Happiness is Overrated

Pamela Jett, CSP

Trouble ahead, Businessman with umbrella standing in front of stHave you ever found yourself in a situation where “choosing to be happy” or any of the other peppy pieces of advice often given by professional speakers from the platform just don’t seem to be working? Or, in a serious situation where being perky, upbeat, and a ray of cheerful sunshine doesn’t seem possible. Perhaps you’ve even found yourself facing a challenge or loss where being upbeat and chipper may even be downright inappropriate.

When challenged to “choose to be happy” or given other motivational nuggets, you might find yourself occasionally cringing and thinking, “here we go again.” Or, “Nothing is that simple. Things are complicated. My pressures and stressors are real!”

Eggs emotion concept. Clenched teeth. Angry and annoyed. Photo for your design

A perky, positive attitude has its place. Exuberant cheerfulness by choice can, without a doubt, help create a positive environment. Yet, after over 2 decades of working with professionals to enhance their communication and leadership skills, and frequently encouraging people to “choose to be happy,” I’ve recently decided that happiness is overrated.

Choosing to be happy is good. It is powerful. And, sometimes we need something more.

In the midst of challenges, and without a doubt we live in challenging times, what individuals, teams, and leaders really need is the ability to move forward and be productive while simultaneously acknowledging the impact change, crisis, and serious challenge has on people, teams, organizations, and even cultures. Failing to recognize these very real struggles can cause leaders to lose credibility and for teams to be less effective. Failure to acknowledge challenges minimizes psychological safety, a key driver of success.

Imagine if a leader had to lay off a substantial number of employees on a Friday. It would be not only absurd for them to come into work on Monday all chipper and upbeat, it would be counter-productive for them to do so. Team members would wonder “don’t they know our friends and colleagues are without a job? Are they that insensitive or delusional?” Leaders would lose credibility if they were chipper and upbeat. Teams would no longer trust their leader or feel safe. And yet, leaders are still tasked with moving projects forward, charting a course for success, and setting a positive example. That’s a tough spot. Happy and upbeat is a poor choice. Morose and depressed isn’t good either.

It’s in times like these that what we really need is the ability to choose to be relentlessly positive. Relentless positivity is the constant application of effective and productive optimism.

The constant and unabating application of effective and productive optimism-3

Based in neuroscience and with a focus on business application, the art of choosing to be relentlessly positive is something everyone can master. Relentless positivity moves us beyond the power of positive thinking and into the mindset and language crucial for resilience and success in today’s world.

Pamela Jett, CSP is a leadership and communication expert based in Phoenix, AZ. Delivered with energy, humor, and a dash of neuroscience, her latest keynote presentations, The Relentlessly Positive Leader and The Relentlessly Positive Communicator, provide audiences of all types new, evidence-based tools to overcome adversity and challenges.

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Why Leaders Need to Stop “Making Changes”

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Group of successful young business persons together

A few days ago I had the privilege to work with one of my favorite clients, Norton Healthcare in Louisville, KY.  I’ve been working with them for the past several months facilitating their Women’s Leadership Academy.  This academy is made up of bright, motivated, and professional women leaders from around the healthcare system.  Discussions are consistently robust, thought provoking and lively. In addition to sharing communication and leadership skills with them, I always learn something from the attendees.  This session was no exception.

As leaders, the words we choose to use and the words we choose to lose can make all the difference in our effectiveness.  During this session we were talking about how to best navigate the pushback or resistance that teams will often display when a new policy or procedure is being implemented or when change is happening. An attendee, Beth, made a very astute observation. An observation that got me thinking and all of us talking.

Beth mentioned that she has learned in her leadership role that often team members have a very adverse reaction (notice, I didn’t say response) to the mere uttering of the word “change.”  This is true even if the “change” is a small one, or a change with extremely obvious positive benefits, or one that people have been lobbying for.  Team members often hear the word “change” and immediately go into resistance mode or become skeptical. Some team members can even become downright angry or hostile towards the change process before it even begins.

Has this been your experience?  It has been mine.  It also makes sense.  One of the things we know from neuroscience, is that the brain classifies “change” as “threat.” When humans feel threatened, all of the adverse reactions noted above are not only understandable, they are even predictable.

So, what can a savvy leader do?  Clearly, creating a team where nothing changes is not only a poor choice, it is not possible. Change is inevitable. Without change there is no growth. Change is necessary for teams, organizations, and even societies to thrive. The question becomes how to best manage change and lead people through the change process.

Good advice on that subject is easy to find.

