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.

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?

Yes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Even in these turbulent times I’m surrounded at work by people who have been with my company for 10 years or more.  10 years!  And not just with the same business, but doing the same thing.  There are some stats that say I’ll probably have 4 different careers in that time.  It got me thinking though.  Do people who have been in the one job for so long really know it all with their job?

Well they must right?  How else would they still be around?  So as an entry level/new starter around these people how can you impress them?  How can you make your mark?

In my short experience, I’ve found a couple of ways.

Do the simple things well. At the beginning you’ll get all the boring/tedious/almost useless tasks to do.  They don’t want to do them, so you’re a perfect opportunity to unload.  Take advantage of this though with my next point.

Question it all. I’ve asked a few times “So, why do we actually do this?” and got back the reply “Well, we historically have.”  To me that’s not a good enough reason.

Technology. Ok, to use a stereotype, we’re normally better with new technology.  And somewhere along the line the area you work in will have some new fandangled machinery, or application or tool.  Become an expert in this and you’ll have the other workers at your professional mercy.