Episode 97 - The Professional Toolkit

Scott (06:29.173)
Hey, this week we're gonna go ahead and take on a very cool topic. We're gonna talk about the professional toolkit, right? Well, what do we mean by the professional toolkit? Well, you know, there's a lot of skills and whatnot that you need to know before you can be successful in your job. And a lot of those hard skills, I think a lot of people are pretty good at, right? So we can show up to work and kind of get the job done.

It's those unsaid soft skills that we're going to be taking our time and talking about. And then really kind of going back and refocusing in on like, how do we ensure that our teams develop and grow in those soft skills as well so we can be more effective? I got to tell you a lack of training and understanding around how to communicate, how to put your professional toolkit to work. Are those things?

that prevent us from delivering excellence on a daily basis. So thoughts, agree, disagree?

I'll chime in right off the rip. Like I super, super agree. It's...

There's so many little like professional grade skills that you don't learn until you're already in the office. And because you don't know what you don't know, people are frustrated. They enter into this workspace, they transition maybe from college or from wherever into this whole other space. And there's all of these like secret skills that like...

daniel (08:10.734)
it seems like everybody else knows. And I don't think they should be a mystery. I think for the most part, most of them are just like any skill. You can train people, you can do that knowledge transfer, you can set them up for success. But by the time you know all of them, you probably don't realize you've been learning these other skills. Like, oh, it's just people chalk it up to culture or they call it.

You know, just that's just how business works. But like, no, those are all skills.

Yeah, definitely, definitely. So I. Yeah, so I'm thinking like a lot of times there's the knowledge that people have, especially in college, and they're green and they come out of whatever learning institution that they were in and then they get into these jobs. They start becoming professional and they're like, wait a second. I don't know everything I only know, you know, the book work and so they have to kind of like hit every branch as they go through and gain those skills the hard way. So.

Yeah, no, I totally agree.

Zeta (09:12.123)
What can we do to maybe help them out, especially when they're green and trying out for the first time, or at least growing to be better in that field?

Yeah, totally, totally agree. We're going to go ahead and bucket. I don't know if this is a word we're going to bucket ties this. We're going to put these ideas into buckets and so let's start our conversation with the good old interpersonal skills, right? So we think about the professional toolkit in the interpersonal skills that are necessary for us to be successful on the job or some things that come to mind. In that book.

Man, I think this is one of those big ones where as learning and development professionals, we often talk about soft skills. We often talk about interpersonal skills. A lot of what we do are adjacent to those skills. And I feel like too often people just assume that like, oh, they'll get it or they'll figure it out.

Or even like just grow frustrated because somebody doesn't know like little things like how to write a professional sounding email or like, you know, how to, how to, how to communicate in like a business setting. And those are all, those are all skills. I've worked with plenty of people and me myself as I was coming up, like would read emails from people and be like, like, why do they talk like this? Like, what is this about?

And it's, you know, it's, it's as I got older, it says, I got more experience in, in, in this setting, in this professional communication. I was like, Oh, that's why you communicate like this. That's why you send these emails. Like, you know, these emails are doing a lot of things and, but, you know, how many times a day do you send an email to a friend? Like maybe you send one to check up to somebody you haven't talked to in forever.

daniel (11:12.75)
But chances are you're texting or you're messaging in some app or you're calling. Chances are pretty strong. You're probably not sending an email like, Hey buddy, how are you? And so businesses run on emails. And so writing those emails, I think is a skill that like it's getting, we're getting further and further away from, but I don't think businesses are going to stop using emails anytime soon.

No, I don't think so.

like how many meetings could have been an email like.


So I have two quick thoughts on email. Like I think there's an email etiquette. For me, shorter is better. And I've coached people and I get it. Like when I went to college, I got a higher grade by writing the longest paper, not the shortest one, the longest one. And it took me a long time to unlearn that skill or that habit. Right. And I don't know if that's true today or not.

