Often times when people reach certain milestones or goals; their efforts begin to dwindle down. They become relax and start maintaining status quo. This new found complacency presents itself as stable and firm ground by which we stand. This on the other hand posts risks up font like waning skill set, getting their knowledge stack obsolete making their relevant position off track which makes people highly dispensable.
In this fast growing generation it is important to stay relevant, continously improve, and grow both in professional and personal aspects of life.
How do we remain on top?
This is a question we should be asking ourselves periodically. By asking and doing personal reflection we become conscious of the need to be on top all the time.
Below is a list of things we should keep in mind to avoid the trap of being obsolete.
1. Knowing your Priorities – Setting priorities is easier said than done. People struggle on identifying what are the things that need to be prioritized. One important guideline to help us determine which needs to be on top of our list is to know and determine which among the things has the biggest and immediate impact without sacrificing long-term benefits. For example, if an opportunity a few months from now require deep skills on certain areas that we are capable of competing with; then by all means that should rank higher than anything else. In relation to this we should also keep in mind that opportunity aligns with what we want and where we want to go.
Also, release yourself of unnecessary clutter that would undermine your performance. Focus on what you do and accomplish those that need to be done ASAP.
2. Balance Demands on Your Time and Resources – Sometimes various opportunities present itself at the same time. This is when we need to think about which of these things you could possibly accomplish with a higher success rate and which of them would yield the biggest payoff. If in any case you are not able to achieve them; ask yourself what are the short term and long-term impacts they have?
Procrastination, personal disorganization, juggling too many priorities and other factors can undermine your work performance. Determining your goals, aligning them with the companyâ€™s goals and prioritizing them on paper will help you ensure that your valuable time in the workplace is well spent.
3. Sharpen communication – I cannot stress this enough. Most of the time people make mistakes because of unclear instructions, misunderstanding or missing out on some of the smallest things that could have easily been avoided by listening.
As a speaker
Some of the things we need to be conscious of while having a conversation is to be clear and concise, ask questions to validate, ask questions to determine if the person we are talking to is understanding us clearly, select the right words and tone, repeat items that are critical to the conversation, and always end by summarizing what you have discussed and agree on action items that needs to be addressed.
As a Listener
Part of being a good communicator is to become a good listener. To become good listeners we should always listen carefully and not selectively, ask questions for clarity, do not engage in arguments especially when the person is giving constructive criticism. It is better to let the other person fire away all constructive criticism rather than only say the tip of the iceberg to avoid any heated argument with you. The best thing to do is to listen, absorb and evaluate. Unless you are in a performance evaluation and every argument counts; just listen. Also, end by summarizing what you have discussed and agree on action items that need to be addressed.
4. Build your network – A few years back our entire department had a team building activity that lasted for 3 days and two nights. During that event, the CEO of the company stressed during his talk the importance of learning how to build your network within the company.
This is very important specially if you want to reach your goals. Remember — no man is an island. There are three simple things we need to do:
Determine the circle of influence
How to get within the circle of influence
How to stay with the circle of influence
Let us discuss each of them:
Determine the circle of influence
When I was starting out my career I was fond of networking with a lot of people from across departments. But later on, I realized that the quantity of your network did not matter as much as the quality of your network. Determine who are the most influential people that could make a difference in your career and success. Know those who are in position as well as those that have the potential to be influential in the future. Likewise, keep in touch with people who may not be formally designated to have power but certainly has the informal influence to help you in circumstances.
How to get within the circle of influence
Unless you have direct contact with these types of people you will have to ask yourself how to get in their circle of influence. The first thing you should do is determine how much can you be of help to these people. Instead of asking how can they help you right off the bat, know how you could provide assistance. Though in some circumstances, asking the person for help is easier since you will look like a kid that needs guidance and mentoring. And most often that not, people’s ego are boosted if we seek their help rather than offering ours. But in the long run, relationships last by having a give and take attitude.
Be a Team Player
Back in college, I used to be the bitch that did not care about anyone. I will engage in arguments and blast anybody off the ground during classroom activities. Until one day, I had a heated discussion with a classmate during our Systems Analysis and Design subject that professor Obey asked us to step out the room. He talked to us, made us shake our hands and explained that we live in a small world. Years from now we shall be bumping into each other and most often it would be beneficial for us to be friends and help each one out to become successful.
