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Phone: 224-227-7535
cathy@cathyemma.com
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ARTICLES

BUSINESS COURTESY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Everyone is familiar with the tension that the holidays can cause at home, but the workplace can be similarly frantic and filled with anxiety during the holiday season. Keeping your business communication habits on a high professional level can be especially difficult during this hectic time. Holiday stress can affect your overall communication abilities with customers, clients and colleagues. Acting out of tension and pressure from holiday overload will lower your competence and effectiveness at work, and can be very costly to your business.

The best thing about holiday stress is that it is predictable. Unlike many other types of negative stress we encounter in life, we know when holiday stress will begin and end, and we can make plans to reduce the amount of stress we experience and the negative impact it has on us.

Here are a few reminders to help you stay on track with business and save you from becoming a "stressed out Scrooge" during this frantic season.

Keep your fitness plan on track. Exercise, get enough rest and keep your diet sensible to avoid any sick days. Healthy living relieves stress.

Commit to punctuality. Be on time for meetings or other business events. Plan ahead and develop the habit of arriving early. You will have time to get composed, prepared for your day or meeting and be much more relaxed.

Know the limits of your agenda. The holidays bring extra requests. One polite, professional way to refuse additional requests when your agenda is full is by offering to do it when you can give it your undivided attention.

Take business social situations seriously. Activities held outside the office, such as luncheons and dinners in restaurants, or meetings at conferences are still business, and your professionalism does matter. Consider company image.

Keep your email on a professional level. Avoid sending email that appears rushed or hectic and delivers the wrong message. Use spell check and proof read everything. Keep your career on track!

Keep the stress out of your voice and speech. Stress can have a marked influence on voice quality, speech rate and language usage. Avoid sounding tired, "burned out" or disinterested when doing business face to face or on the phone. The tone of your voice should be bright and enthusiastic.

The holidays can play havoc with personal relationships. Keep your personal life organized and balanced. Pay attention to your time management skills.

Appreciate the positive aspects of the holidays. Approaching the season with this attitude can make the holiday experience more enjoyable. Get ready for the hustle and bustle. Keep smiling, stay focused and have a great holiday season!

"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." - Lou Holtz

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Communicate With Clear Language - Careful With the Jargon! 

When meeting people outside of your usual network, you hear terms, phrases and acronyms you aren't familiar with. Every industry develops its own special  language to communicate ideas and information associated with a particular job or profession. This is referred to as business "jargon" which is unique, specialized vocabulary, but can frequently exclude people outside the industry or people for whom English is a second language. Jargon can be useful and appropriate when used among a group of people who share the same knowledge. However, a little jargon goes a long way, and a good communicator can discern when jargon is relevant and when it simply hinders the message from being understood.

When jargon is used with new employees, clients, prospects, or other people not familiar with the special terms, messages become confusing and can cause embarrassment. Jargon can also create havoc inside companies when information is not delivered to employees in a clear and understandable way. In my staff training workshops, I hear many complaints about the overuse of jargon and cliches that employees hear at work every day. Frustration builds and profitability is affected.    

Invented words, product names, acronyms, abbreviations, buzzwords and business language that is obscure or overly ornate can bewilder. Embellishing your messages with colorful, flowery language, but with no clear meaning, can prove to be counterproductive. Habitual use of jargon is not going tomake you sound more intelligent. Using too much jargon can bore, frustrate, or convey the wrong attitude, and can undermine your credibility, authority and leadership. You gain far more respect when you communicate complex ideas in simple ways using well-known, time-tested words so everyone can understand.

When speaking or writing, be sure to recognize to whom you're addressing your comments and determine if common or more technical language should be used. Know your audience!  Unless an audience is clear on the jargon, it's best to break things down in simpler terms so the message is suitable and able to be understood by all.  

Learning to communicate effectively and clearly to any audience will give you the reputation of being the person who has the answers, the person who can affect your company's bottom line in a positive way. Maintaining those positive relationships is key to your professional success. Pay attention to your style of communication and the jargon won't get in your way!

"People who work in specialized fields have their own language. The jargon can almost sound like a foreign language"---Barry Ritholtz

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Get That Job By Nailing The Interview!

In today's tight job market, there are many qualified candidates competing for the same position. A job interview is an opportunity for you to stand out from the pack and get that job! Here are 9basic, (but frequently forgotten) tips to remember. Reviewing them will help you to fire up your confidence so you come across as a true professional and outshine the competition.

