We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about structures and methods for improving business processes, setting operational goals, and deploying the organization's strategy. Today, we want to turn to a more personal subject and discuss professional areas of improvement in any work environment.
It may be helpful to think about which of these areas are your strengths and weaknesses. If you lead others, this could serve as a framework for coaching and performance reviews. No matter where you sit in the organization or how experienced you are, opportunities for improvement abound.
You'll notice that in addition to the skills that make someone proficient at their job, this list includes many soft skills that help employees work well with others and contribute to a culture of positive change.
Integrity is an essential element of trust. When it is lacking, even the most skilled and capable employees can cause significant harm to an organization. Someone demonstrates integrity when they:
- Demonstrate a clear understanding of right and wrong.
- Always tell the truth.
- Avoid conflicts of interest.
- Uphold the values of the company.
- Follow through on promises.
- Give credit to others when it is due.
Initiative is the ability and willingness to act without prodding. Someone with initiative volunteers to get a task done even if no one has specifically asked them. Initiative is displayed when someone:
- Notices an opportunity for improvement and takes action.
- Volunteers to do work themselves before asking others.
- Demonstrates confidence in their ability to tackle the situation.
- Has aspirations to grow beyond their current role.
- Seeks new opportunities and chances to learn.
- Requests more challenging projects and tasks.
- Goes above and beyond what is required.
Time management is the ability to get the most out of all time spent at work by planning tasks, applying the proper priority, and setting realistic expectations. Good time management involves:
- Setting realistic deadlines.
- Meeting stated deadlines.
- Having a structured plan for the day.
- Prioritizing tasks and projects effectively.
- Knowing when to move from one task to another.
It is important to note that leadership isn't confined to managers and executives. Every person on the team can hone their ability to influence others and engage in problem-solving. Leadership happens when someone:
- Sets a good example for others.
- Provides transparency about their processes and decisions.
- Invests time in mentoring and helping others.
- Offers ideas and makes suggestions.
- Provides feedback.
Delegation means giving tasks to others when they are better suited for the job. While it may seem better to do everything yourself, delegation is critical for time management and productivity. Effective delegators:
- Ask for help when they are overburdened.
- Explain what needs to be done in a way that the new assignee can understand.
- Match the task assignment with the skills and workload of the assignee.
- Continue to monitor progress to make sure the task is completed.
Communication skills are some of the most sought-after in any work environment. People who are effective communicators tend to rise through the ranks and stand out. The keys to becoming an excellent communicator are:
- Listen to others.
- Seek to understand before sharing information.
- Be open about your needs.
- Address conflicts quickly.
- Work on both writing and speaking skills.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Everyone in the organization has a specific set of skills and a defined role, but collaboration and teamwork are the basis of success. The most effective team members:
- Enjoy cooperating and working with others.
- Seek out others who have specific expertise.
- Build relationships with a wide range of individuals.
- Include relevant stakeholders and avoid excluding anyone who should be involved.
- Express gratitude for the help of others.
Even for those not in a position of authority, decision-making is an essential element of any job. There are many decision-making styles, but ultimately everyone should be adept at knowing what to do or when to ask for help. Skilled decision-makers:
- Have an established process for making decisions.
- Are transparent about how they arrived at a conclusion.
- Make decisions promptly.
- Display confidence once a decision has been reached.
- Make decisions that are aligned with the objectives, values, and priorities of the organization.
The leaders will set the strategic goals for the organization. Still, even front-line employees should develop goal-setting skills to monitor achievements related to their professional development. People who are excellent goal setters:
- Set realistic and measurable goals for themselves and their teams if applicable.
- Work to achieve those goals.
- Identify the resources necessary to achieve the goals.
- Set deadlines for each goal.
- Align their individual and team goals with the objective of the company.
Empathy is one of the essential soft skills in the workplace. For leaders and managers, it is the key to employee retention. In study after study, employees say they are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. Empathy is also the best way to understand customer needs and solve their problems. Empathic people:
- Try to understand every situation from the other person's point of view.
- Communicate their own feelings and those of others.
- Respond with compassion before criticism.
- Avoid hurtful language even during disagreements.
Creativity and Innovation
Creativity and innovation are not limited to marketing and product development. Every person can find new and novel ways of improving processes and solving problems. Creativity is manifest by:
- Questioning the old ways of doing things.
- Suggesting ideas for positive change.
- Asking smart questions.
- Participating in brainstorming.
Productivity is often defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs. In other words, it measures how efficiently labor and resources are used to produce the desired outcome. For individuals, it relates to time management and quality. Productive employees:
- Fulfill expectations and quotas
- Stay focused on work.
- Maximize the resources and tools at their disposal.
- Try to accomplish tasks efficiently.
If any of these areas for professional improvement stood out as something you or a team member could work on, fantastic! The first step in growth is recognizing the opportunity to hone skills and develop strategies for success.