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Article of the Week: How to trick your brain into remembering someone's name the first time you hear it PDF Print E-mail

By: Danielle PageBusinessInsider.com

Your HR manager asks you to show your new coworker the ropes. You take her through the office kitchen, show her where the good snacks are hidden and point out the lounge area she can use if she wants to get away from her desk.

Then you bring her over to the sales team to introduce her. But just as you're about to make the introduction, you realize that you can't remember her name for the life of you.

It happens to the best of us. Why? Because our brains are hardwired to remember visual details, like what a person's face looks like, but they aren't trained to retain arbitrary details-like the name of the new girl or the barista that makes your coffee every single morning.

What's in a name?

We're all given a name at random that we are then identified by for the rest of our lives (although your parents would argue that their favorite 80's singer had a large influence).

But since our names aren't grounded in any specific information, our brain struggles to retain them. David Badre, an associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University, explained the process to Mic. "We don't arbitrarily stick things in file drawers in our head," he said. "For someone who really likes baseball, it's incredibly easy for them to learn new facts about baseball.

Part of that is because you have a big existing knowledge structure, and you can use that to learn new information. But if you're asked to memorize random things - obscure facts, for example - you don't have the benefit of knowing all those existing structures. Names are kind of the same thing."

So your brain is not going to miraculously remember your new colleagues name on its own. Here are a few ways to trick it into storing the information in your long-term memory file cabinet.

1. Make eye contact

If you were head down in your work when you met your new co-worker or were too busy giving them the once over to make proper eye contact, you've got less of a shot of remembering their name. A study done on eye fixation patterns found that those who remembered names linked with faces spent more time looking into the eyes of the person they were being introduced to.

2. Repeat their name

Our brain has two different types of memory: short-term and long-term. Our short-term memory can only hold so much information, which is often why names get lost in the ether after a brief introduction. Repetition has been proven to help move facts that are stored in our short-term memory over to the more permanent memory in our brains cortex.

When you're being introduced to someone, say their name out loud, then to yourself, and then out loud again after you've concluded your interaction.

3. Use visual associations

Utilize the brain's knack for remembering visual information by associating the person you're meeting with a distinct characteristic about them. For example, if you've just met your new co-worker Scott, and he's sporting a man bun, referring to him in your mind as "Scott with the man bun" will tie his arbitrary name with a concrete feature that the brain will remember. (You're never going to forget "Becky with the good hair" are you?)

Article of the Week: Seven Ways To Stay In Touch With Work Contacts (Without Coming Off As A Pest) PDF Print E-mail

By: Rachel Grumman Bender, Forbes.com

Ever notice how moving forward in your career comes down to networking? Eighty percent of job openings are never publicly advertised, according to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article. That makes all those business cards you’ve collected and LinkedIn connections you’ve made extremely important.

The tricky part, however, is keeping in touch with your network of former colleagues and clients in a genuine way, so you don’t come off as self-serving or stalkerlike.

Part of it means maintaining some level of regular contact, so you’re never in a position where it’s been years since you’ve connected, and suddenly, in the middle of a job hunt, you have to send a sheepish “Remember me?” email.

The rest is all about reaching out in an appropriate way depending on your relationship with your contact, so you strengthen your connections and can tap them for help when you need it. Let these tips show you how to walk the line between authentic and opportunistic.

Reach Out on Social Media

Finally, a legit reason to spend time on Facebook and LinkedIn during the workday: These and other social media sites allow you to get your name in front of old and new connections in an unobtrusive way.

As you scroll through your feed, keep an eye out for profile updates or posts from your connections—announcing a promotion, new company direction or a career milestone. Craft a very short post congratulating them on their achievement, along the lines of, “So excited for you” or “Way to go!” At a loss for words? Just hit the “like” button.

Cheering on your contacts on social media lets them know you stand behind them,” says Dorie Clark, marketing strategy consultant and author of “Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms.” Yet you’re not asking them for anything in return and there’s no expectation of a reply. They see your name, and that puts you on their radar. You’ll also be noticed by their own contacts, and that recognition can pay off down the road.

Calendar Regular Check-Ins

For closer contacts, like a former mentor or key client you’ve worked with many times, don’t wait for them to post something online; some people just don’t participate in social media that way. Instead, take the initiative by sending them an email or message on the regular, say, every 60 days or once per quarter, suggests Clark.

