Do you share your work style?

At DuMore, we frequently hear from our coaching clients and workshop participants that conflicts occur in the workplace due to different working styles. Work style can be referred to as the way we think, structure, organize, and complete our work.  It’s the way that businesses operate, grow, and thrive today.

If we all had the same styles, though, it would be difficult to get things done.  Organizations actually need the diversity of style as different styles are more suited for specific tasks. One thing we’ve observed that works well is acknowledging these differences within our teams as a way to set the stage for making progress and moving forward.

So if you find yourself either joining a new team, hiring a new member of your team, or being asked to serve on a task force or a committee, a clearing of the air regarding work styles can be a really helpful way to get started out on the right foot.

Allison has had numerous opportunities to try out this technique and the results are always very helpful. She has shared her preferred work style with her team on a few topics, such as:

  • Office Hours – “I’m up and working by 8am but don’t expect to physically see me in the office until a few hours later, as I like the solitude and quiet of home to prepare for the day before entering busy work environment.”
  • Meeting Requests – “When someone requests to meet with me, I prefer to know the agenda /topic of the meeting first so I can better prepare. In the past I’ve had supervisors who just have their assistant call to say, ‘they want to meet with you right now but I don’t know what about’.” So if you call a meeting, key people in on the topic in advance.
  • Sharing Files – “Shared document editing drives me bonkers. But in my world, that’s a way of life for many of the folks with whom I engage, so I’ve had to learn to adapt to their style of sharing to accommodate their preferences, i.e., I’ve had to learn new things.”
  • Data Requests – “If data is needed from my office, please allow me adequate time to prepare instead of waiting to the last minute to request and then causing our office to panic due to lack of time needed.”
  • Vacation Leave – “I’ve shared with supervisors that, with 3 adult children in 3 different states, plus parents 6 hours away, most of my leave is to spend time with family. So when I’m away, I’m truly unplugged. I also give plenty of heads up / notice when I’m going to be out so that my team can be prepared for my absence and ask any important info of me before I’m out.”
  • Analytical Work (Math) – “To be able to complete tasks that I don’t find fun, my team knows I cope best with challenging work by playing music to help my mood. So if they come to my office and I have dance music or opera blasting, they ascertain that I’m deep into challenging work and they should come back another time”.

Being specific about your needs, and then inquiring about the needs of your team mates and understanding them, can go a long way towards building cohesion and trust. No harm in being up front as your manager and direct reports will likely appreciate the insight you shared and will therefore be more willing to share their own.According to Fast Company, there are a few “types” of office work styles.

Four Basic Types of Work Styles:

  • Logical, analytical, linear, and data-oriented.
  • Organized, sequential, planned, and detailed-oriented.
  • Supportive, expressive, and emotionally oriented.
  • Big picture, integrative, and ideation-oriented.

Which one is yours? And does your team know it?

Does Your Net Work?

Frequently DuMore is asked to help job seeking graduate students get more comfortable with, and better strategize their business networking. The content we will share in this article was used for first time job seekers, but also applies to early/mid career and even executive level learners seeking to expand their network.

Our introduction to the workshop often exposes that many of them have anxiety about the very idea of “networking”.

Perhaps it’s because of the fear of the unknown and how these events might be managed. Or simply not being confident in their abilities to pitch themselves or even more scary, how to engage in small talk where they don’t know anyone.

First of all, let’s define why networking really is – “it’s the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”.

So we will now share some simple advice on most common fears people have about networking.

  • What if I don’t know what to say?
    • Read up on up on the news and pick 5 different “safe” topics to discuss.
    • Keep those top of mind between conversations.
    • Discuss the venue or the organization hosting the event.
  • What if people there aren’t interested in the same things as me?
    • No problem! There may be attendees who know people in your industry or you might know people who can be helpful to them.
    • Don’t think of a networking event as “instant gratification”. The point is not to get a particular need met right away. If you help someone else now, they may return the favor.
    • Use the fact that having different interests is actually a conversation starter itself.
  • What if I get stuck talking to someone?
    • You’re free to excuse yourself after a brief exchange.
    • Say something simple like, “Well, it was really nice talking with you. I should make sure to mingle with everyone here to make the most out of this event.”
    • Exchange business cards if you want, but don’t make promises of connecting later unless they’re genuine.
    • If you’re stuck, you can also invite a passerby into the conversation as a way to segue out.
  • What if I’m just nervous?
    • Practice breathing techniques in advance.
    • Choose small and manageable goals before hand (I must talk to at least 3 people).
    • Vocal warm-ups are good, especially if you haven’t spoken all day.
    • Acknowledge your feelings and recognize them as a form of “nervous excitement”, then turn your focus to the people around you.

