Category Archives: Workplace

Follow the Lead of the CEO

Recently published on the Help My Resume blog:

Follow the lead of the CEO. Yes, it might feel outdated, but he or she is the one writing your check. If he or she is in asuit, you need to be in a suit. If he or she prefers adress shirts and slacks, plan to prefer them, too; ditto, T shirts and jeans, etc.

No one in the C-Suite wants to be anxious about taking you into a meeting with potential clients. They also don’t want to be worry that you are going to have a wardrobe malfunction in an internal situation.

Note, too: If your boss doesn’t dress down on Friday, you don’t either (if you want that promotion)

Finally, in addition to clothes being too casual, you can also have hair that’s too casual Get it out of your face. Tidy it up.





How Office Gossip Can Be Good for Your Career

by Susan Johnston,, Yahoo! HotJobs

We grew up learning that gossip was something to be avoided (and definitely “not nice”). But it turns out that office gossip can help us get ahead at work–if used carefully. “It’s not realistic to say, ‘Don’t participate in [workplace] gossip,’ because if you don’t participate, people tend not to include you in the conversation,” says Nicole Williams, the author of “Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success.”

Plus, knowing who’s leaving the company or who’s about to be promoted can help you align yourself for your next promotion. Here’s how to effectively handle office gossip–without being labeled a blabbermouth.

1. Remember, not all gossip is bad. But some is.
Mean-spirited, irrelevant gossip, like who’s having an affair or who’s had a nose job, is best ignored. But when water-cooler chatter turns to the boss’s pet peeves or unusual preferences, that’s when your ears should perk up. Frances Cole Jones, president of Cole Media Management and the author of “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World,” suggests paying attention to management’s likes and dislikes, such as sports they’re playing, volunteer activities they’re involved in, or how old their kids are. You can also find out what habits they appreciate or what quirks drive them crazy and adjust your behavior accordingly.

2. Listen more than you talk.
It’s always better to be the person receiving gossip rather than the one spreading it. “You do not want to be branded as someone who initiates or spreads gossip about the company or people within it, as this will hurt the company and your reputation and personal brand,” says Chris Perry, founder of Career Rocketeer, a career-search and personal-branding network. You can also watch for subtle clues like who’s taking extra long lunches or cleaning out their workspace, as these can be signs that someone is about to give notice.

3. Verify before you act.
Just because you hear rumors or spot signs that someone is leaving the company, don’t stake your claim on their corner office. If you’re friendly with the person, you might casually chat them up and see if they volunteer the news themselves. Or you might initiate a conversation with human resources. “You don’t have to mention that you heard that so-and-so was leaving,” says Perry. “You can just mention that you are interested in an opportunity in a specific area–conveniently, in the area in which that person just happened to be–so that you are in the consideration set when the next moves are announced.”

4. Be careful about what you share.
“Sometimes, in order to initiate the good gossip, you have to be willing to ante up with something,” says Williams. She says to make sure that you’re giving information that multiple sources have so it can’t be tracked back to only you. Gossip is risky business, so don’t share anything that violates confidentiality clauses or someone’s trust. And avoid spreading rumors about people’s personal lives.

5. Lastly, never put gossip in writing.
As Williams points out, gossip spread via email can “come back to bite you, and you can’t spin interpretation or deny it.” Plus, you never know who might be reading or forwarding emails.

Boston-based freelance writer Susan Johnston has covered career and business topics for “The Boston Globe,” “Hispanic Executive Quarterly,”, and other publications

Read On Yahoo! HotJobs >

10 Ways to be Taken Seriously at Work

I was recently featured in an article on MSN Career by Kaitlin Madden, Writer:

When you think of the term “executive,” what comes to mind? Most likely, words like successful, professional, hardworking, composed, smart, admired and well-spoken pop into your head.

Want your co-workers to associate those same terms with you? Then follow these tips for being taken seriously at work.

Dress professionally

Though we’ve all been raised on sayings like “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” in the professional world, presentation counts. There is a certain level of expectation when it comes to dress in the workplace. We expect to see executives in business attire, and consequently, we associate those who wear business attire with positions of power.  So if you want to be taken seriously at work, start dressing like it.

According to Frances Cole Jones, author of “The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World,” the dressing professionally rule applies on Fridays, too. “If the C-suite level is not dressing down on Fridays, I recommend you follow their lead and remain in professional dress on Fridays,” she says.

