How can a manager be promoted, only for others to discover
that he lacks certain basic, foundation skills? Someone, somewhere dropped an
easy ball that could have been corrected if the company had the right
perspective on how to develop new employees.
There‘s an interesting meme floating around pointing out 10
skills that every employee needs to possess. It adds a zinger: they don‘t
require a drop of talent, implying that no excuses are possible. While the list
wasn‘t developed for Jamaican companies, here is a local version of this
popular meme based on my experience.
#1 – Being On Time
In our environment, this is a huge challenge. Like many
other firms in tropical climates, we allow lateness to run rampant, even in
executive suites. Also, people who are punctual don‘t confront those who
aren’t. Finally, our companies don’t develop a way to teach employees what “on
time” means in their context.
For example, I had a friend who regularly told others she
was “just around the corner” even when she hadn’t yet started the car. In her
mind, she was “on time.” By contrast, I worked with a company in which
“on-time” meant that you arrived early and prepared yourself to start on
the exact, scheduled minute. Yet another organization translated the phrase to
mean “any time before the most important person arrives.”
The point is that your firm must teach its own definition of
“on time” plus all the detailed enabling behaviors, starting with the CEO and
her direct reports.
#2 – Work Ethic/Effort
New employees are often slow to appreciate that for every
corporate skill, there is a ladder of accomplishment. Unfortunately, those who
are unaware, usually occupy the lowest rung. This is no matter of disrespect.
The fact is, if they are taught the existence of higher skills and how to
achieve them, they can become inspired.
Their objective, before they are confirmed as full-time
staff, should be to show they have climbed the rungs of some key skills. For
example, a summer student should be able the demonstrate an unbroken string
of on-time arrivals at work. These may seem to be too easy, but don’t
under-estimate the effort required to learn new behaviors and apply them
#3 – Body Language
Have you ever seen a young person slouch in his office
chair, apparently ready to doze off? Newly hired workers just
aren’t taught that their body language influences others. The impact on
customers, colleagues and managers is part of what they will be held
#4 – Energy
Whereas it may not have been cool to be an eager-beaver in
their prior lives, young employees need to learn that the tables are now
turned. How they get work done is vitally important, and they aren‘t “allowed”
to have a bad day that drags down others. Every hour is intended to be an
opportunity for enthusiasm and engagement, and they must learn to manage their
sleep and nutrition to accomplish this goal. Habitually overcoming the
“I-don‘t-feel-like-it” blues is a vital new capacity to develop.
#5 – Attitude/Resilience
This is perhaps a nebulous skill but companies need to go
beyond the level of clichés and define it clearly. Science has shown that
there are concrete steps in techniques like Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy which
can be followed to transform a poor attitude. This will benefit them on the job
and in every part of their lives.
#6 – Passion
With few exceptions, most employees are passionate about at
least one thing in their lives. Companies do a poor job of nurturing these
strong feelings, allowing new hires to slip into the ranks of the disaffected
and disengaged within months. However, developing a love of one’s work is a
skill that can be taught, even though it’s usually left to chance.
#7 – Being Coachable
Jamaican workplaces are rife with stories of new employees
who are convinced that they “already know” everything. When this lack of
self-esteem interferes with the development of a “Beginner’s Mind” it’s time
for an intervention. A good one would interrupt their habits and show them how
to accept coaching, a capacity which does not come naturally to high achievers.
#8 – Being Prepared (To Do Extra)
New hires must learn to over-prepare if they hope to
succeed; they simply have fewer in-company experiences to draw from. Then,
once projects start, they need to be ready to go the additional mile
repeatedly. This behavior is a signal that they are taking their careers
Many of these eight practices can be tied to company
standards enforced by your firm’s environment. Your organization must make them
explicit: a strong start to a successful career. This ensures that when
promotions occur, the recipients are fully trained.
Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based
Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. Missed a column?
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