Scott (12:15.989)
from the alphas and the gen Z's that are coming out of college, but I see it all the time. Like people just ramble a lot. Like I feel like shorter is better. And there are things that I feel work in other forms of communication that you should never do in an email, like put an animated GIF into it. And there are people I know that do this all the time. Like they think it's funny.

because we live in a society where animated GIFs are really cool. So I'm going to go ahead and put that in there, but I never know who's going to see that email. Like if you want to put it into a Teams chat or a Slido chat or whatever, like I'm for it. Like that's cool. That's, that's, that's funny. And that's cool, but I'm giving out a strategic report that might be seen by a client and you've got the, um, pick your office meme GIF put into it. Like, Oh my, um, I don't know how you guys feel about that.

I totally agree, like no emojis or no, nothing like that. And then either keep it clean, keep it concise, keep it straightforward. Another thing that I think when it comes to communications, especially when an email that you need to keep in mind is depending on the role of the person that you're writing to is the kind of the words or the terminologies that you should be using. Like if you're talking to a stakeholder, you're gonna wanna talk in like broad strokes.


Oh yeah.

Zeta (13:42.331)
But if you're talking to a detail or like a doer, you want to be detail oriented when you speak to them. You want to include lots more, especially when you're going through the steps. So I think that's also like there's almost a different language for the audience that you're that you're emailing.

Oh yeah. I think I used to tell my teams that like different channels were used for different things. Like I've worked at companies that have used like Google or Slack or whatever. And I'm like, Hey, like instant chat is for is for friendly chit chat and quick answers. Like I need, I need a yes, no on this. I need, I need to know where this is. I need to know a.

B or C, like I need to know that pretty quick. And, and or, Hey, I just want to say, hi, how you doing? What's up? Uh, I was actually joking with a few people just last night about like the scariest thing you can see in a company chat being, Hey, do you have five minutes? And I've been super guilty of dropping that in chat. Um, but emails are different. Like Zed, you're like, Hey, like, you know, like not only are emails like different to your audience, which is a hundred percent true.

But I think the purpose of an email is different. Like if I'm sending an email, it's because I need a business response. I don't need it probably immediately because I didn't call, text or message, but I need a response and I need to make sure that we all are on the same page and that this response is something that's like being written down, that there is a transaction of this, you know.

Response this message.

Scott (15:32.501)
Yeah, no, I agree. So here's the question, right? We're going to do this all the way along. So how, from a learning and development perspective or a leadership perspective, how do we help our people get better?

Boom. I really think it's about teaching the communication basics. We're talking about email, but I think it's a step up. We're talking about interpersonal skills. We're talking about communication. I think it's about telling people, hey, first off, how you speak to people at work. I used to tell people you should speak to people at work like you would one of your parents' friends, not one of your friends.

not a relative, but one of your parents' friends. Like, there's still some pleasant familiarity there. It's somebody your parents said are cool. So they're probably all right. But that level of professionalism and distance is good, I think. And then I think it's about teaching people what to use those channels for. Like, hey, if you're gonna send a message, you send messages.

It should be for this. This is what you use that messaging channel for. And hey, when you send an email, this is what you should be using email for. You should be sending these types of messages to these types of audiences. And say to your point, like you need to be sending messages that do things. Like if you're typing a word, if you're spending the time to type it in, it should serve a purpose. It should be clear.

communication that's goal is to enact action or awareness.

Zeta (17:20.347)
Yeah, like time is money and the more time you spend on writing and replying and emailing back and forth, that's time wasted too.

I know that my, one of the teams that I work with designed a communicating simply webinar that we all had to go through. And that was painful because everybody shows up. I mean, let's just be honest. Like the, the written word is a very personal thing, right? I feel like it's one of the last things in business that we, that's our personal, how we, how we communicate. So everybody brings their own ideas into it. But at the end of the day, I felt like that was really a powerful.

experience and then for a while I think people really kind of got better at it. The other question I would have on this and then we can move forward to something else. If you're a people leader and you've got somebody below you, how often are you reviewing their communication? And the second part of that question, how long do you wait before you course correct? Oh, I got a one -on -one coming up on Friday and it's Monday and...

Yeah, I've got X -Men 97 gifts in this email to the president, right? So, huh, do I wait till Friday? You know, how do we navigate that knowing that the world we live in is pretty different? A lot of people have a different opinion on what's good and what's not. I mean, how do we navigate that?

I would definitely say, okay.

daniel (18:45.742)
jump right in.