Good leaders typically implement that good advice.

And yet, people still are resistant.

Here is where the Women’s Leadership Academy participant, Beth, made an astute observation and offered a savvy tip. Stop using the word “change” as often as possible. She shared that it had been her experience that if she could replace the word “change” with a different word, the resistance was less instantaneous and often less intense. Here are some of the words Beth and the other attendees agreed could work.

  • Adjust
  • Tweak
  • Upgrade
  • Enhance
  • Fine-tune
  • Refine

Obviously, this is only the start of what could be a very long list.  What words can you think of?

Words matter. From the receiver’s perspective, it is much more palatable to hear “we are going to adjust this process” or “we are going to upgrade this process” than “we are going to change this process.”

“It’s time to fine-tune our approach” sounds, and is, more positive than “it’s time to change our approach.”

The new wording sets people up for a positive experience and is less likely to trigger the “threat” reaction. It also allows people to know what they have been doing wasn’t all bad or all wrong. It allows leaders to stay positive (relentlessly positive), even when delivering a message that can sometimes be negative. 

Savvy leaders know that the words the words they choose to use can make all the difference. Making the effort to choose positive words as opposed to negative words (and change is often perceived as a negative) can become a key leadership success differentiator. Take the opportunity to replace “change” and watch resistance and pushback lessen and compliance and even enthusiasm increase.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Hyperbole – It’s “Killing” Your Career

“This project is the worst ever!”

“I have a million things on my to do list.”

“This is taking a ton of time.”

“Learning this new software is killing me!”

“If this meeting doesn’t end soon, I’m going to die.”

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself using them or something similar in the workplace? If so, you may be unwittingly damaging your credibility by using (too much) hyperbole.

amazed woman with big head over grey background

What is hyperbole?

Hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration used to make a point.  We often use it to add “color” or “flavor” to our communication.  “This software is older than dirt” is a colorful statement and it allows you to make your point with emphasis.  Teenagers are MASTERS of hyperbole in my experience.  At least I was.  “Mom, if I can’t have these (name brand) tennis shoes, I won’t be able to show my face at school… ever!” Or, “I’m so embarrassed…I could just die!” That is hyperbole.

Hyperbole and Credibility

Communicating in a vivid and engaging manner can add to the overall impact of your message.However, reliance on hyperbole can “kill” your credibility. Notice what I did there? Of course you did.  Does hyperbole really “kill” your credibility?  Of course not.  Can it negatively impact your credibility?  Of course it can.

Unfortunately, “negatively impact” isn’t as attention grabbing as “kill.” And, in the information age, when we are inundated with messages, it is tempting to use hyperbole to grab attention, to get heard above the noise.

People Hands Holding Red Word Trust MeHere is where the problem lies.  If everything in your business is “the best ever” or “the biggest opportunity of the year” or even “the most challenging” then how do you separate the genuinely “great” from the “good?” How do you emphasize something worthy of more time, effort and energy if everything is currently positioned in the extreme? If you regularly use hyperbole to make a point, how can people trust you?

Remember the boy who cried “wolf!”?  When the wolf really did appear, he wasn’t believed.  Same thing with your credibility. If you consistently paint everything as a “crisis” or “a disaster!” how will you gain the much needed focus and attention of your team when the genuine crisis occurs?  Chances are, you will have a more difficult time.

caution-tape1Words Matter – Watch Out for These

Sometimes hyperbole is a habit.  We are accustomed to using words that smack of hyperbole.  Here’s a quick list of words that are currently popular.  We often use them without thinking and we may be inadvertently be hurting our credibility.

  • Amazing
  • Awesome
  • Unbelievable
  • Totally
  • Nightmare
  • Ridiculous
  • Fabulous
  • Killing
  • Crushing

If you use these words sparingly, you will likely make an impact.  If you use them too much you will likely be seen as less professional, less serious, and less discerning.  You will be hurting your credibility.

Ask yourself, how am I using hyperbole?  Too much? What price might I be paying?

Professionals know that communicating in an engaging manner is important.  However, to sacrifice credibility for the sake of exaggeration is likely a career killing, totally ridiculous, nightmare choice.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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How to be Your Own Career Superhero

woman opening her shirt like a superhero

woman opening her shirt like a superhero

Have you ever wondered why some people’s careers simply seem to skyrocket?  Or, wondered how some people seem to get more attention and opportunities than others?   Have you ever wondered if there was some sort of way you could launch yourself onto the fast-track?  If so, take heart.  There are ways you can be your own career superhero and “save the day.” All you need are a few simple strategies to unleash your own inner superhero.

