Chris Croft's Personal Blog

May 12, 2013

Practical ideas for self development

Filed under: Accredited Courses and Training, Managing People — Tags: , — chriscroft @ 12:44 pm

Practical ideas for self development

Achieving Objectives
Write a list of your strategic objectives – ask your boss about these if necessary
Break each strategic objective down into the tasks that will be required in order to achieve it
Learn about project management – how to break a large task down, estimate the time required for each part, and produce a plan.
Monitor progress against your plan by colouring in a Gantt chart on your wall – is the coloured-in part (completed) keeping up with the “Today” line? This will allow you to spot problems in advance and forecast a new completion date

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Building Motivation
Ask your staff how things could be improved – and do it
Ask staff what changes they would like to see in you – and do it
Think of something you can thank your staff for, as a team, and do it
Thank each of your staff frequently – “catch them doing something right” – make sure it is based on facts and behaviour rather than feelings
Have a weekly team meeting to discuss news and progress
Write everything down and remember to keep your promises
Coach staff / teach them new skills
Identify someone who you think is good at motivating staff and talk to them
Have lunch / do something sociable with your staff
Make sure to tell your boss when one of your team has done something exceptional

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Commercial Awareness
Find out the costs of things – how much is an hour of someone’s time, a day of your office, each service interaction etc?
Make graphs (easy using Excel) of your finances – budgets and incomes, and put them on your wall – this will encourage you to think about them
Consider increasing the quality of what you do – what would it cost, and the extra cost be worth it?
Consider reducing the quality of what you do – how much would the saving be? Would it be worth doing?

Creativity
Do something new – tomorrow, …or today
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Before deciding on a plan, ask yourself “Are there any other ways I could do this job?”
Ask your team for suggestions on how things could be done differently – and don’t criticise their suggestions
Identify a habit or routine of yours – and try changing it
Identify some creative people who you can use as sounding boards
Visit a different type of organisation and see if their different ways spark off any new ideas for you

Developing Staff
Set your team’s next development review dates
Have all of your team had some self-development this year?
Make a skills matrix for your team – what are the skills you want, and who has got what? Gaps: who can be developed to fill this gap, and/or which gaps can form a development plan for each person?
For each person in your team ask yourself “What can I delegate to this person that will enrich (rather than enlarge!) their job?”
Consider taking someone from your team along to a meeting with you
Rotate jobs around the team
Ask your team what they can coach others in
Find out your team’s learning styles
Identify one area for each of your team members where you can coach them in a new skill
Ask your team what was the last bit of development that they did and what did they get out of it?
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them

Focus on customers
Meet as many customers as possible, as often as possible. Once a year is not enough!
If possible, try being a customer once, or for a day, or at least spend time working with the customers (internal or external) so that you can see what your service looks like from their perspective (for example a programmer would spend a day in Accounts, using the system).
Spend a day “back to the shop floor” – for example a programmer would spend a day on the IT help desk.
Find out what your customers want by surveys or one-to-one discussions.
When making a change, ask yourself “It may be good for us internally, but will it also be good for the customers?” Go back to your office and look at the last thing you changed – was it done for you or the users?
Ask yourself “What is currently annoying customers most, and what can I do about it?” Even if it is not in your area you can call attention to it or campaign internally to get it put right.
How do you monitor customer-satisfaction? As well as doing a once-off survey, set up a system of routinely monitoring outgoing quality and monitoring customer perceptions of quality.

Influencing Others
Identify someone who you think is good at it and talk to them
Observe people in meetings – what tactics are they using and how effective are they?
Practice trying to understand people’s motivations by asking them why they made a particular decision or choice
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Learn about body language and then observe it
Think about a situation when you successfully persuaded someone and review how you did it – what were the effective actions?
Think about a situation where you failed to influence someone – what did you do that hindered you, and what could you have done better?

Information & Technology
How much do you know about IT?
Consider going on a course to learn about the basics / the finer points of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Internet searches, and any Harrow-specific systems

Managing Change
Make a list of the pros and cons of a controversial change.
Give the pros and cons scores and also weightings (how important is each factor) and multiply these – then add up the total. This won’t make the decision for you but t will help you to think about the issues.
Explain the reasons and the benefits of change to others – don’t assume they know these. But also be honest about the work to be done and the risks.
Before introducing anything new, ask as many people as possible- this takes time but implementation is much more likely to succeed.
When a change is forced upon you try to stay positive – ask yourself “What might be the benefits to me of this change?”
As with Project Management, divide a change task into parts, plan the time-scale, and monitor progress on a chart. Everyone involved will be able to see the progress made.

Managing Oneself
Keep a daily jobs to do list
Write everything down
Keep some of your diary free each day for jobs that will crop up – start to say no when your diary is nearly full
Have clear objectives, written down, for your work and your personal life
Book blocks of time into your diary when you will work on important tasks
Try to do some sort of self development every year
Ask your team and colleagues “How can I improve as a manager / colleague?”
Prioritise your work into:
– Small urgent tasks that I must do today
– Planning ahead-type tasks that are important – I must put some time aside in my diary for these
– Things that are not important but are fun – allow yourself a small amount of time only on these
– Crises – as well as dealing with them, ask yourself how you can avoid repeats

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Managing People
Find out what everyone is doing, and what they think their priorities are.
Ask them to make a list of what they have achieved this week, tried to achieve, and what stopped them
Ask your staff what the barriers are, and try to remove these
Sit down once a week with each member of your team to review progress
Ask your team what standards they think you expect of them
Ask yourself “Are there any poor performance issues which are am avoiding confronting?”
Poor performers: discuss with them whether they are aware of it, and how can you help them to improve?
Poor performers: Talk to HR about it
Delegate more: is there anything that you are holding onto because you like it or because you are too fussy about it?
Delegate something that you haven’t delegated before – give up something!
What did you delegate last? Ask the person how you could have improved the way you delegated it?

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Respecting Others
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Ask yourself “What do I like about…..” and “What is their unique talent?” for every person who you work with.
Make a conscious effort to thank everyone you work with at least once a fortnight – find something they have done that is good.
Learn to really understand people who are very different to you by associating with them socially every now and then

Communication
Practice being a good listener – this means not starting to solve their problem or formulate a reply until after they have finished speaking. Try not talking about yourself at all, but asking them more questions. If asked about yourself, give a brief answer and then say “But what about you?”
Be concise – can you express your key message in only one sentence?
Use the Spelling & Grammar tool when using Word
Ask a friend to check your most recent document for jargon, passives, long sentences etc
Find an opportunity to give a presentation
Give a talk to your team on the department’s longer term plans
Tell your team about your work priorities

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