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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Are You Eroding Your Leadership Effectiveness?

If you are like most high-caliber leaders, you are typically looking for your team members to: Continue Reading Are You Eroding Your Leadership Effectiveness? »

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Leadership Communication Skill: How To Manage a Whiner

Slide1Whiners, chronic complainers, pessimists, and other negative people can be draining to have as peers or colleagues. And, they can be particularly draining if you are their supervisor.  When I conduct training sessions or breakouts for meetings, some of the most common questions I receive from leaders are:

  •  How can I manage a whiner?
  •  Why are they like that?
  • How can I get them to stop being so negative?

While there are various strategies to use with these chronically negative people, including having performance management conversations regarding their behavior*, here is my favorite strategy:

BE RELENTLESSLY POSITIVE!

Respond to their negativity with unfailing and unrelenting positivity.  For example, when a complainer complains try positive comebacks such as:

  • I know this project will be challenging and I am looking forward to how much more efficient the system will be when we are done.
  • While this will take a lot of time, it will be worth it!
  • Yes, this does push us out of our comfort zone. I’m excited to learn new skills.
  • Yes, this is a change. I’m eager to see what the future holds for our team.
  • I agree, this is hard. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

You get the general idea.  Empathize (don’t commiserate) and then be relentlessly positive!

When you respond with relentless positivity, you are modeling the behavior you expect. You are also training your employees or peers that their negativity doesn’t result in commiseration from you. Rather, you have a forward-thinking and positive perspective that you willingly share.  This relentless positivity can make a negative person less likely to whine or moan and groan in your presence.  You also don’t waste your precious time trying to change them or make them positive. Extraordinarily successful people know that you can’t change other people.  However, you can change how you respond to them. Being relentlessly positive takes all the fun out of it (for them) and you no longer will be their preferred recipient of negativity.

A quick reminder to those of you with formal leadership positions. There is a difference between a chronic complainer and an employee who has a legitimate concern or challenge.  With those team members, asking them how they would solve a problem or what they think ought to be done is often enough to shift them into problem-solving mode and out of their negative mood.  However, if they are being negative to simply gain attention or because they like whining, being relentlessly positive is an effective tool.

With whom will you be relentlessly positive today?

*If you struggle with performance management conversations or you want to brush up on your skills, download Pamela’s on-demand webinar “A Leader’s Toolkit for Difficult and Disciplinary Conversations” 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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Business Communications Tip: This Question Isn’t as Polite as You Think

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Communication tip Pamela JettYou may not realize you are decreasing your own credibility, employee engagement, and influence by asking one simple question – will you do me a favor?  

Even though us business professionals aim to be polite and gracious, we often are sending a message that is less than powerful and confident.  When we ask someone to “do us a favor” we are making the professional… personal.  When we ask a colleague to “do us a favor” we run the very real risk that they will not take our request as seriously as we would like them to.  Even worse, if we are in a leadership position and we ask those we lead to “do us a favor,” they may not feel very respected, appreciated and engaged.  You run the risk that your team members or employees might believe you only ask them to work on things that are small, trivial, and not very important.  They won’t feel as if you trust them with serious business issues.

Here are a few options for you to choose from instead:

  • I’d like to partner with you on this project.  Are you open to that?  This is a very direct request and can reinforce your ability to be a team player.
  • I could use your expertise (insight, perspective).  Would you be willing to work with me on this?   (Note:  “work with,” not “help me”)  With this option you are asking someone to partner with you which can help them feel valued, respected, and will enhance engagement.
  • If you ____ (insert former “favor” here), I will ______ (insert what you will do for them here).  With this option you are negotiating, a powerful tool, and it is a great option to use with peers.

What are some phrases you could add to this list or “tweak” or adjust the language to fit your particular situation and your personal communication style? When leaders eliminate “will you do me a favor?” from their professional communication and replace it with a more powerful, confident, and respectful option they increase the likelihood that others will assist them and that they will be engaged in the process.

If you could benefit from learning more communication skills like these to be a better leader, team member, and top performer, join us for a webinar on Best Kept Communication Secrets August 18th.

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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