The note doesn’t have to be anything more than, “How’s it going?” or an “I saw this article and thought of you” message with a link to an industry publication. The goal is to check in and get your name on their screen via a friendly, casual MO.

And though it sounds a little impersonal, make it even easier to check in by using an app like Contactually or Refer.com. Both track your contacts and prompt you to reach out based on time intervals you set. Refer.com even drafts the actual text of the message for you, based on the relationship level you have with that person, so you don’t waste time searching for the right words.

Plan Small Get-Togethers

Arranging for a face-to-face catch-up with each contact individually is an impractical time suck. The solution: Set up small gatherings for a handful of people who all know each other. This way your crew of former coworkers from a past workplace, for example, can get together for a lunch or happy-hour outing.

The group get-together works for a few reasons. First, it saves everyone time and energy. Second, you avoid the discomfort that sometimes happens when you’re sitting across the table with one contact you haven’t seen in a while…and no longer have much to talk about.

Show Your Gratitude

If one of your contacts taught you a valuable career lesson or helped you resolve a tricky issue, show your appreciation by sending them a note. Handwritten always comes off as more personal and meaningful. But in today’s digitally connected world, an email or social media post can be appropriate as well.

Don’t worry if they did their good deed a while ago; there’s no expiration date when it comes to praise. “I think people appreciate follow-up and kudos whenever they come, even if it’s months after the fact,” says Clark. “You could write something like, ‘Thanks so much to @joesmith for the great advice on blogging a few months ago. Here’s my first post!’ He will likely be thrilled.”

If someone went above and beyond, say they helped you land a new job or client, consider sending an actual gift—such as a book on their favorite subject—recommends Derek Coburn, author of “Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections” and CEO of Cadre, a community for business leaders. Just don’t wrap up something with your company logo on it. “That’s not a gift—it’s a promotional item,” says Coburn. “Give them something small, something they can use. It’s a way to acknowledge them and say thank you.”

Share Your Talent

Offering to do a business-related favor—for example, arrange an email introduction with an industry leader you know, or posting a Facebook link to a contact’s latest podcast—conveys generosity. ”Most people tend to wait to network until they need something rather than reaching out authentically and genuinely,” says Coburn. “Instead, take the initiative and offer to help.”

Get the ball rolling by asking, “Tell me, who is your ideal client? I may know some people you should meet,” suggests Coburn. Or, “What kind of investors are you looking to get on board? I’d like more clarity in case I come across an opportunity for you.” Offering an assist will give you a rep as someone who is positive and wants others to thrive.

Always Update Your Contacts List

People get promoted, marry, move away and switch specialties all the time. Keep up with all the shifts by creating a Google doc or spreadsheet that lists all your contacts by name and includes what they do and how you met—and update it every time something changes, says Clark.

By the same token, make sure any page or site that lists your professional details—your job title, company name and contact information—also reflects your current responsibilities, so people can easily reach you and get an accurate sense of what you have done in your career and currently do, says Clark.

Give Them Space

Staying close to business contacts means knowing when to back off. “If a colleague is really overwhelmed, it’s a nice gesture to periodically send them an email or leave a voice message and add, ‘No need to respond,’” says Clark. “This shows a lot of respect for their schedule, because they may be too busy to get back to you and likely feel guilty about it. It frees them up and lets them know you simply want to check in and show that you care.”

But what if you’ve reached out several times and continue to hear crickets? Only follow up again if you have a good reason. “People are busy, so it would be foolish to write someone off if you didn’t hear back from them once or twice,” says Clark. “They could be traveling or having personal issues that make it difficult to respond.”

At the same time you have to accept that you might have been dumped from their network. “If they ignore three messages sent over a span of time, especially if you have particular questions in your notes, then you can assume they don’t want to keep up with you,” adds Clark. Don’t sweat it—just move on.

Article of the Week: Three Reminders for Business Owners Who Hate Selling PDF Print E-mail
By: Bridget Weston Pollack, SBA.gov

You started a small business knowing you’d make most of your revenue by selling your products or services. But you say to friends, “I hate selling. I’m not a good salesperson.”

So, what are you doing in small business?

