For as much as I encourage people to talk and have actual conversations at work, sometimes a simple gesture is all it takes to speak volumes.
I was out for a run, hoping that inspiration would strike, and that somewhere I’d come up with a topic to write about that day. Then, on about mile two, it happened. An older man walking toward me in slow, shuffling steps on the same path flashed a smile and two thumbs up for my effort, and encouraged me to keep running. I smiled and waved back.
I kept smiling for the rest of my run. That simple gesture brightened my day, provided validation and acknowledgement of my hard work.
Then I realized a couple things. I saw the man because I was looking up and taking note of my surroundings. Secondly, it doesn’t take a great effort to make someone feel greatly appreciated for their efforts.
We all need two thumbs up from time to time. So, here’s the question for you. When was the last time you looked up?
Work is important. There are things that have to get done. But there’s also a point when you need to push back from your desk, pay attention to your surroundings and take notice of the people offering encouragement, a kind word or a complement. I know you have colleagues, friends and family members trying to do that. Take notice of their actions. You don’t even have to stop running.
Business communication takes different forms, including words of encouragement to a colleague.
You don’t have to take time out of your busy day to offer encouragement to someone else. Seeing the two thumbs up on my run put a spring in my step and made me want to (try to) run faster. Imagine how much more productive and enjoyable you work environment becomes when you colleagues have a spring in their step and want to work just a little harder.
So here is my message to you today. You are a rock star. You are up to big things. You’ve got great ideas and the skillset to follow through on them. You absolutely deserve two thumbs up today – and every day.
If you’re looking for ways to open the lines of communication with colleagues and business connections, I recommend leaving your name in the box marked “Let’s Do This!” Every week I provide sports conversation starters to using in business settings, as well as, ways to make sports useful in other business conversations like those involving networking, business development and personal branding. You’ll get strategies I use every day with professional athletes and coaches in my role as a sideline reporter with the Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks.
It’s official. You can make your plans for football season because the NFL schedule is out. Every year fans wait for the date the schedule is released and then wait again until the start of the season. Instead of just waiting, how about doing something – and putting yourself in a better position at work in the process.
Do these four things with the NFL schedule to help your career.
1. Add the schedule to your calendar.
You obviously need to know when games start and where your team is playing every week. More importantly, you need to know what sports fans around the office are going to be talking about.
Here’s why it matters: If the NFL schedule is part of your calendar, you’ll be anticipating the conversations
You’ll also be in a better position to contribute to them or at least follow along.
2. Email at least two business contacts who cheer for an opposing team.
You’re not the only one interested in the NFL schedule. Millions of people are debating whether their team’s schedule is a good one. Use this as an excuse to reach out to a business contact in a different city.
Here’s why it matters: You need to stay on the radar of business contacts.
Asking for their thoughts on the NFL schedule in their city is more interesting, timely and effective than an email that says, “Wanted to stay in touch. Hope you’re well.” Fans want to talk about their team and the schedule, open the door for them to do that with you.
3. Identify at least 3 games that a colleague will talk about as a “rivalry.”
There are certain games every season that get talked about with more passion, intensity or interest. Having a rooting interest tends to drive that passion and generate conversations. I know you know a few of these people. You can’t miss ‘em. It’s the Dallas Cowboy fan who won’t stop talking about how great Dak Prescott was as rookie. It’s the Patriots fan talking trash about winning yet another Super Bowl. I realize that can get annoying, but it can also work in your favor. Let’s say you live in Seattle and cheer for the Seahawks and work with a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. There’s a good chance the Christmas Eve matchup between the Seahawks and the Cowboys will generate additional conversation around work leading up to and after that game.
Here’s why it matters: these types of conversations are relationship building opportunities.
You can’t just talk to people when you need something from them. That’s a good way to guarantee people will start to avoid you. Building relationships by talking about something they want to talk about guarantees people will start seeking you out because they enjoy talking to you. Being able to schedule these conversations on your calendar allows you to be purposeful and ensures you won’t forget this important step in your workplace communication.
4. Set and reach two professional goals using the bye week and mid-way point.
Determine one performance and one developmental goal that you’d like to achieve by the end of 2017. It could be things like adding a new skill set, reaching a sales goal, reducing your budget, increasing sales, implement more effective time management skills. Whatever your focus, use the NFL schedule to help you reach your goals. The “Bye Week” for your team will be the target completion date for one of your goals. The midway point of the season, or 8 games in to the season, will be the completion date for the other. Set the goals now, mark them on your calendar and start working toward those outcomes.
Here’s why it matters: Because things don’t get done if there’s no timeline or deadline for completion.
In addition, your professional goals won’t be out of sight, out of mind. Weekly, regular-season games starting in September will be your little reminder to keep working toward them.
To sum it up the NFL schedule can spark business conversations, trigger reminders about professional goals and build relationships that lead to your next opportunity at work. Make the conversations more than football. Sports talk isn’t limited to stats, scores or schedules. Use the NFL schedule to your advantage in business and put sports fandom to work for you.
Want more ways to make sports useful in business? Sign up to become sports savvy by 7am every Monday. Just leave your name in the box marked ‘Let’s Do This!’
Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, serves as the sideline radio reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and advocates using sports as a business tool.