Early Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Early Career Development Priorities is part 3 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.
Read Part 1 – Peak Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 2 – Mid-Career Development Priorities here.


Today’s young professionals are setting a new way of working and shifting the thinking from work as a place we go, to work as a thing we do. This group of employees entered the workforce with savvy technical skills and solid educational backgrounds that seem destined for success. And the current labor shortage has given them more opportunities to choose from.

As the newest players in the workforce, they’re negotiating flexibility as well as compensation. They’re outspoken about where they want to work and how they want to work. And that’s exciting when you’re young and feel like you can set your own lifestyle and balance work alongside other interests. But there is another view of that flexibility that most early career employees don’t see.

They’ve traded off visibility for flexibility. And that may be a short-sighted advantage with long-term consequences. We’re seeing some early signs of that. Many companies saw phenomenal growth coming out of the pandemic, but it was not sustainable growth. And they’re resetting to a more modified growth track. That meant some workforce reduction that will continue as we head into 2023.

Reduction is never easy across teams, but it’s easier when we don’t really feel connected to an employee. If you joined a company and have worked virtually for the duration of employment, there’s not the same loyalty to you as others on the team. You haven’t had the visibility to leaders and therefore you don’t have the same support team when the tough decisions have to be made.

And if you allow flexibility to be the only motivation of your early career decisions, you may find that you’re stepping from one company to another without really moving up from one role to the next. The first decade is an important time to set a career path and make smart choices in order to leverage opportunities for more than a flexible schedule.

As we’ve worked with early career professionals and managers, we’ve focused on three priorities to strengthen their visibility and impact.

 

Career Runway

Jobs feel a little like window shopping right now. It’s fun to see so many choices, and the window dressing makes every opportunity look exciting. But buyer beware! Shop for more than the package wrapped up for you. Look at the company, the culture and the advancement opportunities. Are you considering the long-term as well as the short-term as you evaluate a role? Did you meet the co-workers and the hiring manager? Is this a good fit or just a good paycheck?

In addition to finding a role that meets the way you want to work, consider the role that will help you get to the next one. Resumes are shaped in the first decade of work. Hiring managers like to see that someone took an interest in you and helped you gain skills and additional responsibility. When the career path doesn’t show that, it’s a red flag.

We can help. Many data points prove out that early career employees will change jobs much more frequently than others which means framing up your experience more often. Our book, Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career focuses on how to position yourself and your experience. It also links to your personal brand and impressions. We developed a course to support it and can help you prepare for an interview or an internal, introductory meeting to help others get to know you and your interests. It makes all the difference in finding the next opportunity and positioning yourself for it.

 

Brand Awareness

Your personal brand is how people think about you and talk about you when you’re not around. It’s a reflection of someone’s impressions of you that take shape over time.

The savvy professional takes note of impressions and makes choices about how to come across as confident and credible. Impressions of confidence are why certain people get heard when they speak up. Confidence isn’t just a skill for leaders; it’s a differentiator that strengthens any employee’s personal brand and impact in an organization.

But it’s rarely an instinctive skill. It’s more about awareness of how people see you and hear you and focus on what it takes to really connect with a group. And it’s harder if you aren’t in an office often to be seen and heard. Early career professionals need to think about impact and add intention to visibility moments and their opportunity to be visible and involved in key initiatives.

We can help. Our workshop, Strengthening Personal Brand & Impressions, is offered internally for working teams or quarterly as an open-enrollment workshop. The program raises awareness of brand impressions and guides the discovery of professional presence and a confident communication style.

 

Manager Exposure

Everybody needs a champion. And in today’s shifting work environment, most people are going to need more than one. A champion is someone who knows your work and is willing to speak up on your behalf. It may be your manager, but it could also be your manager’s peers or others that you’ve worked with on projects. Champions start the process of a network within a company, and they are critical to bigger opportunities and advancement.

We used to build relationships as we met people in the corporate gym or cafeteria. It was easier to evolve relationships over time because we saw people often and had informal interaction and a chance to get to know each other. That’s a consequence of hybrid and virtual work models. It isn’t happening by happenstance. It takes an intentional plan to meet with someone and plan for those interactions, and early career professionals are going to have to work harder to get these connections.

Companies are trying to help with development programs and opportunities to connect with managers. Take advantage of all of these opportunities. When your company hosts a lunch, be there. When they set up a volunteer opportunity, be there. It’s going to take intention to start a network, and managers notice who’s taking an interest in it and who’s not.

We can help. Both programs described above include an element of building champions. We can also help you think through your own plan in 1:1 coaching and map out a conversation to gain insights and input from a potential champion in your organization.

 

Flexibility is a wonderful addition to career paths, and it’s an advantage that seems to have taken hold. But don’t make it the only factor in your early career decisions. Leverage the current role you have to build your brand and find the managers who will champion your skills. While it may take a little more in-office time, it will be the difference in your career advancement in the long run.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Mid-Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Mid-Career Development Priorities is part 2 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.
Read Part 1 – Peak Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 3 – Early Career Development Priorities here.


For some time, I’ve referred to managers in their mid-career years as the Mighty Middle. And I can’t think of a time when the phrase has been better suited to middle managers than today. I’m just not sure if the significance is more about the Mighty or about being in the Middle…because both are true!

Middle managers have always been a mighty muscle and influencer in companies. In the last two years, we’ve strained that muscle by expanding their roles and asking them to manage everything from mental health to physical health and well-being. They were given very little training to do it, but they did it. And many developed a whole new skill set in the process.

Then, we began to reset work structures. And as hybrid models emerged, managers were stuck in the middle. They’ve been squeezed between top leaders who want some semblance of an office setting to return, and most employees who want to keep their blended style of working and managing life on a flexible schedule. The friction intensified with the great resignation, and most of these managers picked up the slack, shifted the work and altered the way their teams would function.

They are the unsung heroes of the last three years. But the looming question is whether the last few years were energizing or exhausting to them? Are they motivated to continue growing as people leaders or are they likely to step away to avoid additional pressure? Companies have leadership gaps, and there is great opportunity for advancement. But it doesn’t feel great to step up to something you don’t feel qualified to do.

When you ask middle managers how they think about it, they talk about skill sets and development. While they like increased responsibility, they want to feel as if they have the support and experience to step up to new challenges. And the last few years haven’t provided a lot of time for that to happen. Companies have the desire to do it, but many are still focused on reset steps and culture that we identified in last week’s newsletter.

Middle managers need to take ownership for their own development and ensure that they feel qualified for the opportunities that are sure to come their way.

