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CareerWise Canada: Working with Mature Clients

An article by TANYA MYKHAYLYCHENKO

This article covers several challenges mature workers face and how career pros can address them.

Career professionals have a broad range of tools for success when working with mature clients who have been in full-time management or administrative roles for 10+ years with the same employer.

Many of these workers are dedicated professionals who were known and respected in their recent workplace for their strong knowledge of the organization and its processes. Often you can hear them say, “I don’t know how to put this on the resume, but I just get things done. I’m very reliable.”

Mature workers who have not had to look for work in several years need help understanding ATS, networking, follow-up and ways of articulating their professional differentiators. The added challenges of post-COVID hiring may include higher competition, more agile businesses and more reliance on technology. In the current climate, mature workers may also need some assistance with highlighting their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.

Understanding the Agile, Contingent Workforce of Today

Competition is high, many roles are temporary, and businesses are trying to be agile and save resources. COVID-19 is introducing new remote ways to do business, use more technologies and delegate tasks to workers (in any location) who can be productive in a remote setting.

If your client was used to stability and long-term employment in their previous organization, they may first consider acknowledging the current situation to position themselves as a candidate who offers both stability and adaptability.

To support mature workers:

  • Prepare them to leverage their experience and years of dedication to previous employers while expressing their adaptability to most recent changes in hiring.
    • They can speed up their hiring process by being highly articulate about their measurable results, technical skills and soft skills – the combination that makes them stand out.
  • Train them to highlight their hard skills as well as demonstrate confidence, competence, resilience and strong communication. A candidate with a calm, executive presence is seen as a reliable employee able to handle challenges.
  • Articulate their value for them: focus on their ability to build consensus at all levels of the organization while listening to employer’s needs and solving problems.
  • Help your client identify their top 3-5 differentiators that make them competitive.
    • You may recommend that they write down a list of their top 10-15 strengths and pick 3-5 from this list when applying for a specific role.
    • You can help them adopt a positive attitude of sharing, in concise terms, their unique professional value with a focus on employer’s needs.
    • You can emphasize the necessity to research a target company, follow up, reach the hiring manager and build their LinkedIn network.

Understanding the Achievement-Based Resume Structure

As with all other applicants, mature workers may focus too much on job duties in their resumes.

To support your clients:

  • Explain how the resume logic evolved with a focus on readability (documents must be easy to skim) and measurable results (‘problem – action – result’ format).
  • Train mature workers to think in terms of how they solve problems and what outcomes they deliver (vs. process and experience).
  • Ask specific questions or develop questionnaires to help them articulate results.
  • Encourage them to prepare for interviews following the same achievement-based approach and think in terms of how they can help employers save money, make money, improve operations or address difficulties.

Understanding Current Job Application Cycles

Submitting a resume alone is not enough. Many mature workers may favour a resume spray approach where they send applications to 50+ open positions online, without prior knowledge of companies. Help them understand a job search strategy as a more focused, yet varied effort.

To support your clients:

  • Help them inform their immediate network (service providers, community organizations, extended family, former colleagues or clients, religious, sports or recreational affiliations, etc.) that they are looking for a new role.
  • Encourage your clients to create a list of 20 target employers and research them, follow them on social media, identify decision-makers and connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Provide your clients with examples of networking messages that are brief, clear and authentic.
  • Help your clients understand the full cycle of the job application process:
    • customizing the application for each specific role
    • following up
    • networking online
    • building relationships while interviewing (for future opportunities)
    • “closing the sale” after in-person interviews with some form of 30-60-90-day plan or a list of their action items for the first month if they were to be hired.
  • Inspire your clients to be proactive at every stage of the application vs. waiting for a response. Help them understand that an online job application puts them in the pool of 100-200 other applicants and an interview invitation puts them in a pool of 2-6 other competitions. What will they do to keep standing out?

Throughout the process of working with mature workers, remind yourself of where they are coming from and how this informs their current motivation, approaches or challenges. By showing your understanding and acknowledgement of their current state, you can help them adopt new ways of looking for work faster, while finding the best approach for each individual.


TANYA MYKHAYLYCHENKO

Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a resume writer with a background in university teaching and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada.

10 Principles for Effectively Leading Group Career Counselling Online

During the pandemic, many career practitioners have been asked to provide the same services to groups, but online.

