I Have a Social Media Account…Now What?

So you were told, “you need to be on social media!” and like a good soldier you signed up. You were smart, and heeded advice to start small and grow your social media presence gradually.

Now what?

We are most certainly living in a digital world and social media dominates that world. According to a LinkedIn article by Jeff Bullas, of the 7.2 billion people living on this planet:

  • 3.0 billion people are active internet users
  • 2.1 billion people have social media accounts
  • 1.7 billion people have active social media accounts

 

Resistance to social media is futile.
With these huge numbers, your potential reach and impact from utilizing social media is unfathomably (and equally) large. But just having an account in this noisy digital landscape is not enough for you to be noticed. In order to see real impact with social media, you need to own your personal brand, insert yourself into the conversations, and post content regularly.

Say Cheese!
When you signed up for your social media account, you probably went through a setup wizard that allowed you to upload a profile picture and create a biography. WHAT?!?!?! You skipped that step?

Do yourself a favor and get a profile picture (actually a photo of yourself) uploaded ASAP. I know I like to see who I am engaging with online. Having a profile picture lessens the digital obscurity. Your photo doesn’t need to be a professional headshot, but make sure it’s clear quality and appropriate for public consumption. Bonus points if it shows your personality somehow.

Your biography is another integral piece of your social media strategy and often one of the first places many people will look. Just like people judge books by their covers, people judge social media profiles on that first touchpoint with your bio. They will quickly review it and decide whether or not following you is worth their precious time. It won’t matter how great your content is if you don’t have an inviting biography, because no one will see it! Internally, your biography is also a great way to make sure your content remains aligned with your brand and strategy. If you find yourself posting content that doesn’t quite fit, maybe it’s time to edit your biography. It’s not a headstone, you can revise your biography.

It’s not a headstone.
So you have a profile picture and a pithy biography, what about content? For some, this can be the hardest part. What should I post? What time of day should I post? How many times a day/week/month should I post? These are all legitimate questions, and ones that often lead to paralysis for newbie social media users.

If you’re not a great writer or don’t want to generate your own content, have no fear.

Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme. The work involves sifting, sorting, arranging, and publishing information. There is real value in this process, because it saves other people (your followers) the hassle of sifting through the information overload themselves.

Subscribe to some reputable blogs, save websites that generate great content to your favorites, and follow other social media accounts that align with your interests. You will soon have loads of quality content to share and curate. Who knows, you might get so inspired by reading and sharing other people’s content you could get the urge to start generating your own.

Another simple trick for great content is to follow what’s happening, even trending, in pop culture. There is a hashtag for just about every event. Insert yourself into those events by utilizing the appropriate hashtag. Just make sure whatever you are posting is relevant, don’t be a HashHole. No one wants to read about your “new book that is available for purchase #SuperBowl.”

Happy National Talk Like a Pirate Day
The other easy content generation idea is to celebrate holidays. And, I’m not talking about just the standard national holidays. I mean celebrate National Waffle Day and National Talk Like a Pirate Day, and definitely don’t forget World Beard Day (a personal favorite). These obscure holidays have a lot of social media activity and they are just plain fun!

Most importantly, have fun. Social media isn’t brain surgery. If you post content that gets suboptimal engagement, you will live, I promise! Too often newbie social media users get too caught up in what to do or what not to do, and end up falling off the social media bandwagon. Avoid analysis paralysis by keeping it fun and doing what feels right for you and your brand.

Why You Should Share Ideas at Work

TSP was founded on a strong but simple notion: Believe in your ideas. However, belief alone isn’t enough; for an idea to actually accomplish something, it has to be shared. We encourage every employee to share ideas when they find a better way, and that culture has kept TSP on top since its inception.

Sharing an idea opens you to wider possibilities.
No matter how great an idea is, there is always room for improvement. When you share an idea, you open it to outside input, and that can take the plan to a whole new level. Outside opinions widen your perspective, which helps you develop an idea even more.

Sharing ideas deepens your own knowledge.
No matter how well you think you understand your idea, nothing will challenge that knowledge quite like sharing your thoughts with someone else. You suddenly find yourself anticipating questions, coming up with workarounds for potential challenges and pitfalls, and researching the topic to new depths. Having an idea is one thing, but if you really want to let it develop fully, share it. Telling others your idea will present a new series of challenges that will make your idea stronger—and that much closer to becoming a reality.

Sharing adds another layer of authority to your work.
Leaders in their fields are usually also innovators, people who see possibilities and turn them into reality. Being more vocal about your ideas proves you have something special to offer and have unique value. Sharing ideas shows you not only think creatively, but are ready to serve the team.

Sharing ideas inspires others.
Saying your company has a certain type of culture is one thing, but that culture isn’t a reality unless people actually contribute to it. TSP believes in big ideas and small ones, which is why we are ready to listen when someone has something to say. Sharing your own ideas inspires others to do the same, which builds a more positive and collaborate environment for everyone.