Whether you are hoping to land that dream job, expand your connections within your own organization, or explore a different industry or career path, we hope that these tips from DuMore will help reduce your fear and get you out there networking!

Executive Presents?

If we were to say to you the term “Executive Presence” what does it make you think of? A stack of perfectly wrapped gifts from your boss for being such a stellar employee? (no that’s presents not presence but good try.)

In all seriousness, does the term Executive Presence bring anyone in particular to mind? Do you thoughts jump to a well-tailored suit and an excellent hairstyle? Does Executive Presence make you think of a particular leader from your past or one you admire?

Executive Presence is one of DuMore Improv’s most requested workshop topics. We have a lot of fun as we help folks uncover their own personal feelings about presence and how to increase their own capacity for it.

So what is Executive Presence?

Executive Presence means to “Authentically connect with others to motivate and inspire to a common goal”

Colin McAllister via Linkedin

…that confidence and composure that allows [a leader] to connect with others.

Jun Medalla via Business Insider

Allison and Jim like to add to this “Your ability to engage with others, organize your thoughts, and express yourself with a combination of business knowledge and warmth.”

We should also note…

  • It is not an innate quality that you either have or do not have…
  • It is a learned set of behaviors that enable you to command attention.
  • It is moving beyond “hard skills” as they don’t always get you promoted.
  • It is more about refining your “soft skills” in order to establish presence and influence.

A quick exercise…

Here’s a quick exercise that we can do right here and now while you are reading this article… we like to call this exercise “Name That Person”.

  1. Think of someone that you either know personally or that is in the public eye who you consider to possess “executive presence”.
  2. Once you have that person in your mind, think of 2-3 qualities or personality traits that you think they have mastered that distinguish their presence.
  3. Now write those traits down.

The more of these traits we gather and define for ourselves the more we are able to take executive presence beyond a buzz word and really begin to emulate the authentic and connecting behaviors of those who have led and inspired us.

Our Challenge to You

Post those three 2-3 traits of your executive presence model up in your workspace. Refer to it daily. Add to the list. Discuss this with others over coffee or lunch. Keeping executive presence top of mind helps us to recognize when we are exhibiting it ourselves or the moments we fall short of our very best.

Do you allow room to surprise yourself?

On an outing with my wife and son to an outdoor festival, I had a chance observe my son’s reaction to a surprising success and it gave me an opportunity for insight into my own attempts at success.

We had driven 30-minutes to a state park in Georgia where volunteers had set up lots of outdoor stations. Canoe rides, archery, BB guns, rock climbing, fishing, and more.

At his young age and with his temperament, there seemed to be three possibilities for any challenge my son was faced with:

  1. He is fully confident in the task and would be surprised if the did not succeed
  2. He lacks full confidence, proceeds anyway and is happily surprised when he succeeds
  3. He wants nothing to do with the activity to start with and cannot be convinced to proceed

I watched in curiosity as he had these reactions and as I failed to predict which activities he would be confident in and which he would have no interest.

Paddleboat and canoe riding which both called to him involved no anticipation or nerves and resulted in an amazing time from start to finish. His confidence in himself and in the activity was absolute and there was no room or time for deliberation.

