Body Language Impacts Listening Skills

Now that many people are returning to social activities in groups or to offices to work it is good to be reminded of the importance of body language in listening and communications.  Pay attention to what your body is doing to improve your overall communication skills. 

  • Leaning Back

Leaning back signals that you are disinterested and perhaps day dreaming.

  • Slouching

Having your body slouch has the appearance of lethargy or lack of energy.

  • Crossing Your Arms (Or Legs)

Crossing your arms has you appear closed off or unwilling to cooperate. Crossing your legs can be interpreted similarly so be aware if your legs are visible not to sit with crossed legs.

  • Feet Point Away

Your feet point to where you want to go. When someone is listening intently to another person, his or her feet will point towards them.

  • Turning Away

Your body will point to where it is focused. To make a strong impression, move your body slightly to angle toward whoever is speaking during a meeting.

The shifts you make in body language may or may not be noticed consciously. However, making the shifts will have others think you are a great listener. That realization even at an unconscious level is worth the effort of paying attention to your body language.

Marie-Helene Sakowski,

Saying “No” is Powerful

As difficult as it seems to be saying “no” is an essential skill. The value of declining opportunities, invitations, and even clients is an invaluable asset to anyone. 

Saying no garners respect.

When working for and with others I have learned that declining people is powerful. It is powerful to let people know when they have not been successful in terms of a promotion or a hiring process. The person receiving the decline has often thanked me for being transparent with them in providing feedback. These same people have often stayed in touch and have utilized my services. That indicates a respect for the work done and for me as a person.

Declining opportunities frees up your time.

I have worked with a number of people who say yes to something and then spend their time complaining about the increased workload. When presented with an opportunity that you think you may want – think it over carefully before you accept. It may not be what you want at this point in your life. It may have been appealing at one period and now it is not. Saying no to something that you no longer have an interest in frees up your time and energy for a project or situation that does. Give yourself the permission to say no and reap the reward of time for what fits for you to show up.

Regretting social invitations may be to your benefit.

At one time or another each of us has accepted a work-based social invitation that has been frustrating at best. It has been my experience as a manager at these events involving those that I work for and those who report to me that not everyone is on their best behavior. Interacting with a co-worker or colleague who is incapacitated or angry at a social function is less than desirable. For myself I make it a practice to show up for a brief period usually the formal portion of the event. After that making my regrets and leaving is a priority. The people I work with know me in a professional context. An early departure allows integrity to be upheld for me personally and for my colleagues.

Learning to say no is a powerful game changer in life and in business.  It has certainly served me well.

Marie-Helene Sakowski,

Soft Skills Are Essential

Working with hiring managers in several different industries including mining, safety, manufacturing, and health care the one common denominator for skills from the Executive Suite to the labour pool has been soft skills. Yes – soft skills – those skills that require having good to great people proficiencies. Most managers agree that technological skills are taught in higher education or learned on the job. Soft skills on the other hand are a learned behaviour that is not typically taught in the workplace. They require adaptability and flexibility. These skills are particularly important in times of uncertainty and in areas that are murky at best.

The skills most in demand in the area of work are conflict management, critical thinking, dependability, priority management, problem solving, or creative thinking. Employers need people who communicate, that means answering emails and messages, and who are able to think outside of the issue meaning using their creativity to solve a problem or a situation.

Employers also need people who have a high degree of emotional intelligence, meaning the maturity to address and manage a situation staying present to the circumstance and staying calm. Along with maturity being approachable, flexible, adaptable, resilient, and able to work within a team environment harmoniously are also part of the essential soft skills package. Being able to pivot and address what is next leads to mastery of these skills further enabling a person to engage and influence others. 

People who are resilient are typically curious and willing to try new things. It is speculated about 70% of working people want to be told what to do and do that over and over again. Enter the need for curiosity, and the ability to generate plans as processes unfold.

Having great soft skills allows for decoding or analytic skills. Unpacking systems and processes are essential. Using critical thinking skills is invaluable in terms of putting all of the puzzle pieces together into a logical framework. It is also valuable when it comes to unearthing details overlooked by others.

Reading people and communicating is an art that is developed. Having empathy and being able to see people as they are, is requisite for leaders and managers. Focusing on what others want and need and then being able to communicate that is beneficial.

The people who have these essential soft skills are able to lead with confidence. They know when to act and when to slow things down until the timing for a change or process is more fully aligned. They are able to manage stress and they have patience.

Having a work ethic in terms of being present to the situation, with a willingness to learn something new is part of having well developed soft skills. Lastly engaging in business behaviour that mirrors truthfulness, has integrity, and is transparent are also important aspects of the soft skills toolbox.