Sharing ideas is the first step to making them a reality.
If you have a million great ideas but never share a single one, then those ideas aren’t worth much because they can never become a reality. An idea might be brilliant, but if it never sees the light of day, it can’t change anything because it isn’t real yet. Sharing ideas opens the door between your mind and the world, and it’s the first step to making them something that others can see and benefit from.

How To Kickstart Your Job Search

Around the first quarter of ever year, lots of people feel motivated to start searching for a new job. However, launching a job search can be daunting and time consuming, and plenty of people quit before they even get going. TSP is a company that believes in hiring great people and providing many opportunities to employees, and we believe in encouraging job candidates everywhere to find the best fit.

Be open to companies that might be hidden gems.
Lots of people want to apply to big companies with strong branding, and the idea makes sense. Sometimes there’s a comfort level that comes with a household name. However, a big name doesn’t mean much when it comes to employee satisfaction. When checking job boards and doing research on which companies you want to apply to, keep an eye on social media and any awards the business may have won for having a great work environment, happy employees, and perks that make the job even better. A company’s culture may be hard to spot from the outside, but taking the time to look at culture will help you narrow down those places you’ll be happier working with in the long term.

Concentrate harder on applying to fewer jobs.
The Internet has made “spray and pray” job applications easy, allowing job seekers to plaster the job market with thousands of applications as quickly as they can click. However, though algorithms and computers often choose who gets through the first round of applications, it’s not always good to write your resume to please the machines. Instead of busting out as many applications as possible, try focusing on just a handful and make them really count. Get your “resume SEO” in to show you have the right qualifications, but personalize each cover letter to prove you’re genuinely interested in both the job and the company. You might be surprised at how much time you actually end up saving—and how much better the resulting response is. Think quality, not quantity.

Only apply to jobs you’re genuinely excited about.
This rule goes hand in hand with the tip about applying to fewer jobs overall. When you blast the application world with countless resumes and don’t even remember where you applied (or why), if you do get a response, you might not even know who’s calling and your reaction will probably be bland and confused. However, if you get a response from a job posting that you couldn’t wait to hear about, you’ll be ready to engage right then and there, which will instantly set you apart a worthy candidate. Only applying to jobs you’re actually interested in will save a lot of time, plus ensure that you have plenty of enthusiasm and background knowledge when you hear back about scheduling an interview.

TSP’s Top Tech Tips for Computers

TSP is all about simplifying technologies and processes for our clients. From preparing a solid maintenance schedule to ensuring things are fixed before they break and being there for those times an emergency does happen, we want to take headaches away. So today, we’re sharing some of our favorite Top Tech Tips that might save you a little time. They’re not rocket science, they’re just little secrets we’ve collected that most people don’t seem to know about—but would make a big difference.

Customize your online reading experience with just two keys.
Sometimes reading on the web can make you feel like Goldilocks—the text is either way too small or way to big, but rarely just right. But did you know that text size is totally in your hands? To increase or decrease text size on a Microsoft computer, press + or – plus the control key; each tap of the + or – will increase or decrease text size one increment. For Mac users, substitute the control key for the command key.

Use the space bar to scroll down a page.
When you’re reading on your desktop, forget trying to slide your fingers just so on a mac mouse or navigate that click-wheel to scroll down web pages. Instead, tap the space bar, which will move the browser down exactly one page. To go back up a page, press shift and space bar. This trick works no matter what browser or brand of computer you use.

B is for blackout.
Most of us encounter PowerPoint regularly, whether we are usually presenting or watching. PowerPoint was made to help us focus, but sometimes slides end up being distracting, and attendees look at the slides more often than the speaker. If you’re presenting and you want to turn the slide off momentarily, just press the B key to black it out. Press B again to get the slide back. For a whiteout instead of a blackout, press W.

Clean up your Mac desktop with just two clicks.
Too many desktops out there are cluttered beyond belief. Files are helter skelter, and there’s no real system of organization. To do a ten-second clean sweep on your Mac, leverage some of these instant cleanup tools. Go to the desktop and right click, then Sort By and Snap to Grid. That way, icons on the desktop will immediately sort into neat rows and columns. To further organize, right click the desktop again, click Sort By, and scroll to the dropdown item that sorts your files the way you want most. You can sort by date created, date modified, size, tags, name, or file type.

Tech and the Art of Troubleshooting

By Chris Kidd, Sr. Remote Desktop Specialist, Enterprise Solutions, TSP

Recently, someone asked me about the hardest problem I have ever had to solve at work. Since I have worked on helpdesks and desktop support for nearly 20 years, most of what I do is about solving problems, so I had a long list to choose from.

