Employee Effectiveness Series

Doing It Right The First Time

This has to be one of my most frequently used lines -“Do it right, the first time.”

We often find that we could have easily avoided repeating an action if only we had paid more attention to getting it right at the first instance. I also find that the energy, the time and the mental stress of re-doing a task often leaves one feeling exasperated. In some cases, it totally destabilizes one’s itinerary for the rest of the day.

I had written this piece a while ago, but then I fell short myself. So I thought: “what better way to convey my thoughts on this subject than sharing my experience…”

I was given a task to do and the bottom line is I flunked it; the first time at least. I had the responsibility of extracting data from a bunch of already completed forms. With hindsight, it was apparent I hadn’t taken the time to be clear on the task or its final objective; It was also clear that I didn’t pause to ask questions when I hit a roadblock. Instead, I assumed I knew exactly what was expected of me or at least was bright enough to figure it out. So, I decided to act out my ability to work independently. I even as much as applauded myself on my ability to brainstorm and achieve much with so little assistance.

The long and short of it is that I hadn’t extracted all the information that was needed from the forms, which left me having to begin the entire process all over. It cost me my lunch break, a headache and a whole lot of time and energy that could have easily gone into other things (like jotting down another blog idea).

The lesson that could be learned from my experience boarders around how individuals can increase their effectiveness, not by doing more of the same things (especially when it’s the wrong way), but by striving to do the right thing, the first time, every time.

In addition, I’ve also come to realize that one of the biggest mistakes we often make, a major factor of not doing things right, boils down to making ASSUMPTIONS. We assume we know what’s required, or we assume we know how to get it done or a variety of other assumptions -when it might be best to simply ‘ask’ and/or ‘clarify’.

Just as I have been recently reminded, it’s useful that I re-remind myself and in so doing, share the following:

  • If we must remain effective as individuals, a conscious and continuous effort must be paid to ensuring a meticulous and a thorough eye towards performing tasks.
  • Striving for precision and correctness (at the first instance) will result in resource savings. Likewise, the time and energy saved may be channeled into other productive activities, which will further translate into personal and organizational gains.
  • It’s okay not knowing everything. There isn’t any harm in seeking clarification; it diminishes one in no way at all. Better wiser to have asked than enervated staying mute (I’d be sure to favourite this).
  • Finally, priority should be given to the quality of work we do. It reflects on our personal brands. Presentation matters. Thoroughness should take precedence over speed, fatigue, laziness, disinterest and the likes. The fact remains; if we fail to give it a 100% at the first instance, it usually comes back with teeth sharp enough to rip. That in itself, I believe, is sufficient reason to be more effective.

Doing it right the first time is not asking for perfection or suggesting we create an illusion of it. It’s more about taking the time to carry out our tasks as best as we possibly can, within the limits of current abilities and after we must have made the required effort to ensure that the objective is understood.

Subsequently, if mistakes do arise, then we’re better off and stand to gain new knowledge which will set us in a better position to outperform on the next attempt.


Employee Effectiveness Series

Personal Branding: 10 Tips to Get You Started

I rank the need for a deliberate approach towards personal branding very high. In my opinion, its import cannot be over-emphasized. People often go about their day-to-day activities unaware of the impressions that are being formed about them. You may think nothing of what your parents or siblings think of you but what of the wider circle: a prospective client? Your colleagues?

Some dismiss the relevance of projecting a good public image while others are careful not to conform to a world which is both materialistic and ‘appearance’ driven. Rather than join what they term ‘the rat race’ they prefer and heavily rely on the confidence gained from skill, expertise as well as the plethora of accomplishments that make up for whatever may be lacking in appearance. While this may have worked for some, not all are as fortunate.

We find ourselves in a world where sometimes, the first impression is all we ever get, or at best it’s the most lasting one. Thus the question: why fall victim when what needs to be done is to be aware and conscious of what is projected to the public?

Just as in every other sphere of life, it is useful to project an image that accurately describes what you stand for in the workplace. Here are a few ideas/tips that could point you in the right direction:

#1 Portray yourself in the light of how you want to be seen by others but more importantly, ensure a match between who you are on the inside and what you display on the outside.

#2 People would usually deal with you based on what they perceive you to be. This may be extended to such things as being more conscious of those habits, choice of words, behaviours, managerial styles, amongst others, that do not accurately describe you to others.

#3 In a world of constant competition, one where expertise has become commonplace, be sure to be known for something. Ensure you bring more to the table than is expected of you. It is often said: those who get rewarded are those who have exceeded the expectations set before them. The workplace could be likened to a sport where everyone else is after their respective interests/targets/goals. If you don’t take charge of yours, no one else will.

#4 Don’t be passive, put yourself out there. Don’t just participate, be ‘seen’ to be productive. It’s brilliant being the office favourite as long as you understand that it has nothing do with getting you the next promotion. Ultimately, organizations reward only those employees who are consistently seen to be productive.

