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Take Care of You! 3 Healthy Habits = Career Success

Posted by on May 2, 2012

Career SuccessSometimes it seems like health and fitness is all anyone’s talking about. Sure, Americans as a whole aren’t nearly as healthy as we should be. But what can be done? We seem to have all the advantages: we know that exercise, a wholesome diet, and work-life balance are all keys to good health. So why are so many of us overweight, stressed out, unhappy and unhealthy?

There are so many answers to these questions, including such challenges as no time, lack of motivation, boring exercise routines, poor food choices, high stress, overcommitment, and so on. While I can’t pinpoint the exact reasons you may not be at your peak, I can tell you why healthy habits = career success! It’s tough out there, so give yourself an edge…

1. Exercise

Let’s start with a major health issue most Americans face: lack of exercise. We’ve all been told how important it is to “get moving!” We know it’s true, but how will more exercise help your career? I mean, it’s hard to find time in your busy workday for a workout routine—so there had better be some good reasons! Here are a few reasons to exercise:

  • Improves brain function: alertness, concentration
  • Helps to control stress: endorphins
  • Supports heart health: cardiovascular
  • Helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight: muscle to fat ratio

Now who wouldn’t want all this? Not to mention that all these things will make it easier to get up each day with a fresh outlook so you can go achieve all your goals and more. What company wouldn’t want their employees to be alert, happy, healthy, and in great shape? You can use exercise to your advantage in so many ways!

2. Wholesome Diet

Here’s another big challenge: getting the right food into your body. Why is it so hard? There’s a long list of reasons, but we all know we should eat right. This is a major part of your overall health. We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat!”

A few ways a wholesome diet can help your career:

  • Makes you look younger: antioxidants, vitamins, essential nutrients
  • Keeps your immune system in balance: healthy digestion + see above
  • Supports brain function: omega-3s, lean protein
  • Battles fatigue: good nutrition = energy

Everyone wants to look younger, so that’s a no-brainer! Healthy eating can minimize sick days by giving your immune system the boost it needs, and your brain is crying out for the building blocks of cell growth and maintenance in order to give you that competitive advantage. I think we all know how hard it is to maintain our energy throughout the workday when you’re hungry, so why not choose healthy foods while you’re at it?

3. Work-Life Balance

It’s almost a cliche now. What is this magical thing? It simply means getting your priorities in order. Each person’s definition of work-life balance is unique, and you probably know what yours is. Achieving it is difficult to say the least, with so many demands on our time. With that project deadline looming, the emails flying in, kids’ soccer games, and wondering what’s for dinner, it seems impossible that we could find balance in this crazy-hectic world. If you prioritize well, though, here are some ways work-life balance can improve your career:

  • Minimizes stress: balanced commitments, important stuff first
  • Diminishes distractions: be “present” at work and at home
  • Provides fresh perspectives: varying activities = new viewpoints
  • Improves sense of well-being: caring for you, caring for others

Prioritizing commitments means you can be organized and efficient in whatever you do, creating an aura of calm. Unnecessary distractions melt away and you can focus on the moment. Making sure you don’t get buried in any one aspect of your life creates new pathways in your brain, allowing creativity to flourish, and who couldn’t use a little more of that? The bottom line is, you will feel in control! That feeling will translate to everything you do, and your confidence will be obvious to those around you.

There are so many ways these 3 healthy habits can create career success (and an awesome life), I couldn’t possibly list them all here. Who knows? You might discover a few no one has thought of!

Looking for more resources to help you become your best self? We’re giving away 5 free copies of Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

3 Healthy Habits = Career Success

Sorry! We’ve given away all our free copies. Check out our other posts for more freebies!


Get Your Confidence On! Overcoming Insecurity at Work

Posted by on April 18, 2012

Overcoming Insecurity

The vast majority of people probably feel that they do an above average or excellent job in their job. Unfortunately, in most cases, we don’t get to decide the issue. Instead, a series of supervisors—some good and some bad—decide for you. This can lead to a fair amount of job insecurity.