This has been the new normal for some career professionals and jobseekers, but it has also brought challenges. The biggest struggle is that there are few resources they can take advantage of in order to effectively transition from leading groups in person to online.

Here are 10 basic principles career practitioners should be aware of when transitioning to leading a group online from in-person facilitation to create well-designed and smooth sessions.

1. Be authentic

Leading groups online is not entirely different from facilitating in person. Take a breath, and remind yourself what skills you can bring to the table: compassion, patience, resiliency, sense of humour, mastery of the content. Whether you are familiar with the group nor not, what you know about group dynamics from in-person experiences is still true. There might be tensions within a group or people might have different learning styles and motivations. Just be yourself and try to make a connection with group members as much as possible.

2. Learn and practise the technology

Test whichever technology you are using in advance. The simplest tool should be chosen based on the size of your group. You should offer your help to group members in case of any technical difficulties. As you gain experience, new tools can be added to your toolbox.

3. Mitigate group members’ multitasking

Group members on screens may jump from window to window to search the web, play music or respond to messages. The temptation and likelihood of participants getting distracted or multitasking is significantly higher than when you are in person. Set expectations about minimizing distractions before your session through emails or reminder posts. You can sometimes use the distractions to engage participants, for instance by having group members text answers or giving them time to do online research during a discussion.

4. Engage frequently and in varied ways

Prioritizing engagement is crucial when you lead a group online. The best way to keep people engaged is to ask questions, switch up activities apart from discussions and have people journal. Adding elements of fun may encourage people to focus more. Secondly, group leaders should be mindful of varying how they prompt discussion. For example, don’t always ask yes/no chat questions. For best results, use a variety of engagement types that work for different communication styles and learning styles, and give people options.

5. Manage the energy of group members

The duration of group sessions should be scheduled for not more than two hours. Otherwise, it will be exhausting for both leaders and participants. Break for 10-15 minutes after one hour so people can get fresh air or attend to any pressing needs.

6. Honour people’s emotional state during a crisis time

You may find people in your sessions tired, angry, impatient or stressed over life challenges. Every group member usually brings their emotional state into their sessions. Even if group leaders don’t feel well-equipped to handle strong emotions, they can:

  • Create space for people to acknowledge emotions they have
  • Create a culture of checking in
  • Model grace and patience
  • Provide frequent breaks
7. Track participation

A common challenge in leading online is that we end up in a one-way conversation. Reading people online is more challenging than in person but it is not impossible. Thankfully, there are some strategies:

  • Include polls or spectrums to gauge responses
  • Ask general check-in questions
  • Review activity between sections
  • Check in with people on the phone before or after sessions (especially for tech difficulties)
8. Let people know you “see” them

The more seen people feel, the more they are likely to engage. They are also more likely to send you clear non-verbal signals when they know that someone is looking back through their screen. Here are a few examples for prompts that can let participants know that you see them:

  • “It looks like only about half the group has shared ideas in the chat box. If anyone is having trouble with the chat, let us know, or you can share out loud.”
  • “I see a lot of heads down on the web cameras, so I’m going to give you a little more time to journal.”
  • “Everyone has shared except [name] and [name], who are joining by phone. Would you like to share, too?”
9. Be aware of technology challenges

Marginalized groups often tend to participate less frequently. This can become compounded by technology. Technological challenges may hamper their confidence. They may be afraid of being shamed by other groups members or revealing a lack of knowledge or resources. Group leaders should make sure all people – no matter their technological difficulty – can participate fully. Facilitators should try to always provide alternative options for participation to help group members engage in the session.

10. Release yourself and your group from the standard of perfection

Group leaders should be wary of the challenges of leading group online. They should prepare themselves for bumps on the road. The most important thing is to be calm and do your best when faced with challenges. The second-most important thing is to stay connected with group members in a sincere and compassionate way. Let’s model patience and caring with wisdom and intention.


AYDOLU SIMSEK is a post-graduate student in the Career Development Practitioner Program at George Brown College. She previously had 10 years of HR background in her home country. She has a strong desire to learn the intricacies of helping individuals navigate through career exploration and the world of work. Aydolu is a graduate of sociology and has a master’s in business administration.

6 Ways to Get Your Job Search Back on Track

An article by Elaine Mead and published by the Australian Careers Service.

After a few months stuck at home, half the world is either just beginning to return to normal (and the office) or they’ve been left wondering what comes next after experiencing job losses. 

