The Caribbean employee is often left in the dark, unable to develop the basic skills needed to be effective. In this article, I try to address the issue by pointing out foundation skills that only require effort and focus to develop.
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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If you manage an extremely high number of tasks, it’s a mistake to accept productivity advice from just about anyone. Instead, you should use special solutions tailored for people like you.
CEO‘s I have worked with share a few distinct characteristics. They tend to be: – High energy – Sometimes, they get a lot done by simply working harder than others. – Driven – They don‘t need to be inspired by outsiders: They motivate themselves even under trying circumstances.- Creative – They routinely come up with novel solutions from disparate sources.
While this list may appear to be little more than a bunch of “good things”, these characteristics create a unique personality: an “Ultra-Busy“. She is someone who regularly places more tasks on her plate than she has the capacity to complete. In other words, she sets lofty aspirations which she sometimes can‘t meet. She is also prone to live an unbalanced life. High blood pressure, overweight and lack of time with loved ones are common problems for her and others in this cohort. Finally, she fails to account for her uniqueness. Believing that others are just like her, she mistakenly trusts them to deliver at the same level.
Perhaps you recognize these traits in yourself. While they may sound like profound weaknesses, they actually come from a positive place. You see, Ultra-Busys aren’t simply workaholics.
Instead, they love tackling big problems, both for the inherent challenge and for the underlying mission. They aren’t happy unless they use their brains, hearts, minds and souls for a worthy purpose. As such, they give everything they can, often losing track of time as they tackle and resolve one issue after another. These totally immersive moments are high points.
As such, their time is precious, making them fastidious in their choice of productivity habits and aids. Always on the lookout for the latest improvements they need to heed a word of caution: much of the advice floating around isn‘t actually meant for them. Here’s why.
During adolescence, each one of us starts to teach ourselves how to use our memory to manage our personal task-load. Then, as we grow older, we search for better methods to handle more tasks. A few people – The Ultra-Busys – take this to an extreme. Their love of big results requires them to manage a monumental task-load. Unlike others who see added tasks as a burden, they willingly create lots of them in order to make quicker progress towards their life-goals.
However, most productivity advice doesn‘t account for this difference. Instead, it‘s geared for the average person who simply wants to survive each day using a few handy coping mechanisms.
But if you happen to be an Ultra-Busy, what methods should you use? My research reveals the following. 1. Use a Time-Scarcity Schedule Most people adopt a calendar exclusively to track appointments, but this technique doesn‘t work for Ultra-Busys. Instead, you must use your calendar to plan all your hours, including sleep, weekends and holidays. In this way, it helps you confront the reality of a 24-hour day, especially when you reach the end of an activity and need to choose which one to do next. Other folks don‘t experience your level of scarcity and have lots of spare time. You don’t, and a time-budget is your key to keeping yourself on track in every dimension of your life.
2. Use Flexible Tools to Combat Disruptions
As an Ultra-Busy, you deal with unexpected, daily disruptions. This means that you must use advanced task management software in place of either memory or paper tools.
It’s your answer to the problem of not having an administrative assistant who can re-juggle your schedule when the unplanned occurs. Instead, you are required to do everything on your own and the best choice of task manager is one that‘s cloud-based, using the latest Artificial Intelligence.
3. Embrace Your Agency If you‘re a real Ultra-Busy, you probably exhaust others around you with your pace and intensity. Some will pity you, thinking that you are a sorry case…a victim of your own success. However, deep down you know that nothing could be further from the truth. You accept and appreciate your own agency – each task you undertake is one you created freely, from far inside your commitments. So don‘t be alarmed when others fail to understand. Instead, find the few who are like you and learn from them. You can take the free training I offer to Ultra-Busys at ScheduleU.org – The School for Scheduling Everything.
Your job is to stay true to your calling and its consequence: the incredible time demands you put on yourself. Avoid average advice and uncover the thinking that fits your extraordinary commitments.
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