Soft Skills

Being Effective at Work

Essential Traits and Skills

Do you consider yourself to be effective at work?

Although many of us like to think that we’re 100 percent effective, the truth is that most of us have strengths and weaknesses that impact our effectiveness. Many of us could benefit from tweaking at least a few of our skills, in order to become even more effective.

For instance, perhaps you’ve always excelled at time management. But how much time do you put into learning new skills, or staying on top of industry trends?

Or, maybe you’re adept at managing the considerable demands you face day-to-day. But, when things get really hectic, your communication skills start to suffer as stress levels begin to rise.

Being truly effective at work can pay off now and throughout our careers. Effective workers get exciting projects, win important clients, and are well respected by their colleagues and bosses.

But how can you become more effective, and make sure that you don’t miss out on these great opportunities? And what should you focus on?

This is what we’ll be exploring in this article. We’ll look at the skills you can develop in order to become more effective at work, and we’ll review strategies and resources that you can use to increase your effectiveness.

Step 1: Identify Priorities

If someone asked you what your job was truly about, would you have a good answer?

One of the most crucial steps in becoming fully effective is to know your purpose at work. After all, if you don’t know what your job is there to achieve, how can you set appropriate priorities? (If you don’t set priorities, you’ll be forever buried under a mountain of work, unable to tell the difference between what’s important, and what isn’t.)

To identify your job’s true purpose and define what you need to achieve in your current position, perform a job analysis. This will help you uncover your most important objectives, so that you can start prioritizing tasks effectively.

Step 2: Adopt a Good Attitude

Effective workers have a “good attitude.” But what does this really mean?

People with a good attitude take the initiative whenever they can. They willingly help a colleague in need, they pick up the slack when someone is off sick, and they make sure that their work is done to the highest standards. “Good enough” is never quite good enough for them!

A good attitude at work will do more than just earn you respect: setting standards for your work and your behavior means that you’re taking responsibility for yourself. This admirable trait is hard to find in many organizations. But demonstrating ethical decision-making and integrity could open many doors for you in the future.

So, focus on adopting a good attitude at work, and make decisions that intuitively “ring true.” At the very least, you’ll sleep easier at night!

Step 3: Build Essential Skills

Chances are that you have a lot of competing demands on your time. One of the best ways of becoming more effective at work is to learn how to manage your time more efficiently. Other key areas include learning how to manage stress, improving your communication skills, and taking action on career development. All of these can have a major impact on your effectiveness at work.

Let’s look at each skill in greater detail.

Time Management/Productivity

Probably the most crucial thing that you can do to become more effective at work is to learn how to manage your time. Without this skill, your days will feel like a frantic race, with every project, email, and phone call competing for your attention.

Start by looking at your daily schedule. Do you know how you spend your time every day? If not, the answer might surprise you! Use an Activity Log to analyze how much time you’re devoting to your various tasks, like meetings, checking email, and making phone calls. It can be an eye-opening experience to look at this objectively, especially if you discover that you’re spending lots of time on tasks that don’t help you meet your objectives.

Once you know how much time you’re devoting to different tasks, you need to learn how to prioritize them. If you know which jobs are important, and which can be rescheduled or delegated, you’ll be able to focus on the work that brings the most value. To keep track of it all, use an organizing tool like a To-Do List or (better still) an Action Program, to make sure you don’t forget vital tasks and commitments.

Being effective at work means you use time to your advantage. Schedule your highest value work for the times of day when you’re feeling the most energetic. This increases the likelihood that you’ll resist distractions and enter a state of flow when working. Our article, Is This a Morning Task?, helps you identify your peak energy time, so that you can schedule work accordingly; and our Are you a Procrastinator? self-test will help you deal with a serious, effectiveness-killing habit.

Goal setting is another important element in working productively. Once you’ve done a Job Analysis (see step 1), you should have a clear sense of what your role is all about. Use this information to set short and long-term goals. The advantage of doing this is that your goals act as a roadmap – after all, you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going!

Good organization is also important for working effectively and productively. If you’re disorganized, you can waste a huge amount of time just looking for lost items. So learn how to file properly, and find out how to create an effective schedule.

Communication Skills

Think about just how often we communicate every day. We make phone calls, attend meetings, write email, give presentations, talk to customers, and so on. We can seem to spend all day communicating with the people around us. This is why good communication skills are essential, especially when your goal is to work more effectively.

Start by developing your active listening skills. This means that you’re making a concerted effort to really hear and understand what other people are saying to you.

Don’t let yourself become distracted by what’s going on around you, and don’t plan out what you’re going to say next, while the other person is talking. Instead, just listen to what they’re saying. You may well be surprised at how much miscommunication can be avoided simply by listening actively.

Next, look at your writing skills. How well do you communicate in writing? Start with your emails. Most of us write dozens of emails every day. But there are many techniques that we can use to make sure we write effective emails – ones that actually get read!

For instance, always keep to one main topic when writing an email. Putting several important topics in one message will make it difficult for your colleague to prioritize and sort the information. If you do need to bring up several different points, then number them sequentially, or split them into separate messages, with relevant subject headings.

Of course, we do a lot more writing than just email. We write through IM, we write reports, and we create presentations. You’ll be more effective in your role if you learn how to communicate better across all these media, and your boss and colleagues are bound to appreciate your skills, since they’ll be the main beneficiaries!

Stress

A little bit of pressure can be a good thing. But when pressure exceeds your ability to cope with it effectively, your productivity goes down, and your mood suffers. You also lose your ability to make solid, rational decisions; and excessive stress can cause health problems, both in the short and long term.

No matter what you do, you’ll likely experience stress numerous times throughout your career, perhaps even on a regular basis. This is why learning how to manage stress is a key factor in becoming more effective at work.

Try to get a good night’s sleep every night, and do your best to avoid taking work home with you. It’s also important to relax when you get home in the evening.

If you’re not sure what triggers your stress, keep a stress diary for a week or two. This helps you to identify the events that cause you stress, and understand the degree to which you experience it. When you’re feeling calm, you can then analyze these triggers and come up with effective strategies for managing them.

Career Development/Learning

No matter what your field is, it’s important that you keep learning and developing your skills. To begin with, carry out a Personal SWOT Analysis to identify the areas that you need to work on.

In addition to the technical skills required to do your job, you also need to focus on soft skills. These include areas such as leadership skills, problem solving techniques, emotional intelligence skills, and creative thinking. Anything you can do to enhance these skills will pay off in the workplace.

Also consider if there are any qualifications that you don’t have that a reasonable person would consider appropriate for your field. If so, could this be holding you back from an advancement or promotion? For instance, would it be useful to have a particular degree or other certification if you want to apply for a management position? Are you lacking any specific skills?

In some roles, keeping up-to-date with developments in your industry helps you stay relevant. It will help you do your job better, especially as you climb the ranks.

Key Points

When we’re truly effective at work, we manage our time well, we communicate clearly, and we have a good attitude.

Effective workers are often the most respected and the most productive in their workplaces, and they’re often the first to be considered for a promotion. So it’s definitely worth the effort to enhance your skills here!

Start by doing a job analysis to discover what your role is really about. Next, learn how to manage your time better, communicate more effectively, and control any stress.

Also, make sure that you devote time towards further learning and career development. You never know how or when those new skills will pay off!

“Birds of a Feather Flock Together” – Does that Mean I Have to do What Others do Even if it Goes Against My Values in Order to Survive in the Organization?