About a year ago, I was working with a client who kept getting locked out of the enterprise environment he was working on. It happened again and again, which was obviously disrupting his productivity. Sometimes this happens in enterprise environments because of the way active directories and exchange systems are set up, but the problem was so persistent that I ended up talking to the guy every day until the problem was fixed.

I did research, talked with the network guys, viewed logs, and did a lot of detective work. Finally, every possibility was whittled down until we coordinated with our local desktop team. It turned out that he was running a piece of hardware that wasn’t approved, making him an automatic hotspot, which kicked him out of the system again and again. It took a bit of dedication and creative thinking, but there is nothing like the feeling you get when you solve a problem—especially when it’s a hard one.

Get to the point and don’t waste time
My personal philosophy is about getting things done as efficiently as possible. Don’t go through unneeded steps if you can just get straight to the point and just fix the issue. I like working for TSP because the company shares that same spirit of doing business, which is to get the end user’s tech fixed and back to life as quickly as possible. I like to find a solution with the client over the phone, and if I have to take a step back and do some research, I always try to find a fix the same day.

Stay on top of what’s going on
A lot of tech service businesses are too big to respond to IT changes, which means their techs aren’t as prepared to answer questions and adapt to emerging environments. For me, TSP is a “just right” size because we’re big enough to access major resources and training tools, yet agile enough to stay on top of new technology developments and remain connected with other parts of the team. TSP is willing to take calculated risks, which means we have the flexibility to try vetted potential solutions and make breakthroughs. We’re always right on the cusp and checking out new ideas and concepts. IT is a trend business, and we have the capability to see what’s going on and respond.

Get to know the client
A lot of tech help is remote, which leads to incomplete or inappropriate solutions when clients call for help. TSP works onsite with clients, so we know how they operate. Knowing the environment means you can have a better sense of what might be causing an issue, which makes it that much easier to get to a fast, complete fix.

Just Starting With Social Media? We Can Get Through This Together

“I’m not on social media.”

“I have an account, but don’t post or share any content.”

“How could I possibly have a personal brand, no one outside my family and immediate co-workers knows who I am.”

Do any of these statements ring true for you? Read on.

“Brand or be branded.” I first heard this from the incomparable J.T. O’Donnell at Talent Connect 2014 in San Francisco and it really struck a cord with me. J.T. was talking about companies building an employer or talent brand, but the same concept applies to building your personal brand. Social media is an integral piece of the branding puzzle.

Join the Social Media Revolution
Every day, millions of tweets, status updates, snaps, vines and pictures are generated out into the interwebs for anyone to consume. If you aren’t taking part in this digital conversation, you are seriously missing out.

“Where do I start?” Great question. I wish more people asked this before they created profiles on every single social media platform known to man and then did nothing with them. The number of social media platforms available today is daunting…not to mention the new lexicon you have to familiarize yourself with in order to use the platform correctly.

My advice is to start small. Become proficient at one or two platforms, build a follower base and confidence level with them, and then branch out from there. There really is a skill associated with a strong social media account, and you need time to develop those skills and get comfortable. If you try to come into the social media world “guns blazing,” you run the risk of falling on your face and more realistically getting discouraged and becoming another casualty of the inactive social media profiles graveyard.

Do yourself a favor and conduct a little research to find out what social media platform a) is best for your brand and b) will allow you to genuinely engage with the right audience for your brand.

What Social Media Platform Is Best For Your Brand?
Not every type of brand and/or business makes sense on all social media platforms. For example, if you’re a photographer, you better believe you should be on Instagram, which is known for it’s photo-centric interface, at the very least. You’re a blogger? I would strongly suggest Twitter due to the brevity the micro-blogging platform allows, as well as the ability to post hyperlinks to your original content.

Like most things in life, you have to start by defining your purpose. Are you trying to become an authoritative voice, do you want to build brand awareness, do you want to let your freak-flag fly and have a little fun?

What Is Your Purpose?
Whatever your answer, by first defining what you are trying to accomplish with social media, you can save yourself some heartache later. Identifying your purpose upfront is like figuring out a roadmap for your posts. Keeping that purpose front-of-mind allows you to post content that always stays true to your brand.

Generally speaking, when someone follows you on social media, they are expressing an interest in what you have to offer and digitally saying, “I want to know more.” Don’t let them down! The worst thing you can do is open a handful of accounts, generate some content, and then waste away to periodic and/or non-existent updates. It’s not fair to you or the followers that want to engage with you.

Starting small and focused builds the proper foundation setting you up for social media success. Happy posting, gramming, vining, tweeting, updating, videoing or whatever social media mechanism it is you discover is best for your brand.

TSP’s Top Tech Tips for Smartphones

Smartphones have only been around for a few years, but most people are already hooked on them. However, owning something doesn’t make you an expert. Smartphones are incredible tools, but a tool’s capability is only as strong as your knowledge of how to use it.