Marie-Helene Sakowski,

Keep your Personal Power at Work

Allowing others to have a negative influence over the way you think, feel, or behave robs you of your psychological and emotional strength.  It also derails the objectives and goals you have for your business and personal life.

Working in HR and Operations puts you in line for constant feedback as to what is or is not going well in your area of accountability.  Part of what you do entails empowering other people.  It is equally important to maintain your own personal base of power to boost your overall success.

Following are a few tips to keep your personal power in the face of adversity or resistance.

Keep your personal boundaries in place.

Often you hear more about what is not working than what is.  Avoiding resentment of those who try and take up your time on issues that may or may not be important is a function of maintaining clear boundaries.  Let people know when they can air their grievances small or large.  Then hold them to that by bringing the focus back to the purpose of the meeting or discussion.

Maintain Your Goals and Objectives

A great many variables change during day-to-day operations. It is important that you maintain the overall objectives despite the changes that occur.  It may be tempting to overlook aspects relating to budget, productivity, or morale.  As the one in charge you are responsible for the outcome.  Stick to the goals and objectives as that serves everyone in the long term.

You also get to decide how to spend your time. No one forces you to go to work, see the dentist, or attend that family gathering. As an adult, you get to make the rules.

Allow Others to See the Best in You

Succumbing to anger or resentment has a direct impact on the changes you are out to have happen.  Voicing concern is okay and certainly beneficial.  Be the change agent and let others bring out the best in you even when things have not gone as expected.  When you are firmly grounded in your strengths you know you are capable of addressing each situation with integrity.  That is crucial for others to see.

When people note that your mood does not center around their actions or behaviors you have a powerful impact on them.  That is where empowering others has an impact. Maintaining your personal power in the face of adversity or resistance is beyond positive thinking.  It is a commitment to yourself to having your goals and objectives accomplished despite the outside stimulus around you. 

Marie-Helene Sakowski,

Assets of Contract Workers during Periods of Volatility

Business leaders are grappling with the volatility that continues to be present for employers and employees alike. With the shifting and evolving models of work – whether they be from home, from the office, or some hybrid model – volatility will continue for the foreseeable future. As the trend grows it brings with it the unknown and uncertainty. Contractors are an asset in that they have a fresh perspective, are not tied to a particular outcome, and have the skills necessary to turn a strained or conflicted situation into an operational success.

Fresh Perspective – A contract person has fewer inhibitions and is more likely to propose a series of solutions that are outside of the past business behavior.

Focusing on an Outcome that Delivers – The contractor is focused on having processes being delivered consistently.

Addressing Strain and Conflict – From an outsider perceptive conflict and strain are easily identifiable.  Once identified working solutions can be implemented in relatively short order. 

Contractors are a beneficial investment of time and resources especially in relation to the challenges of ongoing change. The true value of a business is the people who work in it. Contractors long or short term provide invaluable assistance in addressing business needs current and mitigating future volatility.

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Consultant,

Onboarding of Employees – Revamp Required

Having successfully hired a new employee the true test of whether that employee will stay or move on lies within the onboarding process. With employees today working from home or in some form of hybrid model there is an essential component for virtual onboarding. Orientation in the form of learning modules related to company safety policies, procedural scenarios, IT modules, benefits and health features, and other HR related material certainly has a place in virtual training.

The crux of orientation of a new employee is focused on the softer side – the side requiring a high human touch. New employees need to be oriented into company culture and day-to-day working dynamics. Creating relationships with co-workers, managers, and company executives is necessary for a new employees to be successful. Imparting that information is essential for employee success and retention.

Planning the high touch orientation piece is important. Arranging for it to occur in person and virtually is something that may challenge managers and a solution to the issue is essential. It may take several people within the business or organization to orient a new employee. Another planning component that is crucial.

Steps may mean having the new employee meeting with various team leaders in person one-on-one or virtually to begin to learn about and embrace the culture of the business or organization. It may also require an extended period of time with periodic check points to identify how the new employee is doing.

What has your business or company done to improve its orientation process to ensure new employees are retained?

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Transformational Consultant,

Integrity in Diversity

Diversity and inclusion programs and policies have proliferated HR literature over the past few years. Most initiatives in the realm of diversity focus on ethnicity, gender, and age. Diversity involving these aspects is visible and therefore tangible. The question remains does it fully embody diversity? Does it have integrity? Or are there large gaps in this methodology?

When addressing diversity, it is important to focus on less tangible areas such as experience and perspectives. There is a tendency to focus on bringing people on board into a business or organization that share similar experiences or perspectives with the other team members or the hiring manager. While this may work because it is familiar and comfortable – it does not promote integrity in diverse hiring processes.