1

Question from the Job Seeker

I come from a religious family and I’m a proud practicing Muslim; the company I work for is a multinational and being such, employs people from very diverse range of cultures and religions. We have gatherings and parties on a regular basis; however I feel like an outcast because I do not indulge in some of the activities that go on during these gatherings. Although I have not felt anything that would suggest I am being tagged as an outcast because of my values; however, I do have a fear that this will eventually catch on.

Any suggestions?

Tariq Rizvi

Answer from ROZEE

Dear Rizvi,

What you are going through is completely understandable. Divided between our faith and our careers we often start assuming things which might not even be there. One starts to anticipate negativity and eventually the negatives do materialize – to start with, stop thinking grim. Pure multinationals that have a diverse workforce do acknowledge and appreciate each and every culture that comes in along with their employees. They strive to provide a universal environment in which everyone can interact and co-exist. Another observation that might allow you to rest easy is a multinational’s recruitment process is extremely well formulated; besides other aspects, the candidate’s adaptability is also assessed to see how well the individual would fit into the multi-cultural environment. Coming to your question, all you need to do is mingle in such parties – that does not mean you have to participate in all the activities. For instance, if you see your co-workers drinking, you are not required to join them in order to mingle with them. Just pick up a glass of coke, or any other drink you would like to have and go join them.

Everyone is drinking what they like right? So let them drink what they like while you go with what you like. Standing in the corner and not interacting in such parties is considered rude, sticking to your values and cultural roots on the other hand, is considered noble. Hey, you can even be the “designated driver” if your drinking friends are a little to tipsy to get on the road, that way not only would you be popular but people would like being with you. One shouldn’t think negative, especially if there is no reason for it. You say yourself, that there are no particular signals of you being tagged as an outcast, so why think that way? Relax, stick to your values, you will be appreciated for that and perform.

Stay Blessed!

  • Addressing Workplace Conflict
    Conflict, when people are working together, is a part of ‘doing business’. It can be defined as a sharp
    disagreement or opposition of interests or ideas.
    Conflict is a normal and natural part of any workplace. When it occurs, there is a tendency for morale
    to be lowered, an increase in absenteeism and decreased productivity. It has been estimated that
    managers spend at least 25 percent of their time resolving workplace conflicts – causing lowered office
    performance.
    Sources of Workplace Conflict
    There are many sources of workplace conflict.
    Some of the most important are:
    1. Poor Communication:
    Different communication styles can lead to misunderstandings between employees or between
    employee and manager. Lack of communication drives conflict ‘underground’.
    2. Different Values:
    Any workplace is made up of individuals who see the world differently. Conflict occurs when there is a
    lack of acceptance and understanding of these differences.
    3. Differing Interests:
    Conflict occurs when individual workers ‘fight’ for their personal goals, ignoring organizational goals
    and organizational well-being.
    4. Scarce Resources:
    Too often, employees feel they have to compete for available resources in order to do their job. In a
    resource scarce environment, this causes conflicts – despite awareness of how scarce resources may be.
    5. Personality Clashes:
    All work environments are made up of differing personalities. Unless colleagues understand and accept
    each others approach to work and problem-solving, conflict will occur.
    6. Poor Performance:
    When one or more individuals within a work unit are not performing – not working up to potential –
    and this is not addressed, conflict is inevitable.
    7. Office Romance
    Office romances can be a cause of workplace conflict. Workplace romances are dangerous because they
    can lead to conflict within the organization. Public displays of affection can make co-workers
    uncomfortable and accusations of favoritism may occur, especially if it is a supervisor-subordinate
    relationship. If the relationship goes awry, one party may seek to exact revenge on the other.
    Consequence of Workplace Conflict:
    Unresolved conflict in the workplace has been linked to miscommunication resulting from confusion or
    refusal to cooperate, missed deadlines or delays, increased stress among employees, reduced creative
    collaboration and team problem solving, disruption to work flow, decreased customer satisfaction,
    distrust, split camps, and gossip.
     
  • Conflict has been noted to be an indicator of the broader concept of workplace harassment. It relates to
    other factors that might co-occur, such as role conflict, role ambiguity, and workload. It also relates to
    strains such as anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, and low levels of job satisfaction.
    Addressing Conflict:
    There are a number of ways that can be utilized to address workplace conflict:
    1. Avoidance:
    ‘hiding our head in the sand’, hoping the conflict will go away.
    2. Collaboration:
    Working together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
    3. Compromise:
    Finding the middle ground whereby a ‘little is given and little is gotten’.
    4. Competing:
    ‘may the best person win’.
    5. Accommodation:
    Surrendering our own needs and wishes to please the other person.
    6. Mediation:
    Accepting the decision of a mediator who is neutral to both parties
    Handling and resolving conflicts that arise in the workplace is one of the biggest challenge. Typically
    there are two responses to conflict: run away (avoidance) or ‘battle it out’. In either case, we often feel
    uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the results because no resolution has been achieved. By learning to
    constructively resolve conflict, we can turn a potentially destructive situation into an opportunity for
    creativity and enhanced performance.

Having a job is a great blessing and when you are working somewhere at a stable position, you don’t want to think about bad times. However, the fact remains that there are no guarantees that you might still be employed next month or even the next week. The employment scenario has changed drastically after the economic recession and the number of people without jobs has increased quite a lot lately. While it is true that you cannot do much to avoid getting fired once the boss has made up his mind, there are still many things you can do when you still have a job which can help you later on.

When you have a job, make sure that you are not making any of the common mistakes mentioned below:

Ignoring Self Improvement:

The most important thing you need to do when you are employed somewhere is to work on self improvement. Everyone possesses a lot of skills but unless you constantly work on polishing those skills, you will end up being out of touch. Since new technologies are constantly being incorporated at offices, the most important thing is to learn how to use them and make sure that you are using all tools at your disposable to perform effectively and efficiently. This way even if you are fired in the long run, you can get another job much quicker based on your experience and know-how.

You can very easily sharpen and polish your existing set of skills by enrolling in an online course, reading help materials and books and learning from a colleague or senior.

Not Availing Opportunities:

This mistake also takes its branches in the previous one as a person who does not avail the learning and training opportunities provided by the company is doing himself a great harm. Companies often organize training sessions and workshops for their employees that are aimed at honing and sharpening their skills. Most employees consider such exercises tiresome and boring and do not attend these sessions. The fact is that the employees are the ones who can reap maximum benefit from such sessions and work towards the advancement of their professional careers. So whenever you company organizes a workshop, be a part of it and learn all you can to improve your own skills.

Not Saving Money:

You need to start putting money aside while you’re still receiving a steady paycheck. Most people do not feel the urgency to start saving money when they have a job and often waste too much money on useless things.  However, once you are without a job, the money just flows out and there is no steady inflow of cash so you are left in a tight spot. It’s much easier start saving money when you are employed as you can take a little out of your salary every month and put it in a savings account.  This way even if you are terminated you will have a considerable amount of money saved which can be used while you are looking for a job and will definitely take the pressure of you.

Not Developing Contacts:

One of the most important things you need to realize when you are working in a professional environment is that developing a strong network of people assets is extremely important for your career. People assets are the most significant and important part of your professional life as they can be the most valuable contacts which come in handy when you are having problems at work or in case you get fired and are looking for a new job.

When you are employed somewhere, not only can you make a lot of contacts at work, but you also get in touch with clients and customers.  If you are good with people skills, you’ll be able to make new contacts immediately and even if you are not good at this, you can learn by watching others.

Remember, the wider you network of people is, the easier it is for you to get a job if you are fired or even get better job opportunities when you are still employed.

