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.

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.

But…

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.

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.

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!