Tips & Tricks

  • Avoid speaking negatively about others (even when it’s deserved)

    When you speak down about a person to a third party (i.e., someone who doesn’t know them), it will often reflect negatively on yourself. The weaker the relationship between you and the third party, the truer this is. If the person you’re speaking with hasn’t formed their own opinion, they are unlikely to believe you with certainty. And if they hear you speaking poorly about someone they haven’t informed an opinion on, they might wonder, will this person speak poorly about me to others?

    Here are some common examples.

    1. Speaking poorly about another colleague. Let’s say you work on the sales team, and Dan is an ineffective salesperson. He’s sloppy. He doesn’t close deals. If you’re Dan’s colleague, there might be a temptation to speak negatively about Dan to other team members. Either the person will know Dan and already have formed their own negative opinion of him, at which point hearing it from you will only make you seem like a bully. Or they won’t know Dan, and they’ll wonder why you’re speaking negatively about your colleague, regardless of whether it’s true.

    2. Speaking poorly about a former colleague. Let’s say you start a new job in customer support. During your onboarding, you’re paired with a colleague James who is consistently talking about how terrible a former team member – Taryn – was. Because you never met Taryn, and don’t have your own opinion about her, you’re likely to be skeptical and wonder why it’s a topic of discussion. Even if Taryn was really bad at her job, James is likely to seem gossipy or rude by making it a point of discussion.

    3. Speaking poorly about a former boss or employer in an interview. If you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s likely you’re dissatisfied with your current boss or company. But spending a lot of time in the interview speaking negatively about it isn’t likely to win any favours. That doesn’t mean you need to pretend a bad situation is great. But it does mean to avoid making the topic a focus of the interview.

    P.s., I’m making some domain and hosting changes to the blog. For the next few weeks, you won’t be able to reply directly to this email. If you want to send me a note, you’ll need to send it to daveowencord@gmail.com directly. Thanks for your patience.

  • Showing up for your team

    At some point in your professional career, your team will go through a challenging period. It’s natural for there to be ups and downs at work, as there are in life. Through some of my own mistakes and trial and error I’ve come to believe there are certain principles that resonate with teams when addressing challenges, regardless of the cause.

    1. Address the issue head on. Never shy away from a problem. If you see it, your team sees it. If you proactively address it, it will be better received than if your team has to raise it with you. Never put on an overly positive air or insinuate the situation is better than it is. Pretending it’s all good, if you don’t feel that way, is sure to be poorly received. People pick up on inauthenticity and it reduces trust in you and raises questions about your judgement.
    2. Be as transparent as possible. The more information you can share about the situation the better. Calibrate what you share based on the maturity of the team, and in some cases, limit information to respect people’s privacy. For example, if I’m speaking about financial performance with a more junior team, I will likely use higher level references and go into less detail than I might with a senior executive team. But generally, the more you can share the better. It contributes to the team’s professional development and breeds trust.
    3. Share how you’re feeling and discuss the plan. It’s ok to be vulnerable, even if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Vulnerability based trust is powerful. And if you’re feeling that way, the team has probably already picked up on it. But make sure to pair those feelings with a clear sense of direction and ideally an action plan. Hearing your leader say “I’m really, really stressed about the timeline for our new plant opening and I’m worried we might be delayed” is scary if that’s the end of the message. Hearing, “I’m really, really stressed about the timeline for our new plant opening and I’m worried we might be delayed. I’ve put in an order with two alternative suppliers for the key part we need and have reached out to our facilities in Mexico as an alternative backup. I should have more information next week on where we are” is better.

    Every leader will be put in the position of managing through a challenging time with their team. How you do so and communicate will leave a lasting impression. More so than how you navigate the good times.

  • Come Home Early

    For many years and trips, Julia and I maximized every minute of vacation. If we traveled by plane, we’d seek the last returning flight Sunday evening. We’d return from a trip, exhausted. Maybe unpack, maybe not. Go to bed and get right back to work the next morning. It always made for a rough re-introduction to the rhythm of work life. But we always got the most out of the trip – one more morning in the sun, one last good meal, or one more opportunity to explore our destination.

    Then a few years ago, I started to convince Julia to take an earlier Sunday return flight. Come home in the afternoon. Or at least the early evening. We’d have a bit of time to at least unpack, have dinner at home, and plan for the week ahead. Still a rushed turnaround but a softer transition.

    More recently, we started to take it one step further: return from vacation on the Saturday. Sacrifice one day of vacation travel for the benefit of an entire day at home to re-orient before returning to work. You get a full day at home and two good sleeps in your own bed. You have a whole day to fully unpack, do laundry, grocery shop, and complete whatever chores you have. You can review email, Teams/Slack, or whatever other work you need to, at a calm and leisurely pace. It makes the Monday morning return an easy one. We did this recently on return from vacation in Hawaii and while I feel less ‘fun’ admitting it, I love doing this. Coming home early is worth the sacrifice. I woke up Monday morning fired up and ready to be back.