I was surprised when big kid archery with compound bows got his attention but he was far too small to be able to pull the arrow back enough to make it fly. Delighted, we headed over to find the little kid’s archery where he gathered his courage, calmed his nerves, and succeeded on the first try at shooting the arrow into the target area. He was surprised at his accomplishment and excited to try again. If he had walked away at this point he would have been on cloud nine, but he had two more arrows, each of which failed to launch. The second arrow fell out of the notch on the ground and the third arrow slapped him on the arm, upsetting him a bit. We praised him for his attempt and reminded him that he succeeded on the first arrow. I wondered afterward how this would all play out in his future if he were ever offered a bow and arrow again. Would it be his surprise at his success he would remember or the pain of being slapped by the arrow?

Rock climbing he wanted nothing to do with. He saw the activity and decided immediately that he did not want to participate. I was a little stumped on this one because of his reactions to other activities. What made him not want to proceed? Fear of heights? The long line of kids watching? The amount of time it had been since breakfast?

Do we allow room to surprise ourselves?

I started thinking about the different activities that I am absolutely confident in and the ones I am certain I will fail at. I tried to think of things that I might put in a category of “I’m not sure. I’ll try and see.”

Everything I could think that I wanted to take part in was something I was very confident I would be able to do well. Anything else got mentally dumped into the category of “I’ll pass.” This was of course not what I anticipated and didn’t follow the intentionality and minimal risk-taking that I speak about with my clients.

So where have I left room to surprise myself? On the drive home I tried to place things I have done that fit into a place of unsureness followed by surprise at success. There were far fewer that fit in this category than I had hoped. Generally, the things I want to do are all directly related to what I am powerfully confident in. The types of risks I find myself taking are big ones, but they are calculated and I am confident in my success.

Over the 30 minute drive back home I realized that if I am going to change things and show my son what it looks like to try something that you are not sure you will succeed at, I will have to be intentional. So I started a new list.

Activities I am not confident in but am allowing room to surprise myself by trying.

  1. Learning to throw and catch a football correctly
  2. Grilling steaks over charcoal without ruining them
  3. Learning to beatbox
  4. Learning to play a new instrument
  5. Taking my son camping
  6. Taking a hip-hop dance class
  7. Taking a martial arts class
  8. Learning the history (including dates and names of important events and people) of the city I live in

So what about you? Where are you allowing room to surprise yourself?

What is your Next Right Thing?

There are times when we get stuck in a project or a task and are not sure how to get ourselves over the hump. Today we will look at three causes of paralysis and how we can simplify to overcome them.

Future Thought Prohibits Present Action

As business people, Allison and Jim spend large chunks of time planning and strategizing, but because we are also improvisers, we recognize when our future thought is prohibiting our present action. Mindfulness and self-awareness can help us to sense when we need to shift into a hard focus on what is happening in the present and what levers need pulling to help move the needle in this very moment.

Analysis Paralysis

Sometimes we can spend so much time thinking about all of the aspects of the work we are doing that we end up freezing up and not doing the actual work.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz coined the phrase “Paradox of Choice” to describe his consistent findings that, while increased choice allows us to achieve objectively better results, it also leads to greater anxiety, indecision, paralysis, and dissatisfaction.

Rather than empowering us to make better choices, our virtually unlimited access to information often leads to greater fear of making the wrong decision, which in turn leads to us spinning our wheels in a seemingly inescapable purgatory of analysis paralysis, all the while getting nowhere on our important projects. – Todoist blog. 

Sunken Cost Fallacy

Sometimes we trick ourselves into continuing on a project or task simply because we have already put money and effort into it. We put pressure on the project itself to meet a potentially unrealistic benchmark when instead it should either just be accepted or should be discarded entirely.

Imagine you go see a movie which costs $10 for a ticket. When you open your wallet or purse you realize you’ve lost a $10 bill. Would you still buy a ticket? You probably would. Only 12 percent of subjects said they wouldn’t. Now, imagine you go to see the movie and pay $10 for a ticket, but right before you hand it over to get inside you realize you’ve lost it. Would you go back and buy another ticket? Maybe, but it would hurt a lot more. In the experiment, 54 percent of people said they would not. The situation is the exact same. You lose $10 and then must pay $10 to see the movie, but the second scenario feels different. It seems as if the money was assigned to a specific purpose and then lost, and loss sucks. – You Are Not So Smart.