Not Planning Ahead:

When you are at a stable and secure job, it is understandable that you do not want to think of other options or plan ahead. However, if you do not plan ahead you can face a lot of problems later on as sooner or later everyone has to evaluate where his career path is headed. You need to take a break and consider what you want from your professional career in the next five years. Make a list of all the goals that you need to accomplish in order to get there and then check how many of these goals have been accomplished by you till date.

Next you can make a list of what changes in your professional path are necessary to reach the goal and start working on achieving them. If you are planning ahead and are prepared for the next five years, even if you are fired at once, you will know what your career path is and what you have to do next to get the job that will help in keeping you on track.

Conclusion:

It goes without saying that being jobless and unemployed is a tough time and anyone can break under the pressure. However, since we are all aware of the fact that the chances of being laid off are increasing for every single person, it is better to be prepared well in advance so that if the circumstance arises, we are able to deal with the situation positively. You need to keep in mind that getting fired is not the end of the world and with patience a proper approach you can get a new job within no time. Keep in touch with your colleagues from all the past offices and make sure that you send them a message or an email from time to time so that they think of you in case a job opportunity arises.

 

10 Signs of Work Related Stress

Work related stress is a very common problem faced by many employees and can eventually lead to a complete burn out. Many employees are even unaware of the fact that they are suffering from job related stress and hence fail to address the issue.

Given below are 10 signs which indicate that you are stressed out at work and need to address the situation in order to avoid a burn out:

Work related stress is a very common problem faced by many employees and can eventually lead to a complete burn out. Many employees are even unaware of the fact that they are suffering from job related stress and hence fail to address the issue.

Given below are 10 signs which indicate that you are stressed out at work and need to address the situation in order to avoid a burn out:

Losing Focus:

If you feel that you are having problems in focusing on your work and often get distracted, it is a classic sign of job related stress which can lead to failure in performing the tasks assigned to you.

Forgetting Deadlines:

Forgetting important project completion deadlines and timelines for important meetings is also a sign of being overstressed at work. when you have too much work on your hands, you can forget about the important deadlines and failing to meet the schedule at a regular basis indicates that a person is over worked and stressed out.

Too Many Mistakes:

Everyone makes a mistake every now and then, which is understandable since no one is perfect and making mistakes is just a part of the learning experience. However, continuously making simple mistakes which indicate being careless is not acceptable. If your work was flawless in the past and you have started making too many mistakes lately, it might be a sign of work related stress.

Muscular Pains:

Work related stress not only affects your work but also has physical symptoms, most common is muscular pains. Sometimes muscular pains are due to seasonal changes and too much physical exertion but constant muscular pains without any apparent reason is a sign of job related stress.

Constant Headaches:

Another physical sign of work related stress is having constant headaches which is caused due to long working hours, too much work pressure and often dissatisfaction with your work place, colleagues or the boss. Constant headaches lead to greater problems as a person is not able to complete his tasks on time and the performance level comes down to a huge extent.

Bad Temper:

Being under pressure and stressed at work lead to a bad temperament which might lead to verbal exchange with colleagues in the workplace. Having a bad temper at work is the most obvious sign of being stressed and if it is not addressed on priority basis, a bad temper can lead to your termination in the long run. No one wants to work with an aggressive employee who causes too many distractions at work.

Inability to Handle Workload:

The failure to finish the assignments that are given to you in a given time bracket indicates job related stress which often leads to a complete burn out. If your work load was recently increased by the manager, it might be just an issue of proper time management but failing to accomplish the given tasks that you have being doing in the past means you have work place stress.

Losing Interest in Your Work:

One of the most prominent signs of being stress at your work place is losing interest in the work that you do.

When a person loses interest in his job, every assignment seems to be tedious and the performance level goes down considerably. A person who is not interested in his job cannot deliver his best and hence is no longer a valuable employee for the company or the organization.

Too Many Off Days:

Not feeling like going to work everyday, dreading the approaching Monday and taking too many off days means you are losing interest in the job as a result of stress. Taking too many leaves can raise a red flag for the employer who can sense that the person is losing interest in the job and can be used as an excuse for termination.

Feeling Trapped in Your Job:

Many people, when over worked and stressed out, feel that they are trapped in their current job as they see no way forward and have already lost interest in their job related tasks. When a person feels trapped in his current job, not only does his performance level comes down but he also makes some fatal career mistakes such as resigning without finding any other job, accepting the wrong job offers, switching to a totally different career line and regretting it later on.

Last Words:

If you have been experience majority of the stress related symptoms, it is time to take some steps to make sure that your stress level comes down considerably or you might have to suffer from a complete burn out very soon in life. It is not easy to recover from a career burn out and one has to work very hard to eliminate the stress brought on by everyday tasks from job and personal life.

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8 Responses to “10 Signs of Work Related Stress”

  1. Fayaz Shah Says:
    February 1st, 2011 at 10:01 am

That one is avery good article regarding the identification of the work stress but would have been more useful if the causes and cures may also been highlighted

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  1. Fahad Amin Says:
    February 1st, 2011 at 10:46 am

What should be done to resolve all these problems?

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  1. Sheikh Zeeshan Shakeel Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 3:59 pm

A very helpful article but please come up with some article describing cure as well

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  1. jamshed khan Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Please don’t be worried if you think you are a victim to it, the most effective solution to this problem is time management.

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  1. Hooreen Says:
    February 3rd, 2011 at 11:28 am

Same Situation with me but tell me also what should be solution of these problems

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  1. Syed Saquib Moiz Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 11:51 am

i am also with the same situation, but any solution for that? Some time i think that i should resign but start thinking that i should first explore another job then its better to take this step.

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  1. Zain Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

True symptoms, what do I need to do to get rid of this stress?

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  1. Saleah @ tazalinks.com Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

well these are true symptoms, there must be some solution to overcome those problem. I’m expecting another article from you guys explaining about their solutions.
cheerz

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Communicate Effectively at Work

Being able to communicate effectively at work is essential to any professional’s success regardless of which department he is working in. Most people do not pay much attention to their communication skills and as a result get easily overlooked at the time of annual promotions. Communication skills are not only important for interacting with the clients but also when interacting with co-workers and the boss.

Each and every day an employee has to interact with dozens of people, both inside the office and out of it. These people might be clients, colleagues, superiors, juniors, vendors, etc. Interacting with all of these people requires some level of communication skills as one has to interact with each person differently in order to get the best results.

Here are some tried and tested rules which will help you in learning the ropes of proper communication:

Keep It Simple & Clear:

Clarity and simplicity are the two most important aspects of being a good and effective communicator. Using too many confusing words and uttering speeches in long sentences serve no other purpose than to confuse the listener. Be direct in whatever you have to say. If you made a mistake, there is no need to spin a story on the reasons why it happened. Just admit your fault, excuse and make sure it never happens again. When dealing with a client, give a direct assessment of the situation so that the client can understand and participate in the discussion rather than confusing him with useless gibberish.

Make Your Point:

Talking about things that are not directly related to your agenda can have a negative effect as the listener will lose focus. You should state the agenda soon after you have set the ground and dwell on the important topics only. When you are articulate, the clients, boss and coworkers will take you seriously and pay more attention to your ideas.

Engage The Listener:

While being professional and articulate are important for a communicator, you need to make sure that you don’t sound cold or distant. When you are holding a conversation make sure that the listener is at ease and comfortable with the way you are talking and let him be relaxed so that he does not completely block you out.

Be a Good Listener:

The key to being an effective communicator is to become a great listener as well. Being a good listener enables you to hold the attention of the other person much longer as the other person feels involved. Whenever you are communicating with someone make sure that you give the other person a chance to express his views as well.

