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  • feedwordpress 15:02:51 on 2021/09/22 Permalink
    Tags: Philadelphia Business Journal   

    Summer camp memories can help make us more authentic in business 


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    When I was eight years old, I went to summer camp. I loved it. Softball, archery, swimming, volleyball, nighttime campfires and giggles—lots and lots of giggles. It was the most fun an active social child could imagine.

    Yet, even more memorable are the friendships I made every summer. So, when summer ended and the camp season was part of the past, I was always so sad that I would no longer see my special friends every day.

    That idyllic childhood feeling has been long forgotten, until now.

    It started on a court. Four women from different walks of life who met playing a sport together. At first, it was simply a game with women who couldn’t be more different. Brenda doesn’t hold back. She tells it like it is and can inadvertently offend, but she’s down to earth and I instantly liked her. Sally is smart and quite accomplished yet warm, friendly and extremely approachable. We admired each other and instantly bonded. Cathy is kind, genuine and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. We had some friends in common and immediately connected. The four of us have different religions, political affiliations and viewpoints but it didn’t matter.

    As summer moved on, we began joking and teasing each other. We noticed Cathy was getting tougher and told her Brenda must be rubbing off on her. On the court, we started talking about our families and lives before the four of us met, sometimes forgetting we were supposed to be playing and not talking. We began looking forward to seeing each other. Like camp, not only did we share common interests, but we giggled like school kids, sometimes so hysterically that we were practically doubled over, unable to catch our breath. Nighttime campfires of my youth turned into happy hours and dinner parties of adulthood.

    We began texting several times a day. We planned trips to the Jersey shore around each other’s schedules. We began to confide and trust in each other. Like summer camp, we looked forward to being together.

    The game that brought us together became far more than a game. When one of us didn’t feel good or didn’t show up to play, we worried. When Cathy’s mom was hospitalized, we checked in with her every day. We celebrated each other’s accomplishments and shared each other’s life milestones. Without saying it, each of us knew we had each other’s backs.

    So, when Labor Day arrived and we had to return to our respective homes in different states, we hugged and promised to make plans. Brenda texted how grateful she was to have us in her lives and thanked us for helping her make it through tough COVID times. Sally called us a true sisterhood and Cathy said even though we haven’t known each other that long, she felt a strong connection to all of us. I was surprised to feel that long forgotten childhood melancholy that the unofficial end of summer used to bring.

    As a happy adult with fulfilling relationships and lots of friends, perhaps that sounds odd, but consider this. People enter our lives at different times for different reasons. I often joke that I don’t want more friends. However, what if I really embraced that attitude? I would have missed out on unique connections with three wonderful women who have brightened my life.

    Often in business, we focus on proving ourselves, being our best and trying to impress others. What if we could just remember what it felt like to be eight and let that authentic child shine through? An eight year old lives in the moment. An eight year old doesn’t care where you live, what religion you practice or what political party your family affiliates with. They are still slightly new and fresh. They arrive with a clean slate and infectious smiles that make you want to be around them.

    When the four of us are together, sometimes I feel like I’m eight all over again. Like that eight year old, I’m already looking forward to next summer.

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  • feedwordpress 18:06:58 on 2021/09/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, , ,   

    Five Ways to Deal with Dismissiveness 


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    My meeting with two women I had never met was all set. Yet, when I arrived at the designated spot, introduced myself with a smile and said nice to meet you, one of the women turned her back toward me and ignored my greeting. I asked her if something was wrong, to which she waived the back of her hand at me as if she was waiving me away. So, I asked again.

    “I’ve never met you before, yet it seems you have an issue with me, have I done something to offend you?” This time she looked right past me, walked away and over her shoulder said, “let’s just begin.”

    Not sure what she was irritated about, I looked at the other woman who shrugged and then silently mouthed, “she didn’t like your text, but she’s always like this.”

    Ah, the text! When we were trying to schedule the meeting at a time of her choice, I explained that the owners of the facility where we were meeting didn’t want us to arrive as early as she wanted to be there. She responded that she knows the hours of operation, doesn’t need me to tell her what to do and furthermore, she had gotten permission to arrive whenever she wants. I asked who gave her that permission and she curtly replied, “will you be there at this time or not?” Irritated and a little confused at her condescending dismissive tone, I simply said “okay” and stopped texting.

    While some people are unintentionally dismissive, others very knowingly dismiss what you say. They are patronizing and uninterested in your thoughts or feelings. Perhaps trying to make you appear inferior makes them feel superior especially if they can do it in front of other people like a lion leading the pack.