There are three priorities where we encourage middle managers to invest their time. Here’s a look at each priority with thoughts on how we’re supporting them.

 

The first priority is Skills.

Every day, companies look at a manager and decide whether the manager has the skills they need in a role. They can decide to develop a manager to expand the skill set or they can bring in a candidate from the outside who already has the skills. It depends on the momentum and pace at which a company needs to move. The shortage of candidates worked in favor of the internal managers, but it is shifting a bit.

We talked about learning and development priorities in our fourth book, Disrupted: How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career. Those priorities haven’t changed. The L&D team focuses on training needed to deliver top goals within a company. If you’re tied to the top goals, you may be a top priority for development. But if you’re working on a goal that’s lower on the list, you may not be the focus of the year.

You can take ownership by asking for development. Pay attention to shifts in company direction. Pay attention to who is managing some of the projects and the skill sets they have. You can gain experience without being in a role, and you can develop skills without waiting for the company to tell you that you need them.

We can help. If your skill gap is less about technical skills and more about influence and team dynamics, we can help. Last year, we introduced a workshop called Manager to Leader to focus on the skill sets needed to manage a bigger team and a broader responsibility. It sets the right foundation to help a new leader feel confident quickly and creates coaching circles that give the manager some bandwidth for input as they settle into a new role.

And our foundational programs can build confidence around increased visibility by providing skills to Lead Executive Conversations and Master Executive Presence within an organization.

 

The second priority is Relationships.

One of the benefits of leadership development programs within a company is the relationships built with peers. Over the last few years, companies have tried to continue the programs virtually, and the relationship aspect suffered. It’s harder to get to know people when you don’t have the downtime and social interaction together. And many companies are resetting to an in-person format to bring the relationship opportunities back.

But it isn’t just the relationships with peers that middle managers need to focus on. It’s relationships across the company that will make the difference in new opportunities. And that’s harder than it’s ever been. Because while people are returning, it isn’t an everyday, consistent schedule that brings easy interaction.

Leaders, a key group for most middle managers to interact with, aren’t as willing to connect as they have been in the past. And that’s because they’ve developed their own habits. They’re not around as much, so it’s harder to find 15 minutes to stop by. Every interaction takes a set appointment, and that’s a bigger commitment that’s harder to manage.

Today, it takes a lot of intention to build a network. In fact, it takes a plan to think about champions within a company and find creative ways to build relationships if the hallway conversations are limited.

We can help. We can help middle managers build plans for networking and gaining visibility across a company. In fact, we often do this with small groups of managers to ensure the leaders feel the investment works. There’s impact in numbers and bringing small groups of colleagues together helps a leader see value in the touchpoint as well.

 

And that leads to the third priority…Coaching.

We’ve seen tremendous growth in our coaching business and a lot of that has to do with a company’s attitude towards coaching. Coaching has become a great retention tool, and it’s the fastest way to help a manager gain confidence and support while taking on expanded responsibilities. Visibility leads to liability, and middle managers want to feel that they have the right tools and support to be successful in an expanded role.

Coaching can also offer feedback on a brand and help a middle manager understand how they’re seen within a company today. As a new leader, a manager can leverage a new opportunity to strengthen a brand or reset misconceptions.

We can help. In fact, in the last few years, we’ve doubled our resources to meet the added demand. If you’re a middle manager expanding responsibilities quickly, ask for coaching. It builds confidence and provides confidentiality with an objective partner who can talk through decision-making and offer a support system to build new tools and skills. And with SW&A, it’s access to the tools we know you’ll need.

 

The opportunities for middle managers have never been greater. But so are the risks. Experiences haven’t prepared most managers for those opportunities, and those who are succeeding got a little help along the way. It’s an exciting time to be a future leader. Take advantage of the opportunity and ask for the support you’ll need to be successful.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Peak Career – Development Priorities

It’s that time of year for budget reviews and planning as a new year begins to take shape. And as companies consider priorities and corporate strategies, it’s a good time to also align individual’s growth and priorities.

Peak Career Development Priorities is part 1 of our 3-part series focusing on trends, priorities, and insights to help align personal growth with business priorities for the year ahead.

Read Part 2 – Mid-Career Development Priorities here.
Read Part 3 – Early Career Development Priorities here.


It’s hard to get a senior leader’s attention on their own personal development. They believe that the last two and a half years have put more demand on their skills than at any other point in their careers. And they’ve enriched their skills under fire and close scrutiny. Peak career leaders have dealt with more issues in the last two and a half years than they’ve probably seen over a 30+ year career span.

Many would say ‘if I’m still sitting here after all the tough spots and decisions, I should have the skills I need to weather almost anything.’ And to some degree, they’d be right. The last few years have developed and defined new expectations for leaders.

But the work isn’t done.

There are three burning priorities in front of senior leaders, and they will each take innovative thinking and a new approach to resolve. Here’s a look at what we’re hearing from leaders and how we’re supporting the priorities they see ahead of them.

 

The first priority is Culture.

Companies are still all over the board trying to reset the company culture within a new way of working. Many are still testing out the new working model from fully virtual to some form of a hybrid model. And regardless of where it lands on that spectrum, leaders know it will impact the culture. It already has.

The office environment is part of culture. From the physical space to amenities in the space, many companies illustrated their intent with employees through their location. And they created situations that drew people together to feel a part of the culture.

Virtual interaction is not the same as in-person interaction. Leaders have seen it in the last year and often talk about losing the connective tissue of an organization because people aren’t together. The environment contributes to the illustration of values, and it makes it harder when people are rarely together for the culture to take hold organically.

The great debate on senior leadership teams is: who sets the culture?

Do we define it at the top of the organization or do we build it from the bottom of the organization?

It’s both.

Culture starts with intention from the top. Leaders have to buy into the culture and agree on what to create and how to lead it. Then, the employee base will reinforce it as they make it their own.

In our current work setting, even the best of cultures feel as if they’re losing a bit of their identity. Leaders see some of their best employees walk out the door because they’re not as connected as they once were. And they see bad behaviors gain momentum in ways they never have before.

Leaders say it’s harder to reinforce culture when they can’t walk the halls and find a personal connection to employees. There’s more pressure on a few moments rather than every moment. And it’s going to take an intentional plan to rethink how employees experience culture going forward.

We can help. Over the last year, we’ve worked with leadership teams to consider a new way of embedding culture into companies. It’s a shift from culture showing up in every little thing to making sure it’s integrated into the big things as well. Managers can own the little things, but leaders have to rethink how culture and values are reinforced in everything they say and do. We’re involved because it takes a communication plan that can integrate culture elements into town halls, strategy reveals and company goals.

