Be Replaceable

January 31, 2010


I thought the idea was to become so important and integral in your position that you are relied on?  I thought the idea was to be the fountain of knowledge?  Become the ‘Go-To’ person?  I thought I had to be irreplaceable?


If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

So –

Do become all those things mentioned above.  Definately.  You’ll show your talent, your skills and your importance to the organisation.  Here’s the thing though.  Don’t retain that knowledge.  Pass it on.  This can be tricky to older people within your team, but I’ve dealt with that in a previous post.  So in addition to being the subject matter expert (SME?), you’ll also show you have the ability to teach and communicate to your team.

Generally, it’s also important to realise that if you learnt it, it’s possible for others to learn it.  It may take longer, it may cost more etc etc but it can be done.  This blog entry shows the difference between some tangible work knowledge that you may think you’re unique in knowing and the intangible.

Have the knowledge.  But pass it on.  Then learn something new.  Keep on advancing.

Explain It Simply…Please

January 25, 2010


When people are asking you to explain things to them, they are either testing you because they already know or they need to be taught.  If it’s the first case, they probably aren’t really listening to what you’re saying, but are just waiting for you to say something wrong so they can go on the attack.  If it’s the second case however, they legitimately want to learn from you.

Now I’m going to work on the assumption that you as the teacher and they as the teachee (Did I just create a new word?) are probably only going to want to run through things once if possible.  I know this personally bugs me.

So I suppose then it’s important to understand one of the most important things when teaching someone something new.

Obviously this guy knew what he was doing.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Albert Einstein

So ask yourself, do you really understand what is going on?  Before launching into an educating session, perhaps it’s best to re-evalute what you actually know and understand about the topic.  It will probably save you hopelessly confusing your poor victim.  But it’s tricky.  It’s what one blogger refers to as the ‘Curse of Knowledge‘.

So know your topic from the ground up, then teach in that direction.

The decision you make at the end of your university/college studies will ultimately decide your entire future.

Let’s go even earlier, the end of high school?  The end of earlier schooling?

When written like this to me, it does sounds pretty silly.  But why do I think this?  I suppose all along it’s always been about delaying what ‘you’ll be when you grow up’.  Choosing my subjects in high school, choosing my subjects at uni, choosing my internship, choosing my rotations within my graduate program.  All along it seems as though I’ve been putting it off.

Is it a generational thing?  Talking to a lot of my friends and colleagues who are about my age, they think the same things.  We don’t know what we want.  But we do know that we want it soon.  And we definately know what we don’t want.

I lot of information I read says follow you passion, do what you like, make your dreams.  I think this is a load of rubbish…if…you don’t know what these actually are.  There is only so far a list can take you.

I suppose all this is to do with an inability to make some long term plans.  This scares me and my generation.  We are the adaptable, changing and fluctuating generation.  Long term doesn’t figure into the equation.  I don’t know if this is a bad thing or not.

So I might have a go at drawing up some medium term goals.  Perhaps this is my short term fix to a long term problem.

Final part of the series – and it’s about instant messaging.

Our generation grew up with ICQ (I wonder what this stands for) and then later MSN.  But now this technology has transitioned into the workplace.  And it’s a powerful tool.  But it’s not for everyone.

As with my post on email, there are numerous articles out there already concerning the pros and cons of the use of instant messaging in the workplace.

Over the last couple of years the chatter is being replaced by tapping on keyboards often followed by a sporadic, out-of-place laugh. Instant messaging is already taking over the office environment.

Instant Messaging in the workplace: Devil or Saviour?

For anyone that already uses IM, the above quote is hilariously accurate.

There are some key points that I’d like to highlight however.

  • Most workplaces still monitor conversations.  Be careful.
  • Be able to distinguish between a professional and a casual conversation.
  • Don’t completely substitute other forms of communication for instant messaging.
  • It’s immediate, but not instantaneous.  Don’t rely on it for an on-the-spot answer.

In a sort of summary, please check out this excellent article.  It talks about what I’d called the ‘evolution’ of commuication.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my long, drawn out and at times exhausting summary of some of the communication methods in the workplace.

Links back to the older posts are here:

To us Gen Y’ers, this is like asking “What’s before time?”  The importance of email in revolutionising the workplace cannot be underestimated.  Not only for the bum-in-seat office worker.  Tradies give and get quotes.  Shopkeepers order stock.  Doctors get educated.


Is Electronic Mail all it’s cracked up to be?

There are approximately 1,897,987 articles on the web about effective email communication.*

*This may or may not be true.

Here are some interesting reads that I found.  Some I agree, some I disagree with.  I’ll leave it up to you to peruse them.

So at the risk of repeating information that’s already out there, here are my top 4 tips.

  1. Sure? – Once you click send, you can never control that email again.
  2. Need to know? – Do not CC the world.  No one appreciates a small issue suddenly being sent to your boss, and/or your bosses’ boss.
  3. Huh? – A useful subject heading makes things so much easier.  Do it.
  4. Still going? – No one wants a life story.  If things aren’t clear, they’ll ask for clarification.  Concise emails are generally good emails.