It need not be so. Most managers would agree that being worried about whether or not you are doing a good job is the first sign that you are, indeed, doing a good job. Concerns about performance and overcoming insecurity are key traits of successful employees everywhere.

Still, measuring your success with the people you work with requires an understanding of the coworkers surrounding you. There are three distinct types of people when it comes to inter-office relationships, and each possesses a different standard to determine whether or not you are fulfilling your role competently.

Understanding the needs and motivations of these three types will inevitably lead to improved communication, performance of your job, and of course, to more confidence!

Type 1: Those Who Rely on Your Abilities to Ease Their Own Burden

Every workplace has these types of employees, and they are easily identified. They are the ones who appear most concerned but actually do the least when a problem surfaces. Their answer to every problem is to lay it on someone else’s doorstep. We all know who these people are!

This “syndrome” is not limited to any one job function or team. You probably know from experience that there are lots of employees out there who are, themselves, insecure. Their solution is to simply shunt their responsibility onto others. An ambitious person (I’m talking about you here!) can and should take advantage of this fact. Done right, this can be an opportunity to shine and ease any lingering insecurities about your own job performance.

Type 2: Those Who Test Your Abilities Due to Their Own Insecurities

On the other end of the spectrum is the coworker who is an “expert” in every field. Their modus operandi is to relentlessly question every action that you take and evaluate it against their (mostly uninformed) opinion. This makes for an incredibly frustrating relationship.

Successfully negotiating a truce with these experts while also solving the problems they lay at your feet is the real challenge in this case. But if you can pull it off, you will build your own security quotient. You may even find that this challenging person becomes a “friend for life”!

Type 3: Those Who Simply Need and Trust Your Abilities

By far, the most difficult type of coworker to deal with is the one who trusts you and expects you to properly perform your job duties. This type of coworker is usually your supervisor or someone you report directly to. Supervisors have many responsibilities of their own, and they expect a certain level of competence from you.

Identifying and satisfying the needs of this class of coworker leads to the greatest and longest lasting feelings of job security. You should maintain constant, relevant communication—but don’t overdo it! Your supervisor should not expect you to read his mind, but instead assume that once the responsibilities have been described, you should be able to perform them with a degree of independence.

Figure out how to meet the needs of your supervisor, and everybody wins! Your confidence will shoot through the roof.

The End Product

Overcoming insecurity at work is a job in itself. It does not necessarily require its own task list, but it should include an accurate, constantly updated self-appraisal of your work. This is the first step in overcoming job insecurity, and it will guide you on the path to superior performance!


Stuck in the Gap? Lead Your Sales Team to Greatness!

Posted by on April 11, 2012

Sales TeamAre you stuck in the gap between truly great sales and the reality that your sales and leadership team is struggling?

Most of the data on sales success and sales best practices in the field inevitably leads to the conclusion that your sales force is only as strong as the sales leadership they get. Any lasting change has to start with the Vice President and roll like a wave all the way through the often-overlooked Regional/District Managers.

Not sure your team needs outside help? Some indicators that your sales leadership may need some intensive work on alignment and performance enhancement are:

  1. You have a high number of Region Managers that are recent field promotions, i.e. very successful sales reps that you have promoted to Region Manager positions.
  2. You have a high level of turnover at the Region/District Manager level.
  3. You get very good results on a certain set of products from one region and completely different results from another region (inconsistent execution on your product portfolio).
  4. You have too many Territory Managers/Sales Reps that underperform to their sales plan and are not engaged in an aggressive developmental plan to correct the issue.

