It’s pretty well documented how important feedback is.  It’s also pretty obvious that it involves at least two people.  And besides the rare occasions when someone may ask for feedback, generally it’s the one giving it that will initiate it.

But how do you effectively give feedback?  I suppose it depends on what kind of feedback you’re giving and whether you’re even actively thinking about the type or not.  Check out this blog that shows some simple but detailed types of feedback.

I’d like to break it down even further.  Let’s go for two types.

  • Affirming – For letting people know that what they did was good.
  • Adjusting – When you need to get someone to do something differently.

Then the simple, structured way to give both.

Detail the exact situation.  People have poor memories generally in remembering their own actions.  Rather than say “You always send the reports late”, try saying “This morning the finance report was late by half an hour.”

Explain to them how it personally affected you.  Don’t make it general.  Continuing with my example, rather than “And it’s really annoying”, use “And so it impacts on me on delivering reports that I use your data for”.

Suggest a way to improve it.  “If you could let me know if they are going to be late, I’ll be able to then let the people receiving my deliverables know.”

The important points are to make it personal and to deliver it in a way that the person can take it or leave it.  It’s not an order or instruction.  It’s a suggestion.

Right vs Wrong vs Different

October 24, 2009

I was chatting with a good mate of mine the other day.  Some sort of harmless argument came up.  Now this mate is the kind of person that doesn’t really budge.

Me – “You don’t really like hearing different do you?”

Mr X – “Not at all.  I can totally admit when I’m wrong.”

Me – “But it’s not always right or wrong.  Sometimes there is different.”

So I hope you get my point.  In a lot of situations, people may be so focused on holding onto their argument/belief/train of though etc that they’ll only let go if they hear/see/find evidence to the contrary.  But is it possible for two or more ways of doing things to coexist?  Is there more than one way to skin a cat? (Putting aside the point why you would actually want to do this.)

Generally, (because there are always exceptions) ‘Yes’.

So why is this important for a young professional?

  • Opportunities to challenge the current situtation or to develop your own method.
  • When learning, be open to new methods.
  • When teaching, be open to new methods.

Recognise that in some circumstances, there is room, there is flexibility and there can be diversity.  Use it to your advantage.

Once Is Enough Thank You

October 13, 2009

I get frustrated when I have to be told things twice.  If it’s a complicated thing maybe I’ll let myself off.  But generally I really get disappointed in myself if I have to be shown the same thing multiple times.

But as a young professional, especially during the early times of a new position, you’ll spend more time learning than reviewing.  This leads to what I call (but probably has a more technical name) as learning fatigue.  There is definately a limit to what you can take on board.  There are two ways to address this problem.  One is from the perspective of the learner, the other from that of the teacher.

The Teacher

  • No one is going to get it all right, the first time, ever.
  • There is more than one way to do something.
  • Know what is important to teach and what is important to learn.

The Learner

  • Actively pay attention – ask questions, take notes
  • Try something yourself before asking again – the same question asked differently can help
  • Know that you can’t know it all at first.  Patience!

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.

Teaching those older than you

September 20, 2009

By definition a young professional is probably not going to be as old as our colleagues.  Der. So there will be times in the workplace when we know something these other guys (or gals) don’t.  They’ll need to get taught.  And here the difficulties can arise.

I can find it difficult to teach something to someone who has been doing the basics of my job for years.  10 plus sometimes.  Wow…10 years ago I was running around high school playing barefoot soccer at lunch.

Here is an example.  The other day at work we got a group email inbox set up.  I know, not mind blowing technology but a simple step we’d been missing.  Everyone in the workplace knows how to use email.  I work at an investment bank, so we live on email and spreadsheets.  Anyway, I had to run through the basics of how to use it and the strengths of it.  Then a couple of days later I ask

“So <insert manager name here>, you haven’t been filing away your emails I see.”

“Oh yeh, how do I access it again?”

So obviously I need to work on my teaching skills a little.  But it leads me to my important point.

