How to prepare this holiday season for a smashing new year at work

When Christmas and the end of the year approaches, we usually reflect on the past year and think about how we can make the next year even better. Here are some tips that help me prepare for a smashing new year at work.

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Reflect on the past year

Sounds obvious, right? But it is an important step to making the next year even a better one. Take some time and answer the below five questions:

  1. What have I achieved at work this year?what impact have I made on my company, what has improved because of me?
  2. Have I shared my achievements with my boss/team/company? What did they appreciate the most/ Why did I not share?
  3. What goals did I not achieve? Are they still relevant for the next year?
  4. What did I learn?
  5. have I build good relationships at work? Who with?

Having a moment of reflection can help you feel more satisfied with the year you had. We do tend to keep going, especially if we’re high achievers, and never stop to reflect on what we have already accomplished. This can lead to low satisfaction with your work and feeling a lack of accomplishment.

If with the year-end approaching you think that you haven’t done anything meaningful, think of yourself a year ago and go month by month on what you have achieved and how you have improved. You will be surprised how many things have changed and how far you have come. Give yourself pat on the back, relax and celebrate all these amazing achievements.

When thinking about the year ahead, try to make your goals realistic. You don’t need to go through the whole SMART goal framework, but just focus on what feels realistic to achieve. Are you working towards a pay rise? This is a realistic goal, even if you don’t know right now how to ask for it. You can sign up for the waitlist for my ‘Asking for a pay rise made easy’ course next year and we can figure out together the best way for you to ‘pop the question’.

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Relax

Did you know that Christmas can literally give you a heart attack? The study that discovered this has listed the ‘increased emotional stress as one of the reasons behind it. So it is even more important to focus on your wellbeing this time of year.

Furthermore, if you let yourself rest, you will come back to the office more energized and full of energy to tackle the year ahead. Again, yes, this is a staple, everyone tells you to relax, but how do you relax with all that has been going on for the past two years?

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can absolutely relate. It is hard to relax if you have a billion racing thoughts in the back of your head and very often you’re not even sure what those thoughts are! All you know is that you constantly feel tense.

My recipe for calm is to set boundaries and find a quiet space for yourself. I have been known to often go on 2-3 days holidays all by myself. This has been my alone time to recharge. Since the pandemic started, I wasn’t of course able to do it (especially with the added stress of traveling and millions of tests needed to be done). So this year I have sent myself on a staycation. I have rented an Airbnb 20 min walk from my house to enjoy some alone time, no responsibilities, and an endless supply of ice cream. I have used this time to meditate, do yoga, read, and write (and re-watch the first season of The Witcher). Of course, I could do all this at home, but the added comfort of being completely alone, let me relax properly and be ready to tackle a 3 day Christmas marathon with family and friends.

You don’t need to leave your house if you don’t want to – it is a great option though if interactions with others interfere with your rest. Let me know in the comments, what is your ultimate way to relax.

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Think about the future

If you have reflected on the past, using the 5 questions in this article, you can think about the future in the same pattern:

  1. What is important for me?
  2. What do I want to focus on?
  3. What do I want to achieve?
  4. What do I want to learn?
  5. Who can support me to achieve my goals

Although some of these questions sound very similar, you will quickly discover that reflecting on them will give you various answers and let you expand your thinking.

Let me show you my own example:

  1. What is important for me?

I have learned this year that what is really important for me is the time I get to spend with my loved ones. This may seemingly feel disconnected from my work goals, but it will actually influence how I think and act in my role.

2. What do I want to focus on?

I want to focus on myself and my growth. I want to prepare myself for anything that may come my way in terms of work. The current world situation makes anyone’s job very unstable, so I want to make sure that if I am forced out of mine, I will have plenty of knowledge and experience to use for any new role that may come my way.

3. What do I want to achieve?

I want to create a great work-life balance, where I get to work on projects important to my company while learning new concepts and trying them out and at the same time still have enough energy and time to spend with my loved ones.

4. What do I want to learn?

I want to learn new skills or grow an existing one to help me stay relevant in the job market. My interests revolve around: communication, project management, and coaching. Given what’s important for me, what’s my focus, and what I want to achieve, I will probably choose project management as this fits the best with my goals.

5. Who can support me to achieve my goals?

Getting my boss on my side that project management training would be beneficial to my role, can help me receive free training on a very good level. I might also leverage any connections in the company with our actual Project Managers to learn from them.

I hope the above shows you how I got to the final conclusion to focus on project management next year. Of course, I still need to build my actual company goals into it but I know what my guiding principles are now and for every project, I will deliver going forward, I will be focusing on applying the right project management techniques to make sure I can practice them in real life.

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Let me know in the comments if this helped you prepare for the new year.

Why stakeholders don’t want to engage with you? And how to change their attitude

When you are trying to build an engaged relationship with stakeholders it can be a difficult challenge, especially if you are new in a large business or if you haven’t operated on the leadership level before.