Communicating on the Phone:

Communication on the telephone requires you to be tactful, attentive and prepared. When you call someone you have to answer to his questions, pose your questions and make sure that you jot down all the important points of the conversation.

Before you make the call, you should have all the points you want to discuss organized and written on a sheet of paper. Also you should be expecting that the person you are calling might ask some questions so you need to be prepared to answer any relevant questions posed by the other person.

Make sure that you are concise and to the point when having a conversation on the phone since it is very important to make sure that the person you are talking to understands what you are saying perfectly. If you keep talking without waiting for input from the other end, the conversation will end without any fruitful results as you will not get your point across to the other person.

When you are talking on the phone make sure that the other person understood what was said by you and ask if he has any questions or issues he wants to discuss.

The most important part of a telephonic conversation is to make sure that you are not wasting the other person’s time. Whether you are conversing with your colleagues, boss or clients, make sure that you make your point without wasting any time at all.

Communicating via email:

Since the advent of modern technology and availability of internet in all parts of the world, email has become a very important mode for official communication.  Many employees are not fully aware of the etiquettes involved in sending a professional email and hence make some very big mistakes.

The first rule of communicating via email dictates that the person writing the email should have a good command over the language. It does not mean that you need to use a lot of fancy and difficult words in the email. On the contrary, a well written email contains simple and direct language where there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes in it.

Spell check is a very important part of sending a professional email since a spelling mistake in the email is unacceptable and will create a poor impression on the reader. Always use the spell check before sending the email and if you feel more convenient, write the email in a word file and then copy it to the email box as you can format the email easily in word.

The content of the email is the most important part so make sure that you are concise, short and direct when writing an email. Writing long emails will serve no purpose as professional people do not have much time on their hands and reading lengthy emails will not only be a waste of time but the reader will also lose focus along the way and the email will fail to make an impact.

Formatting the email correctly is very important part of professional communication. Always keep in mind to use a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman, which most people are comfortable reading. Also use a normal font size ranging between 11 and 14 depending on the font type and use only BLACK as the font color since it looks professional and is easy to read.

Conclusion:

Communication skills are vital for career success in the highly competitive job market and the better we are at communicating with the coworkers, clients and the boss, the higher are our chances for success. Without effective communication, the flow of information from one department to the other stops and affects the overall performance of the organization.

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2 Responses to “Communicate Effectively at Work”

  1. Ishtiaq A Khan Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

This one is a good effort to state the things while communicating with others. However, an important aspect of written communication on paper is missing and which is vital especially in public sector organisations. In such institutions, even day-to-day communication is done via writing as the individuals always want to keep written record of communication being held among various management levels which may be presented during “specific situation”. Although e-mail is one of written communication but not always in public sector organisations where even individuals do not know to use computer.

It was just a quick thought and I may come back with some supporting stuff later on…

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  1. Moid Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 10:35 am

Nice n helpful article…

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Being able to communicate effectively at work is essential to any professional’s success regardless of which department he is working in. Most people do not pay much attention to their communication skills and as a result get easily overlooked at the time of annual promotions. Communication skills are not only important for interacting with the clients but also when interacting with co-workers and the boss.

Each and every day an employee has to interact with dozens of people, both inside the office and out of it. These people might be clients, colleagues, superiors, juniors, vendors, etc. Interacting with all of these people requires some level of communication skills as one has to interact with each person differently in order to get the best results.

Here are some tried and tested rules which will help you in learning the ropes of proper communication:

Keep It Simple & Clear:

Clarity and simplicity are the two most important aspects of being a good and effective communicator. Using too many confusing words and uttering speeches in long sentences serve no other purpose than to confuse the listener. Be direct in whatever you have to say. If you made a mistake, there is no need to spin a story on the reasons why it happened. Just admit your fault, excuse and make sure it never happens again. When dealing with a client, give a direct assessment of the situation so that the client can understand and participate in the discussion rather than confusing him with useless gibberish.

Make Your Point:

Talking about things that are not directly related to your agenda can have a negative effect as the listener will lose focus. You should state the agenda soon after you have set the ground and dwell on the important topics only. When you are articulate, the clients, boss and coworkers will take you seriously and pay more attention to your ideas.

Engage The Listener:

While being professional and articulate are important for a communicator, you need to make sure that you don’t sound cold or distant. When you are holding a conversation make sure that the listener is at ease and comfortable with the way you are talking and let him be relaxed so that he does not completely block you out.

Be a Good Listener:

The key to being an effective communicator is to become a great listener as well. Being a good listener enables you to hold the attention of the other person much longer as the other person feels involved. Whenever you are communicating with someone make sure that you give the other person a chance to express his views as well.

Communicating on the Phone:

Communication on the telephone requires you to be tactful, attentive and prepared. When you call someone you have to answer to his questions, pose your questions and make sure that you jot down all the important points of the conversation.

Before you make the call, you should have all the points you want to discuss organized and written on a sheet of paper. Also you should be expecting that the person you are calling might ask some questions so you need to be prepared to answer any relevant questions posed by the other person.

Make sure that you are concise and to the point when having a conversation on the phone since it is very important to make sure that the person you are talking to understands what you are saying perfectly. If you keep talking without waiting for input from the other end, the conversation will end without any fruitful results as you will not get your point across to the other person.

When you are talking on the phone make sure that the other person understood what was said by you and ask if he has any questions or issues he wants to discuss.

The most important part of a telephonic conversation is to make sure that you are not wasting the other person’s time. Whether you are conversing with your colleagues, boss or clients, make sure that you make your point without wasting any time at all.

Communicating via email:

Since the advent of modern technology and availability of internet in all parts of the world, email has become a very important mode for official communication.  Many employees are not fully aware of the etiquettes involved in sending a professional email and hence make some very big mistakes.

The first rule of communicating via email dictates that the person writing the email should have a good command over the language. It does not mean that you need to use a lot of fancy and difficult words in the email. On the contrary, a well written email contains simple and direct language where there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes in it.

Spell check is a very important part of sending a professional email since a spelling mistake in the email is unacceptable and will create a poor impression on the reader. Always use the spell check before sending the email and if you feel more convenient, write the email in a word file and then copy it to the email box as you can format the email easily in word.

The content of the email is the most important part so make sure that you are concise, short and direct when writing an email. Writing long emails will serve no purpose as professional people do not have much time on their hands and reading lengthy emails will not only be a waste of time but the reader will also lose focus along the way and the email will fail to make an impact.

Formatting the email correctly is very important part of professional communication. Always keep in mind to use a standard font such as Arial or Times New Roman, which most people are comfortable reading. Also use a normal font size ranging between 11 and 14 depending on the font type and use only BLACK as the font color since it looks professional and is easy to read.

Conclusion:

Communication skills are vital for career success in the highly competitive job market and the better we are at communicating with the coworkers, clients and the boss, the higher are our chances for success. Without effective communication, the flow of information from one department to the other stops and affects the overall performance of the organization.

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2 Responses to “Communicate Effectively at Work”

  1. Ishtiaq A Khan Says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

This one is a good effort to state the things while communicating with others. However, an important aspect of written communication on paper is missing and which is vital especially in public sector organisations. In such institutions, even day-to-day communication is done via writing as the individuals always want to keep written record of communication being held among various management levels which may be presented during “specific situation”. Although e-mail is one of written communication but not always in public sector organisations where even individuals do not know to use computer.