TSP exists to make our customers’ lives easier when it comes to all things tech, so this week we’re sharing some of our favorite smartphone tricks and secrets that will make your smartphone time a lot more productive and fun.

Skip other people’s instructions on how to leave a message.
When we call someone and get their voice mail, most of us don’t need instructions on how to “leave a message after the tone,” but lots of people still leave detailed directions on their voice mail recording. To bypass unnecessarily long messages, use your carrier’s interrupt key and skip straight to the beep. Verizon’s skip key is *, AT&T and T-Mobile use #, and Sprint uses 1. Learning the keystrokes for each person you’re calling may not be a time saver, but if you have to chronically sit through the same long message prompt, it might be worth the effort.

Enlarge tiny type on your iPhone.
If text on your iPhone screen is too small, you can enlarge the image by double tapping the screen with three fingers. From there, it’s easy to pan around by dragging three fingers around the screen. To exit zoom mode, double tap with three fingers again. (Note: You may need to turn this feature on in Settings, General, and Accessibility.)

Redial faster.
If you need to reach someone again, don’t worry about scrolling through your phone book or the list of recent calls. To redial the number you dialed most recently, just hit the call button again to bring up the number. Press the call button once more to actually activate the call.

Save time on punctuation.
There’s no need to skip periods at the end of sentences to save time. Instead of swapping screens to find the period, press the spacebar twice, which automatically adds a period, skips a space, and capitalizes the next letter.

Take cool photos while in transit.
If you’re a passenger on a bus, train, or airplane, you can take some stellar shots using your smartphone camera. Turn on the panoramic photo setting and hold your phone still against the window or windowsill before starting the exposure. You’ll get one long, nice shot of whatever passes by.

Turn off auto-correct.
Auto-correct was made to help us, but sometimes it makes things worse. If you’re tired of your phone retyping what you definitely meant to type, you can turn off auto-correct in just a few steps. On Android devices, go to Settings, Language & Input, and Android Keyboard, then uncheck spelling correction. On iOS, open Settings, General, and Keyboard, then flip the switch to the off position on Auto-Correction.

Holiday Job Searches: Don’t Give Up!

When looking for a job, plenty of job hunters feel like throwing in the towel around the holidays. As frozen turkeys disappear from supermarkets and bells begin sounding outside of shops, it seems like the whole world is focused on hunkering down for the holidays—not hiring.

Lots of job seekers lose fuel during the holiday season, and it makes sense. Companies are driving to make numbers before the end of the quarter and the end of the year, and job posting boards often dry up. This is the season to take a break and forget about searching at least until 2015, right?

Not quite. It may seem like the job market slows to a crawl, but those who stay focused on searching will be first in line when the hiring gates reopen in the new year.

Great companies want to hire people with passion who have clear goals as well as the talent and skills to achieve them. If you are looking for a new job and want to stand out, use this time of year to your advantage.

Try not to blast a million applications into the Internet void. Instead, target specific companies and be clear about exactly what kind of job you want. Write customized cover letters to outline your goals and detail what makes you right for both the company and the position you desire. If you can impress the person who reads it, you may not hear back immediately, but your name will go in the file for candidates to look at first when something good opens up.

Savvy job seekers can also use this time to reconnect with old contacts. Make an effort to ask friends and colleagues in your network to lunch or coffee. Let them know you’re searching for a job, since often word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a referral to the perfect position.

Finally, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see job postings that match your target position. Apply anyway! The best companies don’t always post job openings because they have enough qualified candidates internally or on file as top qualifiers. There may not be a posted position yet, but your application could come at the perfect time when a new job opens up.

TSP is always looking for outstanding people who will be enthusiastic team players, and we welcome applications even if there isn’t an open posting at this exact moment. Our company has experienced incredible growth since we opened our doors in 2002, and new opportunities are always expanding to support our business.

The Digital Communication Challenge

Digital communications have changed the way people convey information. Email is fast, free, and easy, and texting can save time when it comes to quick questions, updates, and appointment confirmations. However, though email and texting are vital modern communication mediums, each comes with its own set of problems that often outweigh their benefits.

Emails can be so long that the point is buried, and texts can be so brief that they make little to no sense. For all the time texting and emails are supposed to save, using them inefficiently leads to tons of wasted energy.

Take a moment to think before you write.
You are very busy and it’s almost time for lunch and you should just send John a quick text before… Wait! Stop. Don’t just type out something and hit send. First, think about the reason you’re writing. What’s the main point of what you want to say? Remembering the core reason you’re sending a message will help the wording stay focused.

Texts should be brief, yet include enough information to make sense.
Texting is quick and convenient, but often, texts are written so quickly that they don’t make sense or have enough information. The best thing you can do to become a better texter is to read messages before you hit the send button. Autocorrect often rewrites words, so taking a second to proofread will save time later if you don’t have to rewrite a conversation explaining what you meant by “I will arrive shirtless” instead of “I will arrive shortly.”