Choose appropriate hairstyles

For women, Jones advises “Having your hair hanging in your face will always make you look younger/less authoritative than you are.” Pulling hair back or putting it up will help you to look more professional.

For men, this means keeping hair short and neat by getting a regular haircut.

Continue Reading >

WOW Videos on iTunes

I’m happy to announce my WOW video series is now LIVE on iTunes. Subscribe to my video podcast series direct from iTunes!

Greet Like a Ginsu: (Part Two)

In my last post I talked about ensuring your physical space is clean and welcoming. It’s also important to be very clear with the people manning these areas about personal items displayed, dress code, hold music, and how they answer the phones and/or greet visitors. Herewith, then, my list of do’s and don’ts:
  1. With regard to personal items, family photographs, calendars, etc. are fine. Stuffed animals, miniature garden gnomes, and birthday cards with headlines along the lines of “Yo, bitch,” are not.
  2. Scantily clad co-workers in any area of the office are distracting. Scantily clad reception staff leaves visitors wondering what your business might be a front for.
  3. A warm hello when visitors arrive is appreciated. If the receptionist is on the phone, s/he should be directed to acknowledge visitors’ arrival with a smile and eye contact. Instead of having them hold one finger in the to indicate your need to wait—far too reminiscent of grade school admonishment in my mind—I recommend having them interrupt their phone conversation to say, “I’ll be right with you.”
  4. Decide on a policy of if/how phones will be answered if there are people are arriving while phones are ringing. My personal feeling is that the receptionist should pick up the phone, say, “May I put you on hold for a moment?” then attend to the 3-D guest.
  5. Being on hold is already irritating. Being on hold while listening to rap music or something that sounds like a soft-core-porn track is going to leave you with a lot of cranky/bemused customers. Pick something that is appropriate for your product/business.
  6. Offering visitors directions to the ladies or men’s room is always kind. Asking if they’d like to use the “little girls” or “little boys” room (Yes, this happened to me) is consternation-inducing.
  7. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” are preferable to “No problem,” or “No worries” (One smart business I know even taped this tiny reminder to the phone cradle.)
  8. Should you have an after-hours phone message, please don’t go with the general, “Call back during regular business hours,” as these differ from business to business (and time zone to time zone.) Instead, say, “Please call back between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time.”
As you can see, thinking through welcome guidelines for your staff, can go a long way toward a dazzling first impression.
Frances Cole Jones

Watch the Greet Like a Ginsu: Part 2 YouTube Video

Greet Like a Ginsu: (Part One)

Did you know it took over 600 hours to think up, agree upon, and refine the first ten seconds of the original Ginsu infomercial? (“In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife…”) The image – a hand karate chopping a tomato – was so arresting—weird enough to make the person with the remote stop flipping channels and say, ‘What the heck is THAT?’— that it went on to become one of the most successful ads of all time.

But while we’ve all heard we’re judged on the first ten seconds of any interaction, how many of us have put even 100 hours into the impressions others get when they walk into our office, or business’s reception area? With this in mind, here are a few suggestions for ways to make these spaces warm and inviting:

Let’s begin by taking as a given reception areas need to be clean and pleasantly lit—no “airplane bathroom lighting” i.e. unflattering from every angle. After this, other considerations in play include:

  • While I want them to be clean, I prefer they don’t smell of either disinfectant or floral/woodsy/citrus air freshener. Proper ventilation is a must.
  • Candy/flowers/plants: Each of these is a personal choice. My only request is that you don’t have all three, which promotes a garage-sale environment. If you have plants, they need to be kept religiously fresh and blooming—you don’t want those sitting and waiting to be mentally picking the dead leaves off your Ficus tree. If you have flowers, you want to make sure they’re unscented– you don’t want allergy sufferers sneezing wetly in your lobby.
  • If you’re going to have candy make sure it’s wrapped. The same way the chips bowl at a party has been scientifically proven to be germier than the bathroom door handle unwrapped candy has the potential to lay waste to your visitors’ GI tracts. Also be sure to have a garbage can accessible for wrappers.
  • Chairs in conversational groupings: Too often, chairs are ranged around the edge of the room, giving a airport/lounge/dentist’s waiting room feel to an otherwise elegant space. Turning chairs even slightly toward each other, and providing a table in between, will keep those waiting from feeling like they’re waiting for a root canal or delayed departure. Should you have a table in between them, the choice to place a box of Kleenex there is often gratefully received.
  • Magazines/newspapers: if you choose to have either on-hand, make sure they are up-to-date and fresh looking.  No one wants to feel like they have to break out Purell and rubber gloves to pore over your manhandled copy of People.
  • Should you have a television in your waiting room—to my mind a dubious choice, but one which is becoming more pervasive—keep the volume low; if only one person is on-site, ask him or her if they would like it turned off.
  • For those businesses with potential walk-in customers inquiring about services, be sure to have welcome packages at the front desk that they can take away and look through at their leisure.