If you are working in a corporation, you will soon realize that without the buy-in from multiple stakeholders, you are unable to deliver any project that you set up yourself to achieve. Fortunately, engaging stakeholders is part of the art of communication and as with every skill – it can be learned!

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Why engaging stakeholders is important?

Stakeholders hold the power to make or break your projects and achieve your goals. It is especially apparent in large corporations, where the decisions are made by multiple stakeholders, who quite often work in separate departments.

Understanding your stakeholder’s priorities and challenges can help you introduce them to your idea, and hit the pain points they are experiencing. With stakeholders who share your desire to drive the project that you are leading, it is way easier to accomplish your goals.

Why stakeholders do not engage?

Do you know the situation when you have emailed someone at work multiple times and they haven’t replied? Or when you have repeatedly asked for a simple piece of information, but they seem not to be keen on sharing this? In the past, I would have thought that they were doing it on purpose, to show their power or that they don’t like me and wanted to make my life harder.

This may be true in some instances, but people generally don’t have time or energy to be difficult on purpose.

I have gathered below the most common reasons why stakeholders do not engage:

  • lack of trust – it is possible, that you haven’t build your relationship with them yet and they might feel unsure of your intentions. Sharing a small, yet critical piece of information might give you more power than they would like in this moment of your collaboration.

How to overcome that?

You should spend more time trying to understand your stakeholder’s needs and share small, but impactful suggestions that can help them in their role.

  • lack of time – from what I have experienced in my 10 years of professional work, I have very rarely seen people who have spare time on the job. Usually our to do lists and project lists are never ending and we need to prioritise to make sure we get the important things done
  • prioritising other tasks – these two reasons go hand in hand. If your stakehodler doesn’t understand the importance of your project and the impact it can have on their work, they are unlikely to prioritise it and share the infomration you need in a timely manner.

How to overcome that?

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Make sure you are highlighting the benefits of the project to the stakeholder. To be able to do that effectively, you need to make sure you have done your pre-work – understanding their priorities and challenges, to be able to address them appropriately.

  • not understanding your role in the business – if your stakeholder doesn’t understand your place in the business, they may not understand if you are allowed to know certain things about their department. There might be some information which are on ‘need ot know basis’ and they might be just unsure if you do need to know.

How to overcome that?

The solution is twofold. You can build their understanding of your role by sharing the projects you have delivered for others, but also by having your boss/mentor/sponsor support you and promote your role and abilities to the stakeholder.

If you are struggling to take stakeholders on board, a brief email from your boss or a mention during the meeting can raise your status. Do not hesitate to ask your boss to talk you up. It’s their job to make sure you succeed in your role.

  • not understanding what you are trying to achieve – very often in business presentations we want to sound smarter so we use big words and complicated graphs. Yet this is not helpful for the others who are trying to understand the concept. The leaders who need to make the big decisions in business want to have a good understanding how projects will affect their operation.

How to overcome that?

Make sure you oversimplify your presentations. I like to do what I call ‘Mum’s test’ (my Mum is a very smart woman, but she knows very little about my job) – would my Mum understand this project if I described it to her? This helps me to keep my presentations simple and easy to understand, gaining a quick buying from the stakeholder, who doesn’t need to mull over the concepts I am introducing.

The story of Steve

I have used this example recently with one of my colleagues and I have soon realized how great it illustrates our relationships at work.

Imagine you are sitting in your house, doing your chores and you hear a doorbell. It’s your new neighbor, let’s call him Steve. Steve introduced himself as an extraordinary house designer and he is happy to offer his services to you for free. All you need to do is to give him your time and money, and he will decorate your house for you and he will do a great job!

I am sure you already think that Steve is a whack job and you are considering moving to a different postcode… Yet, this is exactly what we do at work!

‘Hi Anna,

My name is Steve, I just joined the purchasing department.

I have previously worked for some amazing companies like X, Y and Z and I am thrilled to be a part of the team in our ABC company.

I would love to schedule a 121 with you and share the purchasing process that we can implement to your next contract.

Regards,

Steve

Have you ever received an email like this? Or maybe you are guilty of sending one by yourself?

Imagine now a different scenario.

Your friend, Carol, comes to your house with her friend Steve. She says that Steve is an amazing designer. You trust Carol, so you welcome Steve warmer than the first time, but then he offers to decorate your house again…

Imagine the third scenario – you met Steve and from the beginning, he is interested in you, in your opinions, challenges, likes, and dislikes. He mentions that he is a designer and suggests you some great options, that could improve the challenges you’ve been having with your house. You try these and are very impressed with Steve’s experience and next time he suggests a bigger change, you are more open to listening to him.

When we are pitching projects at work we are very often coming from the place of making things done without considering how this looks like from the other person’s perspective. In the end, we got hired to do a specific job. However, very often, before this job gets done, we are required to build the relationships that will carry the projects forward.

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Are you still struggling with engaging your stakeholders?

I hope this article has been useful to you and that you have learned some ideas on how to progress your relationships at work. If you are still struggling, or just would like to know more, let me know in the comments what would you like me to expand on.