Losing a job or part of your professional identity can be a shock to the system. Know you are not alone in this experience. When you’re ready to take the next step forward, there’s plenty of ways to do so. 

It’s going to take a while for recruitment to pick up again and we’re certainly going to face a few more challenges as we deal with the impact of COVID-19. Making a plan for finding work might seem like a mammoth task. 

The small things can quickly become the building blocks of bigger changes and help you feel empowered rather than trapped during this time. Aside from updating your resume and cover letter, here are six to get you started: 

1. Update your LinkedIn profile 

If it’s been a while since you looked at your LinkedIn profile, now is the perfect time for some updates. You can set your profile to ‘actively seeking opportunities’ to indicate to potential employers and recruiters you’re looking for work and follow companies for job openings as soon as they happen. Spend some time making sure all your job titles are up to date, remove anything outdated and include links to projects or resources that align with your work or professional identity.  

2. Expand your knowledge 

Learning professional skills is a lifelong hobby and a great way to kick start your own development journey if it’s been a while since you studied. If you’re seeking ways to feel in-control and proactive about your career, an online course or workshop could be just the thing you need. Whether you want something to help you in your current industry or you’re seeking to strike out in a new direction entirely, there’s something for everyone. 

3. Check-in with your network 

Networking might seem like a foreign concept in our current climates, but it’s not completely off the table. Are you involved with any professional associations for your industry? Many are offering free professional development workshops, as well as regular Zoom meetings simply giving members a chance to chat and discuss how COVID has been impacting their industry and day-to-day jobs. It’s a great way to feel less alone but also connect with some new faces. 

4. Set up a professional website 

If unemployment is on the books, setting up a digital space that contains your resume, write-ups of any projects and programs you’ve helped on, as well as a weekly blog on your own thoughts about your industry could be what sets you apart when job hunting. Consider this a portfolio where you get to showcase your in-depth knowledge and understanding of your work and include the link to your site on your resume. It’s a great way to invite employers to get to know you better. 

5. Create some ‘how-to’ guides 

Lots of people every day are looking for ways to simplify their workday or understand how to do something quickly and easily. If you’ve got some niche knowledge, creating a how-to guide is a great way to boost your professional identity. Identify common question-points in your day-to-day job or industry and do a write-up — you might even visit a few of your own gaps and write about those! Share online (either LinkedIn or your website) and invite others to share their input. 

6. Start a business book club 

There are books for every single industry imaginable, or you could pick a broader topic such as leadership, workplace culture, or emotional intelligence in the office. You can read alone or rope in a few other colleagues or industry peers to read along with you. It’s a different way of adding to your personal knowledge and growing as a professional. 

Elaine Mead  is a Careers and Work-Integrated Learning Educator based in Tasmania. 

Helping Young Adults Spot a Narcissistic Boss: A 4-Step Plan
July 14, 2020
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An article by Robyn Koslowitz Ph.D. first published in Psychology Today.

Neurodiverse young adults are vulnerable to narcissistic abuse. Teach them this.

“I came back into therapy because my ADHD is back,” Deena informed me. Deena had been a patient of mine when she was in high school. Her inattentive ADHD and mild autistic tendencies were interfering with her schoolwork and social skills. Through a combination of therapy, social skills training, medication, and parental education, Deena learned to successfully manage her ADHD and organize her time and developed the ability to socialize with like-minded peers. I pointed out that Deena’s ADHD is not “back”; it never left. She had learned to manage it in the school environment, and now she needed to learn to manage it in the working environment.

As I began working with Deena, I realized she was managing her ADHD quite well. She showed me various time-management tricks she had learned, including a few apps that were new to me. The problem was, she felt that she was constantly letting her boss down, emphasizing the wrong details, or misunderstanding him. Worse, he kept reminding her that jobs in prestigious marketing firms like his are hard to come by, that she would need a good recommendation from him if she ever looked elsewhere, and that he is disappointed that she isn’t living up to his expectations.

One week, Deena came to therapy in tears. “I tried to use the feedback formula to ask him not to yell at me in front of the whole office. I told him that when he yells at me, it’s hard for me to concentrate on the details of what he is asking for, and I asked him to please tell me privately.” His response? “If you weren’t such an idiot, I wouldn’t need to criticize you at all.”