As you can see, putting even an hour or two into organizing and/or refreshing your space can go a long way toward a dazzling first impression.

Frances Cole Jones

Watch the YouTube Video

Feels Like (Virtual) Team Spirit

With more and more companies using the latest technology to find efficiencies in the recession, far-flung, “virtual” teams are becoming a part of many people’s work day.,   Therefore, I thought it was important to put together a top ten list of the most effective strategies for building, and maintaining, virtual team spirit—the spirit that builds trust, and encourages concrete results.

1.      Gather ‘round and go around

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words so sharing pictures of team members is critical. Still more valuable is posting them on a one-sheet that’s a diagram of a clock face so members can say, “This is Ellen at 9 o’clock” thereby saving team members from having to scroll frantically through members’ pictures to remind themselves who’s speaking.  This method counteracts disembodied voices on conference calls, and helps prevent “hiding” by participants.

2.      One may be lonely, but it’s also the most effective number

On conference calls, if even one member of the team is in an office by his or herself, the remainder of the team needs to be separated from one another—even if they are in the same offices. This can seem like a pain to arrange, but anything else leaves the person working solofeeling still more isolated.

3.      Sort through the holidays and ho-downs

If your team is international, building trust is about more than the time zone in which they’re located. Many countries celebrate different holidays, start work later, stay longer, etc. Additionally, some Asian countries have a policy of working on Saturdays that needs to be acknowledged and factored in at the outset.  If you work this out in advance, you can even gain efficiency by working out the ideal schedule for “handover” of work.

4.      Establish your “note-passing” policy

The same way it is distracting to a teacher and fellow students to have two people passing notes in class, it is distracting for two people to be IM’ing or emailing during a call. (And please don’t think others don’t notice. They do. My recommendation is that the only use of IM or email during a call would be to alert others to a technical breakdown.

5.      Version 2. WHAT?

Few things are more maddening than scrolling through six versions of a document—each with a very slightly different draft name– trying to figure out who touched it last. My suggestion is begin with V.01, for version 1, and move on from there. This will, at least, take you through V.99 before you need to recalibrate.  A great add-on is to adopt the protocol that “whole numbered versions” (e.g. V2.0) are “client-ready”, whereas fractional numbers  (e.g. V0.23) are still works in progress.

6.      Show Your Work

Should you make any change in a document that has the potential to bemisconstrued (i.e. anything beyond fixing typos/grammar/clarity) include a note explaining the rationale behind the change. This will either mollify team members or give you a jumping off place for discussion—rather than dissension- at your next meeting.

7.      Standardize Your Team Turnaround Time or State Your “By When”

People wait far more patiently if they know by when something is going to happen—this is the reason most mass transit has begun incorporating announcements regarding where the next bus/train is, and when it can be expected. Have a stated turnaround time for your team. If that deadline is going to be missed, state by when you will be in touch.

8.      Silence is not (necessarily) golden

Too often a question is asked and falls into silence, leaving the questioner wondering, “Are they quiet because they agree with me, disagree with me, are not paying attention to me?” Establish your silence policy—i.e. silence signals disagreement/disagreement; or each question must be met with a round of polling – explicit yes’s or no’s from all participants.

9.      “Don’t you put that sheep on my head”

Different countries have different idiomatic expressions—the above was a striking reinterpretation of “Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes.” Alternatively, ideas we “run up the flagpole” or consider “a home run,” may be similarly misconstrued by listeners in different countries. Clarify and/or (for fun) keep a running list everyone can learn from. (nb: Poland uses “I wouldn’t bet my head on that” for “I wouldn’t bet my life”; and one of my favorites is the Italian equivalent of “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too “:  “You can’t have a full bottle of wine and a drunk wife.”)

10.     Mix it Up

With far-flung teams, there is no opportunity to blow off steam together after work—yet the interpersonal connections forged during these get-togethers is vital to creating camaraderie. What to do? Arrange a weekly test-drive (and subsequent commentary on) the “libation of your nation” — beer, chai, sake, double espresso, or create a signature drink peculiar to your team alone.