Actually, your apprehension about selling is common, even for people running shops or restaurants where every dollar counts toward the bottom line. You can succeed in business even if you don’t like being “salesy.” Here’s what you have to remember in order to do be a great salesperson.

Your Business Exists to Help Solve Problems

What problem does your business solve? At a cell phone repair shop, you might specialize in fixing screens on smashed smartphones. That’s an easy one: you’re there to make repairs and restore peace of mind.

Sometimes, figuring out what problem you solve is a little trickier. If you run a restaurant, sure, you solve the problem of someone being hungry on Saturday night. But you also provide a social gathering space or perhaps a low-key watering hole.

Think about your business: What problem do you help solve? Are you keeping that problem in mind each time you meet a customer or client? If you think about your business from a customer’s point of view, it doesn’t feel like selling anymore, does it? It feels like you’re a problem solver. And small business owners are pretty good at solving problems.

You Are an Expert in Something

How well do you know your entire range of products or services? If you specialize in a rapidly changing industry or niche, you may feel less familiar with some of your newer products.

But no one said studying stopped once you got out of school. Like a server studies a new menu or a dancer rehearses new choreography, you may have to routinely study what your business has to offer.

If you work with a team, it can be helpful to discuss new features or review reasons why customers return certain products. This examination and intimate knowledge of what you offer makes it easier for you to find solutions to your customers’ or clients’ problems.

You Are a Friendly Face

You don’t need to shower customers with platitudes to get them to purchase something. You just need to say “hello.” You’ve probably been put off in the past by salespeople who have asked for your entire life story the moment you walked into their business.

But the truth is, some customers have no idea what problem they’re trying to solve, or if you can help them do it. They might just want to get an idea of what you have for sale or what services you can provide. Be gentle. A hard sell doesn’t create a relationship with a customer — it just chases them out the door.

Start with the basics: A warm greeting and an invitation to ask questions of you or your staff. If the customer lingers, ask about their needs. Let a relationship bloom from there. You may not sell the entire store to them on their first visit, but they’re sure to remember a pleasant initial interaction. 

Article of the Week: How To Make Yourself Work When You Don't Want To PDF Print E-mail
By: Travis Bradberry, Forbes.com

Procrastination affects everyone. It sneaks up on most people when they’re tired or bored, but for some, procrastination can be a full-fledged addiction. They avoid all day the work that is right in front of them, only to go home and toil late into the night, frantically trying to finish what they could have easily completed before dinner.

With the summer holidays approaching, the high season for procrastination is upon us. It’s even more difficult to get work done when you’re stuck at the office, wishing you were enjoying time with family and friends.

Still, the procrastination cycle can become crippling at any time of the year, which is troubling, because recent studies show that procrastination magnifies stress, reduces performance, and leads to poor health.

Psychologists at Case Western Reserve University conducted an interesting experiment where they offered college students a date range instead of a single due date for their papers. The researchers tracked the date that students turned in their papers and compared this to their stress levels and overall health. Students who waited until the last minute to turn in their papers had greater stress and more health issues than others did. They also received worse grades on their papers and in the class overall than students who turned their papers in earlier.

A study published earlier this year by Bishop’s University explored the link between chronic procrastination and stress-related health issues. The researchers found a strong link between procrastination and hypertension and heart disease, as procrastinators experienced greater amounts of stress and were more likely to delay healthy activities, such as proper diet and exercise.

Procrastination is fueled by excuses. We cannot expect to overcome procrastination and improve our health and productivity until we’re able to overcome the negative mental habits that lead us to procrastinate in the first place.

What follows are the most troubling excuses we use to help us procrastinate. They’re troubling because they’re the most difficult excuses to conquer. For each, I offer preventative strategies so you can overcome procrastination and get productive, even when you don’t feel like working.

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Paradoxically, we often find ourselves frozen like a deer in headlights when confronted with a difficult task. As well, much like deer, the best thing we can do is move in any direction, fast. When a task is particularly difficult, you need all the time you are given to complete it. There’s no sense in wasting valuable time by allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.

The key here is to not allow fear of the whole to stop you from engaging in the parts. When something looks too difficult, simply break it down. What can you accomplish in 60 minutes that will help you slay the beast? Then, what can you do in 60 more minutes?

