What's your single most significant professional challenge right now...today? We posed that question in an OMTEC attendee survey conducted in June and July. Participants represented varying professional titles and company sizes. Interestingly, just over a quarter of 51 respondents answered with people- or skills-related hurdles. Here are some of their responses. Do they sound familiar?
- Time to manage suppliers instead of fire-fighting
- I’m in the process of transitioning into a new role. My biggest challenge is learning the new processes and filling gaps left by another colleague’s departure from the group.
- Attracting and retaining talented employees
- Doing more with less—huge opportunity, with limited manpower
- Handling all of the project manager duties with a team that is not trained in project management
- Developing the next generation of leadership
- Keeping up on technology offerings across many suppliers
There will always be forces that lie out of our control. How we respond to factors that we can control is what can ultimately lead to career advancement. The latter point called to mind a BONEZONE article by Brian Moore from 2012. Moore, previously President and CEO of Symmetry Medical and now a business and leadership consultant, noted:
The most important job we all face is to manage ourselves. The better job we do of it, the more effective and valuable we are. I am sure that most of you have heard the expression, ”The only constant is change.” Issues of job security, constant regulation pressure, more expected for less, time pressures, etc., remind us every day how true this is, and it’s only likely to become more intense. The only real constant in your life is you.
Moore outlined critical aspects for us as individuals to improve our performance, including how to remain engaged in our work, how to react to other’s behavior and how to inspire colleagues and direct reports. While Moore was mainly writing about leadership, his insight is universal for those seeking to advance their knowledge, responsibilities and influence.
Below, we republish a portion of that article as a reminder that we control our actions, and we can help others guide theirs as we all pursue professional development goals.
Moore led the article by addressing human behavior, because understanding the crux of human thought and action is essential to personal improvement. Here are a few helpful considerations.
We have to learn from experience. Regrettably, we have to experience things for ourselves and we do not always accept others’ experiences as valuable or relevant. Personal experience is a powerful learning process, but it can take time, with a few mishaps along the way. Behavior usually has to be changed from experiential activity.
Telepathy does not exist. Here is a conversation that I’ve had many times. Someone comes to complain about what someone else has or has not done. I usually ask, “Well, have you told them that?” They usually answer, “Well no, but they should know.” My advice for that person is, if you find yourself here—go talk to the other person. It works.
Plans usually do not work. We spend hours of time preparing plans, and while this is of course an essential part of business activity, the only absolute about most plans is that things will not happen as expected. Be prepared and always expect plans to change.
Do not rely on strangers. When faced with a problem or someone making a mistake, try to avoid the impulse to fire and then go hire someone else. This approach should be treated as a last resort. Remember, a new hire is usually someone you have not met before and have little or no real knowledge about; you will rely on a few hours of clever chat to make a hiring decision. Even some of the worst performers usually manage to get through this often-superficial interviewing process. Recruitment is expensive, time consuming and usually disruptive. The success rate is at best just over 50%. The key role of a manager is to make sure that the team you have performs to its best ability.
People do not always listen. Most of us like the sound of our own voices and believe that the more eloquent our delivery, the more effective the reception. This may be true; usually not. Try a little test to measure your effectiveness. After a communication event, ideally a one-on-one briefing, ask the other person two questions: What have I just said? What are you now going to do?
Time is not infinite. “If only I had time!” is a common refrain. A whole industry is devoted to time management training. Amazing! Time management is, of course, impossible, as no one can manage time. The truth lies in the ability to manage ourselves so that we can use time effectively.
Self-interest is the absolute. In virtually every situation we face, the first thought going through our heads is, “What does this mean to me?” If you want to do virtually anything involving people, make sure you fully understand the answer to their secret question: “What’s in this for me?” People won’t actually say this—but they will think it. Try to anticipate how the other person will see the benefits to him. If it is not obvious what they are, then expect failure.
Moore also offered perspective on human energy—important, because it can dramatically affect individual and company performance by increasing or decreasing motivation, engagement and effectiveness. He challenges us to consider how our conscious and unconscious behavior is directly impacting our career trajectory.
A basic law of physics is that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it just changes from one state to another, as in heat to light, etc. In some ways the same applies to human energy, in that we can change how people feel about situations, consequently, how they feel may increase or decrease their motivation, engagement and their effectiveness.
The way people relate to each other either in a formal chain of management or as co-workers affects performance significantly. This is especially true in a business that requires its employees to be innovative and creative; maybe less obvious in a mechanistic process-driven business, but always important. How we think and behave not only affects our performance, but also the people we relate to.
All of this is to remind us that we have the ability to empower ourselves. There will always be constraints: time, resources, people, etc., that at times will seem insurmountable. Dialing into our own reactions to these challenges, and understanding how our behavior can influence the decisions and engagement of our colleagues and customers: that's development.
Photo courtesy of Arthrex