, or hope to (someone), give support and advice to (someone) so that they will do or continue to do something, help or stimulate (an activity, state, or view) to develop

To encourage is to give active help or to raise confidence to the point where one dares to do what is difficult.

To hearten is to put one’s heart into or to renew someone’s spirit.

To inspire is to infuse with confidence, resolution, or enthusiasm.

To foster is to encourage by nurturing or extending aid.


 I have recently heard managers use words that make me cringe when referring to corrective action with employees, words such as:

  • punishment
  • discipline
  • write-up
  • reprimand

As a leader, you will not get very far with taking employees to the next level of performance with this mindset.  If employees use these terms, so be it, they do not know any better.  But… make every effort to expunge such words from your culture.

Instead, corrective action should be simply a means of communicating an area that a team member needs to improve.  Substitute these words:

  • performance improvement
  • redirection
  • positive reinforcement
  • coaching points

Corrective action is not punishment or discipline.  Corrective action is communication and encouragement about performance improvement.  You need to be clearly on the employee’s side until it is obvious that they can’t or won’t meet the required expectations.


Tips for encouraging others:

  1. Thank those who help you along the way. Give compliments when warranted.  Say, “We couldn’t have done it without you.”


  1. Be friendly, but professional.  Be a good listener.  Be matter of fact when giving redirection.  Say, “It may be best for you to work with Tim a little longer.  Pay attention to the order he does things.  What do you think?”


  1. Observe when someone does something (anything) particularly well, especially when it seems natural to them.  Let them know you noticed.  Build on the positives.  Say, “I observed you today when you re-organized the way you were doing things.  That is exactly what we are looking for.”


  1. Set the Tone. Distinguish yourself as a positive, “can do” leader.  Say “I am certain you can conquer the challenge.”


  1. Jump In. Take the initiative to help someone who is needs redirection or is overwhelmed. Ask, “How can I help?”



“There is a maxim that is indisputable: people may not remember what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.  You must give people your emotional commitment to enlist them in the results you want to achieve.” 

– Loretta Malandro, PhD


Words in the Workplace: Curiosity

Those who know me well, know that I am fascinated by words.  Thus, I have decided to refocus my blog on words that impact the workplace.  Let’s start with one of my favorite words – Curiosity.


  • A desire to gratify the senses with a sight of what is new or unusual.
  • Gratifying the mind with new discoveries.
  • A desire to learn about new things; inquisitiveness.
  • Anything novel, extraordinary, rare, or strange.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

–  Walt Disney

In a work environment, if you are curious, if you are inquisitive, you will more than likely be successful as a professional and as a leader.  Being curious about people, processes, better ways, how others are doing what you are doing, etc. will bode you well.

I worked for a surgeon at one point in my career.  Every day, he was trying to discover new ways to make what he was doing less invasive, more comfortable for the patient, more effective, and requiring less healing time.  He was the guy you wanted on your side if you had to have the type of surgery in which he specialized.

When I am in a customer service retail setting where I am the customer, I am observing the many ways the company could improve service.  Is the company as curious as I am about why one line is moving and the other is not, why one customer is smiling and another is not, why customers are having to walk around obstructions in the aisles or check out areas, etc.  Are they observing anything?  Are they curious about what is happening right in front of their eyes?

Encourage your team members to be curious.

  • Bring employees together in one place at one time to hear the same message about curiosity.  Ask them to look at what they are doing individually and as a team with new eyes.
  • Tap an individual employee and ask his/her viewpoint about a specific process.  The newest employee will have the freshest outlook.  The longest-term employee may be able to tell you what is most frustrating to him/her.
  • Send reminders to employees that you want their input, fresh ideas, and suggestions.

Curiosity spurs new discoveries and employee engagement.  I am still curious; I am still learning and hope you are.


Sanguineness is in… The importance of wise, effective, and confident leadership

Have you ever worked in an environment where the leaders you encountered were not wise or effective?  In such a culture, you are constantly questioning why you are here and what you should be doing.  Conversely in a work arena in which wise and effective leaders abound, you know exactly why you are there and what you should be doing.  In addition, you even know how performing a task in a specific way helps the organization achieve its goals.

