When you need to sell an idea at work or in a presentation, how do you do it? Five rhetorical devices can help — Aristotle identified them 2,000 years ago, and masters of persuasion still use them today:
- Ethos. Start your talk by establishing your credibility and character. Show your audience that you are committed to the welfare of others, and you will gain their trust.
- Logos. Use data, evidence, and facts to support your pitch.
- Pathos. People are moved to action by how a speaker makes them feel. Wrap your big idea in a story that will elicit an emotional reaction.
- Metaphor. Compare your idea to something that is familiar to your audience. It will help you clarify your argument by making the abstract concrete.
- Brevity. Explain your idea in as few words as possible. People have a limited attention span, so talk about your strongest points first.
To make good decisions, it’s important to think critically. And, yet, too many leaders accept the first solution proposed to them or don’t take the time to evaluate a topic from all sides. To guard against these mistakes, there are several things you can do to hone your critical thinking skills. First, question your assumptions, especially when the stakes are high. If you’re coming up with a new business strategy, for example, ask: Why is this the best way forward? What does the research say about our expectations for the future of the market? Second, poke at the logic. When evaluating arguments, consider if the evidence builds on itself to produce a sound conclusion. Is the logic supported by data at each point? Third, seek out fresh perspectives. It’s tempting to rely on your inner circle to help you think through these questions, but that won’t be productive if they all look and think like you. Get outside your bubble and ask different people to question and challenge your logic.
The only thing worse than having a long to-do list is not knowing how you’re going to get everything done. Timeboxing can help: It’s a way of converting your to-do list into blocks of time on your calendar, so you have a plan for what to do and when. Start by looking at your to-do list and figuring out each task’s deadlines. For example, if a promotional video has to go live on a Tuesday, and the production team needs 72 hours to incorporate your edits, then put a hold on your calendar at least 72 hours before Tuesday. Repeat for each item on your to-do list. If you work on a team where people can see one another’s calendars, timeboxing has the added benefit of showing people that the work will get done on time. But the biggest advantage of timeboxing might be that it gives you a feeling of control over your calendar — which can help you feel happier at work.
When you express your honest opinion during an interview, you present yourself as you are, not as who you think the employer wants you to be. But disagreeing with an interviewer isn’t always easy because of the imbalance of power. Navigate the potential downsides by doing a few things before and during the interview. First, research the company. Is the culture one where people are receptive to new ideas? Are the organization and its founders known for inclusion and open-mindedness, or do they have a slow-moving, legacy mindset? During the meeting, if the interviewer asks a question that gives you pause, resist the urge to answer immediately. Take time to formulate a thoughtful response. And ask for permission to provide a different viewpoint. Say something like: “I see this differently. May I share my perspective with you?” Of course, follow your gut. If you think disagreeing won’t be well received, then bite your tongue. If the interviewer made you uncomfortable — if you felt dismissed or unheard — trust your instincts. When expressing differing opinions isn’t welcomed in an interview, it probably won’t be encouraged once you’re part of the company.
Working parents often find themselves being pulled in different directions. One way to manage this tension is to develop a schedule that’s based on your values. Start by listing your own priorities and then talk to your family about what matters most to them. For example, maybe your son doesn’t mind when you head to the office before he gets up, but it would mean the world to him if you could leave work in time to see his school play. Next, look at your list and ask yourself: “Fifty years from now, what will matter to me? What won’t?” Defining why these items are important to you often strengthens your resolve to follow through. Fuse your priorities with your schedule by marking them as regular events in your calendar. The final step is to talk to the people who are going to be impacted by your new schedule. Discuss how you can make it all work — and why it’s so important. Developing a values-driven schedule can help you feel satisfied with how you’re spending your time, instead of feeling guilty or frustrated that you’re not prioritizing the people and activities that matter most to you.
When it comes to our to-do lists, many of us prioritize checking off tasks that are easiest to complete or are due first, regardless of importance. The result? Some important tasks never get done. Managers can help employees by having them set aside proactive time for work that is important but not urgent. Ask them to block time on their calendar each week. For these periods to be effective, they must be distraction-free: Shut off email, Slack, and your phone. While it might be tempting to answer a quick request from a client, this sense of being “always on” negatively affects productivity. Managers might even consider blocking off this time on employees’ calendars themselves. Survey your team to gauge interest, or try a six-week experiment to learn how much time you should block off, or which days work best. Sure, employees could do this for themselves, but having a manager make clear that proactive time is important sets the expectation for focused work and prevents critical projects from falling through the cracks.
During a big presentation, people will be paying close attention to what you say and how you say it. You may feel unsure of yourself, but the key to projecting confidence is to practice. Recording yourself can be especially effective. Let’s say you have a tendency to use filler words like um, ah, and you know. Use your smartphone to record yourself practicing. Then play it back, and make a list of the filler words you use most. Write them down, and practice again. When you catch yourself about to use one, aim for silence instead. Speaking of silence, don’t be afraid to take time to pause during your delivery. It gives the audience a break between thoughts and can make your words more memorable. Lastly, vary the pace of your presentation. Slow down and speed up to accentuate your most important points, letting your story guide the pace. Remember, it’s the rare presenter who’s mastered all of these skills, but all it requires is taking your time and practicing until you get it right.