    I’m sure you’ve met these people at work. They can be hurtful, embarrassing and make you feel irrelevant. If you’re like me, your natural instinct might be to lash out and let them have it, but then you are stooping to their level. Furthermore, if you do that, they will find a way to blame you and tell others what a jerk you are.

    Instead, consider the following five approaches:

    • Don’t take it personally

           While easier said than done, take a breath to stay calm. Remain friendly and nice. Even if they continue to dismiss you, you can take comfort knowing that you remained professional.

    • Call out

                Calling someone out on their behavior is not the same thing as blasting them. If this type of behavior continues, consider telling them what is offensive and calmly ask them to stop. If it remains a problem, you may need to seek help from a manager or human resources.    

    • Culture clash

                  Sometimes, what seems rude to you might be a cultural difference. The person I interacted with was from another country. Perhaps she thinks she is being direct and  doesn’t realize how her words are perceived. The same is true when Americans travel to other countries. For example, we are used to requesting adjustments when we order meals. In some countries, that is considered an insult to the chef.

    • Walk away

           If you’ve tried to de-escalate a situation and find out what is bugging this person without success, then it may be best to just walk away. A dismissive person has no ammunition if there is no one to aim it at.

    • Body language

           Remember that nonverbal communication is as important as what you actually say. If you do call someone out or walk away, be careful not to use negative or disapproving gestures such as rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or leaning too far into someone’s space. It’s also important to look them in the eye.

    While you can’t always change someone’s behavior, you can change  the way you react to it. It’s so easy to let a dismissive person put you on the defensive. However, if you handle their inappropriate actions appropriately, you will come across as professional and self-assured. They may not notice, but others will and respect you for it.

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  • feedwordpress 10:15:19 on 2021/07/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, , ,   

    How to strike a balance between confident and cocky in the workplace 


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    If you read my column, you know I’m an avid Pickleball player. That’s the paddleball-like sport that combines parts of badminton, ping pong and tennis on a small sized tennis court.

    This summer I’m in a league where each division is made up of teams with players of the same skill level. I recently ran into someone whose team we were scheduled to play. This person who we’ll call Sarah told me she is more skilled than us is only playing in our division because the organizer needed to fill the spot. She said her team is better than us and the other teams in our division, but she didn’t mind playing down.

    Other than my initial disbelief at how someone could be so arrogant and condescending, it made me think about the difference between cockiness and confidence. It also made me want to obliterate her team on the court when we played them.

    The official definition of cocky is “conceited or arrogant, especially in a bold or impudent way”. Similarly, the definition of confident is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”.

    At work, one can mistakenly be confused with the other, which can lead to incorrect judgements and misperceptions about people. For example, I have a client who is perceived as cocky. He is very handsome, well-spoken and impeccably dressed. Often when people meet him, they quickly size him up as a “pretty boy” with no substance. Because he is the highest performer at his company which comes with envied perks, he is sometimes seen as arrogant and conceited by those who are perhaps jealous or don’t know him.

    I have gotten to know him, and he is anything but cocky. He is kind, funny, smart and even a bit insecure. If anything, he sometimes doubts himself because he’s always striving to improve. He is confident about his abilities, yet always craves coaching and honest feedback to help him continually enhance his skills.

    In my experience, cocky people tend to brag or show off even when they don’t have the skills or know how to back it up. Confident people like my client recognize their strengths but are also keenly aware of their challenges and vulnerabilities.

    So, what about the girl on the pickleball court? Cocky or confident? My judgement says both.

    She’s cocky because she knows she’s good. She’s confident she has the skills to back up her words and she’s not shy about singing her own praises. Traits that are not always unattractive unless you don’t know how to display them which in her case came off as cocky.

    Yet, here is where cockiness and confidence differ on the court or in the workplace. Unlike a confident self-assured person who can admit a mistake, seek help and strive to improve, a cocky person often rationalizes, passes the buck and rarely apologizes.

    At first her team was winning but as the match progressed, we began to take the lead. That’s when she started blaming her missed shots on high winds of the day. When we began to amass points, she started correcting her teammate’s approach, not her own. Good players know to aim put away shots at their opponent’s feet. Sarah slammed one directly at my upper body and when it hit me, she didn’t apologize. I had been looking forward to this match because I wanted to make her eat her words. Unfortunately, we lost.

    Striking a balance between cocky and confident is a delicate form of communication that requires a certain level of finesse. Here’s how to achieve it:

    Use facts, not sweeping statements

    Instead of declaring her team is better and they don’t mind playing down, if Sarah had said her team is undefeated and they hope their winning streak continues, that would have sounded less boisterous and more factual.

    Offer praise, not sour grapes

    Telling someone they did a great job or complimenting their work doesn’t detract from your skills. It actually makes you appear more self-assured and confident. Studies show when people compliment others, it makes them feel better about themselves. Research says at work, praise increases morale and makes people feel more valued.