As Deena’s therapy continued, I watched a formerly self-confident young woman turn into an anxious shadow of herself. Deena would report how her friends and parents were pressuring her to “just quit,” but that she believed that working for this agency was the key to all of her dreams in her chosen field.

I don’t like to diagnose people in absentia, but I decided to help Deena learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Abuse. I wanted her to think about whether the behavior she was subject to from her boss could fit the criteria. I didn’t want to be another voice simply telling her to quit her job. The constant pressure from friends and family were just making her feel like a failure on another front, rather than helping her to see that her job was destabilizing her sense of self. 

Young adults like Deena, particularly young adults with ADHD, are used to being criticized and getting feedback. When they’ve just left the supportive environment of school, where feedback is mostly constructive, they may not see the difference between constructive criticism and the type of destructive environment Deena’s work had become.

 Darwis Batawi/123RF

Does your young adult child know about narcissistic abuse? Teach her to screen potential supervisors using this four-step plan.Source: Darwis Batawi/123RF

I like to use the acronym NARC to help young adults like Deena develop the ability to spot a healthy supervisor who is not narcissistic. Feedback from a person who has these four qualities is probably constructive, even if it feels harsh. On the other hand, if a person lacks these four qualities, the potential for narcissistic abuse is quite high:

Not focused on status

Accepts Feedback

Respects Boundaries

Compassionate, not contemptuous.

Not Focused on Status:

Deena thought about this. Her boss is constantly bragging about the high-profile clients his company pulls in, the cost of his car, the colleges he attended and where his children will go. He likes to talk about his IQ, and he has a wall in his office devoted to pictures of himself with famous business personalities. It sounds like he’s pretty focused on status.

Accepts Feedback:

This can be tricky because, in some fields, employees are not supposed to give supervisors feedback. In Deena’s case, though, her feedback was about certain types of communication styles. For example, she explained to her boss that when he gave her two tasks and told her both were immediate priority, she needed to know which one to tackle first, or when he says something like “I just hate everything about this design, redo it,” she does need to know what he hates, or she can’t design something that’s more in line with his aesthetic. By responding with comments like “if you wouldn’t be such an idiot, you could figure it out,” we can see that he doesn’t accept any feedback at all.

Respects Boundaries:

Other humans exist in an independent reality, outside of our own. A truly narcissistic person does not fully grasp that concept. For example, when Deena was sick, her boss seemed to take it as a personal attack on him: “You got sick the week I have a major project to complete? That’s unacceptable.” In addition, as we were exploring this topic, Deena realized that many of the comments her boss made about her overstepped boundaries. The state of her car, her exact relationship to the woman who dropped her off one day, her need to update her wardrobe or her diet – these are not his business. But her boss had a hard time grasping that.

Compassionate, Not Contemptuous:

Of the four, accepting feedback and not being contemptuous are the two that are the most salient. This one was a slam dunk – clearly, contempt was the lens through which this gentleman viewed everyone not immediately connected to him.

Deena is now working on her exit plan from this position. She has been interviewing at other firms, keeping her four-part checklist firmly in mind. Despite her boss claiming that the only special thing about her is working for him, she is finding that many firms appreciate her quirky aesthetic and are calling her back for second interviews. Until she finds another position, her new understanding of narcissism is helping her cope.  

About the Author

Robyn Koslowitz, Ph.D., is a licensed school psychologist and clinical psychologist and educational director of the Targeted Parenting Institute.Online:targetedparenting.comTwitterLinkedIn

6 Ways to Make your Online Meetings More Efficient
June 22, 2020
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Microsoft 365 Team

When was the last time you had an in-person meeting? Let’s face it: no matter if you are working for a small business or a large company, today’s work rendezvous are becoming increasingly more electronic. While  online or virtual meetings  can be convenient, they also detract from participant accountability by providing more room to lose people’s attention. When people are distracted, meetings lose focus and require more time for repetition.

To keep your meetings—and your schedule—on track, consider these six tips and transform your routine.

1. Agenda action—Whether your meeting participants are located across the building or the world, it’s important to get everyone on the same page. While formal agendas may not be as in vogue as they once were, reinstate the practice. Include the meeting’s topics in the body of your calendar invite or email out a document 24-48 hours before the designated time of your teleconference. This will provide all parties with the chance to set their expectations regarding the meeting goals. And yes—if you’re the recipient of a meeting agenda, read it! Even if you’re familiar with the project or discussion topics, you may learn important information about the perspectives or concerns on the table, and it’s never fun being blindsided.