Be rested.

Get plenty of rest before the interview and have a good meal.This will give you the ability to be sharp and at the top of your game.

Be on time.

Leave extra early. Do whatever it takes to be on time. No excuses! You don't want to annoy the person interviewing you. Arriving early will give you time to relax and get composed.

Research the company and the reason why you want to work there.

Learn as much as you can about the company you're interviewing for. Understand their mission and goals, and be able to express why you want to work in that industry. The more intelligent or informed you are, the more you will impress.

Turn your cell phone off.

This may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget. Double check to make sure your cell phone ringer is powered off.

Have extra copies of your resume.

Even though your interviewer will have your resume, it is wise to bring extra copies. It shows that you are serious about the job and you are prepared. Make sure you can explain everything on it.

Dress for success.

Interviewers do notice appearance and first impressions are critical in interviews. Know the culture of the company and wear clothing that exhibits good judgment and taste.

Use appropriate body language.

Learn the name of your interviewer and greet him or her with a firm business handshake. Maintain good eye contact and be attentive. Have excellent posture with no slouching. Be enthusiastic, cooperative and smile. It helps!

Speak clearly and with energy.

Speaking with confidence shows that you have excellent verbal communication skills. Mention your accomplishments both professionally and personally, and ask questions about the position and the organization.This reinforces your strong interest in the job.

Thank the interviewer and send a thank you note.

Thank the interviewer when you leave and once again, extend a firm handshake. Mail your interviewer a thank you note within 24 hours. It can be short, but sincere, and can be handwritten or typed. A thank you note is a must!

Plan well, look sharp, believe in yourself and your abilities, and you will nail that interview. Best of luck!

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RESPONSIBLE SOCIAL MEDIA - HOW ARE YOU COMMUNICATING?

Social networking has given us a way to communicate with more people than ever before. With face to face communication, people are much more careful about the amount and nature of the information they disclose. On the internet, however, it's easy to get carried away and feel that normal civilities and traditional etiquette can be discarded. Every time you log onto Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs, or any other social site, you're representing yourself and your company in a very visible way. It's best to play it safe online by employing your usual good manners and professional attitudes.

If you're beginning a new relationship online, think about what first impression you want to make. It can be easy to blur the lines between personal and workplace information.You need to be highly aware of the nature of your posts, and especially when work and personal life context is interwoven. Your online postings add up to an instant communication of who you are.

Here are a few ideas to consider when communicating in the social media world.

> Rule of thumb. Messages should be polite and contain comments, information, sentiments and language that you would be able to to articulate to people directly face to face. Avoid joining in or encouraging any negative talk. Keep in mind that your social networking messages are permanent and can advance or tarnish your online reputation. When posting online, follow the guidelines of all good written communication. Every piece of writing reflects on your quality of service and your professionalism.

> Plan time for posting. Time spent on social networking sites needs to be managed carefully. Set some rules on how often you'll post so it doesn't interfere with your normal workflow or daily routine. Keep your perspective. Too much social media can rob you of valuable time and contribute to a heavier workload. Manage your online social media minutes to stay balanced, productive and on target.

>Check out the venue. Social sites have different types of connections, options, features and a different tone of communication. LinkedIn is designed for business and professional networking, while Facebook can range from family and friend connections to extremely personal posts. People use social sites for different purposes. Comments relevant to your friends or family may not be relevant to the business world. It is wise to understand the differences and adjust your tone to fit the market connection

>Overestimating social networking's role. Think twice before allowing social networking to take over all other methods of communication. Letters, phone calls and face to face meetings are still important. Make personal phone calls rather than consistently posting announcements online. Use social sites to augment your existing marketing and promotional efforts but realize that it will never wholly replace them. There are still a large number of potential customers you may be missing that never log on to social sites.

In our techno, fast-paced world, technical knowledge is important, but business success still involves working directly with people by connecting and communicating in many forms. The most successful professionals and leaders typically are those who are strong communicators both face to face or online. Bottom line - when communicating online via social networking sites, offer respectful comments, keep a collaborative mindset, be responsible, and as always, remain professional.

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A LOOK CAN SAY IT ALL

The football season is here again and that means the final quarter of 2016 is upon us. Are you ready to meet it head on and finish strong? The uncertainty of the economy has many business professionals struggling to keep a positive attitude during the entire work week, but that extra "rush of enthusiasm" returns on the week ends when they can once again watch their favorite teams play. What is it that changes moods and attitudes on the weekend?