You need a proven process for sales leadership development that will help your organization achieve better numbers on the following metrics:

  1. Percent achievement of sales plan
  2. Full product portfolio sales execution
  3. Number of conversions during product launches
  4. Reduced undesired sales rep turnover

At CGWA, the journey from mediocre to great looks something like this:

  • We do a very careful analysis of the current state of your sales leadership performance
  • We ask you to define your vision for what great would look like for your business
  • We customize a solution and get it to the sales leadership team as quickly as possible, up to the standard of performance and execution that you would like to see

Our research indicates that a lot of our potential clients are spending literally hundreds of thousands of dollars training their sales force as a whole, but spending very little to train their Region Managers, which is a sadly misdirected allocation of funds. Repeated studies into how organizations invest in sales execution lead us to this conclusion: The most important investment you can make is to ensure that your sales leadership is aligned, motivated, and focused on the right best practices and disciplines to drive successful sales to your business.

Greg Wright founded CGWA in 1977 on the principle that customized, skill-based training provides the best learning experience for employees, as it incorporates a company’s culture, business trends, and “real life” situations into the structure of the training.


CGWA and the Life Sciences Community: A Lasting Partnership

Posted by on April 4, 2012

Life Sciences

We talk a lot about our experience and offerings in general terms, simply because we have been privileged to work in so many industries throughout the world. We can’t choose a favorite, but today I’d like to talk a little about the rewarding relationships CGWA has formed in the life sciences community, encompassing the biotech, healthcare, medical device, and pharmaceutical sectors.

Since our founding in 1977, we have focused on helping every organization, team, and individual we work with to become the best in their industry. We do this through both consulting and education, achieving organizational goals with immediately applicable, customized tools for enhanced performance.

Over the years, we have been fortunate to work with many successful and innovative life science organizations, giving our training and consulting team a unique perspective on the challenges they face.

A sampling of the organizations we have worked with:

CGWA & Life Sciences resized 600

What attracts the life sciences community to CGWA? Word of mouth! With direct recommendations from their respected colleagues, leaders know we can dive right in to their unique problems with no indsutry learning curve. In this tight scientific community, knowledge and experience is everything, and we’ve done it all: Making the rounds with sales reps, problem-solving in the C-suite, and everything in between.

But you don’t have to wait for someone to let you in on the secret…


Great Communication Skills: Avoiding Clichés

Posted by on March 28, 2012

We’ve all done it: used a really bad cliche to illustrate a point. But could it actually damage our ability to communicate? Sounds a bit far-fetched, but it’s important to use caution.

Are Cliches Really so Bad?

It’s so easy to fall back on a familiar saying, or idiom, in order to convey your meaning (message) when speaking or writing to someone else. What you’re trying to do is shorten the length of time it takes to convey that feeling or idea. Often these sayings are trite and overused, and therefore taken for granted. You guessed it: They become cliche!

Great Communication Skills

The problem is, the meaning you (the sender) assign may not be the meaning understood by the other person (the receiver). Many variables can interfere with the message the receiver hears, such as:

  • Sender or receiver’s native language
  • Receiver’s familiarity with your choice of phrase
  • Differences in regional dialect
  • Overall tone of the conversation
  • Power inequalities, i.e. boss to employee
  • Using mixed metaphors

One of the characteristics of great communication skills is being able to tailor your conversation to the person(s) you’re speaking to. To that end, you must know when it’s okay to use certain phrases and when they should be “avoided like the plague.” Idioms can cause a lot of confusion and even offense, especially when conducting international business.

Some Cliches to Avoid

  • Barking up the wrong tree
  • Burn your bridges
  • Burning the candle at both ends
  • Come hell or high water
  • Cut off your nose to spite your face
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
  • Get your ducks in a row
  • Go with the flow
  • Keep your eye on the ball
  • No pain, no gain
  • Push the envelope
  • The big picture
  • The whole nine yards
  • Think outside of the box
  • You can take that to the bank
  • You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip

These are just some of the sayings that are easily misunderstood or misused in conversation. Occasional use is okay, as long as you’re sure the phrase is appropriate to your topic, will be understood by the receiver, and helps to illuminate your meaning.

What are some of your favorite sayings? Are they classic cliches, or unique to you? Ask yourself: Are my words conveying my true meaning, or do they add confusion? What else can I say to get my point across clearly?

CGWA is proud to offer our Interpersonal Communication Skills program, which expertly guides participants through the process of becoming savvy communicators.