Bringing on people who have different experiences and perspectives allows for growth of the business or organization in ways that are not transparent. The growth could be an increase in clients, or a new product or service or even both.

Policies and practices around hiring and planning for diversity would do well to focus on the less visible aspects of the process. Diversity beyond the appearance of race, gender, and age just may be what is needed for your business or organization to have a tremendously successful improvement within the workplace dynamics.

Improved dynamics lead to happier employees and greater innovation overall.

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Operational Transformation,

Part 2 – Revamp of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Strategies

Part 2 – Revamp of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Strategies

Businesses that have long drawn-out procedure for candidates to apply for jobs are losing out on the brightest and the best prospects. Those companies have their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to re-enter data from an uploaded resume have lost candidates that would make a difference to their business. An ATS can be set-up to take all of the relevant information from a resume without the candidate having to fill in screens of data about work experience, educational history, and special projects.

Streamlining an application process to have candidates apply and be complete within 3 – 4 clicks is good. Less than 3 clicks is optimal. Creating a flagging system in the ATS for sought after skill sets and training is another way of ensuring a restructured and impactful talent acquisition process. Data purging of candidates within an ATS is another way of keeping the system refreshed and up to date. The standard of keeping resumes on file for a few years is obsolete. Follow-up emails to candidates of interest for future roles is another way of effectively using the ATS.

Developing incentive programs to have those women and men who do not want to return to an office is mandatory to retain and retrain great people. Talent Acquisition and Recruitment are vital to businesses of all sizes. To remain relevant the boundaries that were set 5 – 10 years ago need to be set aside and new methods embraced.

What new strategies for talent acquisition and recruiting have you tried and found to be successful?

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Transformational Consultant,

Revamp of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Strategies

Hiring today is different than it was a few years ago. Employers need to up their game in relation to being able to attract, hire, and retain top talent. There is a lot of noise out there about using various tools to ensure the best fit in terms of skill and ability makes it way to the employer via the hiring process. The tools in of themselves are not the issue. The best software and strategic use of these tools will not address the root cause many employers face in terms of hiring great people.

To have great people want to work for an employer the talent acquisition or recruitment process needs to be updated. That includes a high touch candidate process.  That looks like keeping all candidates in the loop regarding where the hiring process is. The days of the tired statement – “only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted” are obsolete. Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is more than capable of having mass emails sent to applicants advising them of their status well before interviews take place. Following up with candidates that have been interviewed requires retooling. Once again, a competent ATS is more than capable of handling this type of activity within a few days of the interview process.

Employers indicate that ghosting by candidates is an issue. The other side of the coin is that ghosting by employers in terms of candidates is no longer an acceptable practice.

While great strides have been made in terms of hiring for Diversity and Inclusion the one area where candidates still face challenges is ageism. A well functioning work environment values wisdom from all age sectors. Employers that do not value people from a recent graduate to a 60 plus person are not availing themselves of the richness of experience in attracting and keeping top talent.

Flexible working arrangements now are the norm as candidates are not prepared to work the 8 – 5 routine any longer. Another refurbish is to include time during what used to be typical working hours for other activities that are important to people. In other words letting go of concern over an employee who leaves early or shops during working hours and still manages to achieve the results required.

As an employer the need to have a faster turn around time from posting the job to hire is essential. Different working arrangements including fully remote from different parts of the country may need to be embraced. The use of software to its fullest capacity is mandatory. Improved communication, incentives, and appropriate compensation round out the updating process.

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Transformational Consultant,

Current Volatility Signals Significant Paradigm Shift

Current Volatility Signals Significant Paradigm Shift

Operational dynamics for large and small companies and businesses are in the throes of a significant paradigm shift. Hybrid work arrangements are being re-assessed. Work from home strategies continue to evolve. The return of workers to offices continues to be challenged.

The emergence of a new paradigm has at its core the inherent need for women to take a stronger place in the decision-making process of operational businesses whether they be monolithic in size or small to mid sized enterprises. What worked prior to 2020 is now a somewhat distant memory with significant displacement of workers in service, travel, and entertainment areas including sporting events.

Solutions today require the presence of women and the inherent wisdom of the feminine. The model of women needing to emulate men is outdated. Today the emphasis is on developing a different way of doing and operating businesses of all sizes. Once such way is to focus on the wisdom of women and the operation of businesses from a model of cooperation versus competition. A model that focuses on inclusivity and that allows for the flow of creativity in all areas and directions. A model that is not linear.

Current volatility is alive and seems to be thriving. The questions that arise is what are we as a species doing to embrace and allow the wisdom of women to take form and manifest a different operational structure?

The old is crumbling – the time is ripe for the new and for women to become front and center of the emerging paradigm shift.

Marie-Helene Sakowski, Operational Transformation,