Visit Our Store September 1, 2009
As a leader in your organization, you are likely being asked to do more than ever before. Perhaps your company has downsized or shifted its focus, leaving you to either pick up loose ends or begin development on new initiatives that need to gain inertia through your effort. You likely already have a job that is full of responsibilities, and it may be difficult to imagine how to fit in any new responsibilities or projects. Regardless, colonels are not created without war; likewise, leaders are not created without challenges.
The first step to taking on the new responsibility is to interview your predecessor. (Of course, this is predicated on your predecessor still being available.) Notice that I mentioned you should interview your predecessor, not simply talk with her. The information and materials are just the first part to learning what this new undertaking will require in order to fulfill stakeholder expectations.
Next, give the work a physical space in your electronic folders, file drawers, or whatever else is required. Spatial integration is vital. Now, think about how this new area of responsibility may overlap with current projects and organizational connections. Can you combine some meetings to efficiently take on the new initiative?
Finally, delegate and follow up. What parts of this new project or area can (and should) be delegated to others? Parse those out, pass on the information, and let everyone get started. Then follow up (with yourself and others) in a week. How are the new tasks working into your subordinates’ regular schedule? How about your own? Are they able to maintain this set of initiatives over the long haul?
Now ask yourself the same question. If you see some rocky areas on the horizon, address them now. When the project has just been put on your plate, you have the highest possibility of making changes.
You probably have been working for years to prioritize where energy is spent, in order to get the most out of your day, right? You have to decide where you will get the biggest return on your resources and concentrate on those tasks. While that tenet still holds true, many opportunities are hidden beneath the veneer of every interaction, throughout every day.
Some of these opportunities are obvious: you have been asked to help two other managers resolve a touchy and possibly litigious human resources issue. They each have a different take, and want your input. That’s an easy one, right? They clearly respect your opinion (because they asked for it), and you will come out a hero, no matter what. But is that how opportunity typically knocks on your door? I don’t think so.
If you look at every single interaction as an opportunity, the way you see your whole day will change. Even more, the way you see your organization, job and future role will change, too. Because the truth is that with each situation is an opportunity for positive and productive interaction, even when handling the nagging details of your job or seemingly rocky personalities in your organization. And guess what? This is a win-win situation. Why? Because your ability to turn on a dime and react positively increases your influence tenfold, if not more.
Your new found “service” mentality will change the tenor of your work and life. Here are some ways to get started.
1. Write a letter. Really. An email just doesn’t have the personal touch that an actual letter does. Make it easy. Keep some simple thank you notes in your desk. You can become the rare gem among the daily bills and catalogs that people typically receive. Your clients will remember this personal touch.
2. Offer to do something more. Even a small gesture of running the mail out for the administrative staff or helping a coworker fix the printer as they rush to an important presentation will pay off. These small decisions can affect your whole career.
3. Take the extra minute. You are very busy. You don’t have an extra minute to give every task of your day, right? Wrong. You always have an extra minute. Before you click the send button on your email, complete a memo, or submit the quarterly budget, give it an extra minute. It is often that last look that gives you the level of excellence you desire.
So, are small opportunities worth it? No! Why? You guessed it– Because there are no small opportunities! Each interaction is important. Give it a try today, and watch your influence grow.
Our interview this time is with Alex Hiam, renowned author of various assessments, books and workshop materials.
His assessments include the Dealing with Conflict Instrument (DCI) and the Strategic Leadership Type Indicator (SLTi) (HRD Press), amongst many others. His books include Marketing for Dummies (For Dummies, 2009), The 48-hour MBA (Adams Media corporation, 2000), and numerous other best selling business-related titles. Alex holds degrees from Harvard College and UC Berkeley.
You are very prolific, and your work spans various business topics, including conflict, negotiation, marketing and brand positioning. It almost feels like you have been working from a “to do” list for authoring. Did you have a list of priorities, or have the ideas developed organically?
Speaking specifically to the development of the DCI and SLTi, the final products were really the result of combining two parts of my life.
Early in my career I worked for a survey research firm in Chicago, where I gained a general knowledge of instrument design and assessment. I also had done work in the social sciences and in conflict management.
The other thread in my life is the work I have done in marketing and diagnosing problems in product and sales processes. Through that part of my career, I had commissioned survey development and had designed some surveys myself. Fortuitously, these two pieces worked well together to bring about the development of these assessments.
Moreover, along the way, I learned that some of the books I had written were being used in executive and management development programs. I realized that there was a need for training and assessment materials that were developed specifically for a corporate setting. Some materials that were being used were actually created for research purposes and were not tailored to a business environment. So the market really reached out to me.
As far as business titles go, I have a sincere interest in helping people grow and develop in their jobs. That dovetails nicely with my knowledge base in the behavioral sciences. You can’t teach behavioral skills without rolling up your sleeves and getting involved.
So I just started to dive into the areas that are compelling to me, which is where the Marketing for Dummies (For Dummies, 2009), Mastering Business Negotiation: A Working Guide to Making Deals and Resolving Conflict (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and Wiley Pathways Marketing (Wiley, 2006), stemmed from.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished a series of novels for young people. It started from my daughter’s request for daily letters while she was at camp. You can imagine that my daily life is not that interesting from a 16-year-old perspective, so I began to write sections of this story and send them to her. I guess you could say that the whole series unfolded in the US mail!
My next business project is Innovation for Dummies. I have just begun working on it, and am already very excited about it.
What made you decide to write an entire book on innovation?
Innovation is such a critical leadership skill. I often work creative facilitation skills into conflict coursework. Conflict management also requires innovation as well as leadership and management skills. There is a rich overlap here. I recommend that trainers try to give 30 or 45 minutes in a conflict management course to talk about the leader’s role in helping find creative solutions to problems.
When we teach problem solving and conflict management, clients always say they want people to work together, so we should teach collaborative skills. The problem is that you can’t make collaboration pay unless you take a creative approach; Because you have to set differences aside, brainstorm, and develop non-obvious solutions. So this is a highly creative process.
Thanks so much for your time, Alex. We look forward to reading your upcoming titles!
You are the training manager of a large hospital. In the past few years, your organization has moved from an in-house training staff to an outsourcing model. You have partnered with two consulting companies to take care of the organization’s training needs, including management development, soft skills training and seminars specific to the health care industry.
Both training companies have consistently fulfilled their contracts; their trainers are professional, their curriculum is on target and the quality of materials and handouts is above average. You feel that these are great long term partners for your organization.
However, until now, there has not been a return on investment (ROI) measurement. The hospital’s executive board has told you that it needs proof of ROI in order to continue these contracts. Even more importantly to you, the entire staff development and training program is at stake.
When you approach the two companies about the possibility of pre- and post-program assessments or other options for proof of ROI, you were told that it would cost more to embed assessment into their programs. Still, the board did not give you a bigger budget. From your perspective, you are doing your training partners a favor by giving them an opportunity to prove themselves. Where do you go from here?