Executive Coaching: Good, Better, Best!

Posted by on March 22, 2012

Every executive, at some point, will be faced with making a career change to either a new company or new position. In some cases, the change will be made voluntarily and in others it will be required. In either case, the use of executive coaching can broaden the marketability of the candidate, strengthen their leadership skills, and advance their career.

The use of executive coaching should not be viewed as a remedial exercise, because it’s really an exercise in self-improvement and career advancement. Self-analysis is often difficult, especially for those who rarely hear an unbiased view from their peers or subordinates. In short, constructive feedback is the essence of executive coaching and leads to greater self-awareness.

Finding the Right CoachExecutive Coaching

The use of executive coaching is a soul searching journey that will require some demanding insights from both the coach and the person being coached. For this reason, it is extremely important to find a coach who can not only make fair criticisms of your abilities and suggestions for improvement, but can communicate these effectively.

There are 3 key considerations in the hiring of an executive coach:

  1. Competence
  2. Chemistry
  3. Flexibility

First, competence is important so that you, as an accomplished professional, feel comfortable accepting their appraisal. The coach must have extensive experience in their field, working with professionals at your level, and be well-versed in a variety of coaching methods and tools. You should ask about past coaching engagements in general terms and evaluate your potential coach’s background. Do they have a track record of success? If your coach doesn’t possess the “right stuff,” executive coaching is simply a waste of time.

Secondly, as in any other occupation, coaches have different personalities—and their personality may not mesh well with yours. Since executive coaching is about effective revelations of (sometimes painful) information, it is imperative that the coach can deliver the message in a positive and professional manner. If the executive and the coach do not establish a good rapport, enlightenment cannot follow. The sessions will seem interminable, yield little in the way of results and, ultimately, fail.

Lastly, executives lead full business lives in which they are routinely asked to deal with emergencies or to reprioritize their time. Most take for granted that their carefully prepared schedules can be interrupted at any time. A good executive coach recognizes this fact and will have a reasonable degree of flexibility in their schedule to accommodate the executive.

To this end, executive coaching can also be effectively performed by phone or video conference. Often a quick session is all that a busy executive needs to get them through a key presentation and the coach should be available for this need. A superior coach should put the needs of their client ahead of their own convenience.

The Benefits

Executive coaching is an investment in your career. Valuable insights can be gained that will maximize your strengths and provide real solutions to minimize or eliminate any weaknesses you may uncover. Coaching adds significant value to your skills as a communicator, negotiator, and leader. Perfecting these skills will also enable you to strengthen your team to be more effective, more responsive, and more independent.

The career benefits are as obvious as your talents will be! You’ll find your new skill set is in demand across a wider variety of positions and industries. In addition, the value you bring as a leader will benefit the organization as a whole. In short, executive coaching is an excellent opportunity for even the most capable executive to increase their career opportunities, earning ability and leadership potential.


Learning Essentials: Classroom Training!

Posted by on March 14, 2012

Over the last few months, we’ve discussed many of our workshops—expertly designed to make you a better communicator, influencer, manager, performance coach, presenter, sales rep, and more. The topics are diverse, but they all have one essential in common: classroom training.

Why not virtual training? Why not self-directed learning? Both of those methods have value, but as the famous Chinese proverb states, “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.” In order for any participant to truly internalize learning, three elements are required:

  1. Face-to-face interactionClassroom Training
  2. Customized knowledge and exercises
  3. Quality feedback

Face-to-Face Interaction

Human beings are inherently social. This is why a videoconference just doesn’t feel the same as a personal meeting, and why we walk down the hall to speak to a co-worker instead of simply picking up the phone. Being physically present with a group of fellow learners is extremely valuable. In a group, you can experience new concepts, be exposed to different perspectives, and help each other reach understanding—all under the guidance of an expert instructor.