Part three of the series looks at using the phone (mobile/cell or landline) as a communication tool in the workplace.

Everyone knows what a phone is, so there is no need to go into details about what they are.  If you don’t know, click here.  And then click here.  And then if you’re still in trouble click here.

But are you using it as effectively, or at all, in your role?  Could you be doing better?

Why aren’t you?  Try these tips.

Plan.  Know what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone.  Whether it’s picking up a pen and jotting down some points, mentally practicing the opening line or having some documents open in front of you, if you have an idea of how the conversation will/should go before you start dialing, you’ll come across a lot more professional.

Profesional.  Think about how you sound on the other end.  Mumbling, confusion, noise in the background, yuck.  Scroll about three-quarters of the way down this page to get some other tips.

Pick-It-Up.  Don’t get suckered into email battles over misunderstandings.  Don’t (I really hate this) feel that you’ve done enough by sending the text or email.  “Have you followed up that important payment?” – “Well I sent an email.”  Just pick up the phone and sort it out.

Technological developments are probably taken for granted these days.  ConferenceSpeaker phonesSkype.

Use my tips.  Use the technology.

Is snail mail all that bad?  Surely with a name like that there can’t be any real advantages to it anymore?

If I had my way, it would be gone.  Obviously it can’t be completely; packages aren’t sent electronically (yet?).  But do we need hard copies anymore?  I understand that legally the answer is yes.  But laws can get changed.  Let’s put our faith in technology and wipe out letters.

Woah!  Did I really say that?


Let’s look at the advantages of mail over it’s usual rival, electronic mail.

  • Speed – Hmmmm none.  Email wins.
  • Cost – Email again.
  • Availability – More and more towards email.
  • What – Well hold your horses, here is one where the mail wins.
  • Security – Well I think it’s easier to open someone else’s letter box than open their email.

The length of this post speaks volumes about what I think about postal mail.  But do you think any different?

Here is part two of my communication discussion.  I started off with some general points, but now I’d like to get into the nitty gritty of personal, face-to-face communication.

With a quick bit of research, there seems to be one trend that is discussed around the web regarding this topic.

1. Is social media destroying face-to-face communication?

No.  Next question please.

Seriously, do people out there really think that personal contact will be made completely redundant?  This seems like a lot of doomsday talk to me.  I imagine it was these same people that thought letters, then phone calls, then faxes and then emails would spell the end of society.

Face-to-face communication will always have a place in our society.

Some people may think I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll stand by that comment.  I go back to my previous comment regarding the evolution of technology.  Addressing people in person has stood the test of time.  But why?

  • Body language. Depending who you ask, 70-95% of communication between people in a face-to-face situation uses body language.  It’s our way of reading into what people are possibly really thinking, or for someone to knowingly or unknowingly letting you know.  This impression is lost through other methods.
  • Instantanianty. (Is that a word?)  No method can give you as quick a reply as face-to-face.
  • Synergies. I suppose this is a fancy way of trying to sum up the energy that can be created with a personal meeting, something that as of yet just can’t be created through other mediums.

I’m not going to encourage everyone to step away from online media etc.  Use it.  But just remember that face-to-face can be superior and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

My boss asked me the other day – “Why do you use (insert name of instant messaging program) instead of email?”

It was 5pm on a Friday afternoon and I was knackered.  I bumbled out some reply about immediate answers and easy but I don’t think it worked.  They weren’t sold on the idea.  So I decided to put a bit of thought into it.

And after putting that thought into it, I realised that it’s going to be a massive task.  So over the next two weeks I’ll be putting together some short blogs on communication types in the workplace.

Instant Messaging

Let’s look at the main types.

  • Face to Face – In the presence of the other person.  Generally most productive.  Most time consuming.
  • Post – Send via either internal or external mail.  Physical documents moved.  Slow.
  • Phone – Talking directly to the person or people involved.  Immediate answers.  Other person must be there.
  • Email – Computer sent text and files to one or multiple targets.  Audit trail.  Not real time
  • Instant Messaging – Real time ’email’ text only communication.  Fast and efficient.  Distracting


By the very nature of a team, people will have individual roles but are (well should be) working towards a common goal.  The individual roles will be interdependent, that is each person relies on the rest.

So do you trust your team?

Do you really?  Can you work through your day without checking on them, safe in your belief that what you need them to get done will and it will allow you to get your own stuff done?  (Sorry about the long sentence.)  I guess I’m pretty lucky, because the majority of the time I do trust my team.  But I have had the chance during my chair hopping days to work around some people that obviously don’t trust each other.

Now I’m not talking about personality traits.  I’m referring to professional trust.  And I suppose I’ve been able to learn a couple of things.

  • Trust is built up over a long period of time, but can be knocked down in a matter of minutes.
  • Trust is two ways.  If you need to trust someone, let them trust you.

I did say a couple, so I’ll leave it at that.  So I suppose your mission, and mine too, will be to try and generate a bit more trust with your colleagues this week.  We may actually be surprised by the results.