It was just a quick thought and I may come back with some supporting stuff later on…

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  1. Moid Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 10:35 am

Nice n helpful article…

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Boosting Your Creativity Ability

In his well-respected book, “Creativity,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that an effective creative process usually consists of five steps. These are:

  1. Preparation – becoming immersed in problems and issues that are interesting and that arouse curiosity.
  2. Incubation – allowing ideas to turn around in your mind without thinking about them consciously.
  3. Insight – experiencing the moment when the problem makes sense, and you understand the fundamental issue.
  4. Evaluation – taking time to make sure that the insight provides sufficient value to outweigh the various costs involved in implementation.
  5. Elaboration – creating a plan to implement the solution, and following through.

We’ve mapped these five steps onto the process below. This provides a clear and practical way for you to think about creativity, and to use it in your everyday life at work.

  1. Finding Problems (Preparation)

(Questions 6, 9, 11, 14, 15)

Your score is 12 out of 25   

Creative people don’t sit and allow problems to surface. Instead, they scan their environment for potential issues, and they see this as time well spent. Also, they’re excited by the opportunity to change things. They aren’t intimidated by change; they embrace it.

To develop your creative skills, you need to adopt a positive attitude towards change, and take an active role in identifying opportunities and looking for potential issues. To do this, challenge your business processes using Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, and look for bottlenecks in these processes. Carry out SWOT and PEST analyses on a regular basis. Keep up-to-date with customer experiences and expectations, and try to spot problems from other people’s perspectives.

Also, engage in benchmarking to find out how well others are addressing similar issues, and look at the issue from a wide range of perspectives. Then, analyze your findings to ensure that a real problem does exist. This fact-finding activity can save you a great deal of time later on, and will help ensure that you only act on the most relevant problems and issues.

Look first for problems and potential issues that interest you. These are the things you’ll be most motivated to pursue when you’re learning to solve problems creatively. Then, as you become more confident, challenge yourself to investigate issues that are more complex.

  1. Gathering and Reflecting on Information (Incubation)

(Questions 2, 5)

Your score is 8 out of 10   

When you have a potential issue or problem, gather as much information about it as you can. As part of this, investigate solutions that have been tried previously (both in your own organization, and in other areas), and identify ideas that might have surfaced, but were never acted on.

At this stage it’s also a good idea to step away from the problem for a while, and allow new thoughts and ideas to enter your mind. When we concentrate on one issue for too long there is a tendency to latch onto one or two ideas, and this can block other good ideas. (One of the benefits of being proactive in your problem-finding is that you have time to incubate ideas, rather than being pressurized to find an immediate solution to a problem.)

  1. Problem Exploration (Insight)

(Question 3, 7, 12)

Your score is 10 out of 15   

Once you’ve identified and verified your problem, you can figure out what’s really going on. Often, the initial problem that you identified will turn out to be a symptom of a deeper problem. Therefore, identifying the root cause of the problem is extremely important.

When you do this, you’ll find that techniques like CATWOE, Drill Down, the 5 Whys, Cause and Effect Analysis, and Root Cause Analysis are all very effective. While creativity may invoke ideas of spontaneous insight and far-out inspiration, the truth is that being creative in the workplace is rooted in a practical understanding of the situation at hand.

Don’t, however, be so practical that you become negative. What often separates creative people from others is the ability to see past potential barriers, and believe in their insights. For instance, you could easily dismiss a great insight by saying, “Oh that could never be the problem!” But, you won’t ever know if something is contributing to a problem unless you allow yourself to explore the possibility. That’s what creative problem exploration is all about – being open to all ideas and possibilities.

  1. Generating and Evaluating Ideas (Evaluation)

(Question 4, 13, 16)

Your score is 10 out of 15   

When you have clear insight into the cause of the issue, you can move onto generating ideas for a solution. Here you want to look for as many ways to inspire ideas as possible. Brainstorming, Reverse Brainstorming and Starbursting are popular for this, however these can be undermined by problems with group dynamics. Techniques like Brainwriting, Round-Robin Brainstorming and the Charette Procedure can help you circumvent common problems.

You can also enrich your ideas by using tools like the Six Thinking Hats, Random Input, the Reframing Matrix and Metaphorical Thinking to look at problems from different perspectives.

Obviously not all of the ideas you have will be practical or possible. So, as part of this step in the creativity process, you need to decide which criteria you’ll use to evaluate your ideas. (Without a solid evaluation process, you’ll be prone to choosing a solution that is perhaps too cautious.)

There are a wide range of tools you can use for the evaluation, including:

  1. Implementation (Elaboration)

(Questions 1, 8, 10)

Your score is 7 out of 15   

A common misconception is that creative people spend all their time thinking of new and interesting ideas. In fact, truly creative people recognize a good idea and run with it. A famous Thomas Edison quote supports this: “Creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

For this final step, you need to be committed to taking your ideas and making them happen, and you need to be confident that you can, indeed, propose innovative ideas and inspire change.

To implement your ideas successfully, develop a solid plan, using action plans for simple projects, and more formal project management techniques for larger, more complex projects. You’ll also need to be able to sell your idea to others in your organization. If your idea is likely to affect other people, you’ll want to develop strong change management skills so that the people around you accept and use the products of your creativity.

Once you bring one idea through to successful implementation, you’ll be motivated and inspired to repeat the process again and again!

Key Points

In the workplace, some people are naturally more creative than others. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all learn to be more creative, and use creativity enhancing tools and techniques in our daily lives.

At its core, creativity is the ability to see familiar things in a new light, and the first step to being more creative is training yourself to look for opportunities to improve the systems and processes around you.

Then gather information, find the main cause of issues and problems, and generate and evaluate your ideas. And don’t forget that the mundane work of implementing your ideas is key to being genuinely creative!

– See more at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/creativity-quiz.htm#sthash.bnG67z4U.dpuf

 

Build a Successful Working Relationship with Your Boss

When you start at a new job you need to know that your new boss is going to have the most impact on your professional career at that organization than anyone else. Whether you succeed or fail is totally dependent on your new boss as he can help you grow or inhibit your growth by making it impossible for you to work.  Your boss is the one person who is evaluating you from day one by establishing goals and benchmarks for your successful performance; he evaluates your actions and methods of dealing with other key players, and manages and controls all the resources that you need. Getting off on the wrong foot with your new boss can create a lot of difficulties at your new job and often you might find it difficult to continue in the job if your boss does not like you.

The key to maintaining a successful relationship with the boss is to build upon a productive working relationship. This will make it easier for you to perform the tasks that have been assigned to you without having to face problems from your boss.

Dealing With Your New Boss:

Dealing with your new boss can be easy or difficult depending on how you begin your tenure at a company and how apt you are at dealing with the problems at hand. Here are some of the suggestions which can help you in dealing with your new boss effectively on a long term basis.

Discuss Your Mutual Expectations:

You need to be able to clarify your mutual expectations early into the new job. You need to begin working on the expectations of your boss right away. Ask your boss on the very first day what he expects from you and make clear what you expect from the job as well. If you feel like your boss has some unrealistic expectations from you, do not panic. It is better to assess the situation first and then go to the boss with statistics. You can then tell him why his expectation is unrealistic and what can be done to make the situation better. It is better to tell the boss that the deadline is unrealistic and a certain project cannot be completed within the given time beforehand rather than trying to meet the deadline unsuccessfully and then providing explanations as to why you were unable to complete the task.

Get Commitment From the Boss:

Since you are expected to perform well during the entire probation period, you must get all the resources necessary for completing the tasks that have been assigned to you. Do not feel shy or be hesitant to ask for something which is needed to perform the job effectively and the absence of which can delay the project deadline.

Plan for Instant Success:

When you start at a new job, your boss is expecting to see some quick successes and your ability to make the deadlines and finish projects without any delays will be judged based on your performance in the first weeks on the job. Make sure that you find out which of the tasks assigned to you are top priority and work on finishing those within the given time period so that you have some success to show for yourself if your boss evaluates you.