Meeting in a classroom setting, when done right, also minimizes distractions from the outside world. Emails, phone calls, and text messages can all serve to derail the training process. As an individual, it’s easy to give in to these things. But we find that groups are happy to agree to a distraction-free learning environment. This restraint is rewarded when learners leave the workshop feeling inspired, refreshed, and armed with immediately applicable skills!

Customized Knowledge and Exercises

Once a concept is presented, anyone can practice their skills using a generic case study or exercise. However, off-the-shelf material can only go so far. Building new cognitive pathways is challenging enough! You need the support of an instructor who is knowledgeable about your industry and organization, along with custom examples to practice with. Our highly educated instructors have years of real-world, industry and workplace experience, and collaborate with leadership to gain an in-depth understanding of your organization. Then they carefully design customized exercises, allowing the group—and each individual—to apply their learning in a direct and meaningful way. This is one of our secrets to achieving proven and lasting results.

Quality Feedback

Here at CGWA, we believe that real learning demands much more than a training manual and a well-presented lecture. For real learning to take place, personal feedback must follow each customized exercise, and should be given in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Peer and instructor feedback during the practice phase, including careful observation, praise, and constructive criticism, creates a complete picture for each participant. The observer must be able to see non-verbal communication, i.e. body language, and hear tone of voiceand reflect them back to those receiving feedback.

Bottom Line

When you think about all the aspects of human interaction and how they relate to learning, it seems obvious that classroom training is essential. Great leaders everywhere use this powerful tool to meet and exceed their group and organizational goals. At CGWA, we believe that classroom training should be a part of every organization’s learning and development curriculum.


Presentation Skills: Your Presentation Conclusion

Posted by on March 7, 2012

Presentation SkillsLast time, we finished up your presentation body, explaining how to piece together supporting information in a way that really speaks to your audience. Now that you’ve finished the bulk of your presentation, it’s time to address the conclusion. It is just as important as the rest of your presentation, and should be considered carefully. Remember, the conclusion is the last thought you share with your audience, and what they are most likely to remember.

Unfortunately, many presentations do not conclude—they just stop, sputter and die, or worse, ramble on and on. Many excellent presentations have been ruined by a weak conclusion. The purpose of the conclusion is to summarize and ensure that you’ve met your objective. A good strong conclusion adds the finishing touch to an excellent presentation. There are four important steps to an effective conclusion:

  • Summarize key points
  • Restate action steps
  • Ask for questions
  • Give a final conclusion

Summarizing Key Points

This is the first step when concluding. In a clear, concise manner, you must tell the audience what you just told them. When you restate the key points, you should be as brief as you were in the agenda. Do not bring in any new points! You don’t want to introduce anything new at this point in time.

Restating the Action Step

Reiterate the action request you made in the introduction. Be sure your action step is assertive and positive, such as, “I’m sure you’ll agree…” or, “As I have explained…” Restating your action step at the conclusion ensures a strong, active finish. It encourages your audience to move ahead on your request.

Asking for Questions

When you reach your conclusion, it’s important that you open up your presentation to questions from the audience. They may need clarification or more information, and it’s a great way to make them feel included. We will go into more detail on question/answer sessions in our next Presentation Skills blog post.

Final Conclusion

Yes, this whole article is about your presentation conclusion, but your final conclusion is the “end of the end.” You should restate your action request once more, and be sure to thank your audience.

Remember to have your conclusion clearly in your mind before you begin your presentation. You want to be sure you conclude as strongly as you began.

Delivery Tips for the Conclusion

Use a flip chart to summarize your key points. It will keep you and your audience well organized.

Use assertive, positive language when stating the action you want them to take, i.e., “I believe,” “I know,” “I’m confident,” “I’m sure,” not “I think,” or “I hope.”

I personally believe it is essential to get hands-on, practical training in the classroom to bring these concepts to life.

Karen Holmes is a U.S.-based CGWA Senior Consultant and Trainer, delivering programs such as  Coaching, Interpersonal Communication Skills, Positive Power and Influence, Presentation Skills, and many more.