 

The second priority is Communication.

Communication will be essential to reset the culture and almost everything else ahead for senior leaders. A new way of working has created fragmented visibility. Leaders are running town halls, but they don’t have full participation or focus as employees dial-in to view it or listen to a recording a few days after it

Every situation counts. Communication is the skill and the tool that helps you bring clarity and conviction to the direction of the company. Employees aren’t engaged in the same way as they consider work more a thing they do vs. a place they go. Live, in-person energy and connection has returned to most parts of our lives, and that’s what a company leader is competing with.

Leaders need to find ways to breakthrough with messaging. They can’t push it on employees. Instead, they’re going to have to be intentional about how they draw employees in. Many leaders developed bad habits during their own virtual work. They felt virtual required less preparation, so they relied on notes and a more casual way of talking to employees. It has to get focused again. It’s going to take conviction and connection to get employees’ attention and drive actions from ideas.

Leaders are resetting their own barometers to speak a little less about what’s happening in the world and a little more about the direction of their companies. Communication has to shift back to big vision, and for leaders that means a reset on messaging, a reset on skills and higher expectations for impact.

We can help. Developing compelling communicators is our passion. And with senior leaders, we’re helping rethink the brand and impact needed within an organization. Often, we combine the culture work with communication coaching to make sure they align and work together.

The input we give every leader is this: From board members to customers and employees, your key audiences haven’t changed. And the way they assess your style and impact hasn’t changed either. It all matters, and if you haven’t refreshed and reset your communication skills, it may be the most important thing you do in the year ahead.

 

The third priority is Succession.

I’ve talked to many leaders about how their teams have fared over the last few years. I get a mixed report on who’s retained direct reports and who’s swapped them out. But I get a consistent report about future leaders and succession.

All say the development of leaders behind the current team has stalled. One reason is the senior leaders themselves love hybrid work models. It’s given them the flexibility they never expected to see until retirement, and they’ve built a pretty strong case for why they don’t need to be in the office all the time. They have all the tools and connections they need to do their job well anywhere.

But the consequence is they don’t spend as much informal time with future leaders. They don’t realize that building visibility for future leaders isn’t happening organically, and it’s even a little awkward when it happens with intention. Planning for lunch or coffee together takes a fair amount of coordination just to run into each other on the same day.

Senior leaders see it as they begin talent review meetings. They notice in these conversations that they know people less than they once did. And they aren’t hearing the cross-functional support for future leaders the way they used to in these discussions. Those are red flags to a company that wants bench strength.

Senior teams need to get actively involved in future leader development. It’s more fragmented than it once was, and companies need to get innovative in how they reinvent it. Learning teams can sharpen the skills, but they can’t impose the relationship component that is equally important.

We can help. As we’ve heard companies talk about this trend, we’ve responded with programming built to transition someone from a manager to a leader, and coaching circles that can add exposure and guidance for senior leaders. We’ve also led discussions with senior teams to rethink the way they support future leaders and to find better ways to accelerate visibility, responsibility and trust.

 

The demands on peak career leaders haven’t subsided. Every company has to get out of reset mode and reimagine how people fit together. The priorities of culture, communication and succession should be top of mind, and those who excel at it will redefine what leadership really means.

And we’ll ensure that you’re one of those leaders.

As always, we’re here when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Talent, Data & People: The Strategic CHRO with Kim Sullivan

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We all faced new dynamics and uncharted waters as managers and leaders navigating a pandemic, social unrest and different ways of working. But if you considered the corporate role that felt the most impact, the CHRO, Chief Human Resources Officer, would rank high in terms of the toughest leadership positions over the last few years.

And that’s why this episode is so timely. In this episode, Sally talks to Kim Sullivan, who has been an HR leader for three global companies, and a CHRO for the last six years. Kim guided HR teams pre and post-pandemic, giving her invaluable insight on what’s changing and what lies ahead.

More about Kim Sullivan

With more than 20 years in the HR industry, Kim Sullivan has had an extensive career, including a mix of strong business acumen and the desire to develop people, while also identifying the business drivers and complex issues of every organization she’s worked with. She has experience modernizing the People Solutions (HR) function by implementing new HR service delivery models; redesigning, eliminating, and repositioning roles; and implementing a digital HR strategy to address short and long-term business needs. Kim is a thought leader in all things transformation, including organizational culture. She is passionate about elevating HR team performance to ensure people and culture strategies enable a company’s value agenda. She holds a master’s degree in Human Resources Development from the University of Houston and a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications and Organizational Psychology from Texas Southern University.

Show Notes

  • CHRO – Chief Human Resources Officer
  • What has been the change of the CHRO role over the years?
    • Typically tucked under the CFO
    • There is a heightened need for the CHRO role to be at the table helping to make decisions that support the stratic outcomes for the business
  • CHRO in the Global pandemic
    • Continued to reflect on the overwhelming impact on the world
    • Defining digital transformation
    • Moving people from worksites to their homes in three weeks or less
    • Keeping the lights on
  • CHRO continues to learn from March 2020
  • Essential skills to be a CHRO
    • Understanding the business and how to business makes money
    • How to solve problems that positively impact the organization’s business goal
    • Understanding what are the people implications and cultural implications
    • Must be talent savvy, biz savvy, data-savvy – how do you use data to make decisions
    • Coaching and advising the leadership team
    • Engage with leadership and with the frontline staff
  • Employee Experience – everything a worker learns, does, sees, and feels at each stage of the employee lifecycle.
  • How do companies define reset?
    • Hybrid/ Virtual work
    • Plan what the “return to the office” looks like for their organization dependent on the organization and employees
    • People value flexibility – What is the why, and when should they come together? What happens when they get there?
    • Define what roles should be remote, in-person, or hybrid.
  • Mid to senior career-level workers feel more productive and focused at home; recent graduates want more in-person networking opportunities but do not want to be in the office every day.
  • How to define what is valued as work-life integration?
    • Collect data to find what is the desired work style
    • Use that data to establish the workplace strategy
  • Leadership is culture; culture is leadership.
    • Be deliberate about the culture you want to create and who you are as a company.
    • Clearly define your values and be intentional about when you come together.
    • Define what your employee’s role is, make sure to check in with them, and have systems in place to support them
    • Mirror what you say you do as an organization at all levels of the company
    • Management needs to be international and consistent
    • Stay visible even in remote settings
    • Make sure you show up with these values to attract outsiders to your organization
    • If you are a people manager today and you are not equally focused on the business and the well-being of your people, you are not doing your job
  • The Great Resignation – An ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs in large numbers beginning in early 2021 due to low wages, cost of living increase, career advancement, seeking better benefits, and remote work.
  • What are essential skills for new leaders?
    • How to have fun
    • Encourage employees to take time off
    • Not celebrating grind culture
    • Demonstrating that leaders care about employees
    • Prioritizing resources to make sure employees are taken care of. Want employees to be engaged and happy
  • DEI – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    • Employees need to feel included and represented in the workspace
  • Is there a talent shortage?
    • Value proposition – making people interested in working with your company
  • Glassdoor – www.glassdoor.com
  • Gig Economy – a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs: Fiver – www.fiverr.com
  • How to factor these desires into our work models?
    • Determine which jobs can be a gig vs. remote vs. in person
    • Work on attracting different nontraditional talent
    • Focus on skills, not just job level
  • Asynchronous communication- happens over a period of time—rather than immediately.
  • Synchronous communication- takes place in real-time.
  • Successful organizations invest in talent.
  • Company Culture- describes the shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterize an organization
  • What is leadership’s role in Company Culture?
    • Set the vision
    • Clearly define what their desire is for the culture
    • Ensure their leadership team has leaders ready to model the behaviors that support your desired culture – a senior leader needs to hold their team accountable
  • CHRO role in Company Culture
    • Partner with the senior team, and articulate the culture will be
    • Help to operationalize the culture through people processes or operational process
    • Coaching and being an advisor to the CEO
    • Own the measurement of an organization
    • People analytics and insights on what is going well vs. not

