Monday, June 8, 2009

People Skills

By Datin T.D. Ampikaipakan

Living in a multi-ethnic and global business environment, it isn't enough to just know a lot about your area of expertise anymore.

The ability to get along with people within and outside your organisation, the demonstration of good manners and the skill of making people feel comfortable is becoming extremely important for corporate dynamism. Without these basic business skills, we not only risk losing customers and their goodwill but also the support of our work team.

Think of that time when you were "not right" when you made a comment. Think of the worst faux pas you have ever committed or witnessed. Have you not cringed in horror when your colleague embarrassed you in front of a client?

Now think of someone who handled an impossible client with great panacheor got through a tough situation merely because good manners were demonstrated and the client felt that he was "handled right."

But many of us believe that we already know how to dress, how to eat, how to say hello or even talk on the phone. So what's the big deal? Why do we need to study these skills any further? I give you three motives:

1. You create an image when you present yourself to your best advantage.

For instance, your attire may be the reason why you have not been invited to join management circles. Your manners show how others perceive you - whatever your position in the company. How often have we said, "My goodness, I don't know how we can ever promote her."

Your lack of social graces may also cost you an important client.

2. You were not thought the proper code of conduct in school. After all, has anyone ever sat for an examination on social or business etiquette in school or college?

It is also possible that your parents and teachers did not stress the importance of social rules in the midst of the stress of academic examination.

3. We live in an evolving world where the rules of behaviour are changing.

Today's business setting has changed. Women hold jobs that were once held by men. People with disabilities, minorities and foreigners have joined our work force. You now, more than ever, need good manners, to Get It Right within the social and business framework.

Good manners will go along way in eliminating behaviour that many may consider insensitive, racist, sexist or even prejudicial or discriminatory.

Anyone who wants a successful career cannot deny the importance of good manners and social skills in the conduct of day-to-day business.

Your technical skills may be par excellence but if you have hopes of moving up into managerial post, you will require very strong interpersonal skills. It cannot be denied that good manners help alleviate even the most stressful corporate situation.

I have heard many remarks emphasising the fact that social and business etiquette is not as vital as the bottom line of a company's financial statement. But I'll have those who make such statements know that without good manners and a knowledge of business savoir faire, the corporate life of their organisation is in jeopardy.

Do they not know that courtesy keeps clients and gets new ones?

Do they not know that business etiquette improves the morale and work life of their staff, thereby reducing turnover?

Do they not realise that a courteous, well-mannered person will rise quickly up the corporate ladder, while a bad mannered colleague will hit a glass ceiling?

Do not underestimate the power of politeness. It can help us make our career path a fairly smooth one.

We are often judged by our behaviour both in social and business circles. Everything we do is a reflection of our upbringing and environment. Therefore, the person who aims for corporate success must display self-confidence, poise, knowledge and the ability to "get along with people."

We are in the "people business" whether we provide a product , a service or both - as the following remarks made by two senior executives demonstrate.

Said one: "Being able to work with others is the single most important characteristic a junior executive can have. I can always buy specialised knowledge, but it is sometimes a problem to find someone with good people sense, an ability to communicate well with others, to build workers' self-esteem."

Said the other: "I don't care how intelligent my managers are, what I need most are people with people knowledge."

So - Get It Right!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Setting Up Goals

By Jean Baer

Many people work incredibly hard but feel they're getting nowhere. The reason is they're trying to do too many things at one time. The key to achieving career success is to set goals.

Says Dr Herbert Fensterheim, clinical professor, Cornell University Medical College, "Having goals helps you to separate the important from the trivial so that you can make decisions about where to expend time and energy. Long-term goals give you a feeling of movement through life. Sub-goals provide a sense of accomplishment."

How do you set up a goal programme that gets you where you want to go? The following pointers may help.

1. Define your goals
In doing this, ask yourself some of the same questions that industrial psychologists use to develop achievement motivation. What are your goals? How can you accomplish them? How do you deal with the obstacles?

2. Concentrate on sub-goals
According to the late Dr Norman R.F. Maier, professor emeritius of psychology at the University of Michigan, "Ask yourself what you want out of life. Then divide your life into sub-goals." That means "What do I want to accomplish today?" For instance, your long-range goal is to get a marketing job. But this involves many sub-goals. You might want to keep a graph in which you record performance of such sub-goals as "let your boss know of your intentions" or "speak to someone currently in that position". Be sure to mark your chart when you perform an act. Remember, sub-goals provide encouragement.

3. Make it easier for yourself to get started
Once you have formulated your goals, write them down. Make your list specific and concrete. Don't use vague generalities like "I will stop procrastinating.." "not to be late any more.." "be more organised". Instead, if your goal is to be on time at work, be very exact: "I will be at my deskat the office no later than 9". Warning: do not think you're wonderful just because you've written down your intention. Move on to the next step of action or you just become a master at writing intentions. You should break goals into specific acts.

4. Set priorities
Pace yourself - at such and such an hour, you'll do certain things. When you have to do something really important, try to defer everything else until the next day. Do the deadline chore first.

5. Understand your limitations
Talent and age obviously affect your goals. At 40, you can learn to play tennis, but you'll never be like Chris Evert.

6. Set up your own system of reinforcement.
One harassed working woman says, "If I have given my all to my job for four and a half days, I take Friday afternoon off. I stay on the premises of my job but essentially I quit work. I get my hair done at lunch time, write personal letters and make personal phone calls in the afternoon and sometimes just stare at the wall and think". You can give rewards to yourself (always keep in mind the perception: If I don't meet the goal, I don't get the reward) or you can get them from others.