Be a team player. Every team needs a superstar. What no one likes is a superstar that lives in his own world. Learn to work and co-exist with the people around you. Praise and give constructive criticism, brainstorm and help each other out instead of trying to outshine one another.
5. Manage yourself – My manager had a simple message to me a while back. Learn to manage yourself before you can manage others. He was referring to a time that I skipped lunch because I had to prepare for a meeting that left me weak the whole afternoon. He stressed that grabbing a snack or piece of food before the meeting could have helped a lot and was supposed to be a small thing. I should have managed my time and planned for the meeting and lunch way ahead of schedule.
I say this again, One thing we need to understand is that we should be able to plan ahead and manage ourselves better. Only by being able to carry ourselves well enough can we teach and manage other people. By learning to solve our own problems we can solve others as well.
6. Be Logical rather than being Emotional – When someone commits a mistake like missing a deadline or delivering the wrong output, do not blame the person. The best thing to do is to inform the person about the mishap, give your own opinion and ask about things you both need to resolve the situation.
By identifying the causes of the mistake you should be able to understand the situation better and make corrective approaches to the problem. Then try to communicate how your resolution if done properly could help achieve your goal. Don’t be a problem pointer shooting at people every time mistakes are made.
7. Think Laterally – Always think out of the box. One of my architects told me that I thought laterally. He mentioned that very few people could think out of the box and most often you will be able to identify these types of people inside a room. He ended that he felt confident that the project was in good hands.
See how helpful it is to think differently than others? People will gain a different perspective as well as a different perception on you. They will start looking to you for answers and guidance on making things better. The best part is you gain their confidence right away.
8. Be Creative – Creativity is for artists. That was what I thought when I was young until I watched the movie Antitrust when Gary Winston, the CEO of NURV, shouted and demanded from his lawyers to show some creativity in what they were doing. Lawyers defended that the law was fixed and creativity was not an option — WRONG ANSWER!
Keep in mind that the creative people rule the world. One of the vital characteristics of being creative is to use your imagination. My father while he was alive told me a lot of things that a computer should be doing instead of those boring reports and analysis. He gave me tons of ideas which I found impossible and weird. But a decade later I saw these things actually becoming a reality. Sheeesh. How imagination could come a long, long way.
Imagination should also be accompanied by knowledge. Knowledge is Power as my friend constantly points out. By having a lot of knowledge within us, we have a lot of artillery from our arsenal at our disposable; to help us with solutions with even the most complex problems.
Ask a million questions. You should never get tired of asking questions. By asking questions, we get to clarify things, validate on facts, challenge norms and we are able to draw other ideas and perspective that leave us smarter.
Creativity is hard to do. At times when things just don’t come out of our head; try to relax, go out, get yourself refreshed and you will be surprised how ideas would pop out of nowhere.
To successfully solve problems creatively we put lots of research and work in it. Be patient while you absorb the knowledge and let your instincts show the way. Most often, creative solutions come out of nowhere. When they do, test them right away.
I experience this while solving computer related problems. After thoroughly studying all angles and digging tons of information; I try to sleep afterwards. When I wake up in the morning the answer simply magically comes out of nowhere or sometimes, the answer pops up at the middle of the night. When the answer pops up I get up and try and test it right away.
8. Change, Change, Change
Change is constant everywhere. One of the lowliest things I hear from people is how they would not try out opportunities in other companies because they were in a stable environment. The only thing stable is you. At least you should try to be. Always be in the lookout on your environment. Identify areas that may change in the foreseeable future. Instead of getting scared — Prepare. By learning to accept the fact that everything changes even during the time we least expect them to happen, the better for you.
9. Take Control
You are the master of your ship. Learn to control your destiny. Where you are is where you put yourself into. True enough those unavoidable circumstances outside of our control happen; but in the end how we perceive these things and how we react to them is all about your attitude. Do not let others control you, rather take charge!
10. Own Your Success
Do not put success at the hands of others. Always remember that you are the owner of your success. Take full responsibility in everything you do. Stop finger pointing and become the rant master. Ranting will bring you no good. Use your energy for a better outlook in aiming for higher productivity and results.
How long before you become obsolete? Will you allow that to happen? The choice is YOURS.