Archive for category People Skills
Recently I learned a very valuable business tool at a moment when I least expected to and from a person that I would never have considered an advisor. When was this moment? When I was completely “unplugged” from my business mentality during vacation and headed to the pool. Who is this unexpected advisor? My 4 year old daughter. What was this business tool? Well, that requires a short story to fully understand.
My daughter and I were walking back to our hotel room from the pool when I noticed something interesting. We must have walked past 20 people between leaving the pool area, taking the elevator to our floor, and going from the elevator to our room. My daughter was recognized by almost everyone we passed with a wave or a greeting and she smiled back with a comment of some sort. Normally I am so used to this that it doesn’t phase me, but for some reason it caught my attention more than usual.
I am a proud father and truly believe my daughter is a unique person whom none should forget. But this is not so much about my daughter and more about what I finally realized she is doing that makes her so memorable. Once we got back to the room I asked her “Who were all of those people you talked to on our way back to the room?” She responded “Oh, just some friends I made this week. I don’t remember all of their names, but they are really nice.”
I decided to watch her on the way back to the pool to see if I could figure this mystery out or if I was reading too much into it. As soon as we left the room and got to the elevator I saw it. Two other people were waiting for the elevator and once she got close enough she said “Hello. Are you going down to the pool?” They responded “Yes we are” and smiled. If it were me (or most other people I know), this is where the small talk ends and the silence generally sets in. But my daughter said two more words that changed the conversation from small talk to getting to know one another. She said “I’m Hannah” and smiled.
In society, it is a norm to reciprocate. When someone smiles at you, you feel obligated to smile back. When someone reaches out their hand, you extend yours as well for a handshake. Well, when someone tells you their name, what do you feel obligated to do? That’s right, tell them your name. That is exactly what happened. The two individuals smiled and said “My name is Tim and this is my wife Jennifer”. Although you can’t remember everyone’s name, you will remember those that took the effort to tell you what their name is. Why? Because not many people do it.
The next thing I noticed is Hannah didn’t do this to everyone, just people within a normal talking distance. What is that distance? Approximately 5 ft – that’s right, the size of an elevator. We got on the elevator and she did it again to the kids who were already on it when the doors opened. They gave her their name as well and continued talking to her as we got off the elevator and went to the pool.
Throughout the rest of the week, she would recognize people and vice versa. Sometimes it turned into a longer conversation and sometimes it just turned into an additional wave or smile. Regardless, she was making an impact with those individuals long after the small talk. With a scientific background, I had to ensure there wasn’t a variable (such as being a cute little 4 year old) that artificially caused this situation to occur. So I decided to try this as well and the results were the same. Although I met the same number of people that I normally would, the conversations that happened after the introduction of my name lead to more meaningful conversations and one lead to a friendship being formed beyond the vacation.
Overall, it is a simple step that doesn’t take much more than 2 extra words within a 5 foot radius. But the impact of being remembered is exponential. Imagine the possibilities both personally and professionally when this is applied.
We no longer live in a world where making a big impact can be done by only focusing on what your job description entails. Competition is at an all time high and top tier performance is now a baseline expectation for most employers. So if being great at what you are supposed to do isn’t enough, what is the best way to drive change? Welcome to the world of the “plus role”.
What is a plus role?
Official ownership of function that spans beyond your original role.
Example: My job is Director of Outbound Marketing. I am responsible for driving revenue through Marketing programs from multiple perspectives – regions, verticals, segments, and products. My plus role is liaison with Sales. My responsibility is to channel information to Sales from Marketing and from Sales to Marketing.
How does a plus role apply to the real world?
Note there is an emphasis on this being official or formal, which is the big difference between a plus role and the normal misc tasks that creep into each job. It means there is a consensus that you are the go-to person for this situaton, regardless of business area, product, etc. It is not easy to complete the job you are supposed to do while formally taking on additional responsibility for a function where there is a gap. This is a double-edged sword, but trust me, it really makes an impact when implemented correctly.
How is a plus role different than what I already do in my job?
Just my estimate, but 30-40% of work that is done is not actually the primary focus of your role. Think about all of the status updates or business reviews you have put together where you realized a lot of what you were working on had nothing to do with your primary objectives. If you are good, you have still been able to hit your objectives while taking on the additional initiatives. So what happens then? You make your report, show how you hit your goals, and move on without giving it much thought.
What would happen if you took time to think about the “other” stuff? We all get pulled into various tasks not directly related to our job. We usually jump in, tackle the problem with a short term solution, and move on. Here is the problem with that mentality – there is probably someone else doing the exact same thing as you for the exact same problem. The knowledge becomes siloed and is not used again to make things better for everyone. Now you have multiple people doing something to get around a problem instead of one person owning the solution. Being pulled in multiple directions is normal, what a plus role allows is a chance to harness the 30-40% that we are all not using effectively.
What are the benefits of a plus role?
There are two perspectives to answering this question:
- Company’s perspective – Having a single person allows for an expertise to be built up by knowing all of the facets of the problem. You will gain more efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately someone who is going to work to solve the problem (or at least make it better).
- Individual’s perspective – If you are doing well at your primary job, a plus role gives you perspective across a whole new dimension of the business. You get to tackle new obstacles in new areas, gain a better working knowledge of the business, and overall increase your value back to the organization.
What is my first step to defining my plus role?
Look for opportunities in the work you are already doing. This takes 5 minutes, but it is an exercise that will open your eyes to the gaps that exist in your current business. Open your calendar up and look at the past 3 months. Only look at the titles of the meetings. If you can find a meeting that occurs more than twice (staff meetings do not count), then you might have a potential winner. I can almost guarantee you will find a function or initiative that could use solid leadership by doing this. The other part of the equation is to decide whether or not you will be passionate about taking on this additional responsibility. If it matches up, then you have something to work with and the fun begins.