In the meantime make sure you download my Stakeholder Questionnaire to get you started understanding your stakeholder’s needs.

Good luck!

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How to introduce yourself to stakeholders in a new job?

Introducing yourself to your stakeholders early on can help you achieve your goals and objectives

Have you ever started a role in a new company and found yourself unsure how to introduce yourself to the stakeholders? Maybe you even struggle identifying who should you introduce yourself to? (you can check out this post about stakeholder analysis to help you with this process). Here are some tips on how to successfully do the introductions.

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Why should you introduce yourself?

When starting your role in a new company it is important to do these three steps:

  1. Ask you boss what is your job purpose – go beyond job description and focus on what your boss actually wants you to achieve
  2. Use your colleagues’ knowledge and ask questions – who has a skill that you can learn from? What can they tell you about the team, job, your boss? Do they have insights about your stakeholders? And most important – what’s the best place to get lunch around the office?
  3. Meet your stakeholders – engage with them as soon as possible, introduce yourself and learn about their jobs. This will be a great head start later on!

Meeting your stakeholders and learning about them from the start can be a great asset to your career in the company as well as making your life significantly easier. Knowing who is who, what kind of personality they have, and what projects are they running in their teams, can help you establish how can you best serve them.

However, in order to build a good relationship, you need to present yourself as an expert and show them the benefits of working with you.

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Why is introduction important?

Imagine, if I were your neighbor and came to you and said ‘Listen, why don’t you give me your money and I will buy all your furniture. I promise it’s going to be great!’. You would think I am nuts, right?

So why do we expect this to be fine at work?

I have spent almost 10 years working in procurement, sourcing lots of different products and services for a range of different businesses. I have seen my colleagues stepping into a category and doing exactly the above! ‘Here is a great supplier, we should spend your budget there, they have the most competitive pricing.’ But as they haven’t done the introduction, and didn’t build the relationship, they were hitting a wall, unless the higher management supported them. (and then faced a lot of resentment from the actual stakeholders, who – very often – tried to hide from them their future purchases).

This works in a similar way in other industries too! Imagine you are a marketing manager who just stepping into a new company and needs to convince the business to market in a certain way or a business analyst who challenges processes.

Without having established a good relationship, the work you will be doing will be tedious and could potentially make you feel like you can’t accomplish anything.

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How to prepare for the introduction?

Here are some simple steps that you could take to smash the introduction.

  • ask your boss who to talk to – they have been in the company longer than you (hopefully) and are operating on the higher level of the business. Use them to get to the key players who can be make or break in the future for your projects, or career progression.
  • write a list of your accomplishments in the recent years – focus on some big wins that the stakeholder you will talk to might be interested in.
  • think about what you do in your role – write 3 main points of what you are supposed to do for the business, to give the stakeholder understanding with which areas you can be of help
  • think about your business-related interests – maybe you are fascinated by sustainability? Change management? Managing people?
  • is there any impressive roles or companies on your resume – write them down
  • write down one fun fact not related to work – it can be your hobby, your family, dog or pretty much anything to give a bit more personal touch to the conversation

Once you have focused on your side of the story, think about what would you like to find out from the stakeholder?

  • how long have they been in the company?
  • have they been in the same role since the start?
  • who is their team, what do they do?
  • what are their biggest challenges recently?
  • has pandemic changed anything in their area? Did they have to adjust how they operate?
  • what are their plans for the next 12 months? Any projects they are excited about?

Think of anything else, that could help you understand their challenges and position in the company.

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Introducing yourself

Hopefully, by now you have done the most important things: you have spoken to your boss, you have thought about your role and your recent achievements and you thought about what would you like to know from the stakeholder at hand.

With that in mind, make a decision if you can introduce yourself to the stakeholder at hand, or should it be your boss making the introduction? Regardless, type up an introduction email (if it is your boss introducing you, this will be helpful for them, so they have an email ready to send) highlighting your achievements and a brief summary of your role in the company.

If it was your boss introducing you, follow up with a request for a meeting (no more than 30 minutes) or ask to meet up directly in your first email, if you are introducing yourself.

Before the meeting, write down some highlights. You can use PowerPoint if that doesn’t feel too official in your business (in some places it might). If you do go the PowerPoint route, stick to one page.

In the intro make sure you include:

  • maximum 3 accomplishments from the recent years, relevant to the stakeholder’s field
  • 3 points about your role in the business
  • one main business-related interest
  • one to two impressive roles/companies from your resume
  • fun fact about yourself

If you have done the exercise from the previous chapter, you will have a full list of accomplishments, interests, etc that you can choose from and adapt to each stakeholder you will be meeting. Remain genuine and share what you have done and what you are passionate about, but remember that some achievements or interests might resonate better with different people.

Introduce yourself with ease

I hope that following these simple steps will help you introduce yourself to the business. Let me know in the comments, if this helped or if you would like me to expand on any of the points above.

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