Thank you for your tremendous response to the first part of the Essentials of Personal Effectiveness series. Your stories have been an inspiration to me and I present here more information to help you increase personal effectiveness and remove barriers that may be holding you back.
I) Don’t stereotype your Critics – We often distort people whom we have conflicts with. Once we have built our mental image of the person, we begin to perceive his/her actions/incidents in a manner that would confirm the image we’ve built up. Colleagues whose agendas seem to oppose our own are not necessarily our enemies. Similarly, people who cannot see the point behind our brilliant ideas are not necessarily intellectually inferior
Sonia (name changed on request) suffered the leadership costs of this when she was leading the process excellence team of a large multinational company. She was sometimes exasperated by the inability of department heads to see the point of process improvement and compliance. The CHRO, Sanjay (name changed) was someone whom she had decided was seriously lacking in logical thinking and analytical ability. To add to that he was mostly flattering the business heads in what she perceived as an attempt to hold on to his job since he didn’t seem to have any other talents!!
About this time, the leadership team of the organization participated in a self-development workshop where Sonia was paired with Sanjay in one of the exercises where you had to make an effort to understand your partner and his/her drivers/motivators and share it with the rest of the team. Sonia was forced to humanize Sanjay and look at him as a real person with good reasons for his perspectives and behaviour. She realized she could actually like him and understand the constraints that sometimes made him oppose her suggestions.
When we demonize people, it severs our link to reality and affects our ability to effectively exert influence. We need to proactively assess how we interact with our competitors or people we don’t like or agree with. It is important to realize that they are real people with their own perspective on life who may be stereotyping you just as you are doing to them. Reaching out may get you more allies than competitors.
II) Be a Leader not a ‘Manager’ – Stop ‘managing’ – ‘Fire-fighting’ is a popular word today with people using it to describe how busy they are, sometimes to describe the scenario in their offices and often to display their skills in a high-pressure situation. We feel a distinct sense of accomplishment after having ‘doused the fire’ and ‘managed’ the situation, often subconsciously seeking the high and the praise that comes with it.
The question we need to ask ourselves at this juncture is – Are we letting new fires alight while we are busy dousing the old ones? Have we got so used to jumping from one crisis to the next that planning and being proactive have lost their place in our schedule? Are we so busy ‘managing’ that we have forgotten to ‘lead’?
Set aside time in your daily schedule to plan ahead and anticipate crisis waiting to happen. End each day by drawing up a list planning, prioritizing and scheduling for the next day. This will go a long way in increasing your productivity and effectiveness. Also remember, it is the ability to foresee and plan for the future that will take you to the next level as an individual. A successful leader is one that can not only manage his schedule efficiently but also help his team plan, anticipate and be proactive, skills that are fast getting lost in this fire-fighting world.
III) Don’t wait for authority – All around us, we see tremendous talent and potential which is waiting to come to the surface but the owners of this talent have been conditioned to keep their heads down and keep working hard, waiting for the right designation and authority to come their way before they take the lead. Unfortunately that may never happen, because today’s progressive organizations reward people who take initiative and seize the opportunity to make a difference using whatever informal power and influence they have.
The power to influence doesn’t automatically follow the fancy designation and authority but the designation may follow the power to influence which you have to create yourself. You have to make the decision to lead and start making the changes that will lead to improvement.
IV) Set your own benchmarks for yourself – We don’t always function in situations where we have external benchmarks to live up to and sometimes, even when they exist, these benchmarks may not inspire us to brilliance.
You must be a yardstick of excellence even when the environment around you allows for something lesser. Excellence is a habit, once you get used to below par performance, it will be difficult to get back to higher standards. Also remember, whatever the expectation in your current role, your personal brand is something you need to maintain and live with. If you accept mediocrity in yourself for too long a time, it may become your standard of excellence. So wake up, you owe it to yourself to do better than that!!!
V) Take Breaks – Taking breaks is not just essential for good health but also for being a more effective performer. A period of rejuvenation is essential to engage fully at work and is also necessary to internalize experiences and learning. Research has shown that when you tune out your brain’s analytical left-hemisphere during breaks, your right hemisphere becomes more active and that is when you’ll have the creative breakthroughs.
Taking a break does not mean only stepping away to the coffee machine or the smoke room, you have to free your mind and avoid your daily stressors to allow yourself to relax and rejuvenate. Use deep breathing exercises at work, don’t miss your weekend break, indulge in your favourite hobby and avoid checking your official mail when on a holiday. These will pay you rich dividends by:
- Increasing your focus when you return to work
- Giving you time to introspect and internalize
- Balancing the development of your brain
- Allowing you to connect with the latent sensors in your subconscious which can improve your decision-making skills in the long run
I hope these tips inspire you further on your journey to excellence, there are more to come. Do keep writing in.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”
~ Stephen Covey
Copyright ©2011 Shweta Handa-Gupta. All rights reserved.