Don’t lean on abbreviations.
Texting has led to its own insider language of abbreviations—ykwim? Texting abbreviations, emoticons, and emojis are fine for friends, but they don’t really work in a business environment. Leave the lols to your bffs and stick to business language if you need to send a text to someone you work with.

Double check your tone.
Texting is brief, which is the whole point, but sometimes brevity can sound like rudeness. Because texts are short, it’s easy to sound harsh. Writing in complete sentences is a simple way to avoid sounding abrupt.

Most emails should be three sentences or less.
Writing well is hard, especially when you’re doing lots of tasks at once and just need to fire off a quick message. It’s easy to flood the keyboard with your thoughts, click send, and assume the recipient will understand. Instead, work on being succinct. Challenge yourself to write every email with three sentences or less.

 

Cultivating Independent Thinking in Your Company

One of the things TSP is most proud of in our culture is an attitude of empowerment. We believe in every employee—so much so that we want every employee to feel comfortable to generate and share their own great ideas.

So often, it’s easy to settle into the daily grind. People develop tunnel vision and focus only on their specific tasks, and the weeks turn into a blur of monotony. We think that’s a pretty boring way to work, but that’s the way many companies like to do it. Employees are set in their ways and pigeonholed, with no place to take ideas. Without a way to share their insights, fewer people are motivated to come up with a better way.

TSP was created because our founders, Rick Skaggs and Frank Gonzalez, believed they had a better way to deliver technology solutions. They had the experience, a balance of serious tech knowledge and business acumen, and the relationships that could give their new business a chance to get started. TSP, in short, began with an idea. A belief that there was a better way, plus the right people to carry out that vision.

As TSP grew over the years from a two-man operation to a company serving Fortune 500 companies, the business focused on hiring great people who had the same spark. People who didn’t just care about doing things right, but who could also see a way of doing them even better.

TSP’s philosophy isn’t to put our engineers and support staff in narrow positions that limit their potential—and therefore limit our ability to serve clients. We endeavor to enable people to see problems and find ways to solve them. Our official services span enterprise solutions, shared solutions, and industrial automation solutions. We find and train the best experts in those fields and do our best to make every employee feel like the valued part of the team that they truly are.

Most of all, we don’t just try to empower employee’s ideas. We work toward a culture where, when people speak up, we actually listen.

The companies with the best cultures don’t have a dictatorship mentality. They listen when their employees want to share. It’s not only the best way to do business and stay ahead of the game, it’s a work style that’s a lot more fun.

How To Be a Better Listener

…What was that? Oh, sorry, I checked out for a minute. I was thinking about lunch. And scanning emails. And wondering if I paid a bill.

A lot of problems are because of the failure to listen. But let’s face it—listening, really listening, is hard. Like any skill, it takes constant practice and discipline to improve.

TSP is a big believer in the power of listening, which is a foundation of our company culture. From day one, being a company that truly listens to clients has set us apart. Solving the problems that others wouldn’t listen to has helped TSP expand as a business, and we’ve succeeded over the years because clients prefer working with people who hear them loud and clear.

Think about the person you respect most. Are they a good listener?
The people we respect most are probably the ones who are reliable, trustworthy, and make decisions with care. They probably have all those qualities because they’re good listeners. When people really listen, they get all the information, and they’re much more reliable and trustworthy as a result.

Listen with your eyes.
No matter how great you are at multitasking (or how great you think you are), the person talking feels ignored if you never look at them. Parents often tell children, “Look at me when I talk to you,” but adults don’t say the same to each other. If someone is speaking to you, take your eyes off the phone screen, the papers on your desk, and the window and look at them instead. You don’t have to devote 100 percent eye contact to the speaker—intense eye contact can be intimidating, especially if the speaker is shy—but your eyes should let the speaker know that they have your full attention.

If your mind wanders, try to picture what the person is saying.
Listening intently takes a lot of energy. To be a better active listener and keep your mind from wandering, try picturing what the speaker is saying. It doesn’t matter if your mental picture is literal or abstract; if you’re tuned in, your brain will do the work for you. If your thoughts start to trail off, train yourself to notice quickly and refocus on the mental picture.

Don’t try to plan what to say next.
You can’t plan your next sentence and truly hear what someone is saying at the same time. If you’re too busy thinking about what to say, you’re not actually listening. Planning your reply while listening can be a tough habit to break, especially if you’re not confident about coming up with quick responses. If someone finishes speaking and you don’t know what to say, tell them you’re going to think about what they told you and respond later when you’ve had time to ponder what they said.

Wait for a pause before asking for clarification.
When trying to be a great listener, sometimes we work so hard to understand what someone is saying that we interrupt with questions. Instead, let the speaker finish their thought, since they might answer your question on their own. If you’re worried about forgetting a question or you want to let them finish a whole story before you ask, jot down questions as you listen.