    Have something to learn

    If you are a know it all, you may alienate people, loose opportunities and damage your reputation. Perhaps Sarah doesn’t care what her opponents think of her, but just as business colleagues talk to other colleagues, players talk to other players and Sarah’s arrogant behavior is spreading throughout the league. There are people who have told the league organizer they don’t want to play with her again.

    Admit mistakes

    No one is always right regardless of skill or expertise. If you make a mistake, apologize or own up to it. Admitting wrongdoing makes you look confident, not weak.

    At the end of our match, my team congratulated Sarah’s team and said nice playing with you. She responded, “maybe we’ll run into you again sometime” to which I replied, “maybe we’ll see you at the playoffs.” Cocky? Not really. Admittedly, I was just trying to get under her skin. Yet, at this point in the season, we are right behind Sarah’s first place team in league standings. That means we may face them again if we get into the playoffs.

    If that happens, we’ll play with confidence because we have worked hard at becoming skilled players. However, win or lose, we’ll leave arrogance and egos at home. Poor behavior in any environment doesn’t look attractive on anyone.

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  • feedwordpress 05:01:00 on 2021/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: business comunication, , , Philadelphia Business Journal, Policitcal correctness   

    Political Correctness in the Workplace 


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    I answered the phone to hear my client’s normally confident voice sound a little hesitant.

    “I’m not sure how to make this call, she said. First, know how much we enjoy working with you and that your evaluations are always top notch.”

    “What’s wrong” I asked.

    “Remember Tom from that training you did last week” she asked?

    “Sure, I said. Nice guy”.

    “Well, she responded, someone complained about what you said to him.”

    At first, I had no clue what she was talking about and then it hit me. As we introduced ourselves in the virtual room, I was shocked at how much Tom looked like my younger brother. I said I’ve heard everyone has a double and told him he was a double for my brother, then joked, that Tom was better looking. Everyone laughed.

    Apparently, it was no laughing matter because a woman in the program complained that it was a sexist remark.

    The definition of sexist is “prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls.” The definition of gender discrimination is a “situation in which people are treated differently simply because they are male or female, rather than on the basis of their individual skills or capabilities”.

    I do not consider myself sexist or discriminatory toward any gender. Initially, I dismissed the woman’s offense as ridiculous and a complete overreaction. Perhaps it was. However, as I thought about it for a moment, I realized that what might not seem offensive to me can unintentionally offend someone else.

    I asked my client if she wanted me to apologize and she said no, but she was obligated to tell me that someone complained.

    In today’s environment, everyone seems to have a different tolerance level for what is being said. What upsets or offends one person may not bother someone else. It’s understandable how people can be offended if someone calls them an ugly name or makes fun of their disability. Yet, if someone told me I should not pursue a singing career because I can’t carry a tune, should I be offended? Maybe you would be, but I would appreciate their honest opinion, whether I agreed with it or not.

    So, I’m wondering if political correctness is bubbling out of control. Are we teaching the next generation to be offended by anything that bothers them? How softly do we have to walk on eggshells?

    Before you become offended by what I’m suggesting, that is, if you’re not already offended, hear me out.

    In singer-songwriter Jason Mraz’s song, Did you get my message, he asks:

    Do you ever wonder what happens to the words that we send
    Do they bend? Do they break from the flight that they take
    And come back together again? With a whole new meaning
    And a brand new sense completely unrelated to the one I sent

    Our words and the way we use them are frequently misinterpreted and taken out of context. Sometimes, it’s not what we say, but how we say it. Sometimes, how a person reacts to something we say is not our fault. So, I’ve developed a few rules of my own that I want to pass on to you.

    • Ask the right question

    For starters, if you are offended by something someone said, determine if that person was deliberately trying to offend you. Then tell them why you were offended so they develop a greater awareness and may refrain from doing it again.

    A few weeks ago, I heard a friend ask a group of friends where they get their nails done. A woman answered, “at the Asian place”. There was a discomforting silence. Then someone spoke up and said you really shouldn’t say things like that, to which the woman who made the remark responded, “say what?” After it was explained why her comment was offensive, the woman apologized and told her friends she never realized that referring to someone in those terms was discriminatory.

    • Embrace the learning opportunity

    Instead of trying to convince yourself that someone is overreacting, try to understand their      viewpoint before lashing out. You may still decide they’ve overreacted, but you may also discover why they feel the way they do.