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Slack Me Your Brand

As a new way of working has settled in for companies, Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Viber, Lark and dozens of instant messaging (IM) channels have taken hold as an easy and efficient way of communicating with each other throughout the day. And that’s why we’re often asked:

Can your personal brand take shape on an IM channel?

The simple answer is yes, and I think it’s happened over and over again as managers have become more dependent on the channels.

  • Similar to meetings, people who monopolize a channel can seem like “know it all’s” and come across as arrogant.
  • Similar to meetings, people who don’t contribute and remain silent can come across as uninvolved or unsure.

People who offer guidance seem helpful. People who are long-winded seem scattered. There’s a lot of similarity between in-person impressions and IM impressions.

If you’ve doubled your use of it, then you’ve probably also raised your awareness of what people like in this format and what they don’t. Cut and pasting information vs a link is frowned upon because it takes up a lot of space. Short sound bites are valued, keeping the chat informal and to the point.

But the flow of communication is more transactional. It’s tied to task and inputs and less to connection and touch points. As we’ve asked people about their experiences with IM channels, some say that they notice wit and humor in co-workers’ personalities as they add a little levity to a stream of inputs. And in many cases, it‘s a few personalities that come through an uneven representation of all personalities in the chat.

And that’s when the question should really become: Are IM channels enough of an impression? And that answer is probably not. Chat and short form conversations are best used as a supplement to live conversations, not a replacement for them.

Here’s why.

True connection requires a response from someone. People have found some connections with each other on IM channels, but they tend to align with people who think just like them or agree with them, rather than a different perspective or different approach.

It’s harder to work through differences without true connection and non-verbal signals from each other. Engagement is still about give and take and that means a live conversation with a view of the other person.

And when engagement hasn’t really occurred, we don’t get as vested in each other. And that may mean we don’t promote each other as much as we could. We’re not as likely to call out someone’s effort or even fully notice it. And we’re already seeing some consequences from the limited communication channel.

The biggest consequence is employees and managers don’t know each other very well. Future opportunities come from expanded conversations and a more relaxed connection with a manager.

An employee can become somewhat invisible if they don’t have a regular cadence of face-to-face connections. When relationships are limited, trust can’t develop as it has in the past.

So, what do you do to strengthen your brand in this new way of working?

If you’re trying to establish your brand in a company, make sure that you encourage face-to-face communication at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be in-person; it can be over a virtual network. But make sure that you become a visible presence with your manager. To succeed in a company, you’re going to need a champion. Opportunities are created by people, and managers recommend people that they know and trust. You need to make sure you’re building a relationship with a manager, more than one is even better, and not just a transactional conversation.

If you’re managing people in a virtual setting, remember that people tend to stay at organizations because of their connection to other people. If you allow a team to work too independently, they never truly engage with co-workers and they seek connection somewhere else. Impose the face-to-face interaction among the team. If they never get together in the same location, you’ll have to work harder to initiate relationships across the group. You can do this with small group projects, pairing team members together for new ideas or solutions, and adding intention to discussions and virtual meetings so that everyone gets heard across your team.

Impressions take shape in all formats, so your brand does take shape across IM channels. But it’s not enough to build relationships that will lead to opportunities.

There’s a reason that leaders at most companies are saying “come back in the office” and “we miss seeing you around here.” They know that those virtual impressions only take connection so far. And as we’re all working to find the right balance of virtual, in-person and hybrid working, it will take a little more intention on the connection side to make sure that trust continues to grow with managers and teams.

If you’re trying to strengthen the connection and value within your team, we can help. Through team building experiences or work on personal brands, we’ve helped many groups reset and rethink how they work together. And we’d welcome the opportunity to explore what your team might need.

As always, call us when you need us.

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Getting Down to Business with Kim Wilson of Lucy’s Market

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Small businesses have gotten a lot of visibility over the last two years.

As the world slowed down and dealt with a pandemic, we were more aware of the businesses on the corner that weren’t focused on five-year plans but were focused on next months’ payroll to survive. It brought front and center a look at how small businesses work and interestingly, as the world reset, it seemed to inspire a whole new culture of entrepreneurs and people who’d like to be their own boss.

But running a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. As the last two years have proven, the safety net looks very different for a small business than it does for a big company. And as we move beyond worries and reset with opportunities, we thought it would be fun to talk to a small business about success, resets and lessons learned.

If you’re in Atlanta, it won’t surprise you that we went straight to Lucy’s Market to talk to Kim Wilson. But if you’re listening from another city, here’s what you should know.

Lucy’s Market is the special place in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta where you go for fresh vegetables and leave with the makings of a party. Or you dash in for a bottle of wine and a favorite cheese and leave with the serving pieces that make it look like you worked harder than you did to create a setting. It’s a local spot with warmth, charm, a little spunk… and an expanded list of offerings that seem to have evolved effortlessly over the years.