Great excitement resonates from the fans who send different messages through the many facial expressions they exhibit during a game. On the field, the players send tons of messages through body language and eye contact. Without a doubt, body language is a strong communicator.

What messages are being sent in your business environment? Make yourself aware of body language (your nonverbal communication). Nonverbal signals in the workplace are powerful communicators. Impressions are formed within seconds of a meeting and 55% of these impressions are based on nonverbal signals or "visual" communication. It may seem like a minor detail, but "putting on a happy face" and using positive body language can transform negative situations into confident "can do" successes. This is especially true in tough economic times like these.

Smiles are the most widely understood positive facial expressions used all over the world to express happiness. A friendly smile makes you appear open and warm, and conveys a positive attitude. Smiling is a great way to approach people. It's a simple way to create a friendly environment and a positive climate that nurtures trust, credibility and good business. Simply look people in the eye and smile. Their natural reaction will be to smile back at you. Your direct eye contact is an essential tool for building business relationships. You will see people's attitudes change. They will become more friendly and trusting, and will definitely remember you. Beat the down economy by keeping an upbeat attitude. Be aware that body language can attract or repel.

It only takes 17 muscles to smile, but 43 to frown, so why not smile? It's a lot easier and works well for business!Go the extra distance and put some extra points on the board during the last quarter of this year.Remember that everyone smiles in the same language.Get those "first downs" and score some "business touchdowns" by exhibiting confident and professional body language. You and your teams may just end the year beating the competition and winning it all.

"If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?" --Vince Lombardi

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THINK BEFORE YOU TEXT!

Smart phone technology has made text messaging a popular way to communicate. It’s simple, efficient and effective. However, what’s considered acceptable when texting friends is very different than what is acceptable when texting business contacts. Here are some tips to help you think before you text.

Send a text only when it’s urgent. When you send people a text, in most cases you will be interrupting them. The default settings on most mobile phones ring or vibrate when it receives a text message. So if you are going to interrupt someone, make sure you have a good reason. Use email instead of texting. Most business professionals check their email at least twice a day and prefer communication by e-mail rather than texting. This is mainly because their reasons are time management based and they are more productive if they respond to all their messages during scheduled blocks of time. For most people it’s also more efficient to type messages on a computer rather than on a phone.

Avoid texting when you should make a call. If you know that the subject of your message will require back and forth communication, either pick up the phone and call the person or if it’s not time sensitive, send an email requesting a specific time to talk.

Refrain from texting people who don’t text you. According to a Success Magazine survey, only 4% of the business professionals surveyed prefer texting to other forms of communication. If you have never received a text message from someone, consider that they may not like to text.

Take care with all the acronyms and text slang. Not everyone knows that ttyl means “talk to you later” or jk means “just kidding”. Use the same punctuation and grammar you would use in your emails. Say what you mean and make sure your messages present you as a business professional, not a texting junkie.

Proof your messages. Take an extra few seconds and make sure you don’t have any misspellings or improper language. Be proud of the messages you send.

Include your name. Unless you are absolutely certain that the recipient of your text has your name plugged into their phone, add your name to the end of the message. Avoid texting during meetings. If you send or read texts during a meeting, your actions convey that the meeting is not important to you. It would be just like having a verbal side conversation. You will be considered inconsiderate and disrespectful. Show respect and courtesy. Whatever you do, consider how texting affects those around you. Unless it’s urgent, avoid sending texts when you are spending time with people.

Texting while driving is fatal. While this seems like common sense, there are numbers of people sending text messages in cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that next to drunk drivers, distracted drivers are the second leading cause of fatal automobile accidents. Business relationships are seldom built or strengthened through text messaging, so use it sparingly, wisely, and always with professionalism. Once again, think before you text!

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CUBICAL OFFICE SETTINGS

Office cubicles represent the most efficient way to utilize available floor space in today's modern workplace. However, working in a cubicle can be a challenge! It's critical that cube dwellers develop a healthy respect for their co-workers in order to build productive relationships, Remember that being a good neighbor is just as important on the job as it is at home. Exhibiting courtesy, tact and empathy in the workplace will help you build productive relationships and camaraderie with colleagues.

Here are some tips that foster respectful relationships with coworkers and improve productivity when you are working in close quarters.