Crucial Conversations: Performance Coaching

Posted by on February 29, 2012

Performance CoachingIf you’re a manager, you probably know that performance coaching is often seen by employees as a form of punishment. From their perspective, “coaching” equals “discipline.” Frankly, in business environments that use this approach, that perception is accurate. However, if handled in a rewarding and supportive manner, fear and resentment will automatically disppear from the coaching process. The importance of handling it properly cannot be underestimated. When coaching is fully understood and trusted, it can then become the positive force it is intended to be.

Management Responsibility

Since coaching is within the jurisdiction of management, managers naturally set the expectations of employees throughout the process. As a manager, it is imperative that you demonstrate that coaching sessions are intended to help the employee further their career and not as an indication of dissatisfaction with the employee’s overall performance.

All employees, regardless of tenure or performance, should undergo the performance coaching process. To ensure maximum effectiveness and develop trust, coaching methods should incorporate positive advice and feedback, not negative criticism.

The Essence of Coaching

Coaching is a journey, not a checkbox on a form. Employees can intuitively feel when their manager is just “going through the motions.” Simply complying with corporate policy on performance coaching is probably more detrimental to the morale of the organization than merely ignoring it as it fosters contempt for every other corporate initiative.

In fact, coaching is fundamental to the optimum functioning of an organization. Instead of merely informing, it is essential that a coach ask the right questions to help others understand their current thinking and behaviors. Armed with this knowledge, an employee can improve themselves.

Coaching Styles

None of this is to say that there is one ideal method of coaching. There are as many successful styles of performance coaching as there are successful managers. Many managers still ascribe to the “command and control” formula. In this paradigm, the manager does the thinking, designs the game plan and enforces its execution. This might work well if your coach is an Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs, but can suffer with other personality types.

A more proactive method of performance coaching involves the AOLA method; Awareness, Ownership andLearning. Once a problem or opportunity is identified, ownership is assigned and accountability follows later. The most beneficial aspect of this method is that both the manager and the managed learn.

At CGWA, we believe that our Coaching for Improved Performance workshop should be part of your Professional Development toolbox. Through the application of our unique coaching model, targeted case studies, and face-to-face feedback, managers are able to achieve resounding success with their employees. Although we know the classroom experience is priceless, we don’t want you to leave this blog without a free tool you can use today. Use it as your springboard to coaching greatness!


CGWA Market Research & Analytics: Get the Real 411!

Posted by on February 23, 2012

We’ve talked a lot about our business experience and unique methodology, from initial consultation through customized training. At CGWA, we believe that the right education experience and tools can close almost any performance gap. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to know the issues your organization faces and have an idea of the steps needed to get you on the right path. But what if you aren’t sure where the real problems lie? Are your customers making baffling movespushing you further away—and you don’t know why? Do you get emphatic agreement from employees on internal initiatives, then nothing actually happens?

Market ResearchIt makes perfect sense to commission a research study to gather pertinent data and feedback. But how do you avoid the confusing web of quantitative data that results? You need to identify the fundamental issues and concerns of your customer and employee base. In other words, you must decode what your customers (potential and existing) and employees are really thinking, and why they’re making the choices they’re making. To do that, you need quality information, not just mountains of statistics.

Our CGWA Research Team is here to help! Want to find out what really motivates your customers and employees? Are you determined to climb the customer relationship ladder from mere vendor to trusted partner? We have proven time and again our ability to uncover the real story. With nearly 100 years of combined experience, our interviewers are highly skilled at getting people to talk—honestly and specifically—about what’s working, what isn’t, and what it would take to make a breakthrough.

Let’s be honest: Market research data is expensive to obtain. When you decide to make the investment, you need more than perfunctory, simplistic “yes” or “no” answers and cold statistics. Yes, it’s good to have quantitative data, but let’s not forget the importance of in-depth qualitative data to really flesh out what the need is.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Market Research and Analytics page on CGWA.com. Pay us a visit to find out more! Just considering a research project can be a bit overwhelming, so we’d like to help you get started. For a limited time, we’re offering our expertise absolutely free. Take advantage of this special, no obligation offer today!