#5 It’s good to believe you deserve to be treated better than you presently are; I believe you do too :). Do something constructive about it; never assume a pitiful sorry look would get you the sort of recognition you desire.

#6 Be deliberate about your input. It isn’t enough to simply be administrative about your duties, give it more thought than just seeking to cross it off your to-do-list.

#7 Know your Key Performance Indicators ahead of time. Be aware of whatever may be expected of you. Expectations or atleast, knowing what serves as a benchmark for subsequent performance evaluation will serve as a personal guide for matching outcomes with expectations.

#8 Your mindset is key. Work-up considerable interest about the job. The attitude you go in with sets the pace for how you will perform on your tasks. Come in with a plan. Know your strengths. If you are a specialist, constantly look for opportunities to learn and expand your portfolio of achievements.

#9 It’s alright to seek to get your work noticed. Opportunities exist at the work place. Search them out. Get your work noticed but be careful not to do it at the expense of another’s reputation or accomplishment. Remember, there is a life outside of the workplace. The whole aim is to expand your network, not to burn your bridges.

#10 Finally, be consistent with your personal brand. Be sure to bear in mind that every action either builds or erodes it. Practice what you preach at all times.

Building/enhancing your personal brand isn’t about putting up a front or living a lie. It has more to do with refining ourselves in such ways as to improve on the good while eliminating the negatives. It advances the notion of consistently being at our best at all times and in so doing, ensuring the world sees us in the best possible light. More importantly, it is about ‘standing out’ -positively!

Any other practical ideas you may have on how to go about building a positive personal brand could be shared…

What Reality TV Teaches Better Than Textbooks

Reality TV & HR?

Photo: courtesy of blogafi.org

One of my favourite things to watch is Reality TV. It’s the craze these days and it’s simply unending. There’s some form of it or another running at the flip of the remote. I quite enjoy them to be honest and everything they seem to ‘want us to conform to’ gets more interesting by the episode. However, what I find intriguing and absolutely captivating (or should I say curious), isn’t necessarily all the drama or the poorly constructed tenses or even the entertainment they seem to provide. What I find truly rewarding is not just their ability to give an insight into spontaneity or behaviour patterns but more importantly, their ability to mirror our actions back to us as seen through the experiences of others.

It is often said that we learn from our mistakes. Who says?! Why learn from yours when it’s easier and much more economical emotionally to learn from those of others. Morals learnt from the experiences of others are just as easily transferable as skills gained from attending a time management workshop! Better safe than sorry; works all the time!

Of all reality shows, auditions remain my favourite to watch. My interests lie in how they have been distinctively structured to filter out contestants. They expose motives, test tenacity and ultimately stretch the limits of contestants in such a way that only those who truly desire it and are willing to ‘battle’ it out emerge successful. Without a doubt, they reserve a place for skill, aptitude and character. They prove that simply wanting something bad enough sometimes isn’t just enough and reiterates that while hope and faith are useful, they are nothing in themselves without the individual’s input and unwavering zeal for continuous improvement.  Each time I watch these episodes, something within me is stirred up. I can’t help but feel connected to the contestants. They become my ‘experience’ on how not to behave during an interview session. How not to handle serious matters with seemingly causal demeanour but more importantly, how to stand out from the crowd or be visible/memorable amidst a room filled with equally talented participants.

The labour market is flooded. Not with the uneducated or the semi-skilled, but with sophisticated, well-trained and highly educated professionals. How can you be sure to stand-out if you haven’t learnt how. How can you, in 2 minutes, sell yourself to an organization as its best choice when you lack experience on how ‘winners’ have pitched their Unique Selling Points (USPs), organized their thoughts and prioritized their competencies and achievements. How will you possibly distinguish yourself and come out successful if you stayed unaware of those habits or ‘little things’ that stood a chance of disqualifying you before you got the chance to speak!

Enough said. When next you find yourself tuned into another of those Reality TV shows, remember not to hate or cuss or discredit them. Instead, make them ‘your experience’; ‘your mirror’ if you will. Make it an assessment/appraisal of both self and the participants -so that you needn’t make mistakes that could have been avoided only if you had seen yourself in foresight.

The HR side of this? Well, I’m hoping that’s quite obvious. The key points to note include:

  1. You are solely responsible for your personal brand and how it reflects on your ability to deliver. Your body language is just as important as your appearance is -be aware of the messages you are giving-off.
  2. There’s one place you aren’t allowed to be modest and that’s in the interviewing room. Don’t be afraid to show in good light your experience, initiatives and accomplishments. However, ensure you strike the ‘right’ balance.
  3. Step out of the box for a moment; distinguish yourself with the slightest opportunity. Use what you’ve got. It could be your depth on matters, your sense of style, smile, poise,  diction, etc… Whichever you settle for, ensure it leaves a lasting impression! *This by no means down-plays the power/absolute importance of thorough preparation*
  4. Finally, ensure your resume is able to command a 2nd glance. Do something a little different, the first set of things people should notice about your CV ought to be your achievements, projects and skills. The bio-data and educational background can always come afterwards.