Embrace this Truth – No One is Rushing to Your Career Rescue

 For over 20 years I’ve been speaking about communication, leadership, and career advancement.  One of the most common comments from audience members is something along the lines of “I work hard and yet I don’t seem to get promoted.”  My follow up question is typically “what opportunities have you put yourself forward for recently?” The response?  Crickets.  It seems that many professionals are waiting for their good work to get noticed or for their leader to suggest they apply for an opportunity.  That RARELY happens.  Professionals who want to get on the fast-track know they need to make it happen themselves instead of waiting for their leader to place them there. Stop waiting for your good work to get noticed and appreciated.  Start taking proactive steps to be your own superhero right now.

Know Your “Superpowers” and Leverage Them

Here is some common advice “you want to uncover your weaknesses and shore them up.” Good advice?  Not really.  Of course we want to improve if we are weak in crucial areas.  However, if we place all of our efforts on getting better at something we are not good at, the best we can hope for is mediocrity or being average in most cases.  Why not take that same effort and energy (or at least a substantial portion of it) and look at what you are good at… really good at and figure out how to use that to make an extraordinary contribution to your organization’s success?  THAT will get you noticed.

Track Your Success 

Research reveals that we tend to remember our mistakes 7 times (yes, 7!!!) longer and with much more intensity than our successes.  Think about that.  If I were to ask you to “share your biggest win this quarter” it might be rather hard to come up with something immediately. Some of you might not come up with anything or if you did you would immediately downplay your success in your mind or even feel guilty – as if sharing it would be bragging.  However, “share where you really botched it recently” would likely generate an unlimited stream of mistakes, missed opportunities, and other errors.  This is human nature (seriously, there is neuroscience which backs this up.)  A great way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you at a crucial time (like a performance review) is to keep a “glory file.”  Whenever you have a “win” record it in your “glory file.”  When your leader compliments you, make a note for your glory file. If you receive a complimentary email, print it and file it!  Track the good things you do so that you can review it when you are feeling low or before a crucial conversation.  Trust me, you are letting a lot of “wins” slide right past you.  By tracking them you increase your ability to recognize them, remember them, and leverage them.

Leverage Your “Wins”

While keeping a “glory file” is a great practice, professionals who are their own super heroes are doing something proactive with that information.  One strategy is to send regular “I’m Great Updates” to your immediate supervisor or executive leader.  Of course, you don’t have to title them that.  However, that’s what they are.  They are a tool to update your leader on all you’ve done well.  It’s a brief email focused on the highlights of your accomplishments over any given any period of time. You can send one once a quarter or once a month.  One a week might be too often. Sending this written update is helpful in many ways:

  • It serves as a summary and memory trigger you can use at review time.
  • It can help you leader track your accomplishments and increases the likelihood that the accomplishments show up in your review.
  • The simple act of sending the update sets you apart from others.

Make an Impact

Know how what you do on a regular basis makes an impact on your organization’s big picture goals and strategic vision. Take a moment to determine what you do on a regular basis and then draw a straight line from that activity to a big picture goal or objective. If it is something that can be measured or expressed as a number of some sort, that is even better. Use this strategic language “what this means is…” to point out the impact of what you do. Place these impact statements in your “I’m Great Updates.” Use them in your conversations with your leader.  By pointing out the impact of what you do, you show not only awareness of your contributions, you also display awareness of the bigger picture, a crucial component of career success.

Be Your own Superhero

Stop waiting for someone else to boost your career. Take a proactive approach by using these strategies.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.


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Passive-Aggressive? Here’s Why

Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?-2Passive-aggressiveness, sometimes known as the “nice-nasty,” is communication (behavior) that is “nicety-nice” on the surface. However, the underlying message or intent is mean, rude, nasty, and/or manipulative.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressiveness can be frustrating, confounding, hurtful, and can even be the reason to end a relationship, quit a job, or even retaliate.

Passive-aggressiveness takes many forms.

  • Sarcasm
  • Ghosting
  • The Silent Treatment
  • Sabotage
  • Withholding (time, praise, intimacy, opportunity)
  • Backhanded Compliments
  • Hinting

And many, many more.  What these behaviors all have in common is that they allow people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others or having “plausible deniability” if called on their behavior.  For example, if someone uses sarcasm and they are confronted by the recipient, they can claim “that’s not what I meant” or even resort to gaslighting (intentionally trying to make the other person doubt themselves or the validity of their perceptions and feelings) with something like “geez – you are too sensitive.”  The passive-aggressive person wants their way, but they also want everyone to still like them and/or not be held accountable for their aggressive behavior.