New Focus: The Next Right Thing

In order to avoid too much future thought, analysis paralysis, and sunken cost fallacy, we can focus on choosing the next right action and just doing it. Restoring our forward momentum by moving into action can be all it takes to break out of a frozen state. What is one thing that I can do next that will result in a better final product without question? What action can I take that I do not need to think about, get approval on, or find supporting documentation about? Let’s start that one action and see ourselves begin forward movement and leave paralysis behind.

What is your next right thing?

The Crab Mentality

As Jim gathers data and experiences for his future book “The Ladder and the Lift: Improvisation for Intentional Interactions” he will be posting insights here on the DuMore Improv Blog.

When we focus on intentionality in our interactions, it is necessary for us to know what it would look like to succeed at intentionality and what it would look like if we were to fail.

Crab Mentality – Wikipedia

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket (also barrel, basket or pot), is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, “if I can’t have it, neither can you.”[1] The metaphor refers to a bucket of crabs. Individually, the crabs in the story could easily escape from the bucket, but instead they are described as grabbing at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.[2][3][4][5] The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envyspiteconspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. – Wikipedia

Punching and Pulling Down

So if I am someone who wishes to, at best, lift up someone else within an interaction, I must also know that at the very least my goal is not to pull/punch down.

Punching down happens when we are in a better state than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in a worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling down indicates that we are either in the same position or worse than the person in an interaction and we choose to put them in an even worse position than when we encountered them.

Pulling Down is where the crab mentality kicks in.

If I am in the same position as someone else, I can do something that helps them up to another level, but it will leave me in the same position as before. I may decide that I do not want to use my opportunity, talents, or network to lift the other person up. I may think to myself that if I cannot have this thing, then why should I lift them up to reach it?

However, If my basic needs are provided for and my situation will not be made worse by helping someone else, then Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up pushes me to do it and to be genuinely happy for the person who got the ladder and the lift.

What causes us to want to Pull Down?

At the end of the Wikipedia introduction, it mentions envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings. I like this break-down a lot because it covers the darker side of our motivation fairly well.

Envy – a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Spite – a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend someone.

Conspiracy – a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

Competitive Feelings – having a strong desire to win or to be the best.

Reminders for the Ladder and the Lift

So when I am in the middle of an intentional interaction I must remind myself of my goals:

  1. Ensure that I will not be put in a bad position by lifting the other person up.
  2. Ensure the other person will not be accidentally be enabled by my well-intended lift up.
  3. Lower the Ladder to them so that they can help themselves out under their own power.
  4. Empower the other person to rise up a level even if it means they will now be higher than myself.

What situations can you see yourself hesitating to help out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competition? What can be done to prepare yourself to ignore these instincts and follow through with lifting up?

Episode 7 – Boundaries

In this episode, Allison and Jim discuss setting boundaries around time and expectations at work.

Episode 6 – Self Care

This week, Allison and Jim discuss what happens when we do not practice self care and tips on incorporating it into your work life.

Episode 5 – “Can You Fix My Boss?”

In this episode, Allison and Jim discuss the most frequently asked post-workshop question, “Can you fix my boss?”

Thanks for the Lift

Ever since I discovered ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft during that cold November night of Chicago weather, I have been a fan. I’ve used ride-sharing all over the world from international cities like NYC, LA, San Francisco, London, Paris, Barcelona, to small towns like Seneca, SC, and Chattanooga, TN. The downside? I look forward to every ride with just a tad bit of apprehension –  the interaction with the driver. If you know me, you know that I love hearing other people’s stories. I’ve always made an effort to get to know something about each driver, partly because I’m naturally curious, but more so because I want them to know that I recognize them as a fellow human being during those driving moments between pick up and drop off.

Here are a few of my most impactful encounters with Uber drivers.

Barcelona, Spain

The driver picks me up from the hotel for transportation to the airport.  My Catalonia isn’t strong, and he seemed to speak very little English, so we were having a bit of trouble communicating.  To my delight, he had Trisha Yearwood cranked up full blast, followed by Kenny Chesney, then Garth Brooks. He was singing along to every song.  I realized that this music he was so completely enjoying could be a point of connection between us. I told him where I was from – Georgia. This music was from my home essentially, the home of Trisha Yearwood and so many other artists. He got super excited and all of a sudden could speak fluent English!  Thanks to country music for helping me make this connection!

