Intentional Relationship Building at Work

Posted on: October 10th, 2019 by Jen Mueller

You’ve heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” which is true up to a point. Knowing someone isn’t enough. I know of a lot of people, so do you. You have to be intentional in building business relationships because that comes first. Before a potential client does business with you, before you get hired for the job, and before a colleague trusts you to be the lead on a project.

Relationships are not the byproduct of working with someone.

They are the reason that person worked with you in the first place.

Sometimes we flip the order and assume a good relationship forms over time. That’s not always the case. If a colleague doesn’t trust you from the beginning you’ll have to work twice as hard to win them over, and that’s only if they’re willing to pay attention to your efforts. A potential client isn’t going to fork over money to hire your services if they don’t trust you’ll be able to deliver the expected results.

Relationship building isn’t something you can shortcut. It has to happen first. And here’s the good news -it doesn’t have to take years or months.

Relationships are built through short exchanges, pleasant conversations and with multiple touch-points like the ones small talk and your daily conversations provide.

Jen Mueller is a badass at business communication and loves to teach corporate clients how to be more effective in their 1-on-1 interactions. After nearly 20 years in sports locker rooms Jen has master the art of concise and effective conversation skills. Jen currently serves as the sideline radio reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. Hire Jen for your next training or conference:  

How Clear Can You Be?

Posted on: October 6th, 2019 by Jen Mueller

No one has time for everything.

You’re going to have to delegate some tasks and not in the wishy-washy, “Do you think, if you get a minute and it’s not too much trouble that you could help me out?” kind of way.

That approach won’t get you any closer to a completed task or greater productivity. Failing to make a direct ask leads to frustration, guilt, anxiety and stress and not because people around you aren’t willing to help, but because of the way you asked.

Giving clear directions doesn’t mean you’re bossing people around or acting like a dictator. It simply means you’re spelling out what you need, when you need it and getting confirmation on next steps.

I call it the E.T.A. approach to conversations. It stands for Expectation, Timeline and Action Item and it makes all the difference in being able to get things done.

Leadership Lessons from My Past Life as a Football Official

Posted on: September 7th, 2019 by Jen Mueller

I grew up believing that hard work alone would get me where I wanted to go in life. That being loud was a character flaw to overcome. That blending in was best, because you don’t want to rock the boat or make anyone uncomfortable and that the best way to deal with conflict was to back down and somehow make it my fault because, again, I wouldn’t want to make someone feel badly.

Ten years as a high school football official changed those beliefs.

My time on the field gave me a blueprint for communicating under pressure, dealing with criticism, and demonstrated the importance of making some noise.

Lessons learned on the field went way beyond football. Being a high school football official provided a lifetime of leadership lessons.


Leadership Lessons Learned on the Sidelines

  1. When you stand out make it count.Being the only woman in a room of men during weekly meetings and the only female on the sidelines meant every person in the room and every coach on the field knew my name. I used that to my advantage. If people knew who I was, I made sure they also recognized I put in the work and deserved to be there.

Leadership Lesson: Standing out makes you memorable. Choose how you want to be remembered and make it happen.

  1. Blow the damn whistle. I’m loud and I talk a lot, but I was hesitant to blow the whistle with any authority when I first started officiating. As the only woman on the field I didn’t want to stand out or draw attention to myself. Blowing a whistle causes people to stop and look. It’s supposed to and it can be empowering.

Leadership Lesson: You don’t need a whistle to make noise. Speaking up, sharing ideas, sticking to your convictions leads to the same end result. Being uncomfortable the first few times is normal. Don’t let that stop you.

  1. Develop selective hearing. I’ve been called every name in the book and heard every (stupid) officiating joke, but I rarely let on. Listening to the criticism didn’t make me a better official, neither did flagging every coach or player who said something in my general direction. As a result, my threshold for crossing the line was set higher than most of my male colleagues and I tuned out a lot of extra noise.

Leadership Lesson: Doubters exist in every work environment. You can choose how much you want to hear. If you’re planning to prove them wrong anyway don’t waste your time being distracted by the noise.

  1. Don’t let them see you argue. The best way to handle an irate coach is standing side-by-side, facing the field with your back to fans (and players) who wanted to pile on. A single person yelling at me was one thing but giving fans a chance to jump in add fuel to the would take that exchange to another level.

Leadership Lesson: People will disagree with you (even if you did the right thing.) Be willing to hear someone out without adding fuel to a disagreement or emotional exchange.  

  1. Do it for you. There were nights I cried. Never on the football field but when I got home and felt overwhelmed by doubt and frustration. More than once I questioned why I choose to keep going back game after game. The answer always ended up being because I’m a competitor and up to the challenge. I wouldn’t have lasted more than a decade in stripes if I was trying to please anyone other than myself.

Leadership Lesson: Proving a point isn’t a good enough reason to do anything. Real conviction comes from your internal drive.

I didn’t pursue football officiating to prove a point. My competitive nature drew me to the challenge of succeeding at something new. It made sense because it aligned with my goal of being a sports broadcaster and sideline reporter at time when women still weren’t taken very seriously in those roles.

There were plenty of days it didn’t feel like I was doing anything but getting yelled at by people who preferred I was anywhere else but the football field. I didn’t realize the kind of leadership development taking place until I looked back years later.

YOUR next steps…

You are doing something right now that is shaping and developing your leadership style.

What is it? Is it a skill you want to have, or a habit that needs changing?

If you don’t see yourself as a leader take a step back and reflect on some of the most impactful lessons you’ve learned in the last five years. Note how they shape the way you approach your current role.

Leadership is everywhere from meeting rooms to the football field.

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