2. Prep your (Ps and) Qs—Whether your meeting or teleconference has a set agenda or not, make sure you know what your goals are. Before the meeting, compile any notes or background information you may need to reference as well as any questions. Having a prepared list or set of bullet points will relieve the pressure of thinking of any questions on the spot as well as allowing you to engage with the discussion at hand. Feel free to jot down questions on the agenda if there is one, or set up your notes document ahead of time with initial goals or thoughts at the top. No matter your preparation style, following this preparation practice will ensure you’re reminded of your own agenda the day of the meeting.

3. Troubleshoot your tech—Whether it’s your first online meeting or your millionth, make sure you know how to use your technology. Confirm how to dial in and that your speakers work. If you need internet to access your conference or your (meeting-related) email or notes, check that Wi-Fi! Initial frustrations often develop when that one person needs one more minute to access the conference line. Don’t be that cause—get to your conference room early and dial in. Even if you set your phone to mute until other people join, at least you can focus on the content of your talk rather than getting there in the first place.

4. Sharing is caring—If you are reviewing any information with accompanying visuals or statistics or if you’re referencing external documents, make sure everyone can follow along. Set up a screen share so that you can direct your audience’s attention and keep everyone on the same page. This step may alleviate the “Wait! Where are we?” questions as well as the “Hold on, I have to get to the right page.” Sharing your screen eliminates the need for those pauses and moments of confusion. Just remember: if you’re sharing your screen, make sure to turn off any email, phone or messaging programs or notifications to avoid any uncomfortable announcements. 

5. Be direct—One of the challenges of online meetings is knowing who is about to speak or who needs to jump in. Based on the meeting participants and their personalities, virtual meetings can range on the spectrum of everyone talking over each other to long pauses after someone’s finished speaking. To avoid indistinct vocal jumbles or empty air time, frame questions specifically to other meeting participants. If people are working together or relying on other steps in the process to move forward, don’t be afraid to ask them specifically if they have anything to add or additional questions. By being direct with turning the conversation, you’ll ensure that you’ve maximized meeting time while allowing everyone to be heard.

6. Personality perks—Online, phone or virtual meetings can be a drag—you don’t have body language to read how people are responding or whether they’re following along. To remedy the possibility of losing people’s focus, keep your personality primed. Be as personable as you would be in person—or more so, as the meeting requires. High energy will engage your audience and keep them tuned in to the topics at hand. They wouldn’t want to lose track, especially if you have a habit of asking people directly how they respond to a point. With everyone involved at the top of their meeting game, your meeting points will be addressed quickly, and you’ll cover more material in less time. 

No matter the meeting format, there’s no need to get lost in the virtual shuffle. By being prepared and engaging your colleagues, your meetings will be clear and on target with your goals.

Questions Managers Should Ask Remote Employees
May 18, 2020
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As more employees are working from home or spending days on the road visiting learners and employers, how do you ensure you have the right conversation that homes in on issues that are often unspoken?

Here are 11 questions that you can use to create better dynamics with your remote employees, faster.  Ask these questions when you first start working with any remote employee, or at regular intervals (e.g., every half year), to check in on changes. 

1. What do you like best and least about working remotely?  

Follow-on questions: 

  • What is the high point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 
  • What is the low point of a typical day (for example, yesterday)? 

What this question uncovers

Motivation analysis: This question helps you find out what motivates and demotivates your direct reports. Learn more by asking for more context on comments. For example, if they say ‘my high point is getting into a flow state with a project.’  Ask: ‘what creates a flow state for you?’

2. What is your work setup like?  

Follow-on questions:

  • What equipment or process improvements would make things 10% better? 
  • What technology issues have you encountered? 

What this question uncovers

Environment analysis: This question helps you listen for ways to optimize setup and workflow. While doing so, you can also arrange for your remote employee to interview other remote employees from cross-functional departments to learn their setup tips. 

3. What is your daily routine? 

Follow-on questions

  • What do you do to take breaks/ recharge? 
  • Are you able to fully disconnect when on vacation or at the end of the day? 

