When I wrote up Mark Jeffries' explanation of how to perfect your handshake last week, the man himself was quick to point out that his book What's Up With Your Handshake? actually covers rather more ground than just handshake etiquette — and indeed it does. Here's some more tips on how you can communicate better at work, drawn from Jeffries' closing presentation at the Cognos Forum in Queensland last week.
Bad news, you are a salesperson
"If we're being honest, we're all in sales," Jeffries said. "It doesn't matter what you do, you're relentlessly selling yourself. The minute you walk out the door, you're being judged by other people." For that reason, appearances matter. "When you look good, there is a subconscious confidence, and when you exude that confidence, people want to be associated with you, Spend a lot of money on clothes." (As a professional slob and a cheapskate, I admit that's a tough guideline to follow.)
Create an elevator pitch
The elevator pitch — a 20-second version of what you do — is often talked about professional sales, but it's also a key conversational tactic. "We should all have an elevator pitch; we should all have an answer to the question 'What do you do?'. The wrong answer is 'I'm in IT' or 'nothing exciting'. That's the same as saying 'Actually, I'm planning on killing myself quite soon'."
Being nice always pays off
Human beings want to return favours, so being helpful to others in your career will always reap dividends, even if there's no immediate payback in sight., "Do things above and beyond for other people and you'll get payback credits. Sometimes it might take a year, but people remember."
Keep your conversations positive
"An edge of positivity is very important in life. Don't say 'you look tired'. What you're saying is 'compared to normal, you look awful'.".
Learn how to exit a conversation
"We've all been in situations where you're chatting to someone and you're starting to feel really bored. This person has trapped you. You should never be the person that traps somebody else. Let them go first. Give them a card, and then move on." When exchanging cards, Jeffries recommends the Japanese approach: pay attention to what's written on the card and don't just shove it into your jacket pocket.
Learn how to sit in meetings
The way you sit down in a meeting says a great deal about you. Don't let your back touch the chair. Put the weight on the front of your feet, lean forward, put your head through the notional curtain of air between you and the table." That way, you look involved and (if the meeting really is dull) you're less likely to fall asleep.
Use technology wisely
Jeffries' spotted my original handshake post because he had set up a Google alert to track mentions of his name. That's a great tactic, but he cautions against excessive use of technology, and particularly against surreptitiously checking your smart phone in meetings. "If you sit down in a meeting and at any point at all you look at your device, you're saying to everyone else 'this device is more important than you'. Don't think you can resist that temptation.""
Relax, it's no big secret
Adopting these strategies shouldn't require a major change to what you do. "Everything that we do in business every single day falls under the umbrella of soft skills and it's absolute common sense."