In this episode, Sally talks with Kim Wilson, the founder of Lucy’s Market. Kim shares her story and more about what it took to build Lucy’s Market.

More about Kim Wilson

Kim Wilson has always had a passion for fresh produce and florals, spending a number of years growing an extensive vegetable garden in her backyard. However, she never considered evolving that passion into a career until she was ready for a change after working in advertising sales for over 25 years. At the same time, a gas station was abandoned on Roswell Road in the heart of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Kim took over the space in 2009 and turned it into a farmer’s market, establishing Lucy’s Market. The market’s growth ultimately led Kim to move it inside the gas station before expanding and moving to another location. In 2017, Kim relocated to where the market stands today. Named after Kim’s love for her grandmother and daughter, Lucy’s Market still carries the same deep roots and many of the same customers since the early days. Over the past 12 years, Lucy’s has ripened into not only an admired farmer’s market but a specialty store, gift shop, and floral boutique.

Show Notes

  • Who is Lucy?
    • Kim Wilson’s grandmother was named Lucille, and she named her daughter after her grandmother.
  • Was Lucy’s Market a grand vision, or did it evolve?
    • The market began very small with Kim’s love for veggies grown in her backyard. Lucy’s started as a place to get fresh veggies Monday-Saturday, and then the business spread word of mouth. Kim had over 30 years of sales experience before starting Lucy’s Market started.
  • Movement
    • The business moved around a bit and evolved, and the concept followed. Location and parking are the most important things when moving. She seeks wide-open locations with lots of space. Her experience in real estate has helped her understand the value of location.
  • How did she grow this?
    • Using her sales experience, she got to know each customer by name and worked to understand what they liked and what they were looking to purchase.
  • The Business Today:
    • Currently, 7000 sqft retail space, 8000 feet of office and storage to hold seasonal inventory.
    • 30 employees, many are part-time with a core full-time team.
    • Seasonal employees are hired in addition to the 30 consistent year-round employees.
    • Market is open Mon-Sat
    • They sell fresh produce, locally prepared food, wine, flower arrangements, gifts, and gift baskets.
  • How do you decide what to offer?
    • Decisions are made based on customer desire.
    • 85% of the business are women.
  • What has surprised you most in terms of what people come in to buy?
  • Lucy’s Market is about creating memories.
  • Was the pandemic rough for Lucys?
    • The hours were changed, but they could stay open through the pandemic because they sold food – curbside and delivery. They made it easy for the customers to purchase, and Lucy’s Market grew. Prior to the pandemic, they had a solid customer base. They swiftly shifted the method but didn’t need to build the base.
    • They started doing a weekly video that became extremely popular and helped build an audience in Atlanta and nationally. In January of 2020, they took products online. Now they are completely online as well and open in-person. They promote things daily, and the users will go online and purchase.
    • Between 5 and 10% of sales online are predicted for next year.
  • Mistakes that Lucy’s Market has learned from?
    • She’s made mistakes but continues to listen to customers.
    • When introducing new products, you have to train your customers to pick up products from Lucy’s.
  • How do you know when the time is right?
  • When have you learned about risk?
    • Many things work out. When it comes to risk, make sure you have something lined up and things to back it up.
  • What is next?
    • Another location, being open and accepting new opportunities
  • Kim Wilson’s BackgroundNo background in retail but 30 years in sales.
    • She knows what she likes, knows how to get it.
    • Pay people well to keep good workers. Because of great workers, they’ve been able to grow.
    • Kim understands marketing and learning to manage her team, putting the right people in the right place.
  • Advice?
    • Marketing is essential – understand social media and utilize your online platforms. People get their information online, so you need to be online.
    • Lucy’s Market posts something every day, and they do weekly videos.
  • Referrals and Hiring
    • Lucy’s Market used to employ friends and family but now referrals come to Kim through friends of friends – currently, no family working for them.
  • 2-3 Golden Rules For A Small Business Owner
    • 1. Customer service is key – be nice to everybody
    • 2. Create an experience for your customer
    • 3. Always be positive – being positive is a key to life.
  • “I’ve made something, and I think it’s going to be around for a while.” – Kim Wilson

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Resetting & Reducing Social Distance with Karen Riddell

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Social distancing is a term that took hold during the pandemic as a descriptive way of creating boundaries from each other. But after two years of distancing and now going back to offices and social settings with colleagues and friends, social distance may take on new meaning.

At a minimum, the re-engagement in groups feels awkward at first. We’ve forgotten some of the social norms and feel a little rusty at small talk. In a corporate setting, we realize that Zoom calls didn’t allow for much of a relationship with colleagues. So, we aren’t quickly at ease as a member of the team. Virtual events just aren’t the same as taking time for lunch or going on a walk with a colleague or friend.

And now, we’re somewhere between anxious about reconnection, stressed about being left out or lonely because many of our friends have moved on. Our social life and world didn’t just relaunch or reset to where it may have been two years ago. We continue to hear from managers and leaders who are trying to accelerate connection and strengthen relationships across new work settings. And I think we’re all looking for some confidence in connection and some new ways of getting there.

In this episode, Sally talks with Karen Riddell, Sally’s long-time friend and Positive Psychology Life Coach who has taken a special interest in social connections.

More about Karen Riddell
Karen Riddell is a Positive Psychology Life Coach, who started her business after her interest in friendship led her to become certified in applied positive psychology and life coaching.

In her coaching practice, she works with groups and individuals to find the sweet spot where their strengths, purpose and passions align. Karen partners with clients to clearly conceptualize their goals, envision the possibilities, and map out a concrete action plan for thriving. Karen’s practice centers on positivity, engagement, connection, purpose and vitality.

In December 2020, Karen published Friendship Matters, a book extolling the miraculous power of friendship to transform your life. The how-to book details specific, simple ways to find, make, and build new friendships as well as ways to enrich, deepen, and strengthen existing relationships. It also contains an easy-to-use workbook that allows the reader to create their own personal path to joy through friendship.

Prior to this, Karen received two degrees from The University of North Carolina, moved to Atlanta with her husband, where they had three daughters, and Karen became a prominent community volunteer. She is now writing her second book for mothers-of-the-brides sharing tips on how to navigate the complex process of wedding planning, and doing it with joy.