What this question uncovers

Energy management: Listen for spots to help optimize time boundaries. A big danger for remote employees is burnout since work and life are blended. When working in-person at the office it’s easier to have delineated boundaries for starting and stopping work. 

4. What has your experience been with working remotely in the past? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What were some challenges in your previous setups?
  • What were some of the learnings you had? 

What this question uncovers

Level of support needed: There is a presumption that working remotely is easy – one simply does what one would normally do, but at a different location. This isn’t true. What we’ve found in our research is that working remotely requires a unique skill set that gets honed with time, including over-communication, clarifying expectations, assertiveness, proactivity, and more. Asking about prior experience with remote work helps you gauge your direct report’s skillsets and determine if more guidance or training is needed to set them up well for success.

5. What challenges do you feel remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What could make things easier?
  • What benefits/advantages do remote workers have compared to those in the office? 

What this question uncovers

Perception/fairness markers: The human brain is wired to track comparisons between conditions, including in this case in-person vs. remote dynamics. Sometimes remote employees feel more is happening at the office than really is (e.g., team meetings that they are not a part of, benefits they miss out on, etc.). This question helps you surface unspoken issues and re-set expectations if there is a feeling of misbalance. This includes a conversation around perks. The downside of working remotely is getting access to things free snacks or onsite company celebrations, etc, but the positive trade is flexibility, autonomy, no need for a commute, etc.

6. Would you say our meetings are remote-friendly? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Can you hear and see well? 
  • On a scale from 1-10, how easy is it for you to contribute during a meeting? 

What this question uncovers

Meetings culture: Team meetings are often harder on folks who are dialing in, yet easy to optimize. This question will help you hear, from your remote employee’s perspective, small optimization ideas. As an example, one easy hack LifeLabs Learning has found to quickly improve perceived meeting quality (PMQ) is to have each person in the in-person meeting dial in using their laptop and laptop camera and a jabra mic for the room. With this, all people in the in-person room can speak to each other like normal, but the remote person can see a close-up view of each person who is speaking. 

7. Who do you connect with most often at work? 

Follow-on questions:

  • Which coworkers or departments do you wish you had more connection with? 
  • Who do you go to when you need support or have process suggestions or improvement ideas?

What this question uncovers

Support network: When working remotely, it is harder to make connections, yet an essential brain craving for all humans is to feel like we belong. Asking ‘who do you connect with most often’ and the follow on questions helps you realize if your direct report needs help building out their network. Creating relationship capital for your direct report is easy: you can link them to other people doing similar work, find ways to make their work more visible by creating demos, or set them up for informational interviews with relevant departments. 

8. How do you feel about how often you visit the office? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Is this the right amount or would you like it to be more or less often? 
  • When you meet with other teammates, do you/ they turn your camera on? 

What this question uncovers

Belonging: This question helps you uncover how your direct report feels about the amount of contact they get and allows you to explain decision criteria around in-person gatherings. Having the right amount of in-person time matters when working from afar. Our research shows that ‘frequency beats length’ when it comes to having contact. What this means is that flying a direct report in for in-person time is important, but having cameras on in order to see each other frequently is even more important.

9. What are some things your prior managers did that you liked? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • What’s something you didn’t like? 
  • What’s something I could do 10% better? 

What this question uncovers

Managerial relationship: This question helps you understand how to work best with your employee. It opens feedback lines by normalizing that your team cares about optimizing work dynamics. It also helps you improve one-on-one meetings for the future. 

10. How consistent are our information systems? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Which apps do you most use in your daily workflow? When do you use Slack, text, Jira, etc.? When do you feel confused about which systems to use? 
  • Where are we consistent/inconsistent as a team?

What this question uncovers

Communication systems: When working remotely, it is particularly important to know which medium to use for which type of information. This question helps assess confusion spots in the system. 

11. What do you want to learn more about regarding our team or company? 

Follow-on questions: 

  • Has any news surprised you recently? 
  • How included do you feel in team decisions? 

What this question uncovers

Information flow: When working remotely, people sometimes feel out of the loop. This question helps you hear if they feel or are excluded. You can then optimize systems or explain the context.

Article first produced by LifeLabs Learning: LifeLabs provides training for managers, execs, and teams, with a focus on rapid skill acquisition and tipping points: the skills that make the most difference in the workplace. 

How to Help Your Clients Ace a Virtual Job Interview
May 15, 2020
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Job interviews done by video, for example, using Skype, are becoming more common.