Breaking your task into shorter periods (where effort is guaranteed) allows you to move out of the “deer in headlights” frame of mind. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished something, and the task goes from way too hard to absolutely doable. When it comes to challenging tasks, inactivity is the enemy.

“There are too many distractions.”

For most of us, getting started on a large project is a challenge. We stumble over all sorts of smaller, irrelevant tasks that distract us from the real assignment. We answer emails, make calls, check the news online…anything to avoid the elephant in the room.

Being busy is not the same as being productive. When you find yourself avoiding a particularly sizeable task, slow down and visualize what will happen if you continue to put off the task. Distractions numb you by shifting your attention away from these consequences (a.k.a., away from reality). Reminding yourself of what will happen if you continue procrastinating is a great way to make distractions less enchanting so that you can focus on your work.

“It’s too easy.”

Tasks that are too easy can be surprisingly dangerous, because when you put them off, it’s easy to underestimate how much time they’ll take to complete. Once you finally sit down to work on them, you discover you have not given yourself enough time to complete the task (or at least to complete it well).

If a task is too easy, draw connections to the bigger picture, because these connections turn mundane tasks into a fundamental (and do it now) part of your job. For example, you might hate data entry, but when you think about the role the data plays in the strategic objectives of your department, the task becomes worthwhile. When the smaller, seemingly insignificant things don’t get done or get done poorly, it has a ripple effect that’s felt for miles.

“I don’t like it.”

Procrastination isn’t always about a task being too easy or too hard. Sometimes, you just don’t want to do it. It can be very hard to get moving on a task in which you’re disinterested, much less despise.

Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof way to teach yourself to find something interesting, because certain things will never draw your attention. Rather than pushing these tasks to the back of your plate, make it a rule that you cannot touch any other project or task until you’ve finished the dreaded one. In this way, you are policing yourself by forcing yourself to “eat your vegetables before you can have dessert.”

When you do get started, you can always turn the task into a game. How can you achieve your task more efficiently? How can you change the steps of the process and still produce the same result? Bringing mindfulness to a dreaded task gives you a fresh perspective. The task itself might not be fun, but the game can be.

“I don’t think I can do it.”

You are assigned a new project by your supervisor. In fact, it’s one you’ve wished he or she would give you for a while. However, now that it’s in your lap, you simply cannot get started. You cannot get past thoughts of failure. What’s going to happen if I blow it? How am I going to do this? Could I be fired over this? It can reach a point where avoiding failure seems like the best possible option. After all, if you never engage in a project, you’ll never fail. Right?

Wrong. Procrastination itself is failure—failure to utilize your innate talents and abilities. When you procrastinate, you’re failing to believe in yourself.

Remember when you were learning to drive and you could only look straight ahead, because if you looked at something off the road, you’d unwittingly turn the wheel in that direction? Worrying about everything that might go wrong if you fail has the same effect. It pulls you toward failure.

You must shift your mind in a confident direction by focusing on all the positive things that are going to happen when you succeed. When you believe you can do something—and you visualize the positive things that will come from doing well—you equip yourself to succeed. This thought process gets your mind headed in the right direction. Worrying about everything that could go wrong only binds your hands. Break the chains and get started!

Bringing It All Together

Fighting procrastination teaches us to fully engage in our work, get more creative with it, and, ultimately, get more done.

Article of the Week: How Are You Building Your Personal Brand? PDF Print E-mail

By: Rita Balian Allen, HuffingtonPost.com

Every professional needs to empower themselves to own their careers. We are in a competitive and demanding global, multigenerational marketplace where our ability to articulate our value is essential. How do we stand out and differentiate ourselves? Do we have a specific niche, skill or experience...or is it something about our personality and approach that sets us apart from our colleagues? Look at our current political candidates - some have distinct brands they have built over many years and some are still building or it’s been built for them.