    As an example, recently a female client told me her male manager constantly tells her not to show emotion, to speak up and be more assertive like her male colleagues. She has told her him she doesn’t want to be someone she’s not and is uncomfortable with the way he phrases feedback. He says she is too sensitive. To her, this is sexism. Other people do not have the right to invalidate your feelings by telling you how you should feel.

    • Don’t respond emotionally

    If someone is offended, don’t minimize their feelings with more words. Apologize and let it go. But don’t apologize over and over again as that continually reminds someone of your mistake and prevents the two of you from getting past it.

    • Pay attention

    Often, when someone is uncomfortable at something said, subtle body language signs such as crossed arms, raised eyebrows and facial expressions are clues that they may have been offended. Instead of continuing, take a moment to read visual clues so you can stop and assess what is happening.

    • Know when to get help

    Most of the time, the above suggestions will take the edge off, but if you can’t resolve the issue, you may need to ask for help. At work, tell your manager what happened so they can help mediate.

    I have heard some refer to those who are more easily offended than others as “thin skinned”. Some people go out of their way to be diplomatic when speaking and others simply don’t care who they offend.

    While political correctness may mean different things to different people, it is not intended to halt free speech or squash someone else’s opinion. Rather, it’s about trying to understand how certain words and how they are used can be hurtful. If those words unintentionally portray you as sexist, racist or homophobic, instead of making it about you, try to understand how these words affect others.

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  • feedwordpress 13:12:35 on 2021/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , driving, , Florida, , , Philadelphia Business Journal   

    How to Apply 4 Rules of the Road as Workplace Lessons 


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    On a recent trip to Florida, I observed three types of drivers.

    • Older adults. Many appear to struggle seeing clearly and have decreased reflexes which results in slow driving and slower reaction time.
    • Younger adults. Often, they speed, cutting off other drivers as they weave in and out of multiple lanes without using turn signals.
    • Out-of-towners. These people are driving unfamiliar rental cars on unfamiliar roads .Taking their eyes off the road to fiddle with their navigation apps equals a lot of distracted drivers.

    Adding these behaviors together is akin to navigating a minefield. Stressful. Frightening. Hazardous. It made me wonder if driving styles and personalities are related. According to numerous published studies, they are, and people are genuinely interested in why. Tom Vanderbilt’s book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do and What It Says About Us, examines the psychology of human beings behind the steering wheel is a best seller. Vanderbilt observes driving is one of the most complex things we do in our lives and when we forget that it’s not as easy as it seems, we get into trouble.

    Wanting to learn more, I came across a quiz at LittleThings.com asking readers to determine which driving style best matches their personality. For example, the quiz positions an “Adventurer” as a risk taker who enjoys thrilling activities like bungee jumping and skydiving. I imagine that means this person is a more aggressive driver who will grab the road with gusto.

    Then there is the opposite labeled “Nervous Nellie”, an anxious person who shies away from high-risk activities. On the road, Nellies probably takes it slow and plays it safe and may take longer to make decisions.

    Then I began to wonder how this translates to the workplace. If someone who is a perfectionist was taught to keep their hands at “10 and 2” on the wheel and always does, does that mean they are more likely to be as exacting at work? If so, how does their pursuit of perfection affect their ability to interact with others? Are they more likely to decide their way is the right way?

    While there is a good amount of literature on how personality affects driving behaviors, statistics vary according to age groups and countries. However, in my experience working closely with leaders and their employees, I believe habits of all drivers regardless of age or location can also offer us valuable lessons when handling life’s lanes.

    Don’t take it personally

    While you might be horrified by the driver who pulls in front of you with very little room to make a left-hand turn from a right-hand lane, even though their behavior puts you in danger, their aggression may not be directed toward you. At work, you also can’t control what others say and do. You can only control what you say and do and that should be your focus.

    Set an example

    If someone is tailgating you and blaring their horn, it’s imperative to stay calm and if you can, move out of the way. On the road and at work, you may prevent the situation from escalating. You are also setting an example and taking responsibility for your own actions. Attitude matters.

    Adapt and adjust

    If traffic is backed up for miles and you are going to be late to an appointment, do you sit for hours or do you look for alternative routes? Probably the latter. Developing problem solving skills and the ability to change lanes is not something that comes easy to everyone. Improving these skills can build confidence and improve credibility at work.

    Be present

    It’s normal to check our rear-view mirror or glance at a billboard because most of the time our gaze is on the road in front of us. When we fidget with our phones and other technology, accidents are more prone to happen. At work, it’s also important to focus and be present when others are speaking to us.

    Finally, while older, younger and out-of-town drivers are not limited to Florida, regardless of where the road takes you, it’s important to remember the rules of the road apply to everyone regardless of title or position. Having your own unique style is great as long as expressing it doesn’t put others in harm’s way.

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