So, sir, I was gonna jump right in. Just about, like, when do you course correct? Like, I mean, like, as soon as possible. Like, if you wait, the impact of that feedback gets less and less. The longer you wait, the less it means, the less relevance it has. If I'm like, hey, Scott, last quarter you sent an email to the president and it just didn't really ring.

in the way we want to communicate. Well, first off, that's been months for me. So like I pulled up the email, I've looked at it, I've read it because I'm going to have to give you feedback on it. And I'm like, OK, now why didn't I like this? What was wrong with this? What did what did my VP say after Scott sent this email? Oh, OK, Scott, I've got all that pulled together. Hey, Scott, let's talk about this email. You're like, what email that email you sent to the president, which which email? What was it about?

and we're playing this game, so for 30 minutes it takes us to get aligned on what email and then my message is gonna be, don't do that. Or, you know, like, hey, like we use this tone and that just didn't really land in the way that I think you intended. And you're gonna go, oh, okay. Or not, I don't know, maybe you're gonna be, let's fight. Either way, it'll be fun. I think if you, you've got to hit that like same day.

within 24 hours, it's gotta be like, hey, yesterday you sent an email out, I just wanna touch base on it real quick. The tone was a little bit off, I don't think it landed like you intended to, just so you know, this was the intent that the reader took away from it, was that your intent? And if it wasn't, how do we address that?

Zeta (20:35.643)
Yeah, I agree. The more timely, the better, because the longer you wait, the more dust that settles, the more you have to dig through exactly like what Dan said. Like, when did I do that? What was this? What was the shape of that? And not only that, but they might be sending more emails in that amount of time if you do drag your feet. So I definitely agree.

Yeah. Yeah, I think setting boundaries and expectations with the people that you serve, whether that's within a course that you designed to help people get better or whether that's in a one -on -one situation or you're right, Dan, like there's a 24 -hour rule, like I'm going to, we're going to do the 24 -hour rule. We're going to review it and have the data there. Like, Hey, this is my expectation moving forward. We're going to do this. The other thing that I think is really important, my learning model, my big ahas, even yet today.

Is there's this little tool called Grammarly? Are you using Grammarly?

I am not using Grammarly right now.

Okay, Zeta using Grammarly.

Zeta (21:36.859)
No, I am an English nerd.

Okay, Dan, explain why you're not using grammar.

Okay, so I'm going to, I'm going to, uh, so we talk about tone. We just talked about how like crafting email clear and concise and stuff like that. And Grammarly is awesome. So just straight up, everybody who's using Grammarly. Good. Uh, it's, it's awesome. And I have definitely worked at companies where the messages I were sending were intended to come from the business or the company, not from Daniel. And so.

Sign me up, Grammarly all the way. That being said, I tend to, like my written word, I tend to write like I would talk. And while I want to make sure that my grammar is good, I'll sometimes write in a way with a lot of my own particular colloquialisms. And Grammarly tends to have a conniption about that. Like, hey,

why don't we say it this way instead? You said this, it could be said clearer with this. And that's awesome. But also like if I'm taking time to write a message, I wanted to sound like I took time to write a message. I don't want it to sound like Grammarly and AI got together and penned off a quick memo.

Scott (23:02.837)
Yeah, here's what I love about Grammarly. By the way, the free version of Grammarly isn't worth a lot. You get what you pay for. If you've got an organization that's paying for Grammarly and you've got an account, use that account. It's awesome. I mean, there's a big difference between the free version and the one you pay for. Just telling you. For me, it gives me pause because I tend to write very quickly.

And so you're right, I put my colloquialisms on that. Also, here's a suggestion. Oh, I didn't think about that. Yeah, I'm going to go with it or I'm not. Right. So for me, it gives me that pause. So I'm not it's a nice little friendly reminder that I can maybe think about this differently and do better. So if you have someone that's really struggling, especially if they're new, like the Alphas and the Gen Z's that are showing up and.

All that good stuff. And I'm not saying no offense to you folks, you guys are great, but you know, my experience is that there is that learning curve there. Like, hey, it'll slow you down and it'll help you think about those things. You can change the tone and all that good stuff. And I think it's a really great tool. From interpersonal skills perspective, is there any other, you know, professional toolkit things that we should be talking about?