Establish a System:

For dealing effectively with a new boss, the most important thing is to establish a working relationship with the boss, which means that you need to have a proper system for interacting and communicating with him. The most essential step is to figure out how you and your boss will be working together in the future and make sure that the system suits both your and the boss’s requirements.

Keep the Communication Door Open:

If there is miscommunication or rather lack of direct communication between you and the boss, there can be misunderstandings which will inadvertently complicate your relationship. So whenever you have an issue or a problem, rather than discussing it with your co workers and colleagues, it is better to talk to the boss or even send an email and make sure that your are clear on your point of view so that there is no room for misunderstandings.

Think like the Boss:

When you are dealing with a new boss, it is best to imagine yourself in his shoes. If you are used to having people work for you, you can understand what you expect from them which in turn can give you an insight as to what you boss expects from you. Being an understanding and insightful employee will help you in developing a productive working relationship which will reflect positively on your career as well.

What to Avoid When Dealing With the New Boss:

There are some common mistakes we all make from time to time which often create a bad impression on the new boss and are hard to undo. Avoid making some of these common mistakes which can lead to a lot of problems with the boss:

Unwillingness to Learn:

Many people feel that they are totally qualified which is why they got the job and hence are not too keen on learning on the new job. This is one of the biggest mistakes as the learning process on job keeps going on for as long as you are in the industry and thinking that you have learnt all there is to any specific job is a folly that gets you negative attention from the boss.

Trying Too Hard:

Taking up too much work in the initial few days just to impress the boss and create a good impression often has the opposite effect. Taking up too much work will lead to missing important deadlines and making careless mistakes which in turn creates a bad impression on the boss.

Gossiping With the Coworkers:

One of the most important things to avoid when you are at work whether at a new job or an old one is gossiping with your coworkers, about the boss or other coworkers.  A gossip monger is not appreciated by any boss and if you get a reputation for gossiping, your boss and colleagues will stop trusting you and soon enough you will feel alienated at the work place.

“Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life”. John A. Piece
Communication is around us everywhere. It is lifeblood of every organization and even relationships of all kind. Communication is an interpersonal process of sharing information, knowledge, ideas, opinions, expressions, emotions and many other such things in form of speaking, symbols, thoughts, signs and body language. Communication consists of transmitting information from one person to another, Communication is a learned skill. Speaking, listening and the ability to understand verbal and nonverbal meanings are skills in communication. Communication is the base for whatever we do we would not be able to do even the everyday things that we do on a daily basis. When it comes to the work world, whether it’s a small family run company, or a giant, corporation, communication is the only way to run a business smoothly. Without effective communication, messages can get mixed, and information can be skewed. Whenever communications occur between employees of a business we call it Internal Communication and when businesses communicate with people or other organizations outside we call it external communication. Effective Communication links together all the different activities involved in a business and ensures all employees are working towards the same goal and know exactly what they should be doing and by when. Effective communication is therefore a key to the success of a business.

There are thousands of fast ways of communicating like emails, fax, telephones, web-blogs, messages, website, web portals, webinars, pod casting. Today communication is quick and easy to find as technology has made it faster and easier and myriads of more ways emerging every day.

But are we really ‘communicating’ with such abundant tools of communications? Are we really reaching to our listeners? Are we making the difference we hope to make? How can we actually communicate effectively? The answers to these questions are in understanding the difference between communication and effective communication.

Out of the many types of Communication the two fundamental types are as follows:

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

It is said that communications is composed of different methods which include: words, voice, language, tone and non verbal cues. Verbal communication is an inseparable part of Business communication. In a conversation according to modern research

Words are 7 % effective

Tone of voice is 38% effective

Non-Verbal cues are 55 % effective

Non –Verbal communication includes body language, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and motions body postures (like sitting, standing, legs/arms crossed, relaxed or tense), and even the way we dress up and the way we stay silent is kind of a non-verbal communication. It is vital for business professionals to realize that most of our communication occurs non- verbally. Because WHAT we say is not as important as HOW we say it! We need to understand and get knowledge of non-verbal cues so that we may respond to someone in a way that is appropriate / suitable to their communication style, and it may prepare us to prevent any hostile situation to get intense.
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” Indira Gandhi.

We provide information through our STATIC FEATURES which include: distance, Personal space, Orientation / positioning, postures and physical contact. The distance we stand from some one conveys a message, a message that is culturally shaped, for e.g. it may convey a message of attraction and in some cases a massage of status. Personal space is the boundary we set between ourselves and others; it reflects our level of comfort we share / express while sending and receiving messages. We may position ourselves face to face, side by side if we are competitors or cooperators respectively. Our postures convey a degree of formality or relaxation in the process of communication. Our physical contact of shaking hands, patting, embracing etc they all send and receive a massage of intimacy or lack of attraction.

There are some DYNAMIC FEATURES of non verbal communication that provide information. Our Facial Expressions; the yawns, raised eyebrows, smiles, frowns they are continually monitored by the recipient. The hand movements, the clenched fists are the Gestures with universal meanings. The Eye Contact may signal when to talk or when not to, its frequency may signal boredom or interest, it may also convey emotion or lack of emotion
As a communicator one should be sensitive to the non-verbal cues like tone, pitch, the quality of one’s voice and the dynamic and static features also. Our Communication and Cooperation improves as learn to recognize and respond appropriately to the non-verbal cues (the wordless massages).

Communication Process

The communication process starts with a sender or the person who wants to communicate a though to the other person/ persons. The sender interprets the thoughts into various symbols and words that the receiver can understand and then transmits the message. The message is transmitted through a medium such as email, oral or any written or visual media. Then there is a receiver for whom the message is meant. The last step is feedback where the receiver responds to the message sent by the sender.
Wilbur Schramm (1955) developed the most commonly known model of communication process, which broke the process down into five clearly defined consecutive stages or dimensions
These are as follows:
1. The sender has the need to communicate.
2. The need is translated into a message (encoding).
3. The message is transmitted.
4. The receiver gets the message (decoding).
5. The receiver interprets the message and provides feedback to the sender.

Wilbur Schramm Communication process model (1955)

The critical part of communication is the information, which is being transferred. Two important stages of communication are a) encoding and b) decoding. Encoding is translation or conversion of the idea or intention or message into words or signals so that receiver would reconvert the same as intended by the sender. Decoding is what the receiver does to reconvert the received words or signals into the idea or intention or message as originally intended by the sender. Understanding of the process of communication can facilitate transactions.

Effective Communication Skills

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. “ Anthony Robbins
Effective communication is an essential component of Organizational success, whether it is interpersonal, inter-group, organizational or external communication. Communication is simple yet it is complex, easy to do and easy to blunder. According to Kathy Walker in her ‘Communication Basics’, “we hear only half of what is said to us, understand only half of that, believe only half of that, and remember only half of that’’
Communicating effectively helps build trust and respect, encourage learning and accomplish goals. To be effective change agents and or leaders, communication involves the use of following four skills.
1. Leveling
2. Listening
3. Validating
4. ‘I…’ statement

Leveling

It is wrong to expect the other to know what is in our minds. Misunderstanding and conflicts occur only when one party does not know the importance of information. Effective communication occurs only when both parties know the relevant information. Leveling means giving the other person the feelings rather than expecting him/her to read your mind. We need to develop a level or uniform playing field in all interpersonal interactions.