 

Can Personality Tests Lead to Happier Workplaces?

TSP co-founder and president Rick Skaggs, co-founder and vice president Frank Gonzalez, and CFO and vice president, Keith McElwain, have worked closely together since 2003. They get along easily, work together daily, and know each other well. But even though they have a lot in common, when they took personality tests together, their results couldn’t have been more different from one another.

The three key TSP leaders achieve continual balance, especially when it comes to making big decisions for the company. Even though the way they think and approach problems can be different, their strengths compliment one another. Taking a personality test didn’t directly change their group dynamic, but it did help them give one another a little extra consideration when their differences came out.

Personality tests aren’t perfect pictures of who we are, but they can give us some information about who we are and how we relate to others. They can also give people extra confidence in their way of doing things, refine inclinations toward passions and talents, and help us build stronger relationships.

What is a personality test?
Personality tests are designed to ascertain someone’s behavioral style. There are no right or wrong answers, and each test is different. TSP’s leadership team most recently took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, which is one of the most common tests used for the workplace.

Personality tests can help us see ourselves more clearly.
We all have innate needs, and personalities tend to be the evolution of our various internal inclinations and requirements. For example, though introverts enjoy time with others, they often retreat to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, are refueled by lots of time with lots of people. If an introvert tried to live exactly like an extrovert, they would be exhausted, and an extrovert living like an introvert might feel lonely and bored. When we understand more about who we are, it’s easier to make better choices about how we can work most productively and eliminate unnecessary stress. Personality tests may show us things about ourselves that help us break negative patterns and improve the way we work.

Personality tests can help us understand one another better.
It takes a long time to truly get to know someone, and even those we are closest to can continue to surprise us. A personality test won’t deliver a complete picture of who someone is, but it can offer insights into why certain people are more likely to cooperate or clash. For example, different personalities may have different communication styles, so planning meetings with a good blend of personalities may help the meeting run more smoothly.

TSP leaders have great natural intuition when it comes to cooperating, working together, and making big choices that everyone can agree with. They each have different styles, which only makes the team stronger. Personality tests don’t dictate what we do, but the results were interesting and helped our team function that much better.

Five Ways to Improve Communication

So many problems in the world have roots in simple miscommunication. Failing to get a message across clearly can cause delays, wasted time, frustration, even tension. Great communicators tend to do better at work and feel happier in life because they know how to get their ideas across, but learning to communicate well requires discipline and lots of practice.

Ask more questions.
People often don’t ask enough questions because they assume they already know the answers or are afraid of looking like they don’t know the answers. However, asking questions makes people seem more engaged, not less intelligent. When you ask questions, it proves you’re listening and illustrates an eagerness to be proactive and seek clarification. It’s better to ask now than apologize later because you assumed something incorrectly.

Zap empty words.
Like, um, you know how it can be totally, uh, frustrating… When someone uses more airtime on filler words than anything else? Empty conversation additives are often leaned on because people feel uncomfortable or don’t know what to say, but when overused, these bubble words make listeners assume people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Make an effort to speak with more purpose and get rid of the filler words. Try speaking more slowly or doing a short practice of what you want to say in your mind or a mirror before opening up.

Pay attention to body language.
Body language speaks volumes about our attitude and feelings, sometimes even more than our words do. It’s hard to analyze your own body language, so start by paying attention to the visual cues others send. Do the people you meet look bored, happy, harassed or interested? Once you’ve started training your brain to actively spot and read visual cues, have a friend try to read yours. It’s easier to see what you’re doing when someone you trust is helping out.

Become a better listener.
Communication isn’t about holding the loudest microphone. The people we respect most aren’t those who talk nonstop, but those amazing listeners whose responses prove they’re tuned in. It’s easy to become distracted with the phone, computer, ambient noise, thoughts about your itchy left foot, or worst of all missing what someone is saying because you’re too busy figuring out what to say next. If you become a better listener, you will be a better communicator.

Be bold.
To get your ideas across, bravery is a must. There is always some risk in bringing up an idea or voicing an opinion, but speaking up at the right time will make an impression. Wallflowers don’t often make waves, but sometimes voicing your thoughts is important. If you are presented with an appropriate time and place to respectfully share an idea, go for it. Positive progress is only made when people have the strength to speak up.

 

The Value of Corporate Boot Camp

Sometimes companies hit the jackpot when it comes to finding employees with an incredible knowledge base who naturally fall into a synchronized rhythm that’s so connected, it’s like magic. Most of the time, though, a company whose employees function well as a team has a secret sauce that allows people to deliver that level of service that impresses customers time and time again.

Plenty of businesses work on regular training and continuing education courses, and so does TSP. However, TSP takes education one step further with something we like to call Boot Camp.