I mean, I feel like we spend a lot of time on communication and those interpersonal skills and those are important. And obviously we need to spend a lot of time with those because it's the bulk. But we talked about buckets and I feel like there's other things. I'd say like professionalism.

I want to find a better word for it. I just don't know. I don't know if there is a better word, clear and concise communication. Oh man, I have mixed feelings about polish. I have mixed feelings.

Zeta (24:56.667)

Scott (25:05.909)
well how do you find professionalism

daniel (25:10.478)
I think professionalism, I think it almost fits inside of the communication bucket, but not quite. There is, I mean, Polish is really good. It's the difference between.

the person who shows up and does a great job but is only in it for them versus the person who shows up and does a good job but motivates those around them, motivates and inspires those around them. I think, oh man, you gotta ask the tough questions.

Give me an example.

Scott (25:55.253)
That's my job. Give me an example.

You know, I'll give you a quick example. I, early in my career, somebody would give me like feedback and my initial response would be to and I'd want to like, I'd want to poke at it and be like, well, you know, here's the reasons why I did that. And this, this, this, that, this, and some excuse making some pride protecting. And I'm sure it made people like loathe.

to communicate with me like, I'm gonna go talk to Dan about this course and he's gonna tell me a billion reasons why it should be the way it is. I'm sorry to all those people who had to do that. But feedback is a gift. If somebody's reaching out and taking time, like the only commodity we can't make any more of, say, hey, I saw this and I just wanted to touch base with you and give you some feedback on this course, like,

Chances are, 99 % of the time, they have good intentions.

Being able to.

daniel (27:07.758)
listen for that feedback, accept that feedback and use it to make the things you make better is a mark of professionalism. And going a step further and then seeking out that feedback, asking others for that feedback, like, hey, I submitted this course, I submitted this document. Can you take a quick minute and look at it? I know it's not technically in your real house, but I would love to have your thoughts on it.

Like I think that's a strong mark of professionalism, that seeking to better yourself by going to trusted people and getting their feedback.

Yeah, I would agree. For me, professionalism is you are a worker. Yes, you are part of the team. But professionalism is how you can be bigger than that and be part of the business as well. It's how you present in that environment and trying to be bigger and better than just yourself. And I'm not saying bigger and better as like bombastic things, but like what Daniel is saying is being more professional.

Trying to grow in such a way to where if someone is like, oh, I don't agree with you, rather than getting angry and be like, oh, how dare you? But to be, okay, we are all part of the same team. We're all part of this system. We're all part of the business. This person's helping. Let that go. Let go of that pride. Be like, okay, how can we make this better? And professionalism is how you become bigger.

as an individual throughout the entire work, I would think something larger than you.

Scott (28:56.149)
Okay, great examples. I'm gonna go back to my question. So how do we help onboard people with this idea? How do we help them get to this place where we're thinking about it and actively trying to be better at it?

I think coaching and development here, especially coaching, is that thing that's going to make the difference. When you have somebody coming into your business or they're coming, they're new to the corporate space, new to the business space.

It's easy to get frustrated and or assume that they have these skills, that they know these things. I mean, like so much of our.

So much of our education process all the way through college is about building and defending, building and defending, create and defend, create and defend. You said this, why did you say this? Why I said this, because A, B and C, okay, great. You've demonstrated you understand. It's a tool we use in learning and development. So I'm not gonna hate on it too much, because that's how you ascertain transfer of knowledge and understanding.

When you move into the business space, you have to help people.

daniel (30:17.774)
drop the defending part. It was super tough for me. And I think this is where a good leader, a good coach comes in and says, hey, you recently submitted something, you were given some feedback. You push back on that feedback. Let's talk about that something like, what do you think about the feedback? Like, what did it mean to you? Get people out of that headspace of create and defend.

and get them into create and iterate, create and build. And that happens with coaching and development. And I think a good leader can dedicate time to that. I think explaining to people when they come into your business, what your culture about feedback is.