Listening with Relaxed Attention

We should not only hear what is said to us but actively process what others say. We should not think about what we are going to say next but what others are saying. When we confront difficult issues listening is more important than speaking or any other form of expression. Listening is an art and everyone can learn the art of active listening. The key to active listening is ‘relaxed attention’, i.e. listen with your whole body by using verbal and nonverbal skills. Avoid interrupting the speaker.

Validating

This skill is about acknowledging the thoughts, ideas and feelings of the other person. Its about letting the other party/person know that you heard their position or opinion, and that you recognize their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

‘I…’ Statements
Half of the effective communication is active listening and the other half is expressing what you feel, think or want in a non-defensive and non-offensive way. And that way is expressing with an ‘I’. it makes you the sole responsible of your wants and feelings, without sounding like you are blaming or attacking the other person or persons.

Effective Communication for Leaders

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes
We think of a good communicator as a good speaker, as they can express themselves clear;y with confidence. But this is only the half truth. The key and often forgotten component of effective communication for leaders is LISTENING.
“Successful leaders, we have found, are great askers, and they do pay attention.” Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus
If you cannot make an impact and communicate effectively to your people then it doesn’t matter what you know about anything. In that case you have not only failed but you have also not been felt, you are not just there.
Communication, as we have discussed takes place only when others understand what you are trying to get across them. If they don’t understand then you are just wasting time regardless of your words, pictures or anything else.
Communication underpins effective leadership, and leaders need to be aware of what and how they communicate to others in words and actions. The most important skill leaders can develop is the listening skill as F.J Roethlisberger said, “The gate way to communication, then is, to listen for understanding.” Listening for meaning is one of the key components of emotional intelligence. To understand someone else is to consider their perspective, their motivations and their needs, and only then leaders and their followers can move forward to build a solution, a path and a committed partnership.

 

Creativity Techniques – Start Here!

© iStockphoto/pavlen

The tools in this section can help you to become more creative. They are designed to help you devise creative and imaginative solutions to problems, and help you to spot opportunities that you might otherwise miss.

Before you continue, it is important to understand what we mean by creativity, as there are two completely different types. The first is technical creativity, where people create new theories, technologies or ideas. This is the type of creativity we discuss here. The second is artistic creativity, which is more born of skill, technique and self-expression. Artistic creativity is beyond the scope of these articles.

Many of the techniques in this chapter have been used by great thinkers to drive their creativity. Albert Einstein, for example, used his own informal variant of
Provocation to trigger ideas that lead to the Theory of Relativity.

Approaches to Creativity

There are two main strands to technical creativity: programmed thinking and lateral thinking. Programmed thinking relies on logical or structured ways of creating a new product or service. Examples of this approach are Morphological Analysis and the Reframing Matrix.

The other main strand uses ‘Lateral Thinking’. Examples of this are
Brainstorming, Random Input and Provocation. Lateral Thinking has been developed and popularized by Edward de Bono, whose books you can find in the appropriate articles.

Programmed Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking recognizes that our brains are pattern recognition systems, and that they do not function like computers. It takes years of training before we learn to do simple arithmetic – something that computers do very easily. On the other hand, we can instantly recognize patterns such as faces, language, and handwriting. The only computers that begin to be able to do these things do it by modeling the way that human brain cells work . Even then, computers will need to become more powerful before they approach our ability to handle patterns.

The benefit of good pattern recognition is that we can recognize objects and situations very quickly. Imagine how much time would be wasted if you had to do a full analysis every time you came across a cylindrical canister of effervescent fluid. Most people would just open their can of fizzy drink. Without pattern recognition we would starve or be eaten. We could not cross the road safely.

Unfortunately, we get stuck in our patterns. We tend to think within them. Solutions we develop are based on previous solutions to similar problems. Normally it does not occur to us to use solutions belonging to other patterns.

We use lateral thinking techniques to break out of this patterned way of thinking.

Lateral thinking techniques help us to come up with startling, brilliant and original solutions to problems and opportunities.

It is important to point out that each type of approach has its strength. Logical, disciplined thinking is enormously effective in making products and services better. It can, however, only go so far before all practical improvements have been carried out. Lateral thinking can generate completely new concepts and ideas, and brilliant improvements to existing systems. In the wrong place, however, it can be sterile or unnecessarily disruptive.

Taking the Best of Each…

A number of techniques fuse the strengths of the two different strands of creativity. Techniques such as the Concept Fan use a combination of programmed and lateral thinking. DO IT and Min Basadur’s Simplex embed the two approaches within problem solving processes. While these may be considered ‘overkill’ when dealing with minor problems, they provide excellent frameworks for solving difficult and serious ones.

The Creative Frame of Mind

Often the only difference between creative and uncreative people is self-perception. Creative people see themselves as creative and give themselves the freedom to create. Uncreative people do not think about creativity and do not give themselves the opportunity to create anything new.

Being creative may just be a matter of setting aside the time needed to take a step back and allow yourself to ask yourself if there is a better way of doing something. Edward de Bono calls this a ‘Creative Pause’. He suggests that this should be a short break of maybe only 30 seconds, but that this should be a habitual part of thinking. This needs self-discipline, as it is easy to forget.

Another important attitude-shift is to view problems as opportunities for improvement. While this is something of a cliché, it is true. Whenever you solve a problem, you have a better product or service to offer afterwards.

Using Creativity

Creativity is sterile if action does not follow from it. Ideas must be evaluated, improved, polished and marketed before they have any value. Other sections of Mind Tools lay out the evaluation, analysis and planning tools needed to do this. They also explain the time and stress management techniques you will need when your creative ideas take off.

Have fun creating!

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you’ll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

– See more at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_00.htm#sthash.Lguaz67P.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boosting Your Creativity Ability

In his well-respected book, “Creativity,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that an effective creative process usually consists of five steps. These are:

  1. Preparation – becoming immersed in problems and issues that are interesting and that arouse curiosity.
  2. Incubation – allowing ideas to turn around in your mind without thinking about them consciously.
  3. Insight – experiencing the moment when the problem makes sense, and you understand the fundamental issue.
  4. Evaluation – taking time to make sure that the insight provides sufficient value to outweigh the various costs involved in implementation.
  5. Elaboration – creating a plan to implement the solution, and following through.

We’ve mapped these five steps onto the process below. This provides a clear and practical way for you to think about creativity, and to use it in your everyday life at work.

1. Finding Problems (Preparation)

(Questions 6, 9, 11, 14, 15)

Your score is 12 out of 25   

Creative people don’t sit and allow problems to surface. Instead, they scan their environment for potential issues, and they see this as time well spent. Also, they’re excited by the opportunity to change things. They aren’t intimidated by change; they embrace it.

To develop your creative skills, you need to adopt a positive attitude towards change, and take an active role in identifying opportunities and looking for potential issues. To do this, challenge your business processes using Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, and look for bottlenecks in these processes. Carry out SWOT and PEST analyses on a regular basis. Keep up-to-date with customer experiences and expectations, and try to spot problems from other people’s perspectives.

Also, engage in benchmarking to find out how well others are addressing similar issues, and look at the issue from a wide range of perspectives. Then, analyze your findings to ensure that a real problem does exist. This fact-finding activity can save you a great deal of time later on, and will help ensure that you only act on the most relevant problems and issues.

Look first for problems and potential issues that interest you. These are the things you’ll be most motivated to pursue when you’re learning to solve problems creatively. Then, as you become more confident, challenge yourself to investigate issues that are more complex.

2. Gathering and Reflecting on Information (Incubation)

(Questions 2, 5)

Your score is 8 out of 10   

When you have a potential issue or problem, gather as much information about it as you can. As part of this, investigate solutions that have been tried previously (both in your own organization, and in other areas), and identify ideas that might have surfaced, but were never acted on.