How to teach without patronising.

  1. Use simple terminology but not dumbed down.  Unneccesary a.c.r.o.n.y.m.s and explaining how to turn on the PC aren’t required.
  2. Use analogies.  My favourite is for explaining hotmail to my mum –  “It’s like a Post Office Box which you can access from any computer in the world.”
  3. Understand that they won’t get it completely the first time.  Who does?

So go to it.  Teach away readers.

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.

Fantastic article in my local online (does that even make sense?) paper.  Google as a religion.  The basic premise is based around a website called the Church of Google.  Knowledge is power.

It got me thinking about knowledge sharing within your workspace.  What are some of the ways that we share our information with those around us?

  1. Tell them
  2. Write it down
  3. Show people
  4. Other things

But knowledge sharing is obviously two ways.  There is no reason in putting things down or no one else is going to pick it up.  And is there a reluctance these days to seek out information this old fashioned way?

When was the last time that you actually read a manual?  I mean the book kind that comes with something?  Our generation would probably ask someone, then google it before going to a manual.  So can a work place have a google like concept too?  Well I’m sure they can and I’m sure someone at google has thought of this and has already put a price tag on it.

I suppose the general point is that people want a one-stop source of information.  But this information depository, or golden source relies on two things.  One, it needs input.  Two, it needs users.  As a young professional, we can become heavily involved in both of these sides.

Ok, so which one is it?  First in best dressed?  First the worst, second the best?  Surely all these age old cliches have come from somewhere?

As usual, I’ll take some type of middle ground and mention how important context is.

  1. One of my earlier posts spoke about getting in and having a go.  If there is an opportunity to gain some early ground by being the first to move in on something, then being the first can’t be the worst, can it?
  2. Grabbing that idea and taking it all the way…then discovering that perhaps it wasn’t the best move.  Hindsight.  What a wonderful tool that you’ll never have until it’s too late.

So what do I think is best?  Personally I don’t mind option 1.  But as I mentioned earlier, it’s definately depending on context.  The important thing is to know the consequences.  Once you understand the possible outcomes, it’s a lot easier to make a more balanced decision.

Curse of the Audit Trail

September 3, 2009

Being a young person in the work place does have advantages. Making mistakes is expected.

I’ve found that although people who have been working in an area for a long time may not make as many mistakes, they can certainly take a long time to get something done. Why?

“Please confirm.”

The dreaded sign off to an email. I find people these days can be too scared to make a decision themselves, so every step is double and triple checked with someone else.

An example from this morning. I had to close some accounts. Rather than getting someone to confirm they were zero, I did it myself. I then sent along the email.
A – Please close these 4 accounts.
B – Only three of those are redundant. Please confirm you want all four shut.
A – No, just the old ones (I copied and pasted the ones she had listed as redundant)
B – Sorry, I gave you the wrong list. Here is the amended one. Please confirm.
A – Yes, that looks fine, please close
B – I get a warning that the balance isn’t zero. Please confirm you want me to proceed.
A – (After a phone call to her, where I found out she had gone to the system and seen it was zero) – Yes
B – Done thanks

Argggg.

Technology Guru By Default

August 30, 2009

I’m Generation Y.  We’re the generation that understands technology.  We’re the generation that uses technology.  Are we?  Anyone else ever feel the pressure of being asked to provide a technological solution to something and having next to know idea where to start?  But then, somehow, we are able to deliver.

Well fear not, I’ve stumbled across a great www.xkcd.com picture at this blog.

tech_support_cheat_sheetThis cartoon perfectly describes how we as young professionals seem to be able to get those results.  But perhaps we shouldn’t be telling everyone about this.

Let’s take advantage of it.

Becoming the tech guru in your organisation is another source of professional advantage.  Besides the sometimes time consuming questions, there probably isn’t much wrong with being the ‘go-to’ person on these issues.

So as a young professional, if you’re not the default tech guru, follow this simple diagram and help out those poor, confused other colleagues.