Why Manage Better?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Five Questions to Review your Year and make 2020 Awesome!

This post is also available as a Podcast at http://opexadvantage.buzzsprout.com/

Okay so the deluge of new year wishes would have now subsided a bit. Before we forget we are in a new year – here are my best wishes for the new year for you all.

Another year is ending and if you are like most others you have let it pass by. Now, I don’t want to spoil your new year joy but am hoping to point you to review your last year with some critical questions. I have done this over the last several years and found such questioning useful and wanted to share in the hope that the questions will help you as well.

Asking questions
Why do we need to ask questions of ourselves? Well, primarily because we don’t like or let others ask them of us. Questions help any progress possible. The first step is always a question. Often unanswered, at least initially. We need questions. We may not have the answers always, but we need questions. No progress is possible without a good question.

Did I make an impact?
This is the question which helps you assess if you did well at your work. The work that was expected of you. Think carefully – this is not what you thought you were expected to do. This is what your boss thought you should do. To have a good understanding of what your boss wants of you, you should check with him or her every few weeks. Making an impact includes doing more than expected and being aligned to company goals. If you are climbing a wall really well but don’t stop to ask if this is the right wall then at the end of the year this is going to be of little help.

I have seen many hardworking and diligent colleagues make this mistake of ignoring what impact they make. During coaching sessions or appraisals we come across the familiar scene – but I worked really hard. The hardest I have ever worked. It is very difficult to counsel colleagues at this time that hard work is fine – but what impact did you have? What changed for the better because you were around?

Did I make my boss do well?
This is important. You don’t have to like your boss but you do have to respect him or her. At the end of the year or during the year as well there are several known and unknown occasions where a boss can make or break your career. This is not a negative situation like some will make it out to be. Helping your boss/manager do well is usually always aligned to department goals. And if you are a great help usually everyone will notice. Atleast the boss will notice. I know many of you will argue that your boss is a thankless person and does not notice your help. Whatever be the outcome I suggest you help your boss do well. It is a good habit to cultivate.

Some years ago I missed out on a promotion which I thought was well deserved. Many others agreed with me. I was working at that time in a matrix structure with one local boss and one in the UK. The one UK was amazingly supportive and it never occurred to me that it will need both to agree for me to progress. Thankfully this local boss gave me direct feedback after someone else made the cut. He was a key voice and I had not helped him do well. I had only focused on one boss. I had learnt my lesson but at a price. My wish is that you learn this before you pay a heavy price.

Did I learn something new?
This one is easy. We have been reminded of this for years. With so much changing in the corporate world your only insurance for continued employment is your ability to learn new skills. Learning something is not easy as you get a bit senior. You first have to admit you don’t know the newer stuff. Then you look for someone who can teach you. While some of the online options now available are a real boon and I suggest you must enroll in some, I have found pairing up with much younger colleagues is an excellent option. The younger colleague benefits from your mentoring and you benefit by learning a new skill.

Investment in learning something new should not be left to one’s employer. I have known many friends and colleagues, myself included, who regularly invest their own money to learn new stuff. Some invest 1 to 5% of income in a new skill or certification while others have less aggressive targets. Please remember, if you are not investing in yourself, others are. Don’t be surprised when they get ahead and you continue to be cheer from the sidelines.

Did I invest in my network?
We know this. Networking helps. We have seen many examples of how a good network helps in getting quick answers, learning new skills, hiring, getting hired, speaking opportunities, a high of connecting with like minded people, etc. Networking is a complex practice. You have to give more and give first before you receive, if at all. I get a lot of questions on what I do to maintain my network and grow it. I wish I had a very scientific answer. I don’t. a network is something you work on a daily and weekly basis. Now, I am not saying you spend hours every day on it. Just being available and keen to help is enough. Remember, give first then expect.

If you use LinkedIn to network then atleast check it once a day, post something useful often, and engage with others. People will reach out to you for help. Give it a sincere shot and you might be surprised that you can actually help. And you can always say No if you can’t help.

I have benefitted immensely from LinkedIn and this is not just about landing a new job. That is an occasional outcome and you look forward to that only after a few years. It is the daily and weekly joy of connecting with others, expressing your views, reading other’s views etc that builds and nurtures a network. And like everything else this garden needs watering and weeding from time to time.

Did I go beyond my role?
This is a tough one. It sounds similar to – Did I have an impact? But it is different. Making an impact is about your current role. Going beyond the role is about reaching out to do what is expected at a higher level. This is how you get noticed and appear to be a candidate for promotion in future. As you get senior you are a candidate for promotion when you are seen as ready. Yes you can get lucky and get promoted on potential but the chances are slim. If you haven’t raised your game, be assured someone else has.

Going beyond the role is a yardstick I have always used when promoting people. I have very often seen friends and colleagues stuck in their career. And some of them are the brightest people you will find. In most such cases the core reason in – doing your job well. Really well. So well that you ignore doing what is beyond the job. Think about this. If you don’t demonstrate you can do stuff that is above and beyond the current job should you be really surprised if others are preferred when the time for that new role comes up?

How to use these questions?
Firstly, being aware of these questions through the year helps in keeping us on course. Don’t expect your boss to ask these questions of you. In fact these questions are best asked of oneself. If your boss asks, I suspect you are likely to go defensive and even feel offended. No progress is possible if you are in that zone. So, ask these of yourself through the year and definitely when you review your year. 

Another way to use these questions is when you update your Resume. And I strongly recommend you update your Resume at least twice a year. Irrespective of whether you are looking for a new job or not. When you update your Resume and ask some tough questions of yourself that’s when you see gaps. You can then invest the rest of the year in filling the gaps.

And of course these questions are by no means the only ones you could ask. Do comment with your set of questions or write to me. I will be happy to hear from you.