If your boss routinely delegates projects without telling you how things should get done, and then picks apart your work and asks you to start over, you need to get proactive. Asking for more clarity upfront is a place to begin, but if that doesn’t work, try figuring out your boss’ viewpoint in another way. When you’re asked to handle a project, draft a preliminary plan for how you intend to approach the task. Set up a meeting with your boss to review it and see what he thinks. Incorporate his feedback into a revised plan and share that with him again. Keep doing this until your boss signs off. If you do this often enough, your boss may eventually realize that he can save time by being more specific at the outset.
Archive for August, 2012
Some of your most valuable employees are those junior staff who act and contribute far beyond their pay grade. Look out for these individuals so you can recognize them, cultivate their talents, and set them up as examples to others. Here are three characteristics to spot:
- They focus on results. Because they concentrate on the outcomes rather than the process, they know when to break rules — and it’s not to be rebellious
- They have strong interpersonal skills. Despite their junior titles, these stars lead through influence. And they gain that sway by connecting with others.
- They demonstrate high integrity. They are consistent in their actions and words. When conflicts arise, others look to them over formal leaders for guidance.
If you wear headphones at work you may feel they drown out distractions and help you focus. But headphones — whether you’re listening to music or not — also isolate you from your work environment and that can have negative consequences. When you’re cut off from the informal conversations going on around you, you miss out on the opportunity to contribute to meaningful discussions about work and form bonds with your colleagues. The more you participate in the ambient, informal life of the office, the more committed you’ll be to the work of the company. If you need intense focus, wear your headphones every once in a while. But don’t make it a habit.
Adapted from “Workers, Take Off Your Headphones” by Anne Kreamer.
When a project or meeting gets difficult, it can be tempting to power through to try to get it over with. But it’s better to do the same you might do for a slow-moving computer: shut it off and wait a minute. Give yourself the opportunity to regain your composure. In a meeting that’s going nowhere? Take a break. Not making headway on that proposal you need to write? Take a walk. During the break, don’t think of new strategies or arguments. By taking yourself out of the situation, you allow your brain to rest so that when you return — with a fresh perspective and a calm mind — you are more likely to find a new solution.
The reward for accomplishing a high-profile project in a short timeframe is often another challenging project with an even tighter timeline. Taking on increasingly impossible assignments will cause you to burn out, fail, or both. Next time your manager recruits you for that project only you can get done, ask for a few days to think it over. Use that time to plan the project, identify the resources you’ll need, and predict bottlenecks. Be realistic with your plan; don’t assume you or your team will work 80-hour weeks. Then, share it with your boss. Explain what you won’t be able to do as a result of working on this assignment and negotiate for the extra resources you need. Be sure to document the agreement by sending a follow up email so that you can renegotiate if resources get pulled or deadlines get tightened.
Gaining control over email is a constant, nagging struggle for most office workers. Instead of checking it continuously throughout the day from multiple devices, schedule specific times to process what’s in your inbox. You are most efficient when you answer messages in bulk at your computer. You can more easily access files and paste links quickly via a desktop or laptop. When you take your messages head on like this, you are more focused and waste no time transitioning from one activity to another. Process your email three times a day in 30-minute increments, once in the morning, once mid-day, and once before leaving. Use a timer and when it beeps, close your email program. Outside these designated times, don’t access your inbox — from any device. Consider this an email vacation.
Adapted from “Coping with Email Overload” by Peter Bregman.
Every team has a certain amount of conflict, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a leader you should identify whether the tension is destructive or constructive, and address it directly. Destructive conflict, including personal attacks and scapegoating, undermines the trust that is vital to working relationships. Manage it by acknowledging the problem, using persuasion, reminding others of the long-term perspective, or otherwise deploying your power as a leader. Constructive conflict, on the other hand, is when team members have divergent perspectives on your most important tasks or priorities. Ask pointed questions to draw the issues out. Then insist that your employees discuss them openly and work out solutions that can be integrated into your team’s overall vision.
Adapted from the Harvard ManageMentor Online Module: Leading and Motivating.