You need to prepare for virtual interviews differently than you would for normal face-to-face interviews.

Plan where you’ll do the interview

Choose a quiet place with no distractions, and use a computer or laptop computer with a webcam and good internet connection.

A business-woman doing a video job interview
  • Have a plain background that won’t distract your interviewer.
  • Dress like you would for a ‘normal’ interview.
  • Sit comfortably.
Get used to talking to someone using a computer
  • Practice talking to the webcam, not the people on-screen, so you’re more likely to be looking your interviewer in the eye.
  • It’s OK to look at the screen when you’re listening.
  • Try using a headset – it might keep you from talking too loudly or quietly.
Body language is important

Body language is important in virtual interviews.

If you look off to the side of the computer or fidget, it will stand out to your interviewer.

  • Be upbeat and smile during the interview.
  • Try not to slouch in your seat.
  • Keep your hands down, you may even want to rest them in your lap.
The advantage of a virtual interview

Your interviewer won’t be able to see any helpful notes you stick to the edge of your screen.

You can stick a few things on there, as long as your body language and eye contact aren’t affected too badly. A note could:

  • remind you to smile or talk more slowly
  • be a question you want to ask at the end of the interview.
Do a test run

Ask a friend to help do a test run a day or two before the interview.

That way, you can check how you look, sort out any technical issues that come up and generally make sure things go smoothly.

  • Use an account name that’s professional and easy to remember such as your first initial and last name.
  • Make sure your background and face are well-lit so the interviewer can see you clearly.
  • Make sure your picture isn’t shaky.
Change and Transition Curve
May 14, 2020
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Originally presented at the Tenth International Personal Construct Congress, Berlin, 1999, and subsequently developed in his work on constructivist theory in relation to service provision organisations at Leicester University, England, John Fisher’s model of personal change – The Transition Curve – is an excellent analysis of how individuals deal with personal change.

This model is an extremely useful reference for individuals dealing with personal change and for managers and organizations helping staff to deal with personal change. 

Overcoming Communication Barriers: Attitude

The attitude of both the sender and the receiver can act as a major obstacle in the communication process.

However, it is not always possible to be aware of all of these influences as they are heavily reliant on personal characteristics. 

Some of the principal barriers here include:

  • relationship between communicators 
  • personal belief and perception 
  • culture 
  • status 
  • emotionality 

Relationships

Messages are more easily understood when both the sender and receiver can empathise with each other, as well as with what is being said. Personal attributes can be involved here, some of which cannot be altered, such as gender, race or physique; but all can influence behaviour, and reactions to the behaviour of others. Attitudes can also create barriers – people have a tendency not to listen to others who have a different viewpoint from their own.

The ability to empathise with someone else may not be easy and the relationship between the people involved in any communication process may form a barrier to the effectiveness of communication. If the relationship is good, communication is more likely to succeed.

Personal Belief and Perception

The biases that people have developed during their lifetimes may distort the messages they receive. People are affected by previous experiences, attitudes, values and feelings and all of these can influence the messages being communicated. It is human nature to evaluate others based on these personal attitudes, but this can have a negative effect on communication and cause some aspects of the message to become lost in the transmission. Stereotyping is a significant barrier to communication. It typifies people so that they are dealt with quickly, without any effort as they are regarded as part of a homogenous group with identical traits. Stereotyping is dangerous because it causes people to act as though they already know the message that is coming from the sender. Judgements are made about who is communicating the message, rather than the message itself and the receiver automatically becomes less objective.

Culture

Culture and geography can create obstacles to effective communication. Very often, words or phrases from different parts of the world, or even different parts of the same country, can have different meanings. Non-verbal communication such as body language or gestures can also have different meanings. An example of these variances can be seen in the different interpretations of head shaking. In western societies this means no, while head nodding means yes. To many traditional Greeks and Middle Easterners, an upward head nod means no.

Status

If the person communicating is regarded as an authority on a particular subject, understanding is increased as more credence is attached to what is being communicated. More attention tends to be paid if the person communicating the message is in a position of superiority, e.g. if someone is listening to a speaker, attention will automatically be greater if the listener has admiration and respect for that speaker.

Emotionality

When the sender displays high levels of emotion, the receiver can become distracted. If too much attention is paid to the emotional message being conveyed, important information such as factual information may not be understood. On the other hand, the receiver may completely ignore the emotional message and concentrate on the factual information instead. In both cases, the message is distorted because the entire message is not being absorbed.

