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Win at Work

Winning at Working: The Things We Say
By Nan S. Russell
May 29, 2014 - 4:31:40 PM

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A three hour delayed connecting flight in Minneapolis created headaches for me and other business travelers seeking to still reach their destinations that day. All seats in the narrow gate area were filled and briefcases, roller-boards, and more passengers occupied available floor space. Every half hour the gate agent updated us on the status of a part being flown in to fix a rather minor, but important, mechanical issue on our plane heading to Boston.

It's not that the conversations I overhead that evening were different from ones I typically hear while traveling. But, I heard them differently.  Perhaps it was the close proximity or general exhaustion, combined with the long wait, that heightened the impact of things said; perhaps it was the speakers’ exceptional level of obliviousness to the impact of their very public conversations.

Dozens of stranded passengers couldn’t help hearing details from one loud talker about specific company clients (by name), and problems a staff member named Megan was causing her well-known company, which happened to be embroidered on the trade-show shirt the speaker was wearing. We learned she was getting fired shortly and even how much more her replacement had negotiated in salary and perks.

From another profuse talker, waiting passengers were privy to contract specifics he was negotiating with a supplier, followed by a call to his boss outlining his "brilliant" moves in the contract. And we couldn’t avoid discovering how a sales rep was going to pad her expense report, because "everyone was," using the extra money for an upcoming weekend fling - a "trick" she imparted to her traveling colleague and numerous co-passengers, after a third glass of wine.

What struck me in that crowded airport space was how different these people, who were  not winning at working, were from others in the same space - who were. Dozens of people near me were on their phones during our extended wait. But those who were winning at working were aware of their surroundings and the impact careless spoken words might have. They told callers they’d call them back, talked quietly so no one nearby could overhear,  or walked away to create privacy.

These winning at working people operated with good judgment and professionalism in tight-spaces. They still got work done, but in a style that protected their company-brand, staff and client confidentiality, and negotiating philosophies. They realized what they said, where they said it, and to whom was worth paying attention to.

Sure, none of us know Megan, but a waiting room of passengers now know the name of the company firing her and paying someone else significantly more to do her job. We know about contract details at big-name company X, and expense reports padded at company Y. Why would any of us want to do business with those organizations or seek employment with them?

People who are winning at working care about the impressions they make, not only related to themselves, but about the companies they work for and with, the staff they lead, and the colleagues and public they interact with.

What people who are winning at working know is this: everything they say and do is a reflection of who they are and how they bring themselves to the world. For them, offering the best of who they are isn’t something they do occasionally, it’s their integrated, consistent, ongoing style. Their words in public places may be quiet, but their behavior speaks loudly. Want to be winning at working? Let your actions speak louder than your words.

(c) 2014 Nan S. Russell.  All rights reserved.

Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. Her most recent  book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture that Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation was published Fall 2013. More about Nan and her work can be found at  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at:

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