1. COURTESY COUNTS

Get permission before stepping in to a colleague's cube. Behave as though cubicles have doors. Announce yourself at their doorway, or lightly knock on the wall. Avoid loitering outside someone's cube while you wait for them to finish a phone call. Return later.

2. TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE

Set your ringer volume at a low level.Keep your speech volume down when talking on the phone. Turn your cell phone to "off" or to "vibrate" if you leave it in your cubicle. Avoid using Speaker phones in your cube. Use a conference or meeting room. Turn voice mail on when you exit your cub.

3.QUIET SPEAKING TONES

Use lower tones when speaking in your cube. Avoid talking over cube walls or "yelling" across the office. Go to a break room for impromptu meetings and avoid congregating outside someone's cubicle. Take clients to a conference room to ensure privacy.

4. MUSICAL TUNES

Wear headphones when listening to radio or CDs. Set your PC volume to a low level. Set pagers to "vibrate. "Avoid humming or singing along with the music.

5. SCENTS

Avoid eating hot food at your desk to keep odors from drifting through the office. Keep cologne/perfume light being mindful of others with allergies. Have an air freshener handy.

6. DECORATING

Keep your cube clean and organized. Limit your display of personal items and remember "company image. "Avoid displaying political posters or offensive calendars that may alienate others.

Treat your co-workers as you would want them to treat you. Staying professional never goes of style and courtesy always counts!

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GOSSIP IN THE WORKPLACE - WATERCOOLER RUMORS

“Have you heard the latest?’ These words, or something similar to them, can be found in virtually every workplace. Workplace gossip may be written in a discreet office email, quietly discussed across the water cooler, or spoken in hushed tones behind cubicle walls. Written or spoken, churning the rumor mill in an office setting is inappropriate, unprofessional and harmful. Even if it’s not malicious, gossip in the workplace breeds resentment and becomes a roadblock to effective communication and collaboration. It kills morale and is a huge waste of time. Here are some suggestions for stopping the spread of unnecessary workplace gossip and chatter.

Ignore the gossip

The first approach for dealing with office gossip is to simply ignore it. People often become tired of something after talking about it for a while, so it’s best to wait things out and see if the gossip fades away. Feeding the office grapevine can gain you a reputation of being the office gossip, and this is one title that you do want to avoid. If someone starts to spread gossip, be honest and let them know that you have no interest in hearing or talking about it. If they persist, you can always excuse yourself and politely walk away. Focus on your work and set an example for others to do the same.

Confirm the facts

Is it fact or fiction? Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Before you act on something you hear, confirm that it’s true. A lot of the chatter that comes through the gossip mill is entirely false. Employees who start rumors and spread gossip may not intend to cause harm, but water cooler rumors that circulate in the workplace can have a negative effect on business and an entire company. If it’s important to your business, you may feel the need to verify, but take care when acting on rumors or false information.

Gossip at work isn’t likely to disappear. It’s human nature to want to know what’s happening around us, but gossip can sabotage a team’s ability to work together effectively. It is nonproductive and saps the enthusiasm and productivity of a workforce. All in all, rumors and gossip create a divided, stressful and harmful working environment.

Next time you hear a rumor, remember that people’s careers and reputations may be harmed. Check to see if the information is true before you participate or share it. Communicate honestly and work toward a gossip-free environment.

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THE "OLYMPIC SPIRIT" WILL MOTIVATE YOU

Has your motivation been in low gear for a while? Many people find themselves "stuck" with a lack of motivation during slow economic times and especially in the cold winter months. Using a few tried and true techniques can boost performance and build business growth during this down time.

 > Cut back on watching and listening to the news. The media is currently so focused on reporting  the negative news about the economy and markets.  Just listening to all the negativity affects our moods. It’s important to stay informed on business news and current events, but make an effort to cut back on the amount of time you spend on the gloomy reports.

 > Watch the Olympics! It’s easy to view the games as entertainment, but if you look behind the scenes at the training, sacrifices and long-term dedication by the athletes, your motivation will increase and you will become more invigorated and inspired!

 > Surround yourself with positive people both personally and professionally. The people who keep making it happen! Their positive energy is contagious! Avoid negative people who can put a damper on your good mood and create a tense atmosphere.

  > Keep looking for opportunities. Brainstorm with teams and colleagues and stay creative. Continue promoting yourself and your company.

 > Listen to motivational audio in your car and while you work out. Exercise your mind and body. Keep moving and you will automatically get motivated.

Grab the "Olympic Spirit" when your motivation is low. Be a winner in business and in life!

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