Show Notes

  • Karen Riddell – Positive Psychology Life Coach
  • After social distancing, people now feel awkward with re-engagement and out of the practice of social norms. They are anxious about reconnecting, stressed about being out, and lonely. Social distance is more than just physical space.
  • For managers and leaders:
    • What are some of the most significant challenges with the limited socialization over the last few years?
      • The impact of social distancing is underestimated.
      • We are experiencing a double pandemic – Covid is threatening our physical health and social distancing is threatening our mental health.
      • Work is a structured social setting that fell through.
  • Social connection strengthens us in all the vital facets in our lives. It brings us physical and mental health, stronger families and relationships, and success in the workplace. Social disconnections weaken us in all those areas.
  • What about social anxiety?
    • Pre-pandemic – FOMO (Fear of missing out)
    • People now feel FOBI (Fear of being included)
    • Social anxiety can feel different:
      • embarrassed
      • awkward
      • uncomfortable in crowds.
    • Social anxiety can be felt physically:
      • heart racing
      • sweating
      • panic attacks
    • Negative emotions cause us to want to avoid social settings, so we are reluctant to jump back in.
  • People who live alone or had smaller social circles to start have struggled the most with social distancing—singles or anybody residing with an immunocompromised individual have as well. People with larger social circles or a family did not struggle as much.
  • What can most individuals do to reacclimate to social connection?
    • Start by taking a strategic approach to social interactions:
      • Before an event or activity, think of simple ways to ease its pressure.
      • Limit the time at the event.
      • Plan to go with someone else.
      • Think about who you will see and what you will talk about.
      • Plan how to recharge batteries after.
      • Plan at your own pace – start with people you know well.
    • Be compassionate and patient with yourself. If you start to have negative thoughts, try to reframe the thoughts.
  • New ideas on how to bring socialization into a virtual workgroup?
    • Most success comes from communication, not how but what you communicate about—balance work-related materials with social interactions.
      • Internally and strategically interact virtually – using programs like slack
      • Collaborate and create with virtual programs in real-time
      • Grouping people in subsets and prompting group ice breakers
      • Host contests and challenges
      • Send humorous videos
      • Host a lunch and learn
      • Play up holidays
      • Talk about families and hobbies
    • Work to replace something spontaneous with something structured.
  • What piqued Karen Riddells’ interest in this work?
      • All the things she had done were not activities and jobs that she was particularly interested in, but she did them because of the people she enjoyed being around. This realization got her interested in the power of friendship.
      • Friendships are vital to health and happiness and are the key to physical and mental health.
  • People with a strong network:
      • have a better sleep experience
      • less chance of getting a cold/flu
      • teeth and skin are healthier
      • less likely to have stress
      • heal faster
      • better cardiovascular health
      • stronger immune system
      • more likely to take preventative health manners
      • stronger working memory
      • less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression
    • People with a solid social network will have up to a four times greater chance of survival. The hills and hurdles in life are easier to manage with friends by your side.
  • How can you get a strong social circle?
    • Start by getting a friendship/positive mindset – you need to be ready to get in the right space.
    • Put your passions and interest in play.
  • Introverted leaders- What if you don’t have time to develop strong friendships?
      • Any leader in a business environment needs to make it a priority to develop friendships – Streamline your efforts to what will be the most successful.
  • The formula of great friendships
    • 1. mutual respect and reciprocity
    • 2. trust and vulnerability
    • 3. devotion and commitment
  • Companies struggling with employee retention – is friendship a retention tool?
    • Gallup organization research shows:
      • An employee with a friend at work is 7 times more likely to be engaged in their job. No friends, your chance of being engaged plummets to 1 in 12.
      • Work friends reduce stress and burnout – friendships at work increase job satisfaction by nearly 50%.
      • People with 3 or more friends at work are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives overall.
      • Create the moments and allow people to use them in a way that works for them.

*Please note the following story does contain sensitive material. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

  • Karen shares a story of being a new mother and getting out of a funk by getting active and developing a community. She then shares a similar story of her mother, who needed a community as she struggled with loneliness. She was suffering from postpartum depression in a new town.

Even just one friend has the power to make a difference.

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Does Presence Even Matter Anymore?

To answer that question, you have to consider one in return. How do you define presence?

Do you think about it merely in terms of how someone looks and how well they package that look in a business setting? Then, in a hybrid world, presence may matter more the day you’re in the office versus the day you’re on Zoom.

Or do you define presence in terms of someone’s confidence and the concept of “owning the room” or commanding the meeting? In those terms, presence may be evident in some meetings and totally lacking in others. When the workspace and the setting were redefined, presence didn’t translate easily. That’s why people are asking the question.

But if you think of presence more in terms of engagement and the ability to impact or influence others, then presence may matter more than it ever has. And that’s because business context has been blurred and the rules of engagement are looser. So, it leaves managers wondering whether they should address it and coach people, and it leaves individuals wondering whether they should listen to the coaching.

And to both groups, our answer is yes. Presence isn’t a mandate or a set of rules that should be force fit on someone. Presence is about awareness, influence and the ability to collaborate, connect and move others forward. As a manager, you can reset the definition and the guidelines so that presence has a fresh feel to your team, and your team can improve their overall effectiveness by thinking more about influence with a peer group or a customer group.

Here’s how we’ve reset presence in our workshops and helped our clients think about how to coach it within their organizations.

It starts with a clear definition.

All of the elements listed in the questions above are a part of presence. And that can make it sound like it’s solely visual, all about dominating, or even just about listening. When presence is described by the first two elements, it feels rigid, or personality driven. That’s because these are ways that presence shows up, but not really what it is.

Presence is the culmination of impressions. It’s not something you give yourself, but a way that others define you in terms of how they see you, hear you and feel influenced by you. It’s based on someone else’s experiences, and the expectations of presence are best described by how others need to feel about you to follow your guidance or line up to your ideas.

We define presence as the three C’s: Confidence, Commitment and Connection. They represent attributes built on impressions from others. And those impressions and expectations have stayed very consistent even with all of the shifts in our business setting. But because we shifted so much about where we work and how we work together, the power of impressions and the intention behind owning them should be reset to match those changes.

Here’s how we talk about it.

HOW YOU’RE SEEN: Visual impressions will always be the first way we focus on someone. It may be a quick impression or a lingering one. And it’s shaped by what you wear and choices you make with hair, nails, makeup, tattoos, facial hair, shoes, and everything else that we can visually see. And managers are beginning to ask: Do I need to set some guidelines around how they show up?

Yes, you should set expectations because without them, you can’t guide choices. But tread lightly in terms of setting do’s and don’ts and focus instead on owning impressions. Organizations are working hard on making all things inclusive, and someone’s visual expression of style is a part of that.