San Diego, CA

The driver picks me up from the hotel to attend a reception I was hosting nearby.  I hopped in the front seat, and she had really lovely gospel music playing. We were making small chat and she asked where I was from.  I told her Atlanta. And she replied, “Oh, my sister lives in Atlanta.” We gave each other a look that read, “Oh, now you’re going to expect us to know each other in a town of 4M people”.   

“My sister works at a university,” she said.  

“So do I,” I responded.  

“My sister works at Emory,” my driver says.  

“So do I,” I reply again.  

“My sister works at the Business School,” and well, you have probably figured out my answer.  

So I ask, “what’s your sister’s name?” (still thinking this might be a long shot.) And she declares my dear friend and colleague, Carmalina, as her sister!!! It was crazy – so we had to immediately call Carmalina to tell her of our good fortune of meeting each other and had fun revealing our secret on her voicemail!   You never know what you might learn or who you might encounter if you take the time to engage in real dialogue!

Madison, WI

I was traveling with my colleagues from Harvard and Georgia Tech.  An older man picked us up in a double cab, extended pick up truck with a covered top.  My colleagues quickly jumped in the second row, leaving me to sit upfront with the driver.  I spent the first few minutes trying to make small talk, you know the usual, “How’s your weather been?  How’s your favorite sports team doing?” And he barely muttered a response. I ended up turning around in my seat to talk with my friends but that wasn’t exactly comfortable either.  We finally make it to the airport and as soon as the driver pulled away, my two friends burst into laughter, saying, “Girl, you tried so hard to get that man to talk, and he wasn’t having any of it.  We couldn’t believe it when you finally gave up!” “I couldn’t believe it either, but clearly the man needed his space and had no time for foolish conversation. So I just tried to be respectful.” Sometimes I can do quiet, sometimes.

Chattanooga, TN

While leaving a corporate HQ and traveling to Atlanta by plane, I was driven by an older and stately gentleman in a really nice car.  He shared with me that I needn’t worry about the delivery time as he lived and grew up there and new the state highway (back roads) to the airport, avoiding the backed-up freeway.  He shared his hate of having to drive through Atlanta in order to visit his daughter who lives in Charleston, my hometown and current home of my firstborn daughter. We got to talking about our daughters, their schooling, their lives in Charleston.  I noticed a sort of melancholy about his voice as he talked about this daughter. So something compelled me to ask, “Is she your only child?” That one question opened him up to talk about his other daughter, the one with two beautiful children, a successful spouse, a country club lifestyle, and the one he’d tried so valiantly to rescue from addiction without succeeding.  His telling of his daughter’s story revealed darkness that’s not always visible from surface traits. I thanked him for sharing his story with me as we pulled up to the ticketing curb at the airport. He turned and said to me, “Thank you for allowing me to tell it. I needed to share with someone today.”

A few quick memories

From my driver in Baltimore, who was rescuing his entire family from poverty with driving and day-trading (he even shared tips and an app with me), to the nurse in Philly who drove between her and her husband’s shifts at work, to the Chicago young mom who needed to be home with her children but didn’t realize that picking me up was going to take her across town from them, to the dad in Atlanta who was quiet until we mentioned we liked his music (Sinatraesque) and learned that his daughter, who was a finalist on American Idol, is heading to The Voice this year.

Others in particular who stand out in memory include the immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was covered in tattoos and piercings with a big pile of braids, who picked me up at 6 am in Boston and proceeded to tell me how “great America is going to be again,” the private driver of a Fortune 500 CEO who drove when his boss was out of town (I remember the car mostly, a luxurious Mercedes SUV); and the one and only driver in the small town of Seneca, SC, who both took us out to a night of music and then picked us back up!

Each encounter made using the riding service meaningful in one way or another.  I’ve met some really awesome and genuine people who are out there hustling every day.  Each of them has a story, and if we’re willing to listen, our lives could be transformed by the experience.