So the other thing that I would suggest goes hand in hand with a lot of this, maybe even over -arching umbrellas, this idea of ownership. We live in a world where ownership is rare. A lot of finger pointing. Oh, it's not me. I didn't do that. That's right in the line with feedback, right? So if you can get your folks to get a growth mindset and take ownership, it's really, really

great first step around professionalism and everything will change when you do that. We hope. Jocko Willink, I talked about all time, extreme ownership, like have people read that book, maybe take a look at designing courses around that. So I just think it makes your world a hell of a lot better when you can have an ownership growth mindset versus one of, well, it's not my fault, somebody else's fault. Like we're all in this together. We're all trying to achieve the same goals. We can't do that.

unless I take ownership from my part, what's going on, which I think is really cool. Last bucket. What's our last bucket?

Zeta (32:23.515)
I think our last bucket you were going to talk about was problem solving and the importance of when we are faced with these things that are new, different and strange, how do we solve for them? How do we find solutions, especially if you're green and new?

Okay, so going to go back to the same question. Give me an example. Give me an example of problem solving and where there's a gap and how we can fix that gap.



Zeta (32:52.219)
Well, let's see. Especially with nowadays in the modern landscape, there are so many fast changing places where you need to be adaptable. You need to move past where you were initially at the very beginning and try to find something or some way to get to where you want to be. And that's the gap. A real life example for this would be, oh, you come into the workplace and you need to make

video for this course that you're making and you don't have the tools for it, you don't know who to talk to, what's your next steps from there? Like how do you problem solve that? Do you wait until you ask somebody or do you just start trying to make your own solutions?

Scott (33:40.725)
I love that example. Ever since COVID, one of the key metrics for success amongst leaders has been adaptability, right? Flexibility and adaptability. And we all kind of learned and lived that. Like we all had to live like, oh, what are we gonna do now? I mean, there was a few days of everybody kind of threw up their hands and went, I don't know what I'm gonna do. But the real people getting stuff done were the ones like, well, I'm gonna be adaptable. We're gonna go do this. And...


Scott (34:08.693)
they dug into it and found solutions in an environment that was really, really challenging. And I think that that's something that can be taught and can be coached. And I think that that's really important. So how do you do that? How do you coach those kinds of thought processes?

You know, I think, I know for me, a lot of times I, in the past, would sit back and wait for other people to problem solve. Like, you know, I was not an idea person. Somebody else would be like, hey, I think we should do this. I would say, sounds good. And I would go off and build it. I would have ideas. I would have things in my mind that I thought could solve the problem.

but I didn't feel confident and I didn't feel comfortable enough to bring them up to make them real. And as we're looking for ways to like help people be more adaptable and help people take, you said ownership, which I think is great. It was the last bucket, but I think it carries over to this bucket. And to problem solve is to go to them and seek suggestions. Hey, we have this problem.

this is what we want to do. What does it look like to solve this problem? You can go to your teams and you can ask them for things, for solutions to problems you think you've already solved and ask them, hey, like what do you think we should do here? Opening up the field, opening up that, showing that level of trust promotes...

confidence which promotes problem solving. I can't tell you how many times I sat in a meeting, somebody was like, hey, we've got this big problem, what are we gonna do? And my brain, I was like, oh, well, you know, like, you know, if I was the leader here, I think I would do A, B, and C, but I kept my trap shut because I wasn't confident and I didn't feel safe.

daniel (36:21.806)
And as I became more confident, yeah, and as I became more confident, and as I felt, you know, that psychological safety, I was way more willing to pop up and people would be like, oh yeah, that's really good. I think most of us as humans are problem solvers, but I think a lot of us lack the confidence and psychological safety to jump in.

Safety is important.

daniel (36:50.446)
and proffer those because we're afraid we'll be wrong. We're afraid that people will think they're dumb. And from the from the person trying to develop the skill set, just talk more. I think I think just like, you know, say the things that you're worried people will call dumb because the worst case scenario is, is they're going to go, no, I don't think so. And I've had plenty of people tell me that lots of enough times. You know, OK, cool.

Um, and from the other side of the equation, if you're looking to bring your teams that problem solving out in your teams, you're looking for them to like come to you with new ideas, new and creative suggestions, things like that. It's about giving them that arena to do so building that psychological safety, not just telling everybody there's no such thing as bad or dumb ideas, but like building a space where they can say the bad and dumb ideas and be like.