I am often asked after delivering keynote speeches or programs on communication “Pamela, why are people passive-aggressive?”  Some of the more obvious answers are:

  • They are often insecure.
  • They may have poor communication skills.  They don’t know how to be assertive. (Important note:  assertive and aggressive are very different.)
  • They may struggle with jealously (personal or professional.)
  • They may feel out of control or a need to gain (or regain) power.
  • They may have learned it “works” for them.
  • It allows them to stay in their “comfort zone” and avoid the accountability assertiveness requires.

In addition to these reasons, here are a few less widely talked about, and yet still prevalent reasons.

Anger is often socially unacceptable (especially for women) whereas sugarcoated anger can be socially acceptable. Many people have been taught to “play nice” or that to “be liked” is a top priority. Some people are so uncomfortable with conflict, confrontation and other negative interactions that they will attempt to “keep the peace at any cost.”  While they may feel anger, they are not comfortable expressing it directly for fear of social censure. When the anger gets sugarcoated, that social censure is typically less.

Assertiveness can be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. Passive-aggressiveness can be easier and feel safer than assertiveness.  Being assertive and asking for what you want or need by being direct and clear about your expectations can feel risky. What if your request is denied? What if the recipient of your request belittles your request? Or gets upset? By choosing passive-aggressiveness (indirect communication) individuals give themselves a more palatable explanation for another’s behavior.  For example, if you are frustrated by your colleague’s constant tardiness to meetings you run and you “drop hints” (passive-aggressive)  about their arrival time and despite the hints they continue to arrive late, you can tell yourself “perhaps I wasn’t clear” or “maybe they didn’t understand.”  However, if you opt for the assertive approach and directly (and politely)  tell your colleague that their being late to regularly scheduled meetings you run is frustrating and ask them to be on time (an assertive approach) they may choose not to be on time anyway. With this assertive approach, you can no longer tell yourself “perhaps they didn’t understand.” Now the remaining explanations are less palatable such as “my frustration must not really matter to them.” Sometimes these “less palatable” explanations can be hurtful. Hence why assertiveness can sometimes be terrifying.

Passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Because it is often manipulative and can be disconcerting to others, passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Passive-aggressiveness is also disrespectful to others. The passive-aggressive person is taking away the other person’s power. It can be a way for an insecure person to gain some of the power and control they feel they are lacking.  Assertiveness, on the other hand, is mutually respectful (power is shared.) The passive-aggresive person doesn’t want to share that power.

Passive-aggressiveness can be easily rationalized. The passive-aggressive person is very adept at justifying their behavior. It is their brain’s way of arguing for their comfort zone. Any twinges of remorse or regret are quickly squashed by an inner or story that negates the necessity for change or personal growth.

While we cannot stop the passive-aggressive person from being passive-aggressive, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what passive-aggressive is and why people use it. For tools and information about how to deal with passive-aggressive people, check out this on-demand webinar. And, if you are looking to build your own assertiveness skills, click here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.


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Stop Saying ” I’m Sorry” and Start Saying This Instead

by Pamela Jett, CSP

By now, yomedfr17018u’ve likely seen and heard the advice to “stop saying I’m sorry” in numerous blogs, seminars, books, and speeches by experts like myself.  In fact, I’ve even blogged about it myself before (if you want to read that blog click here.)  Many of us habitually say “I’m sorry.” Often for things we have no need to apologize for. It can be a habit. It can diminish our impact and credibility.  And, it can erode our path to success.

Most experts, myself included, will advise you to replace the “I’m sorry” with “I apologize.”  I apologize is more impactful, you are taken more seriously, and it keeps you from offering apologies where none are warranted.  This is a small change that can make a big difference.

There is another equally powerful replacement.  This replacement allows you build the other person up.  To compliment them on their admirable behavior instead of tearing yourself down or making yourself small.  The replacement for “I’m sorry” is to compliment or praise the other person.  For example:thank-you2

  • Instead of “I’m sorry I took so long to clear the meeting room” try “thanks for waiting so patiently as I cleared the room.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry I was late” try “I appreciate your kindness in waiting for me.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry to ask for you help” try “your willingness to help means a lot to me.”