Identifying and defining our personal brand is the first step; followed by creating and building our brand; and ultimately articulating and enhancing our brand throughout our career. Many people find this concept challenging but the reality is we must see ourselves as a commodity to be marketed. Being your authentic self, staying true to yourself and engaging in a way that allows you to be the best you can be. That’s what personal branding is all about. Putting our best foot forward and being in the driver’s seat in managing our career. Having a solid plan for ourselves with specific goals and objectives is the best way to start this process. Embracing the concept of marketing ourselves as a core competency for every professional today is essential. Let me offer the following framework I call:

‘The Three Ps Marketing Technique’:

Preparation - define and identify your brand
Packaging - create and build your brand
Presentation - articulate and enhance your brand

These ‘Three Ps’ are cumulative requiring proper time and diligence on each before moving to the next. Along with the ‘Three Ps’, there are three practices shared by individuals who successfully carve out careers that are satisfying and rewarding. Think of people you know who have effectively created and built their brand going on to accomplish great things. Some people we all know include Albert Einstein, Vera Wang, Jack Welch, Walt Disney, Barbara Corcoran to name a few. What do they all have in common? Three things...

Three Commonalities of Successful Professionals:

1. Know what they have to offer - their value-add
2. Know what they want have specific goals
3. Know how to ask for it - advocate effectively

‘Preparation’ is the most difficult and requires us to conduct extensive personal due diligence and assessment to better understand our strengths, weaknesses, interests, values, aspirations, motivations, and needs. It’s just as important to ask for feedback from others to gain valuable insights that extend beyond our own. This process will help uncover what those differentiators are for each of us and the value-add that we have to offer. Another important part of the preparation phase is goal setting. We all need to have a mission, a vision for our career and specific goals we want to accomplish. Without a plan, we don’t have a direction or criteria for accountability. Both long term and short term goal setting helps us create a road map that allows us to actually achieve that vision. Annual goal setting is a must to enable us to move our career in alignment with our aspirations, while remaining open to unexpected opportunities and exploring new paths and directions. I like to say...plan, plan, plan and then go with the flow.

Once we have completed the first phase of defining and identifying our brand, we are ready to move on to the second phase, ‘Packaging’ our brand. This is when the hard work begins of creating and building our brand. The purpose is finding opportunities that allow you to demonstrate and showcase your talents and experiences while building your portfolio, track record and credibility. Your packaging will reflect your style and tell your story in a way that allows you access to the different venues where you would like to execute your presentation. Think of packaging as the many diverse vehicles and tools you use to communicate, to tell your story.

How are you ‘packaging’ or building your ‘personal brand’? Here are some specific tasks you want to be sure to complete on a consistent basis in order to build your brand:

• Maintain a current resume, bio, curriculum vitae and/or portfolio - add, amend and edit in a timely fashion

• Update and review regularly - DO NOT allow for a long lag time in-between keeping it recent and thorough with all recent and previous accomplishments

• Keep copies of performance reviews, awards, authored articles, presentations, etc.

• Maintain copies of other testaments of your work history, track record, expertise, thoughtleadership and credibility

• Create & update this “file” or “scrapbook” regularly providing quick access to relevant examples as needed, capturing stories of your results

• Obtain written references /testimonials from colleagues, managers, customers, clients, staff, professors, staff members, vendors, etc.

• Serve on boards, committees, and/or volunteer organizations providing opportunities to expand network and broaden knowledge

• Solicit other types of opportunities that allow you to grow network and enhance visibility

• Always continue to learn and enhance your own development through training, seminars, courses, certifications, and/or advanced degrees

• Be and stay well read and educated within your profession, industry and community

• Create key alliances and partnerships - align yourself with people you respect, admire and can learn from including mentors, advisors, sponsors and advocates

• Build and nurture long lasting mutually rewarding relationships - give back, be of service and always practice professional etiquette

• Establish a track record and reputation as a content expert others seek out

• Use social media strategically and selectively - create a virtual presence and profile that reflects your personal brand effectively; leverage LinkedIn and other appropriate outlets

Once we have sufficiently completed our ‘preparation’ and ‘packaging’, we are ready to embark on the ‘Presentation’ phase of the process. This is how it all comes together, our ability to deliver our message, articulate the value we bring, and communicate stories of results we have achieved throughout our career. Being visible in a way that is relevant, influential and compelling. Putting yourself in a position to build relationships and seize opportunities to showcase your talents and accomplishments when they present themselves. Becoming your own advocate and articulating your message with ease, confidence and authenticity. Being your authentic self and staying true to yourself. Believing in yourself, trusting yourself and exuding confidence in a sincere and genuine manner. Thinking positively and acting with optimism. Know what you have to offer, what you want and how to ask for it! Enjoy the journey every step of the way!

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