Boot Camp is a series of courses we handcrafted on our own, and many new employees go through Boot Camp whether they’re recent graduates, military veterans, or seasoned engineers with years of field experience. Boot Camp ensures that everyone has the same level of technical training, but it’s also a series of workshops on customer service.

TSP always hires the most qualified people, but we don’t limit our applicant pool to people with “X” years of experience. We also like to hire people just out of college with computer science or technical degrees as well as people with military backgrounds. In our opinion, anyone with technical talent can learn the physical tech of daily operations and fixes, and our engineers are always there to help one another pick up new tricks and skills so the entire team succeeds.

Boot Camp gets everyone on the same page in terms of nuts and bolts with a week of theory and technology training, but we also devote plenty of time to the vital soft skills that will make or break a customer relationship. After a week of TSP Boot Camp, engineers head to the field to work side by side with a TSP senior engineer and mentor. They shadow until they’re comfortable, then work on their own with their mentor keeping an eye on them and ready to help with any issues. After that, new employees come back to headquarters for yet another week of Boot Camp that focuses on customer service training and soft skills.

Another value-add of TSP Boot Camp is the camaraderie built among our engineers – creating an instrumental, long-term peer network. It would be more cost-effective and entirely possible to conduct the Boot Camp virtually, but the face-to-face bonding is priceless. These connections prove integral for our engineers, who post Boot Camp, enjoy a network of resources they can call on when they run into things in the field they have never seen before. As we mentioned in a recent press release, our Boot Camp grads have even referred each other for open positions, creating a culture of mutual respect and support. As the old saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and as a supportive group of Boot Camp grads, our engineers are better positioned to serve our customers.

Being a successful service engineer in any tech business isn’t just about how well you know the ins and outs of the software and hardware, it’s about whether you know how to be kind to people and solve problems for them. Technical skills are vital, but so are the interpersonal skills that can dramatically affect the customer’s perspective of how well an issue is handled.

Training new employees is one thing, but TSP is proud to take our onboarding process to the next level with Boot Camp, which also helps new employees bond with one another, get to know senior engineer mentors, and introduce themselves to the clients without the pressure of feeling that an account’s success rests entirely on them. Boot Camp is a big part of what makes TSP unique and sets every engineer up to succeed, and it’s kept our company culture strong from the very beginning.

Five Tips For Sending Better Emails

Communication is everything in a successful business—and in a successful career. Email is one of the most used tools for staying in touch, but lots of people have bad email habits that transform it into a nuisance instead of a productive vehicle. Poor emails can cause stress, strife, confusion, and even tension, but these five essential tips will help avoid snafus that land messages in the junk folder.

Downplay emoticons.
Emoticons can be fun from time to time in personal messages, but they shouldn’t take the place of words. Winking faces, flapping raspberry tongues, and tears are fine for Saturday morning cartoons, but they don’t have a place in work email. Even when writing messages to friends within the company, use smileys sparingly. They are shortcuts that fail to express much, and when used in excess, they clog the screen with distractions and make messages seem less mature.

Be brief.
Emails aren’t research papers. Remember the three to five rule: Keep paragraphs limited to between three and five sentences, and keep emails limited to three to five paragraphs. Bullet points are a great way to section off themes because they’re short, readable, and easy to organize. If you have too much to say for one message, consider sending several separate messages by topic. This can make it easier for the recipient to understand the flow of information as well as sort and find it again.

Proofread.
The biggest source of email bloopers is usually because of forgetting to proofread. Autocorrect can be helpful, but sometimes it seems like it’s out to get us. Reading over messages before sending is well worth the extra minute or two. You may be in a hurry, but editing is worth it if you catch a major blooper before it goes off into cyberspace forever.

Double-check the recipient’s address.
Technology makes it easy to send messages. It also makes it easy to send messages to the wrong people, whether it’s our boss instead of a spouse or mom or an email about a hush-hush project that you accidentally forward to the entire company list. Double check the address before clicking away, and be extra careful when it comes to replying to the sender or replying all.

Leverage the subject line.
Subject lines have become like headlines when it comes to email. An empty one is less likely to get read, but a well-crafted subject line will help recipients know you mean business. Subject lines let you advertise the point quickly and summarize what the email is about. Don’t use a vague subject with just the word “Meeting.” Instead, give enough detail that the email will be clear and easy to find later, such as “Meeting: Q1 Team Performance Review.”

How To Demonstrate Ambition

Ambition is a quality every employer looks for, but it’s hard to spot in most job candidates. Bosses want to promote people who are eager to succeed, but sometimes drive is difficult to demonstrate. Not everyone is ambitious, but those who are have a better chance of landing the jobs and promotions they want most. So, if you know you’re ready to get ahead, what are the best ways to illustrate your ambition?

