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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
June 2005

News and Views

Could you change when change really mattered? Guess again—the odds are nine to 1 against you. Why is change so hard? A fascinating article from Fast Company offers some surprising new answers from science-and some ways on how to make change easier. A long read, but worth it. Details

Tell your boss: a firm's investment in employee training is the single most powerful predictor of future financial performance, says Lauri Bassi. It's a fundamental economic force, she says: We are in a globalized economy where capital moves quickly, technology changes rapidly and is rapidly replicated, and commodities are created quickly. Firms that don't take Human Capital Management (HCM) and training seriously are going to either go out of business completely or just fade into irrelevance. From the May 24, 2005, edition of ONLINE LEARNING NEWS AND REVIEWS, an emailed newsletter. Subscribe here.

If recent studies are any indication of what's to come, more and more companies will be struggling with turnover in the coming year. More often than not the difference between keeping and losing an employee is about relationships, specifically, the relationship between employees and their immediate supervisors. Ken Lehman's article in Winning Workplaces is a good reminder for managers who want to avoid the high costs of turnover, and an important insight for everyone on the importance of establishing positive relationships in the workplace. Details.


ToolBox: Book Review of Survival Writing for Business

How can you not love a book that practices what it preaches? Steve Gladis' new book, Survival Writing for Businessdoes-and I love it. Here's why.

First, it's no-nonsense. Gladis tells it straight up with chapter headings like these: "Use Direct, Useful Verbs"; "Keep Sentences Short"; "Structure Your Writing"; "Write with Style"; "Keep Related Words Together"; and "Write to Your Audience."


Second, the book is full of practical examples and tips from a writer who knows what he's writing about. If only all writers followed these two tips for revising: "Read [your writing] aloud—by listening to what you've written you often hear where the errors and rough spots are. Another way [to revise] is to reformat the text. If the draft is single-spaced, then double space it or place it in two columns. The visual difference helps give you distance and an objective eye."

Finally, Survival Writing for Business is a fine example of the author taking his own advice. The preface alone is worth the read: "To write well, keep it clear and concise. This book should help." That's it—the entire preface in two sleek sentences.

The chapter "Write to Your Audience" is particularly useful for people who struggle with starting correspondence. Gladis offers two focusing questions as a sure-fire starting point, and then provides on-target specifics for challenges like writing to supervisors, peers, and subordinates.

Thanks, Steve, for this deceptively simple yet profound lifeline to writing success.

For more information or to order, email Cindy Lu or call her at 703.536.1118.


NEW: WaterCooler Professional—The Miniseries

In 2005, "Making It Work for You" evolves to "WC Professional," a miniseries of action steps to being your own mentor. Follow this 12-month plan and by January of 2006, you'll have taken a big step towards being your own best advocate in the workplace.

June: Learn to toot your own horn by practicing the subtle art(s) of self-promotion.

Think your work should speak for itself?Sad to say, it doesn't. Only work that gets distributed speaks for itself, says Kare Anderson, principal and founder of Say It Better. Thus what some of us consider the distasteful task of self-promotion.

But self-promotion doesn't have to feel slimy. It's really about getting noticed in the workplace—and is a key part of being your own mentor.

Getting noticed involves the following six key strategies:

1. Developing your leadership qualities.

2. Bringing your boss solutions rather than problems.

3. Letting your boss know about your sucesses, and sharing the credit when appropriate.

4. Creating relationships with people and being a "good news" person.

5. Letting others know what you're up to, especially the results of the projects you've been involved with.

6. Working from your strengths rather than your weaknesses. In other words, volunteer for projects that let you shine.

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: It's Not Bragging If It's True

If you're like me, you probably find "tooting your own horn" embarrassing. Probably it's because you've been taught to be modest and not to brag.

But as the saying goes, it's not bragging if it's true.

Though at times I need someone to remind me to take my own advice about mentoring, taking credit for my accomplishments has become a little easier. Why? I think it has to do with having taken risks, and realized results. You have to risk failing to risk succeeding.

I think it also has to do with putting into practice some advice that's commonly given to writers: Never tell when you can show.

In other words, put yourself out there and let someone see you doing (rather than just talking about) what you do best.

One example of this is to increase your visibility. You can do this by running a staff meeting, training people in new policies or procedures, hosting a "lunch and learn" activity at your workplace, joining professional interest groups and then volunteering to work on a committee, and even by (gulp!) speaking at industry-related trade functions.

Why this works: because other people see you in action and they end up praising your work for you. It's essentially a third-party endorsement—one of the best ways to convince others of your skills.

Two women who attended one of my book talks decided to overcome their reluctance to toot their own horns by brainstorming (together) how they could increase their own (and each other's) visibility. I think they're on to something.

Try this: if you're an extrovert, work with a friend to brainstorm a plan for getting on someone's radar screen, and put that plan into practice. If you're an introvert, find a buddy and make a pact to promote each other's work.

Surely you've heard the one about the two naval graduates who made a pact to brag like crazy about each other—and became the two youngest admirals in naval history?

News Flash

Mentor Me International

Mentor Me is now in Bangladesh,having been adopted in April 2005 as an in-house program, by USAID's Mission Management and Training Committee.

What about your organization?Could it benefit from an in-house training program specifically geared to new hires? Let's talk.