In our work, we’ve shifted from coaching someone on poor choices to helping them see that bold choices speak loudly. That means what I see may distract me enough that I never get to what you wanted me to hear. When you own your impression, you think about those reactions and learn to work with them so that you are heard. Consider a discussion where your team sets the norms or talks through what intention looks like for different groups.

HOW YOU’RE HEARD: Most groups have broken rules of effective meetings in a virtual setting, and they’re struggling to put order back into discussions in an in-person setting. And if you’re running some meetings with people in-person and others remote, then you’re right back to the “invisible audience” on the virtual platform.

We’re coaching people to make sure they’ve found a way to be active, involved and seen in meetings. The majority of impressions formed around someone’s brand and influence come out of day-to-day meetings. The outspoken team members often need to be coached to wait before they jump in. While they’ve gotten kudos for being involved and outspoken, their energy can stifle others. Peers will be less interested in working with them if they seem to always have the answer. Those who are quiet or more tentative in a group setting need some tools to bridge ideas or create space for questions and deeper thought. From both perspectives, it’s intentional choices that drive impressions of someone who is active in meetings and a valued part of getting to resolution.

As a manager, you can support the meeting setting by adding a little structure to discussions and giving advance notice about the topics up for discussion. Too often, managers approach their team meetings from their own perspective. They wing it or pull the agenda together a few hours ahead of time. Unintentionally, the manager is running a meeting that works well for the outspoken and provides no support to those who build confidence through preparation.

HOW YOU INFLUENCE: When we focus on connection, we shift someone’s perspective off of how they’re doing and toward how they make others feel. It’s a true differentiator of presence, and it’s gotten a little lost in the virtual world.

If you think about what influences you, it’s usually driven by an idea you like and your willingness or interest in aligning with the person who shared the idea. When we hear an idea from someone we don’t align with, we’re less likely to hear it as good and we’ll rebuke the idea to avoid the person.

Across the attributes of presence, connection is the concept that has suffered the most in a virtual world. And it may be the hardest to achieve as we shift to hybrid. There are a lot of bad habits that have taken hold as many people are pushing information out and not focused on drawing people in.

Influence is more about others and less about you. Active listening is the skill we coach and the ability to draw response from others. It’s harder to read and get response virtually, and it’s why we coach people to rethink the virtual connection and add ways that confirm response and impose participation.

As a manager, active listening is a great skill to coach. When you debrief on meetings, bring two perspectives to the conversation. Ask an employee how others responded to their idea and when they share what they think, ask them how they know. This forces discussion of response and the awareness of the communicator. It also creates an opportunity to consider ways to get that reaction or response from a group.

So YES, presence still matters. Maybe more than it ever has before because business context has been blurred and the rules of engagement are looser. And when there’s change and a little confusion, there’s always opportunity. We already see it as people share the impact of coaching. Those who pay attention to impressions are getting noticed and pulled into bigger opportunities.

If you think your team could use a reset on presence we’d love to help.

We’re here when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

The Salary Negotiation

Even the phrase has a negative connotation. When I see negotiation, I visualize a game of tug of war and the back and forth between two sides. That’s not a great way to think about your salary. And a tug of war shouldn’t be your mindset for approaching those conversations.

Salary conversations rank in the top three critical conversations that people want to know how to manage, and with the increased movement in the job market, many people are having them more frequently.

Changing companies is the right time to negotiate. Everything is up for discussion, and as the potential hire, you’re in a strong position. Once you’re offered a role, the negotiation of compensation and benefits may shift to a recruiter or an outsider resource who takes some of the awkwardness out of a conversation with a future manager.

You should consider a new role with a good understanding of how a company manages promotions and increases responsibility. When could you expect to take on more? What are the experiences of the peer group you’re joining? Will you be in the top third, middle third or bottom third with regard to skills and experience? What is the average time your peers have been in their roles? These are good questions and fair discussion as you consider a new opportunity.

Think of salaries as one part of a bigger compensation and benefits discussion. Companies negotiate in different ways. Flexibility in a work week, location of a role and mid-year bonuses are all ways a company may enhance a compensation package. If you’re in the market, you should know how your skills are viewed in the marketplace and how comparable roles are being positioned.

And if you make a move, be sure that it’s expanding your role in a way that feels like mobility to you. It may be an increased title and compensation, but it could also be increased responsibility and exposure to a new skill set. Don’t just move for money. It’s hard to take that forward to the next role or next step if what you’re doing hasn’t grown along with your salary.

Those may be the easier salary conversations because it’s an expected part of the hiring process. Just be sure that you’re ready with what matters to you and you have good insight to position it.

But what about the recurring conversations?

You’re with a company that you like and in a culture that you respect, but you just don’t think you’re paid fairly. How do you navigate a conversation about money?

For a conversation that people feel is a critical one, a lot of employees don’t know the basics of how compensation is managed within their companies. From grade levels to salary bands, more than 50% of the people who ask us about these conversations, don’t know how their company manages the process. And that sets you up for the wrong time and the wrong approach.

Learn the basics from your HR team and then consider the following three steps to involve your manager in a discussion.

Make the conversation about more than your salary.
Money is emotional. To an employee, it feels like a quantification of what your work is worth. To a manager, it’s one part of a much bigger picture around roles and responsibilities. Too often, employees think about money as a separate conversation independent of their work and their value to a role.

And that’s a mistake. Money follows value. Change the conversation to what you’re doing, how you’re contributing and talk to your manager about what you’d like to take on next. Increase your role and your value to the company, and the company will increase your compensation.

The easiest time for a company and a manager to increase a salary is when someone adds responsibility and steps into a new role. The hardest time for a company to increase a salary is when nothing has changed….except how you’re feeling about your role.

When you’re asked to take on more or offered a new position, you’ve aligned to the compensation discussion that’s similar to joining a company. Lead with the increased responsibility and value, and then explore and discuss what changes with your compensation package.

Time the conversation from your manager’s perspective.
The biggest disconnect is timing. If you’ve been with a company for a while, you may be relying on your manager to set the timing of a discussion or annual review. But managers view those discussions as resetting their entire team, and they’re working with guidelines that are set across the entire company. Their focus is resetting everyone to current roles, not making significant changes during those conversations.

Your desire to talk about what you do next may hit them too late to consider it. And if your peers were proactive in managing a career discussion, your manager may assume that you’re not as interested as they are in a next step.

I recently ran an assessment as part of a coaching engagement and asked two leaders what they thought the employee wanted to do next. Both replied: “I have no idea. I’ve never thought about what Joe will do next.” And that tells me Joe hasn’t made it known what he wants to explore or take on. And he’ll be frustrated when the manager doesn’t create that opportunity for him.

