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Big up your strengths and sprint up the career ladder with these top tips from one of the UK’s top pitch coaches
Whether you’re starting a new job or suffering from a serious case of self-doubt, how do we overcome our deskside demons and showcase our strengths at work in the best way possible?
A fine balancing act which requires us to be assertive without being domineering, collaborative but impactful, keeping both bosses and colleagues happy while also keeping an eye on the next rung on the career ladder can often lead to an accumulation of workload stresses certain to dim our lights. To help us shine in the workplace, we asked Michael Parker founder of Pitchcoach and author of "It's Not What You Say, It's The Way You Say It!" for his top career advice when it comes to building confidence, working on interpersonal skills, his recommendations for effective teamwork and how to become a leader that your colleagues are happy to follow.
Be collaborative, but not a pushover and be honest, without being blunt. Balance, integrity and confidence of self with both feet firmly on the ground will stand you good stead no matter how windy your workplace woes blow. “Listen well, combine respect with ‘holding your own’ and don’t promise what you can’t deliver,” recommends Michael when it comes to building bridges with your boss both in the short and long-term.
Which qualities really count? At work, our inner critics can appear to shout louder than ever. There are enough demands on our shoulders as it is, so to lessen the burden, it seems better for both stress levels and self-esteem to focus our efforts more generally to the key attributes that will help facilitate a domino effect that ricochets throughout our work days: “Energy and enthusiasm, excellent people skills, confidence, clear communication, determination and ‘get up and go,’” are the main qualities that Michael recommends. Keep these at the forefront of your mind and the rest will fall into place.
More quiet than confident? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The office needs a mixture of personalities to further its objectives in the most productive way possible. Keep reminding yourself that you’re there for a reason and got the job because your bosses saw something in you. Just because someone is the loudest, doesn’t mean they have more to bring to the table. As Plato said, “An empty vessel makes the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers.”
So how can you ensure your lack of self-esteem doesn’t hold you back? “Confidence comes from being prepared and grows with experience. When you start a job, play to your strengths and, rather than aim to master everything all at once, take the ‘biteable chunk’ approach,” recommends Michael. “Focus on areas of the job you can do easily allowing you to gain the confidence you need to tackle any task.”
Got an important meeting or presentation coming up? Making your voice heard without panic and nerves reducing you to a stammering mess is an anxiety that dwells at the back of many people’s minds.
The best way to ensure you put your best foot forward? Practice, prep and do your homework beforehand. “You need to come armed with some ideas and initiatives which call for preparation,” recommends Michael. “Then, what matters is that you can get your points across. Practice your answers out loud and for important presentations rehearse to someone. Get them to comment on your body language, the clarity of your argument and your confidence.”
How do you deal with a tricky colleague without damaging your working relationship in the process? Seemingly easier to ignore and hope it goes away, (we’ve all done it), tackling it professionally, assertively and confidently is a sure-fire way to make your work environment as positive as possible and prevent resentment and bitterness tainting an otherwise productive atmosphere. “If the problem is with a single individual, get out of the office environment and away from the pressure and simply talk things through! If that doesn’t work, ask someone to mediate. If that doesn’t work, move on. Life is too short,” suggests Michael.
Working with a group of big (and sometimes difficult) personalities on a problematic project can often feel like you’re swimming against the tide. Show yourself as a team player though with the authority, courage and collaborative prowess to achieve your goal and the rewards will speak for themselves. “To build teamwork and resolve conflict, identify a common external challenge and use a brainstorming workshop to arrive at a shared solution,” recommends Michael. “Where possible, have an experienced facilitator who can ensure everyone is fully, and happily, engaged.”
What makes a good leader and can help you make the transition to management? “Someone who encourages and motivates by example rather than by virtue of the role, whose decision-making is based on good judgement not impulse and who has a real sense of responsibility for those they lead,” says Michael. A little competitiveness doesn’t hurt, provided your actions aren’t conniving or overly calculating in the process. Inspire, encourage and aim to get the best out of the people you work with - not only will that benefit you, but will make working with them a heck of a lot easier too. “One way is to listen, powerfully,” suggests Michael. “People will listen to you if you listen to them. The best will follow.”
"It's Not What You Say, It's The Way You Say It!" by Michael Parker, (Vermilion) £9.99. Buy it online here.
September 26th 2020