As an entrepreneur or professional, you face many fires that need to be put out every day, all the while doing your best work. Juggling the needs of your co-workers, boss, and yourself can often be a challenge, even on the best of days.
Whether you’re a professional working for a boss, or an entrepreneur working for yourself, there are strategies you can employ to make each day more successful. Below, Melody Wilding, LMSW, a therapist who works with young professionals and business owners, shares four winning strategies for fostering success in the workplace.
1. Set boundaries.
Small business owners have a tendency to treat their businesses like their baby, and to treat their staff like family, Wilding said. The problem is that the lines between personal and professional become blurred, she said. For instance, you might be unable to let go of an employee you’ve gotten close with, even though they’re clearly not working out.
Setting boundaries can be critical to your success.
The key, she said, is to set up structure, and refer back to your policies. Create an employee review every three months. Set revenue goals for sales positions. This way you have clear-cut expectations for performance and objective barometers for progress. And whatever decisions need to be made won’t seem like personal judgments.
Another critical boundary is saying no to inappropriate requests at work. For instance, let’s say your supervisor asks you to write his daughter’s recommendation letter for college. Of course, this isn’t in your job description, but you’re worried about declining.
“Respond in a way that makes it about the work, not about your relationship with that person,” Wilding said. For instance, you can say that you’re unable to write the letter because you need to focus on work projects. And when appropriate, provide a resource, she said.
Setting boundaries around email also is key. Remember that you teach people how to treat you, Wilding said. So if you respond to email right away, you show people that you’re always available — and don’t get as much meaningful work done.
Instead, turn off email alerts on your phone and computer. Carve out an hour in the morning for creating and producing work, “rather than reacting.”
2. Watch your language.
Using minimizing or qualifying language can undermine your creditability, confidence and authority. You have great ideas or a great company, but people miss that from the way you present either one.
When sharing their ideas, women, in particular, tend to use phrases such as “I’m not sure if this might work…” or “What do you kinda think about this?” according to Wilding.
This piece suggests making simple changes, such as not using the word “just,” as in, “I just called because,” or “I’m just checking in to see… ” It also suggests replacing “weak words” — “I think, I believe, and I feel” — with stronger alternatives, such as “I’m confident, I’m convinced, I expect.”
3. If you don’t succeed, evaluate your process.
When something doesn’t work out, people automatically internalize it as a failure and blame themselves, Wilding said. Instead, she suggested readers look outside themselves and consider other alternatives, such as your process.
For instance, if you’re not getting interviews for prospective jobs, instead of berating your lack of good experience or skills, reframe the situation and consider what you could revise about your process, she said.
Maybe you need to attend networking events, improve your resume or cover letter, or apply for different jobs (Wilding often sees clients underestimating themselves and applying for lower-tier positions.)
4. Forget balance.
According to Wilding, the idea of a work/life balance “suggests that the two are at odds with each other.” Instead, she emphasizes “work/life integration.” She encourages people to consider how they can make their lives synergize with their work and vice versa.
For instance, “what can you do throughout your day to feel how you want to feel? What actions can you take to create that feeling for yourself?”
If you’d like to feel gratitude, send your colleague a thank-you letter, or keep a running record of your accomplishments, she said.
Another big part of integration is honoring yourself and your personality at both work and home. It’s common for people to feel like they have to be a different person at the office, she said.
Instead, she suggested playing to your own style, which makes you more productive. For instance, if you work best uninterrupted, don’t feel like you have to be sociable all day. Keep your headphones on while working, but go to lunch with a colleague, she said.