I don't think that would work here or even better, hey, let's talk about that idea. How did we get to that idea? What's your thought process on that idea? And dive in.

Oh yeah. Another thing is, this is something that my daughter hates, but we're like, how do we fix things? By doing things. A lot of times when you're stuck and you have a problem and you don't have that room for collaboration, inertia, just getting yourself going is a really good start as well. Because if you start trying, get those mistakes out of the way, and if you have a safe space, of course, to do so.


Zeta (38:27.707)
you'll start getting all the mistakes out of the way and then you'll start coming to solutions and then seeing what works and maybe this part doesn't work but the other part does and then you can build on that. So yeah, just get started.

I love this whole idea of, hey, we've got to have a psychologically safe space, right? I share my ideas. We have to be open to the, hey, this may not work, right? So we talked a few episodes ago about failure being awesome. Like, what's the way we promote that? Like, hey, we're going to learn. We're going to learn fast. We're going to move. We're going to go ahead and be flexible and adaptable. And I also feel like really important from a problem creation or problem solving and creative approach to things is to kind of lead by example.

All too often I feel like you show up in a room like, I know what the solution is. I know it. I've been around the block. I know it. I know what the answer is. And what I would challenge people to do in that environment is to say, you, the three, this phrase, it's awesome. You know, would it make sense if you throw an idea out there and then you are open to being wrong.

Because I might be wrong, right? I might be completely wrong. And for me, I honestly believe that I don't want my answer to be the right answer. I want the best answer. And the best answer is the one that we collaborate and problem solve our way through. And if I can lead by example and always be asking people to poke holes in my idea and tell me why it's not going to work, I will get better solutions. And surprisingly, I'm

going to get the kind of respect that I want by having the best idea anyway. I'm actually going to get more respect because I'm bringing people together and maximizing their efforts. So I think that's really, really important. So from a leadership perspective, and by the way, you don't have to be a leader to do this. You can just show up, ask a lot of questions, poke holes and stuff, and leave your ego outside of the room. Because ego destroys everything. And once you understand that, once you could recognize,

Scott (40:35.189)
what ego looks like and where it's in a room, you can get rid of it pretty easily. But I have to be aware of that. And like, that's another thing that came out of the pandemic, it's this idea of humility, right? So safe space, humility, really bringing people together, maximize that creative problem solving, that's fantastic. So before we wrap things up, are there things and topics from the professional toolkit perspective, either in these three buckets or maybe outside in this mystery bucket we haven't talked about?

that you want to talk about tonight, but we didn't have a chance to share with everybody.

daniel (41:12.622)
would love to see a business or a group.

that like builds this kind of training. Like imagine starting in a business and taking new hire onboard training that's like, hey, let's talk real quick about what we expect when you communicate in our communication platforms. And let's talk about the professionalism and etiquette we expect. And let's talk about like, you know, sets you up like to understand like the psychological safety. We want to hear your ideas. We want you to say stuff in meetings. We want you to like, when we ask for ideas,

We mean it. I think there's a space for that. I think there's a space that helps people build and get a sense of.

those, that professional toolkit. And I don't know anybody who's really doing it right now. I think everybody, us, everybody listening just kind of had to figure it out when they got their first office job or had to like go work in a workplace that like where emails and messaging were the norm. And I would love to see somebody in that space.

building and crafting good things.

Zeta (42:37.275)
Oh yeah, that'd be good.

Maybe pour into your people.

It'd be a good investment, definitely. Yeah.

Yeah, I think so. Invest in your people so they stick around and grow. That's the deal, I think. Yeah, I know, right? Well, what if, you know, what's the adage if, what happens if you're investing in your people and they leave? Well, that's a whole lot. And they stay, right?

can learn and develop.

daniel (43:03.598)
What happens if we don't and they stay?


Scott (43:10.357)
I'm telling you straight up, you invest in your people and they find a better opportunity for them, great. But a lot of them, you'll build loyalty that way. And I think that the loyalty is in a.


daniel (43:22.734)
Love it.

Good stuff. Thanks for bringing that up.

Episode 97 - The Professional Toolkit