At this stage it’s also a good idea to step away from the problem for a while, and allow new thoughts and ideas to enter your mind. When we concentrate on one issue for too long there is a tendency to latch onto one or two ideas, and this can block other good ideas. (One of the benefits of being proactive in your problem-finding is that you have time to incubate ideas, rather than being pressurized to find an immediate solution to a problem.)

3. Problem Exploration (Insight)

(Question 3, 7, 12)

Your score is 10 out of 15   

Once you’ve identified and verified your problem, you can figure out what’s really going on. Often, the initial problem that you identified will turn out to be a symptom of a deeper problem. Therefore, identifying the root cause of the problem is extremely important.

When you do this, you’ll find that techniques like CATWOE, Drill Down, the 5 Whys, Cause and Effect Analysis, and Root Cause Analysis are all very effective. While creativity may invoke ideas of spontaneous insight and far-out inspiration, the truth is that being creative in the workplace is rooted in a practical understanding of the situation at hand.

Don’t, however, be so practical that you become negative. What often separates creative people from others is the ability to see past potential barriers, and believe in their insights. For instance, you could easily dismiss a great insight by saying, “Oh that could never be the problem!” But, you won’t ever know if something is contributing to a problem unless you allow yourself to explore the possibility. That’s what creative problem exploration is all about – being open to all ideas and possibilities.

4. Generating and Evaluating Ideas (Evaluation)

(Question 4, 13, 16)

Your score is 10 out of 15   

When you have clear insight into the cause of the issue, you can move onto generating ideas for a solution. Here you want to look for as many ways to inspire ideas as possible. Brainstorming, Reverse Brainstorming and Starbursting are popular for this, however these can be undermined by problems with group dynamics. Techniques like Brainwriting, Round-Robin Brainstorming and the Charette Procedure can help you circumvent common problems.

You can also enrich your ideas by using tools like the Six Thinking Hats, Random Input, the Reframing Matrix and Metaphorical Thinking to look at problems from different perspectives.

Obviously not all of the ideas you have will be practical or possible. So, as part of this step in the creativity process, you need to decide which criteria you’ll use to evaluate your ideas. (Without a solid evaluation process, you’ll be prone to choosing a solution that is perhaps too cautious.)

There are a wide range of tools you can use for the evaluation, including:

5. Implementation (Elaboration)

(Questions 1, 8, 10)

Your score is 7 out of 15   

A common misconception is that creative people spend all their time thinking of new and interesting ideas. In fact, truly creative people recognize a good idea and run with it. A famous Thomas Edison quote supports this: “Creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

For this final step, you need to be committed to taking your ideas and making them happen, and you need to be confident that you can, indeed, propose innovative ideas and inspire change.

To implement your ideas successfully, develop a solid plan, using action plans for simple projects, and more formal project management techniques for larger, more complex projects. You’ll also need to be able to sell your idea to others in your organization. If your idea is likely to affect other people, you’ll want to develop strong change management skills so that the people around you accept and use the products of your creativity.

Once you bring one idea through to successful implementation, you’ll be motivated and inspired to repeat the process again and again!

Key Points

In the workplace, some people are naturally more creative than others. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all learn to be more creative, and use creativity enhancing tools and techniques in our daily lives.

At its core, creativity is the ability to see familiar things in a new light, and the first step to being more creative is training yourself to look for opportunities to improve the systems and processes around you.

Then gather information, find the main cause of issues and problems, and generate and evaluate your ideas. And don’t forget that the mundane work of implementing your ideas is key to being genuinely creative!

– See more at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/creativity-quiz.htm#sthash.bnG67z4U.dpuf

In last week’s article, we highlighted the top 10 signs of job related stress which not only affect a person’s performance at work but also has a negative impact on his physical and mental health. Many readers requested that we also share the ways to deal with this job related stress effectively. There are a lot of methods and techniques which when adopted by the employees can reduce the stress to a great level and improve the overall performance.

Stress management is the key to long term career success and professional growth. When an employee is stressed out, he or she cannot perform to the best of his capabilities, and in the end, the frustration of failure leads to a burnt out very early in life. Once you have identified the symptoms of stress appearing in your everyday life, it is time to address the problem and try out the various techniques mentioned in this article to eliminate stress from your daily routine.

Useful Tips for Eliminating Job Stress:

Some of the very basic but effective methods for reducing your job related stress and avoiding a burn out in your professional life are mentioned below:

Find the Balance:

One of the most effective methods for dealing with job related stress is to find the balance between work and personal life. When employees get too much absorbed into work and start ignoring their family life, the stress level automatically increases. The best way to find a balance between work and family life is to make sure that you finish your assignments and tasks on time. If you have time management issues, there are several ways to be more effective in time management and have been discussed in the previous articles printed in Editor’s Choice.

Avoid Late Sittings:

While it is true that one might be required to put in long hours at work occasionally, make sure that you do not make it a regular habit. Late sittings might help in getting more work done in the beginning but after a while, the work starts to drag and you do not achieve as much output as you would have hoped for, owing to the increase in stress level. So try to finish your work within reasonable hours so that you can make some time for personal life and activities which help in draining the stress from your life.

Take a Break:

Taking a short break during the working hours is immensely important if you are planning on leading a stress free professional life. You should take at least 2 breaks of 5 to 10 minutes during the working hours to stretch your legs, walk around, talk to a colleague who is also on his break etc. Many companies and managers encourage the staff to take two breaks during the work day to enhance their productivity and relieve stress.

Organize Your Desk:

One of the major causes of stress in the professional life is that employees are often unorganized and fail to keep a track of important files and might even miss a deadline due to lack of planning. You need to avoid cluttering your work desk with useless information and arrange all things in an organized manner so that you do not have to search frantically for a file or folder when you need it. If you are organized you have a hold on the important work related things and you avoid being stressed out on a regular basis. By creating a task list and constantly updating it by crossing out the finished assignments and adding new ones, you can achieve a high degree of professional success.

Keep Yourself Hydrated:

Dehydration is not only bad for your health but it also increases the stress level of an individual. Many employees drink coffee and tea to boost their energy level in the morning but ignore to drink water. The high intake of caffeine dehydrates you and lack of water intake can reduce your productivity to a great extent. Make sure that you have a water bottle at your desk and you drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water in a day. Just changing the amount of water intake will do wonders for your stress level.

Seek Help:

Most of the times, when an employee is stressed out it is because he is either unable to handle the work pressure or is having trouble comprehending the tasks at hand. If you are getting stuck somewhere, it is better to ask for help rather than frustrating yourself with repeated failures. Even if you cannot go to your immediate supervisor about a problem, you can ask one of your coworkers or seniors to help you with a certain problem. This not only reduces your stress level considerably but also helps you in bonding with the coworkers.

Personalize Your Cubicle:

Working in a cubicle for 8 hours straight can sometimes be stressful for the employees as the homogeneous environment is often depressing and brings the productivity level down. You can always personalize your cubicle and work desk to make it look good and create a positive environment. Putting a small plant on your desk can boost your productivity to a great level and create a natural environment while providing your desk with fresh oxygen all day. You can also put family pictures on your desk and hand some random ornaments which are your favorite and can help in boosting your morale by reducing stress.

Talk to your Friends:

There are many days when you feel that your office life is not working out well or you might mess up an assignment and have to face the wrath of the superiors. You cannot talk about it at work as it might constitute to complaining or gossiping but you can always discuss such issues with your friends out of work, over a cup of tea in the evening. Venting your feelings and talking about your rough day can help in making you feel better and reduce your job related stress.