Wise leaders have several important characteristics. They are:

  • Willing to go the extra mile for you, the customer, and the organization.
  • Interested in others as much or more than themselves.
  • Curious about who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to challenge you in using your strengths.
  • Savvy in interacting with others internally and externally to get the support and resources to get the job done.
  • Effective in accomplishing the high impact priorities.  They don’t allow the unimportant tasks to distract them from making a difference.

When I have worked for wise leaders, I believed they were interested in my ideas, my contributions, and my team. Measuring time, counting tasks, and making themselves look good were not important.  They were unselfish and well-tuned to their own values and those of the organization.   Examples of things that wise leaders do.

  • Demonstrate good judgment by getting the facts and others’ input before making decisions.
  • Show proper respect for others by being courteous and considerate.  They understand the importance of representing what the organization stands for – internally and externally.
  • Act as the harmonious leader to bring all the parts together in a sagacious way, while still holding others accountable.
  • Use their mental agility to be aware of potential problems and act prudently when problems do occur
  • Keep confidences.  They are discreet in their dealings with others.
  • Keep themselves Informed about internal and external news that may impact the organization.
  • Keep an open mind.  They are like the Dalai Lama – enlightened.
  • Stay on their toes about their field of knowledge, ensuring they don’t become irrelevant.  They remain equipped and ready for whatever comes.
  • Nimble and dexterous in moving from task to task, person to person, team to team.
  • Act judiciously when there is conflict.  Their ethics are never in question.
  • Exercise a sensitive sense of humor.  They don’t take themselves too seriously.

Quotes from the Dalai Lama:

“To carry out a positive action, we must develop a positive vision.”

“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.”

“Too much self-centered attitude brings isolation.  Result:  loneliness, fear, anger.   The extreme self-centered attitude brings suffering.”

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”.

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”


Mindfulness: Mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment.

As we begin 2017 and continue our saga together, it is a good time to think about mindfulness.  Mindful people and leaders are focused, kind, and authentic but not complacent or soft, even tough when they need to be.  Their passion can be fierce.  They will hold you accountable for commitments and will not avoid difficult conversations.  They will encourage you to stretch beyond your capacity.  These seem like excellent behaviors to model.

Research reveals that mindful individuals, those focused on the present moment and the present task at hand, have greater attention control, self-awareness, and emotional regulation, and get better results.

Here are few things you need to know about how to become more mindful, in the moment:

  • Learn how to be present.   Breath slowly and deeply.  Key in on what you are observing, noticing details that you would not have otherwise noticed.  Listen closely.  Engage all your senses.  It sounds cheesy but it works.  Mindfulness is the opposite of absentmindedness or automatic responses.
  • When you face a challenge or crisis, choose responsibility, compassion, and generosity. Inspire others to become better people by setting the example. Be 100% accountable for what happens next. Be that co-worker, friend, or leader who is calm and resourceful during the storm.
  • Be open to feedback.  Be fully aware as you take actions that are outside the values you have established for yourself.  Accept feedback with grace and humility rather than reactivity.
  • Recognize that you are tuned-in, connected, and engaged.  Every word you speak, every action you take has a tangible impact on everyone else.  You make a difference – good or bad – in your world.
  • Adopt a beginner’s mind rather than an expert’s mind.  Look at everything with fresh eyes, as if you had not seen what is going on around you before.   A beginner’s mind makes us more intelligent, not less.  We still take our knowledge with us.  A beginner’s mind keeps us from falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Empower others to shine.  A good co-worker and leader empowers his/her team members to shine, rather than taking credit for all that is done.  Affirm others by letting them know they are appreciated, capable enough, and worthy.  Truly see the good skills, behaviors, and compassion in others.  Help them become their best selves.