Marketing is often seen as a lever for driving immediate wins. But a short-term mindset can deliver diminishing results. How can you keep your team’s focus on the future despite the demands of the present? First, allocate time every week to think long term. Reflect on your brand-building and customer-relationship goals. Ask your team how short-term decisions contribute to your corporate and marketing strategies. If they don’t, consider tabling or cancelling them outright. Make the case for investment: The more you and your team can demonstrate your impact, the more likely you are to receive additional resources to promote strategic planning. And build more value into offerings — don’t only compete on price. Channeling your energy into planning for the future rather than managing the present will set the stage for long-term growth.
When you’re a freelancer and you’re not sure where your next paycheck is going to come from, it can be tempting to treat every potential client like royalty. But investing time in a client that doesn’t pan out can be costly and frustrating. As you begin courting a new client, consider two criteria — pay and value — to determine how much time to put in. Pay is the amount of money you’ll receive. Value can refer to how much your client acknowledges your work, or how much personal passion you have for the project. Obviously, those clients who value your work and pay you well are your first priority. Don’t take them for granted. People who pay well but don’t value your work can be tricky. Likewise, be cautious about projects where you’re valued but the money isn’t good. This might mean you’re currying favor for little or no pay, on the tenuous promise that paying work will eventually come. It’s best to keep these clients at a distance, and if necessary, put them off until they are able to pay well for your work.
Online and interview-based 360-degree reviews can be a valuable way for leaders to get feedback that they wouldn’t otherwise. But these tools need to be implemented thoughtfully and carefully. First and foremost, explain upfront how confidentiality is ensured and guarded. Coworkers can be more honest and direct knowing that their comments won’t be attributable to them. It’s also critical to emphasize how important it is for respondents to be candid. They shouldn’t worry about wounding the subject’s self-esteem, but you need to set the expectation that their feedback should be productive. You should also be transparent about the purpose of the 360. Is it for general development purposes (say, to establish a baseline for coaching)? Is there a specific performance issue that’s of concern? Finally, the results of the 360 assessment shouldn’t be delivered in a vacuum. Without context and support, the subject may not be able to make use of the feedback. At a minimum, the subject should have a conversation with someone who is skilled in the interpretation of the results and who can help them develop an action plan.
While it’s the sales team’s job to bring in business, simply cranking up the heat to get the numbers you want can backfire. Instead of dialing up the pressure, engage with sellers to help them succeed. Start by focusing on the sales process rather than the outcome. Then work with the sales team to understand where they need leadership help. This may include planning sales call strategies or discussing creative approaches to gain access to key decision-makers. Also, offer coaching. Selling often requires expertise that isn’t provided in training, so salespeople need ongoing support. Provide good models of what works. Give them a chance to practice those skills. Then give clear feedback and allow them to incorporate your feedback into their performance. If you do this not just once, but over and over again, they will hone and then master the essential skills. Remember, pressure may create diamonds out of coal, but you are working with people.
Micromanaging is a hard habit to break. How can you combat these tendencies? First, set regular check-ins to discuss the status of projects. You may think you’re being helpful by frequently checking in on a project, but admit it: You’re hovering. Remind yourself that you hired certain people because of their expertise, so give them the autonomy to use it. Your general knowledge of the required tasks will help you put the right people in the right places. After that, communicate what you need, provide them with the support and resources to accomplish their tasks, and then trust them to carry it out. Finally, delegate more than you may be comfortable with. Managers who have a talent for delegation — and who put it to use — can breed greater team success than those who immerse themselves in the mundane details. By empowering your team to take on more, you’ll find yourself worrying — and controlling — a lot less.
Gender diversity is a top priority for many managers. Once they’re in the pipeline, women are more likely to get hired, but the challenge is often getting them there. There are a few immediate changes you can make to your recruitment model that will help. Start by making job postings more inclusive, using more straightforward job titles and descriptions. Remove language like “rock star” and “ninja” that tends to alienate female applicants, and focus on the expectations of the role. Also, publicize stories of women who are succeeding across all levels of your organization. When women see themselves represented in your firm’s recruiting materials, they’re more likely to apply. Consider posting salary ranges for positions. Salary transparency is a signal that an employer is committed to fair pay. Research from LinkedIn also found that jobs that promoted flexible schedules, working from home, and additional medical benefits were the most popular among women. So think carefully about the benefits you offer and how to highlight them in your postings.
