Be Replaceable

January 31, 2010

What?

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?

But…

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.

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.

I’m not talking about knowing how to tie knots or make a raft (though I’m sure somehow these skills could come in handy to the young professional).  No, I’m talking about that old motto “Be Prepared“.

I wanted to follow up on a great comment by Lance on a post of mine.  He refers to a few techniques he’s developed to deal with both time poor and less guiding managers.

  1. Regular meetings with preparation.
  2. Multiple solutions to any problems.

Which leads me to the reason behind the title and a story from personal experience.  A long lasting problem that no one was aware of surfaced at work.  I was tasked with finding and implementing the solution.  The ultimate results though weren’t going to be immediately visible by myself.  Sure enough, a couple of days later I get a phone call.

“Um, Anthony, we’re not to sure about the results.  Can you explain these numbers?”

So I’m pulled into a meeting a fair few floors above my own.  But I had unknowingly followed the above advice.  I had two solutions to the problem.  So in the meeting I was able to accurately explain what had gone wrong and what corrective steps were required.  It worked out so well that the senior manager commented later on that he was impressed with how I had handled the meeting.

I suppose it went alright; I never heard of the issue again.

Pressure to Bend the Rules

September 16, 2009

I seem to have a trend in my blogs of involving some cliched quote.  Well here you go; “Rules are made to be broken.”  Well in the highly strung, overly cautious world we now inhabit, I think this is rubbish.

As a young professional, if you’re working for people that are predominately results driven, they will have little interest in the processes and procedures underlying the deliverable.  But I think you should.  I think that even though there may be time pressures, cost pressures or other variables, to bend or break the rules ultimately only leads to more trouble.

Ok, there are always exemptions.  Always situations where a bend is ok.  But we all know what happens if you bend the rules once.  They’ll expect it next time…because they know you can do it.  This has come back to bite me a couple of times.

What do I do?

  • Don’t do it if you can avoid it.  To help this, have the process communicated before hand.
  • Make it abundantly clear that it’s a one off.
  • Escalate to a more senior person.

I suppose ultimately, if you’re not comfortable with doing something, hopefully you shouldn’t be made to do it.  Because in the end, if you’ve done the action, it’s going to come back and bite you.

Ever find yourself drifting along, enjoying the moment, then getting suddenly snapped back into reality by realising that someone has been speaking to you for quite some time?

Two options.

  1. Fake it through.  This is the common school kid trick.  If you can manage to repeat back to them the last thing they said to you, you must have been listening.  Right?
  2. Confess.  “Sorry, I got lost for a moment there.  You were talking about such and such…”

Obviously it would be better to avoid these awkward little predicaments in the first place.  So for my pearl of wisdom, over the next few days try out a few different listening techniques.

  • Repeat back what has been covered at the end of the conversation in a mini, one to two line summary.
  • Pause after they’ve finished speaking.  It shows (or at least gives the illusion) that you’re considering the next move.
  • Engage in active listening.  A massively important skill.  For a pretty good summary of this check out this blog.

It’s On A List

August 5, 2009

I use a To-Do list.  Unique.  Mind-blowing.  Earth-shattering.  Not.  My list is none of these things.  It’s a simple rolling list; if I don’t do something on that day it gets added to the next days list.  I get some sort of satisfaction by crossing things out.  My book is full of lists for each day, with each line scratched off.

Anyway, if you don’t use a To-Do list, a WIP (Work In Progress) or some variation you either should or you don’t have enough going on (in which case you should find something to do).  They are very handy.my-desk

But the problem I find is that some things, the hard things, get rolled over day after day.  I have some tasks that the only progress I make with them is to write them down each day.  This is pretty hopeless.  I obviously need to do something about this.

So what I’ve decided is to write a tiny, tiny action plan next to each.  I’m not talking about the full SMART principle (if you’re interested in that, see this handy blog post).  More like a name, a verb, some key point.  Hopefully this will point me and keep me in the right direction.

Do you have any hints or tips?

Ever been in the middle of your work, the regular kind as well as dabbling in some other smaller projects, when you see a shadow over your shoulder?

“Busy?”

Ok you’ve got a few options.

  1. “Yeh, flat out, give me a moment.”
  2. “Not really, what’s up?”
  3. Some mixture of the two

I know what goes through my head.  I am busy and want to portray this, but I also want to be seen to be helping out the boss.  I also have a fear that if I don’t take on board what they want done, something interesting will be handed to someone else.  Finally (yes I must be a little paranoid) what happens if I’m passed over in the future because last time I didn’t take it up.  So I come to the conclusion that by refusing this work, my career as I know it will be over.

I answer, “What have you got for me?”  And so my boss launches into an inevitably vague description and leaves me at it.  More expectations, more work and the resulting more pressure.  Don’t get me wrong, I really thrive on being the go-to-man who gets stuff done, but sometimes an inability to say “No” can really get me in a pickle.  So now my growing list of things to get done means more people are relying on me (networking I’ll leave to another day), but I find that quality and timeliness inevitably drops off.

I suppose I’m always hunting for ways to combat this.  I could realise that my manager won’t ignore me in the future for knocking some stuff back.  I could realise that a lot of the time quality prevails over quantity.  Or I could realise that saying “Not at the moment” isn’t necessarily career suicide.  But still, what happens if this time it is really that ‘George Foreman Grill’ chance?