This is a great time of the year to practice mindfulness.  Examples of mindfulness:

For yourself:

  • As you drink a cup of hot chocolate, feel the warmth of the mug, taste the richness of the flavors, think about how it makes you feel.
  • As you observe someone you know in a concert, play, or recital, look at the faces, engage in the experience, and smile at those you are enjoying it with.
  • Whether you have young children or not, go to the park or the mall and observe.
  • When you are outdoors, look at the sky, feel the breeze, and watch the birds.

For those at home:

  • Look at their eyes when they are sharing an experience.  Hear what they are saying.  Try not to think about your response, simply engage in what they are saying.
  • Be there when they want to talk.

For those at work – employees or customers:

  • Look at the person when they are talking; listen, observe.  Hold back on responding for just a moment.
  • Recognize each person as a unique human being.

In summary, take each moment as a mindful, focused, in-the-moment individual and use it to persevere in moving forward.

Reference: “The Mindful Leader: 7 practices for transforming your leadership, your organization, and your life” by Michael Bunting

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.”

– Zig Ziglar

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. – Socrates

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches 

but to reveal to him his own. – Benjamin Disraeli


Have you been walking, riding in your car, or riding your bike and spot ONE blue reflector in a very random spot on the road or in a parking lot?  When I saw one recently, I thought about randomness and how it impacts the workplace, especially if you are in a leadership role.

  1. You may hire a great new employee because at that moment, they walked in the door, you got that referral, or they clicked on your job ad. The right person at the right time for the right job could just be because of a random event.
  2. The weather changes constantly. It impacts attitudes, outlooks, and moods.  It impacts business – negatively and positively.
  3. Events occur that bring people (customers) to you or take people away from you – vacation times, travel times, construction, local events, traffic pattern changes. These events may only impact you directly or indirectly, e.g. a decision-maker you need to reach is temporarily unavailable.
  4. Events in employees’ lives impact how they focus on work or not. It impacts whether they are emotionally stable and engaged in the work they are doing.  Major life events are a huge distraction to productivity.
  5. And of course, there are many other examples of random ups and downs that impact you as a leader.

Here are some things you can do to better cope with the unexpected:

  1. Be flexible. Bend without breaking.  Modify your approach when circumstances change.
  2. Minimize your negative reactions. Quick reactions may be good if they are positive reactions that help you effectively cope with the situation.  Laughter is good medicine in the face of chaos.
  3. Check in to your moods. If you are impacted by a lack of sunlight, do something to energize yourself – walk around, engage in conversation, go outside (with an umbrella if necessary), drink coffee, change what you are doing more frequently.
  4. Plan for the down times. When you and your team are less busy, have a to-do list ready.  There are always things you have put on the back burner than need your attention.

Randomness, ups and downs, and chaos will always be a part of life.  Despite this unpredictableness, you need to remain positive and to keep moving forward.

“Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature.” – Eric Hoffer


Planning….what can I say?  If you don’t plan, nothing happens right.  If you don’t follow through on your plan, nothing happens.

Keep in mind these simple guidelines.

  • Determine where you want to go.  What is your vision?  Why is it important?
  • Decide who you want to take with you.  Remember, you can’t achieve success alone.  Which individuals or teams are important to your success?   How is it best to involve them?
  • Choose how you can best get there.  How do you redirect the organization through communication and actions?  How do you send the most impactful and clear message?
  • Anticipate obstacles.  What could go wrong?  How can you best recognize and respond to things that go wrong?
  • Agree upon the initiatives that will help you achieve great results.  Be as specific as possible.  Don’t use vague language or timeframes. What are the first priorities?  Who are the champions and the implementers?  What skills need to be honed during the journey?  Are there ways to test changes you want to make, e.g. in one location or one department before you expand to the entire organization?
  • Check in throughout the process. How are you doing?  Who needs to be recognized and who needs to be redirected?
  • Document and celebrate your results.  What is the best way to complete the communication loop?  How can you best celebrate milestones?
  • Repeat.  What is the right amount of time that needs to be allowed before you start over again?  What changes do you need to make in the process?

Sounds simple enough but it requires creativity and diligence.  Don’t drop the ball. Ask key players to help you stay on track.  Planning and implementation go hand in hand.  Make it happen together!

“Productivity is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein