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Water Cooler

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

News and Views

Professionals and managers who work reduced hours can still keep their careers on track and see their salaries grow, according to a new study by McGill University and Michigan State University. Details

How often do we drag ourselves to work when we're too sick to be in public? And how much work do we really get done when we go? Washington Post "Life at Work" columnist Amy Joyce shares her insights on the all-too-common practice of, as she puts it, being "wedded to work in sickness and in health." Details

Once a clumsy substitute for expensive in-person meetings, virtual meetings conducted over the Internet are now one of the best choices for many kinds of group communication Improved technology is the reason—it streamlines workflow, facilitates knowledge management and allows corporations to do more in less time and at a lower cost. Details

India, now the back office of many banks and the customer services voice of everything from British Airways to Microsoft, is now considered the next knowledge superpower, says New Scientist magazine. The hope among some senior scientists and officials is that India can short-cut the established path of industrial development and move straight to a knowledge economy. Details (registration may be required)


"Drive-by" meetings in the halls work best for taking care of single action items or for just moving a piece of information forward. When you need a "formal" meeting, keep it to one hour or less, use a decision-based agenda, and stay on topic. More

Still available: a copy of my article, "Forgoing the formalities of mentoring," which appeared in the December 10, 2004, issue of Association Trends. This article can help you start an informal mentoring program at work, especially if you've been told there are no resources to start a formal mentoring program. Get the article by emailing me and requesting the PDF file.

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.

March: Communicate effectively by strengthening your communication skills.

Communication skills top the list of success factors in the workplace. David Peoples, in his book Presentations Plus: David Peoples' Proven Techniques, says that when it comes to women getting ahead in management, the ability to communicate well surpasses problem-solving, motivational ability, and even political savvy. Peoples further states that communication skills are the primary factor in achieving success when success is measured as a function of salary.

In every communication, there are at least three variables: the speaker, the message, and the audience. These variables play a part in how well each communication works.

Savvy communicators keep these three variables in mind when considering how to craft a message so that it is heard and considered, regardless of format.

The next time you must communicate information, do what they do: Ask the following questions, and package the information accordingly.

1. Who is the audience?

2. What is the message?

3. Why does this audience need this message?

4. What is the audience's experience with this message? (For example, have they heard it before? If so, have they been OK with hearing it before, or have they not acted on it before, or do they have "hot buttons" with the message itself or the messenger? Take these into account when deciding how to phrase something.)

5. What problem can the information I'm providing help them solve?

6. What action should the audience take after getting this information?

7. What is the best way to get this message out? (How does this audience like to receive information?)

Good luck, and feel free to share what you're up to in an email.

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: The Basis of Effective Communication

Communicating effectively is not always easy. It requires effort, respect for self and others, and willingness to appreciate the assumptions under which you and others are operating so that you can move toward understanding. When you truly understand a situation, you can help create an outcome that works for everyone.

Effective communication not only requires more listening than talking, but also requires some degree of "switching seats" with the other person so you can truly hear a viewpoint that might be very different from your own.

Here's how to communicate more effectively:

    Understand your style and don't force it on others.

    Always start by identifying common points of agreement.

    Look at things from multiple perspectives. When you resist looking at another perspective, consider stepping back and looking at the situation as a moving picture to describe and understand what's happening. This buys time for you to enlarge your view.

    Consider your choice of words. Be positive, respectful, and courteous.

    If you expect a difficult encounter, define the issue for yourself and why it needs to be resolved before you talk about it to the other person. See if you can agree on ground rules for the discussion (e.g., we'll explore all solutions and talk in a place where there will be no interruptions).

    Approach each encounter from the perspective that you are all reasonable people and committed to finding workable solutions.

Coming Up

Workshops and Book Signings

The Women's Center Annual Leadership Conference, March 12, Tysons Corner, VA. Contact: The Women's Center, 703.281.2657.