Volunteer to help.
When new projects come up, be the first to volunteer as help is needed. People who make hiring and promotion decisions will appreciate the effort; your network could expand if you work more closely with new people and departments, and your interest in furthering your career will be that much clearer. Plus, opting in for new responsibilities sometimes naturally leads to an updated role.

Join a professional organization.
Every career on the planet has at least one professional association. Signing up as a member is easy and usually not even expensive, and just by joining you have access to tons of incredible resources that can enrich your career. Being part of a professional organization opens opportunities to attend events, network, and promote the trade organization to colleagues.

Sign up for extra training.
So many learning opportunities aren’t taken advantage of, but signing up and showing up when a new class is offered at work or through a trade group is an optimal way to not only brush up on your skills, but also show them off on the job.

Display a positive attitude at every turn.
The best way to prove your ambition isn’t to act ambitious 24/7. Being eager is all well and good, but being positive proves you are not only in it for the long haul, but will be someone others want to work alongside the whole time. When working on displaying a can-do attitude, don’t worry about projecting anything other than positivity.

Volunteer outside the office.
Companies often host community volunteer events to give back as a group. Even though cleaning up a street, building a house, or spending time with children may not seem directly related to your career path, guess what—it is! Giving back is a great way to get to know coworkers in a whole new way, form memories together, and illustrate your engagement both in and out of the office. If you’re interested in putting together a specific event, organizing a volunteer day is a bonus way to prove you’re an active member of the team.

You Spoke. We Listened – Cornerstone on Demand eLearning is Here

By:  Tiffany Thomas, HR Generalist

You spoke. We listened. After many survey results and emailed suggestions, we realized it was time for something new, innovative, and efficient. In February, we launched Cornerstone OnDemand. Cornerstone is a leading global provider of a comprehensive learning and talent management solution delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). With this learning management system, employees will have access to an array of training modules and more.

Our goal is to improve the overall employee experience which will improve how we do business with our clients. Through its online learning courses, it is our hope that Cornerstone will identify areas of improvement, bolster areas of success, and offer realistic solutions that will enable us to serve our clients better than ever.

We want Cornerstone to be a resource for you! HR Manager, Kristi Suddock would ultimately like for Cornerstone to become an all-encompassing tool to empower TSP employees.

“It [Cornerstone] is a great platform for all of our learning initiatives. It allows us to track certifications, compliance training, soft skills, technical skills, etc.”

Other key features of Cornerstone include:

  • Instructor-led training registration and attendance tracking
  • Access to custom TSP courses and videos
  • Manager assigned learning plans for new or existing team members
  • Automated reporting and reminders
  • Cornerstone Mobile – available on the Apple Store or Google Play
  • Launch training directly from the Cornerstone home page
  • Ability to search for course titles using the home page search widget

 

So what are you waiting for? Log on to Cornerstone today and take a look at all of the resources available. We have set up single sign-on for you to access the system using this link: http://cornerstone.mytsp.net. Happy learning!

No Love Lost (The case of the missing performance review)

By:  Kristi Suddock, HR Manager

What do managers do when they want to help their employees improve performance and advance to the next level? They provide an annual performance review, of course!

Traditional annual performance reviews can take 3-4 hours per employee to write. For a manager with 10 employees, that is one solid work week per year of writing reviews. After writing for 8-10 hours, I’ll be honest, I begin cutting and pasting my clever feedback statements.

Reviews may also be subjective based on how we are feeling about Joe at the moment. Sure he’s a good employee, but this morning he wasn’t particularly friendly when I passed in the hall, right? I’ll put a “needs improvement” on Teamwork.

By the time reviews are written and submitted, they’re usually delivered late because revenue generating work is priority.   I finally deliver my masterpiece to find that Sue is not particularly happy receiving a “meets” on accuracy, even though she is outstanding on every other point. She refuses to sign and leaves my office angry.

And as an employee, how do you feel when you receive your performance review late, it looks suspiciously like last year’s review and your manager did not remember to mention the successful launch of your biggest project? It feels like you aren’t visible.

At TSP, we have a different philosophy on annual performance reviews. We don’t mandate them. We believe that feedback should be given timely and regularly. TSP encourages our managers to take the opportunity each day to say “You did a good job on that report. The data was exactly what I needed.” or “I noticed that you arrived late this morning. Please be on time going forward.” There is no need to wait an entire year to give someone clear, constructive feedback.

Feedback delivery should not be limited to TSP’s management. It can also be a peer-to-peer sharing of what works, what doesn’t work, ideas and praise.   That’s how healthy office relationships work. Telling each other in an open, honest way what we need from our co-workers in order for the team to be successful. This includes praising each other when we recognize good work.

Let’s commit to practicing good feedback this week by sharing these four points with an employee or peer:

  • One thing that has made us happy
  • One thing that has caused stress or concern
  • One new idea
  • One #TSProckstar praise

Let me know how it goes!