You have to keep this conversation alive and well-positioned. It’s a conversation about next steps and even two steps down the road. Most managers are very willing to help this process. They just don’t have the time to drive it for you. We’ve talked a lot about taking ownership for your career, and our latest book Disrupted: How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career offers guidance on how to do it.

Know the market and the value of your role.
We’re a little biased against chasing every opportunity that comes your way because we see people follow the wrong things and miss the opportunity to grow their skill sets. A lot has changed in opportunities, and you will move more in your career than you may have considered a decade ago. But what hasn’t changed is skill development. You need to be adding skills and expanding skills in order to increase your value to any company.

And you should stay involved in how your role is valued in the market and within your company. The increased movement has put a lot of information out there in terms of positions available and the salary range of the positions. Stay informed on your skillset. If a recruiter reaches out, it’s worth learning how they got to you and how they thought about your skillset.

Your peer network is also a great way to stay informed on how roles are growing and skills you need to be developing. Keep your manager informed and offer input on how roles are evolving. It helps them think more broadly about skills and development.

But a word of caution. Don’t use the market insight as a way to push negotiation on your manager. Don’t wait until you’re frustrated and feeling stuck to have a conversation about your opportunity and increased responsibility.

Too often, we see an employee leverage another opportunity as a way to force a compensation discussion. This puts a company on the defensive and many will try to “save” you because they don’t want to lose you. They add compensation and even new titles to try and keep you. But both sides resent this tactic within six months. The employee still feels taken advantage of because they had to threaten to leave in order to get what they felt they should have been offered all along. The manager resents it because they feel they’re now paying a premium for a role they weren’t sure you were ready for. And ironically, many of these employees leave anyway within a year.

There’s a much better way to continue to grow in responsibility and compensation.

Take ownership for how you move within a company. Be proactive in talking about where you are today and where you would like to be tomorrow. Focus on the value you can add to the company and involve your manager in helping you plan for the next steps ahead.

Movement within a company and to different companies is a reset we should all expect. And when you begin to think about a value conversation instead of a salary negotiation, compensation joins the conversation easily.

We’re here when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Proficiency vs Mastery: What it Takes to Uplevel Your Skills

January is the month of resets! From resetting company goals and strategies to resetting personal development, it’s the refresh and “clean slate” feeling that rejuvenates all of us and makes anything feel possible.

And if you’re a people leader, chances are your development goals include something about influence, personal presence and the ability to galvanize your team. If it isn’t your priority, it should be because the expectations of employees have shifted in the last two years and the ask of people leaders is being redefined as well.

At the core of those expectations will be influence and impact. And when you evaluate the impact of a people leader, the data points become employees’ feedback, experiences and reactions to a leader’s communication skills.

This month puts it all to the test. At the same time that development goals are being discussed, communication skills are being tested. January is an important month for people leaders. Through internal meetings and strategy presentations, leaders set the tone, direction and enthusiasm for the year ahead and they define the ask of their employees for the months ahead.

The reality check for every people leader is: Are you a proficient communicator or a master communicator? There’s a significant difference.

Surprisingly, proficiency is where more than 85% of people leaders are considered to be. And they fall into two groups with that benchmark.

Some have accepted that benchmark for themselves and consider proficient to be “good enough.” They look around at peers and other leaders in a company, and they measure their skills against the skills of others. And they believe they’re good enough. Others haven’t accepted the benchmark, but they don’t know what to do about it. They developed foundational skills through repetition. And while they’re earnest in wanting to improve their skills, they don’t know how to get beyond proficient.

Knowing that the expectations on a leader’s skills will continue to shift toward a more compelling communicator and impactful influencer, we’re helping leaders set new goals and move their skills from proficiency to mastery.

So, how do you make the shift? We help communicators focus on Awareness, Intention and Effort.

Communication isn’t the first skill you’ve tried to master. We’ve all taken up a hobby or a sport in an effort to become really good at it. And I’ll admit, there are far more things I’ve become proficient at than I’ve mastered. Here’s why:

I started with some instruction to build skills, and then I expected to get better at it through practice. And I did make great strides initially, but I lost interest or focus on the skill before I really mastered it. Communication follows the same path. Maybe you took a course or got a solid foundation in skills and techniques early in your career. And you became proficient through repetition as you had opportunities or responsibilities to communicate more and more.

But repetition doesn’t get someone to mastery. It levels out at proficiency because feedback doesn’t continue, or the skills don’t evolve with the growth of a leader. Mastery takes the right tools and the right kind of practice to evolve and improve skills.

Here’s how we do it:

AWARENESS is feedback, assessment and input. As a leader, your effectiveness isn’t based on your assessment, it’s based on everyone else’s. And it helps to understand how your brand is perceived and how people hear what you say. We start with an initial assessment, but we also help leaders put feedback loops in place to ensure that all communication is measured for impact. This allows a leader to clarity, reinforce, and revise communication to keep sound bites active across a year. Less than 15% of leaders have a broader plan and a longer lifeline for big ideas and core messages that influence employee behaviors.

SW&A can measure current effectiveness and build a custom communication plan for a leader.

INTENTION trumps technique. Few leaders really understand intention behind techniques. They can explain what they do to develop and deliver content, but the intent behind those tools isn’t very clear. It’s what sets us apart as coaches, and it’s how we guide someone toward mastery. We’re helping someone define their presence and display it consistently in every setting. It’s understanding the use of the body and voice well enough that intention becomes habit, and a leader begins to shift their focus off of what’s happening for them and onto what’s happening for listeners.

SW&A understands intention and can translate it for any communication style. We see a difference in communicators who begin to ask less about tips and more about responses. And that’s when good enough shifts to great results.

EFFORT is about practice and knowing how to practice in a way that helps a leader align style and content for impact. Every leader is different bringing different strengths and challenges to their communication toolkit. So, practice has to be tailored to help each leader know how to work through their inconsistencies. We help a leader get to practice with intention, not just repetition. And that’s key to how well skills advance.

SW&A coaches a communicator on how to bring style and content together in a custom practice tool to leverage before events.

While communication is a universal skill, it’s an evolving toolkit that takes more than just repetition to improve. And with the shift in leader expectations, there has never been a better time to assess your skills and shift your goals toward mastery.

We’ve been coaching communicators toward mastery for more than 35 years. Maybe this will be the year we help you attain it as well.

Call us when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

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