We are often told to pursue work we’re passionate about, but for many people, this simply isn’t feasible. Luckily, research shows that doing something you care about outside of work can benefit both your personal life and your career. Look for ways to craft your job to allow for more time for non-work passions. For example, if you have some autonomy over your hours, start your day early to make more time in the evening for cultivating other interests. These extracurricular activities can be a way to develop skills, meet new people, or decompress. To find the right activities, ask yourself what you care about that you haven’t been able to pursue in your job. Outside of work, you have the freedom to try new things out, so experiment. Remember that passions can wax and wane over time, and it’s okay to stop one activity and pick up another. Find other people who care deeply about your shared interest so you can build a sense of community. Only a privileged few are able to match their passion to their job, but leading a full life outside of work allows us to bring our best selves to the office — or anywhere we go.
Sometimes in a job interview, you might be asked questions you’d rather not answer. Responding honestly might compromise your privacy, but declining to answer might make you look bad. Instead, think about how you can deflect these tricky questions. First, anticipate the difficult things you might be asked, such as inquiries about your relationship/marital status, age, or political affiliation. Then, think of responses that focus on the other person. For example, if you’re asked, “When do you plan on having children?” the deflection could be: “Do you have any children?” Or a humorous response might be: “At least nine months apart. Is there a different norm at this company?” Inventing responses on the spot can be difficult, so practice ahead of time, or consider rehearsing your answers with a colleague or friend. Our natural instinct is to answer a direct question, so thinking in advance about deflection can help you guide the conversation and protect your interests.
If you manage a remote team, you know how isolating it can be — for you and your employees. Managers can help by setting the stage for everyone to get to know each other better. Start every call with something that helps team members learn about each other. For example, you might ask people to share a “song of the week” that they have enjoyed listening to. When hosting a team meeting via a conference line, open the line 10 minutes early and leave it open for 10 minutes after the call ends so that team members can chat. When remote workers travel to various sites, encourage them to hold “office hours” so teammates can stop in and say hello. It can be awkward to see people after a long break, so include a relationship-building opportunity in those early in-person meetings, and save the unstructured activities for later when people have gotten over their awkwardness. This may feel like a lot of work, but it will help your virtual workers feel more connected to their teammates and the organization.
Some of the hardest employees to manage are people who are consistently oppositional. They might actively debate or ignore feedback, refuse to follow instructions, or create a constant stream of negative comments. There are three tactics you can try if you’re managing a defiant employee. First, consider adjusting their job responsibilities to make better use of their strengths. If they have deep technical expertise but lack management skills, for example, try putting them into a subject-matter-expert role. A second option is to temporarily overlook their negative style while they adjust to any new circumstances. Some employees become oppositional when they feel insecure in a new role or after a significant change in their responsibilities. Work on stylistic problems once they’ve settled in and feel more familiar with the new expectations. Lastly, consider whether their resistance is appropriate. Perhaps they are pointing out process changes that need to be made or alerting you to problems that no one else is willing to raise. Don’t outright dismiss their negative behavior, but also don’t let it go on too long. If none of these tactics work, it might be time for the person to move on.
Many of us hide what we know at work because we don’t want to lose the power or status that we think the piece of knowledge gives us. But recent research shows that hoarding information often backfires and can negatively impact the withholder’s growth and development. As a manager, it’s your job to create a culture in which your employees feel comfortable sharing information and speaking openly about their concerns. One way to figure out why your staff is holding back information is to use third-party, anonymous surveys. Then act on this feedback to gain back their trust. And make sure the people you manage understand the consequences of knowledge-hiding. Those who are keeping information in order to protect themselves may not understand that they are actually doing the opposite. Use trainings, newsletters, bulletin boards, and other communication channels to help employees understand why sharing knowledge with your teammates is important.
We often use the words “recognition” and “appreciation” interchangeably, but there’s a big difference between them. The former is about giving positive feedback based on results or performance. The latter is about acknowledging a person’s inherent value. If you focus solely on recognition, or praising positive outcomes, you miss out on opportunities to connect with and support your team members. Here are a few simple ways to show appreciation for those around you. First, listen. One of the best things you can do for the people you work with is to put down your phone, turn away from your computer, and genuinely listen to them. Also, tell people what you value about them. Doing this proactively — not because someone did something great or because you want something from them — is an incredibly powerful gift. It can positively affect how your colleagues feel about themselves, your relationship with them, and the culture of the team. Lastly, check in with people. Show them that you care by asking how they’re doing (and meaning it).
Practicing gratitude — making a deliberate point of being thankful for the positive things in your life — is good for your happiness and well-being. But when we express our gratitude to others, we have a tendency to talk about ourselves when we should be thinking about them. Often when we get help and support, we want to talk about how the favor made us feel: “It let me relax…” or “It makes me happy….” But expressing gratitude shouldn’t be all about you. Helpers want to see themselves positively and to feel understood and cared for. So the next time you thank someone, try “other-praising” instead. Acknowledge and validate your benefactor’s actions: “You go out of your way…” or “You’re really good at….” Doing so will strengthen your relationship with that person.