Overcoming Mental Barriers

How to develop empathy with the person you are communicating with:

  • Put yourself in their place and try to see yourself through their eyes to understand their point of view. 
  • Listen actively and objectively to the message, not the person communicating the message. 
  • Take time to learn about various cultures and become more familiar with the cultures of people you are regularly communicating with. 
  • Realise that a person’s status can affect the message you perceive. Just because they are in a position of authority, it does not necessarily follow that what they are communicating is correct. 
  • Be aware that a person’s emotional state when either sending or receiving messages can unconsciously affect how the messages are transmitted and can affect how others interpret the message sent. 

It may not always be possible to completely control mental barriers, but even awareness of their existence by the sender or the receiver can help to ensure the smooth flow of communication.

5 Cs of Body Language
May 11, 2020
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If you see a person with arms folded, does this mean they are feeling defensive, with their arms acting as a barrier? Or could this mean they are feeling superior and are making a judgement? Or are they just feeling relaxed and placing their arms in a comfortable position? 

The answer is ‘It depends’. Interpreting body language means much more than just looking up the current body shape in a definitive list. Here is a simple set of five points that offer a critical lens to help see and interpret body language and other non-verbal communication in a more realistic way. 

Cues 

When we act, this is not done as a stand-alone thing. We do and say things in response to what others do and say. These external events act as cues (or ‘triggers’) that stimulate internal responses. 

When you see someone with a particular body shape, a good question to ask is hence ‘What just happened that may have led to the possible interpretations of their body language, and which is most likely?’ 

Cues can also be internal, for example where thoughts and concerns lead to changes in body position. You hence may also ask ‘Given their body language, what might they be thinking or feeling?’ 

Cues are a key part of conditioning, where emotions and actions are paired with a cue such that the appearance of the cue triggers a set of feelings and, possibly, related action (which the person may try to suppress). This cue-response sequence can also be instinctive, such as the way that wriggly creatures trigger a fear-and-recoil response. 

Changes 

A very important thing to watch for is transitions, where body language changes, for example from open to closed formation, or where a person suddenly scratches their nose (both of which may indicate discomfort). 

When you see a change in body language, look backwards for cues that may have triggered the transition, for example where someone suspected of lying is asked a revealing question looks away. 

Sales people watch for changes in body language, such as leaning forward and positive responses to subtle cues, as indicators of customers becoming convinced. The sales person will then use this understanding as a signal to move to the next stage in closing the deal. 

Clusters 

While body language changes can appear as single events, such as folding of arms, they often appear as a group of different movements that occur together or one after another. For example, a person may shift their stance, cross their arms, lean backwards slightly, purse their lips and frown, all as a combined indication of disagreement. 

Clusters of body shifts send clear signals when they all indicate the same thing. This may happen where each has a similar meaning, or where the whole ensemble of movements combine for a single meaning. 

Sometimes, cluster movements contradict one another, for example where a person rubs their nose (indicating possible deceit) and smiles. The resultant mixed message will likely cause you to feel uncomfortable and it makes sense to always be vigilant for such gut feelings, then look for reasons why you may feel this way. 

Character 

A further general factor that can confound and yet can also explain much is the general character of the other person. A person who is more extraverted, for example, may display frequent and large body movements, while a more introverted person might use more concise gestures. 

It easy to confuse these personality traits for others such as exhibitionism and timidity. In seeking to classify others (and hence predict their actions) we often misinterpret limited body signals and thereafter filter what we see through these incorrect mental models. 

Temperament, mood and even shorter-term emotions can also act as modifiers that affect body language and make it more difficult to interpret. Yet if you can determine a person’s current emotional state, you may apply this knowledge in your interpretation and so gain a better understanding of what their movements really mean. 

Context 

The final factor to consider when reading body language is the broader context that may influence how the other person thinks, feels and acts. 

What is going on in the immediate environment can have a clear effect, for example when young men are in the presence of attractive young women, they will indulge more in preening, posturing and other mate-attracting moves. 

The wider context of a person’s life also has an effect on their body language, typically indicating anxieties, excitement and other musings and anticipation. If you have no knowledge about such modifiers, this can have a confounding effect on your attempts to interpret their body language.