MORE Skills for a New Economy: A Message to All Employees

March 2, 2011

(Part Two of Two)

In Part One, we discussed the need for employees to take ownership of their roles and the organization’s mission for all to gain sustainable excellence in the challenging times ahead. We explored ways employees at all levels can show their value across the organization and own their own development.

Here are a few more tips for leaders to share with staff members as they strive to become more valuable (and valued) in today’s tough new economy:

Understand the Connection between Time and Money.

Think about ways to be more effective and help others. When building a budget, consider all factors—including salary (often the biggest expense in a project) and time to complete. Be aware that as a project drags past its deadline, the chance it will go over budget increases.

Here are a few ways to be a good steward of your organization’s resources:

  • Get in the habit of quantifying. Avoid words like “a lot” and other generalizations. Get very specific and require others to do the same. Countless hours (and endless money) can be spent on activities because of reports that there were “a lot” of requests. When we take time to quantify the requests, we often find that “a lot” really means just a few people.
  • Keep things simple. When projects get too complicated, they either don’t get completed, or they result in considerable overruns on budget and missed deadlines.
  • Get the to-do list reviewed regularly. Focus on tasks that connect to the organization’s business goals; reduce the busywork.
  • Get timelines, a deliverables schedule, and a budget on everything you do. This is step one on any project. Creating a framework in the beginning forces an employee to think things through and often eliminates READY, FIRE, AIM problems. Report back regularly as to whether the project is on time and on budget.
  • Learn to ask, “How will we measure results?” Asking this question in the beginning allows us to really evaluate whether the project is worthwhile. It keeps employees from starting dead-end projects with no value…and allows us to showcase successful projects for a nice win.
  • Don’t confuse activity with progress. Focus on what matters. Twenty percent of the work creates 80 percent of the results. Can you move that number?
  • Give regular updates on ongoing projects. Something may have changed, or someone may have a new idea to make it better. Be proactive to stay on course.
  • Review processes regularly to make sure they don’t need updating. Continue to re-evaluate the way things are done and search for improvements. Don’t fall into habits.
  • Ask, “Is there something I do that could be outsourced?” An employee should let leadership know if there is a part of his or her job that the company could do more quickly, more efficiently, or less expensively by outsourcing. In the long run, an employee who thinks like this will show more value to the organization and will soon be on his or her way to bigger and better things.
  • Learn to put the well-being of your team over your own comfort. Think, If it were my money on the line, my future at stake, what would I do?

Remember, Communication Is Everything!

Work to create an infrastructure whereby information can flow. Then, do everything possible to help effectively move that information through the process.

Here’s how:

  • Communicate early and often. It will increase the odds of success exponentially.
  • Be more than an e-mailer. Sometimes it’s best to pick up the phone. It builds relationships. Plus, real conversations spark new ideas, and too much back and forth over e-mail may slow down the process.
  • Share information anytime you can. Ask yourself, What do I know and who else can benefit from it?
  • Think strategically about your e-mail CC line. There’s a delicate balance between keeping busy people in the loop and overwhelming them with too much (unnecessary) information. When copying someone on an email, be sure to let the recipient know what is expected. 
  • Reach out to others. Set aside a few minutes each week to reach out to people you don’t see that often. It creates goodwill and is the first step in collaborating in a meaningful way.
  • When asking for help, give a timeline. It helps busy people know how to sequence their projects.
  • Be clear. It eases anxiety. Before hitting “send” on an e-mail correspondence, review the note to make sure all the questions are answered and there is clarity in the letter.
  • Report the good and the bad. We can learn so much from mistakes. Mistakes help pinpoint areas where we need to get better and create an internal sense of urgency.

Tough times are ahead, and we need to be owners of ourselves and our organization, not renters. Show value. Actively seek personal development opportunities. Maximize profitability. Communicate. Standards have never been higher—and more public—so now is the time for employees to strive for excellence at every level, every time.

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