Build the other person up.  Praise or thank them for their actions or response instead of tearing yourself down. While there are still plenty of times when an apology is warranted, often the best course of action is to praise the other party.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Avoid This One Thing and Stop Sabotaging Good Relationships

Pop art and comic design
Pamela Jett, CSP

I was having lunch with a few colleagues the other day. We were discussing our goals and plans for our respective businesses and one colleague, a colleague I also consider a good friend, admitted one of the things she needed to focus on “wasn’t really very energizing.” Immediately, I piped up with a cheerful, positive and energetic  “yes it is!” This was well intended. It was my goal to be helpful. And, it was also a poor choice. Her response was a very gracious “it’s not very energizing to me.”  Wow!  Shame on me. Too much of that kind of behavior and I could sabotage a great relationship.

What did I do wrong?

My well-intentioned attempt to make her feel better was actually dismissive and disrespectful.  By contradicting her, albeit cheerfully, I was essentially telling her she was wrong to feel the way she was feeling. By piping up immediately, I essentially decreased the likelihood she would want to share more.  Because, who would want to share their truth with someone who tells them their truth is wrong?

What ought I to have done?

A better course of action would have been to ask her some open-ended questions such as “what about it isn’t energizing?” or even a generic “help me to understand – tell me more.”  I could have stifled my urge to cheerfully advise and taken the time to be interested. Chances are, she would have appreciated the listening ear and the opportunity to talk far more than my unsolicited advice and dismissive approach.

What did I do to make it better?

First, when she very graciously corrected me by saying “It’s not very energizing to me” I followed up with an open-ended question in an attempt to repair the damage. And while that was better than nothing, I still felt lingering hesitancy on her part.

What can I do now?

Because it bothered me, I have taken the time to analyze the interaction.  I now know I will apologize for being so dismissive.

What can you do?

Learn from my mistakes. Be conscious of how the words you choose, even the well-intended ones, can impact relationships. Take the time to ask questions and listen to the answers before rushing in to share your thoughts or ideas. Honor others and their perspective.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Intentional Praise: Boost Performance (Even with Difficult Employees)

way to go, good job, well done, you're the man, thumbs up, you rock - a set of isolated sticky notes with positive affirmation words

We’ve all heard the adage “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” As leaders, giving intentional praise is one of the easiest, if not the easiest, ways to reward employees.  The key is to offer intentional praise in addition to the “off the cuff” or “on the fly” praise  (which is still very powerful and important.) Here are some tips to make your praise intentional:

  • Decide that you will find something praiseworthy in a particular circumstance or person (even a difficult one.) One of the best ways to see something good in a person or situation is to go looking for it.  If necessary, tell yourself “today, I will find 2 good things that Jane does” or “I will find 2 good things to share with my team that they did well during today’s team meeting.” Set your intention. Decide to find something good.
  • Decide to share your praise publicly. Research indicates that if you praise someone publicly it not only motivates the individual(s) you are praising, it motivates those around them. What a great way to impact and influence even your most difficult employees.
  • Decide to use praise that helps people understand the bigger picture and, more importantly, their role in the bigger picture. Many employees have no idea how what they do on a day-to-day basis impacts overall goals or organizational initiatives.  Move beyond the “good job” level of praise and start sharing specifically how what they did makes a positive impact. Help your team know that they make a difference and they will continue to perform at high levels.
  • Decide to praise a variety of behaviors, not just things that can be measured. It can be easy to limit praise to those meeting sales goals or those with low complaint volume. The leader who wants to boost performance will also look at things like attitude, creativity, initiative, and other less obvious behaviors and praise those as well.

How a leader communicates praise is vital. Decide to be intentional. Decide to start today. Decide to find one thing worth praising before the day is done and you will be well of your way to boosting performance, even with difficult employees.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Increase Your Influence – Before the Meeting Even Starts!

Pamela Jett, CSP

Slide1Would you like to be taken more seriously by your leader?  Are you looking to enhance your influence and make a bigger impact on your organization’s goals and objectives?  Are you seeking to attain the attention, authority, and respect you have earned? Would you like others. especially your leaders, to see you as a motivated, engaged, and high-value team player who is ready to take on even more opportunities?

If so, meetings and other group conversations present a fabulous opportunity to shine.  Chances are, you are doing the basics:

  • You are well prepared.
  • You participate readily and with confidence.
  • You follow-up on your action items.
  • You are supportive and open-minded to the contributions of others.
  • You stay focused on the subject at hand and don’t engage in disruptive behaviors.

However, are you making the most of the opportunity to shine even before the meeting starts? Here are some powerful strategies to leverage.

  • Words to choose and words to lose. Stop using the phrase “I have to go to a meeting” and change it to “I get to go to a meeting.”  When you use the phase “have to” it makes it sound like it is something you don’t want to do.  It can give the impression that others choose for you and you are not empowered or in charge of your own choices.  It might even signal to some that you have a “victim mentality.”  When you make the small change and start to say “I get to” you send a message that you are excited and are glad to be part of the meeting.  You sound empowered, positive, and engaged.  This is a small change that can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others.  Be intentional in your word choice because words matter.
  • Get on the agenda.  Not every meeting or conversation has an agenda (although most meetings ought to if they want to be effective.)  When there is an agenda, maximize that opportunity.  If you have a proposal you want to make, a question you would like to pose, or solution to a problem, or any other meaningful contribution you want to make during the meeting, contact the person running that meeting and ask for some agenda time.  They may not give it to you. However, simply asking shows that you are engaged and ready to participate proactively.  This is especially important if the person running the meeting is your leader.  Don’t wait for them to assign you something.  Be proactive.  Ask yourself, “what meaningful contribution to this meeting can I make?”  And, ask for agenda time if appropriate.  Even if you opt not to ask for agenda time, asking yourself “what meaningful contribution can I make?” can help position you to participate in a meaningful and impactful ways. When I work with executives who are looking for their team members to enhance their communication skills, one of the #1 requests is “please help my team members take more initiative, take more ownership, be more proactive.”  Get on the agenda and you will be demonstrating leadership abilities and be seen as more proactive and engaged.
  • Arrive early.  There are many good reasons to be slightly early to every meeting.  You minimize the risk of arriving late due to be waylaid in the hallways.  You increase the chances of getting a good seat in the room. You will be seen as reliable, respectful, and engaged.  And, you can leverage those few minutes to your advantage.  Put away the cell phones (even if you are standing in the hall waiting for the conference room to be vacated by the previous occupants) and engage in conversation with others who have arrived.  Stop texting and introduce yourself to people you may not know.  Ask a colleague how a project is progressing.  Make small talk.  Look people in the eye.  Smile. Be friendly.  Be professional. Be present.  You will create a memorable impression by having short conversations with those around you. Building your professional network is important and meetings are a great place to do so.  Get to know people and you can easily do that in 5 minutes or so when you arrive early.

Meetings present a tremendous opportunity for you to shine.  Make the most of the opportunities you have to communicate in a confident, professional, and engaged fashion.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.


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Leaders Unleash the Power of “Yes”

11107790 - voting concept: set of green yes signs isolated on white backgroundAs a leader, have you unleashed the power of yes with your team?  In particular, are you offering unequivocal “yeses” as often as possible? Every leader or manager knows that saying “yes” to an idea, proposal, or request can positively impact morale, engagement, and performance. The power of a “yes” is that it encourages more problem-solving, initiative, and proactivity in a team and among team members.  Unfortunately, many leaders are sabotaging or minimizing the impact of a “yes” by using phrases such as:

  • “Yes, this is good and we should also…” 
  • Yes, I like it.  But, could you also…”
  • “Yes and I would suggest that we…”
  • Yes, but first…”

While these forms of “yes” are still positive (and have their place in the language of leadership), they are also a form of yes with diluted or diminished impact.  When a leader adds a term or condition to their “yes” they are saying to the team or team member that the proposal or idea isn’t good enough to be implemented as it is. Or, at least not good enough yet.  Or, that it could be much better. This “qualified yes” can be disheartening and can decrease motivation and commitment.

Of course, there are times when the “qualified yes” is the smart choice.  As long as it is a choice and not a habit. If you constantly, habitually, or unintentionally qualify all of your positive responses, you may be missing out on the power of the “unequivocal yes.”

When I conduct programs for organizations and associations on leadership and communication, I often ask attendees what behaviors do their leaders engage in (or fail to engage in) that enhance employee engagement or decrease employee engagement. One of the consistent “engaging behaviors” is the “unequivocal yes.”  A “yes” with no conditions, no added value, no tweaks or adjustments.  A “yes” that says to the employee or team “I trust you.” These “yeses” sound like:

  • “Yes, go for it!”
  • “I like it.  Make it happen.”
  • “Great idea. Let’s do it.”

Think about it. Wouldn’t you feel great if your leader simply said “yes” to your next idea, proposal, or initiative? As a leader, ask yourself if you are using this simple engagement technique as often as you could.  Or, out of habit, do you qualify most, if not all, of your “yeses?” I encourage you to look for an immediate opportunity to give a “yes” without condition or constraint.  Unleash the power of the “unequivocal yes!”

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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