How To...

October 07, 2019

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This picture shows buildings on Sheikh Zayed road last week in Dubai. With the highest tower in the world, grand commercial centres and artificial islands, Dubai projects an image of prosperity, even as the city-state races to court investors to bolster a flagging economy. Despite boasting the most diverse economy in the Gulf region, the emirate’s vital property, tourism and trade sectors have weakened in recent years.—AFP
This picture shows buildings on Sheikh Zayed road last week in Dubai. With the highest tower in the world, grand commercial centres and artificial islands, Dubai projects an image of prosperity, even as the city-state races to court investors to bolster a flagging economy. Despite boasting the most diverse economy in the Gulf region, the emirate’s vital property, tourism and trade sectors have weakened in recent years.—AFP

Try this exercise to think like your company’s competitors

Sometimes a company’s strengths can quickly turn into weaknesses. For example, a small and seemingly unimportant rival might figure out how to use your firm’s size against you. Here’s an exercise to help you look for threats and opportunities where you hadn’t realised they exist. First, divide your employees into two teams. Ask team A to list your company’s strengths and team B to list its weaknesses. Then have the teams swap lists. Ask team B to argue that the strengths are actually threats to the organisation’s future, and team A to argue that the weaknesses are opportunities. Next, do an external analysis: ask team A to list the strengths it sees in your competition, and team B the weaknesses. Again, have the teams swap lists and make the counterarguments. The goal of this exercise is to open your, and your employees’, eyes to new possibilities — and guard against sudden changes that could mean trouble for your company.

(This tip is adapted from “Are Your Company’s Strengths Really Weaknesses?” by Adam Brandenburger.)

Invest in work relationships that help you feel fulfilled

Relationships are a big part of being happy at work. Whether your job is demanding or mundane, you’re more likely to feel fulfilled if you regularly spend time with colleagues who support you and help you create a sense of purpose. Think through your values (who you are) and objectives (what you want to do). Then review your calendar for the coming month, and consider which events, lunches and coffee meetings bring you closer to your objectives and which don’t. Do you thrive when interacting with people who are upbeat? Analytical? Calm? Ambitious? Are you collaborating with people who share your values? Of course, you can’t control every facet of your schedule, but when possible, prioritise working and spending time with colleagues who help you feel fulfilled — and minimise interactions with people you find depleting. Keep thinking about how you can make small adjustments to your calendar so that you’re investing in the right relationships.

(This tip is adapted from “To Be Happier at Work, Invest More in Your Relationships,” by Rob Cross.)

Ask three questions before taking on a new project

Being proactive at work is generally a good thing. But if your initiative isn’t channelled in the right way, it can backfire — squandering resources and even damaging your reputation. That’s why it’s important to think carefully before taking on a project. Ask yourself three questions to help. First, “am I the right person to lead this?” Consider whether you have the personal interest and professional expertise needed, as well as whether you can commit enough time and resources. Remember, not every problem is yours to solve. Second, “whose support will I need?” Consider who will be affected by the project and who you’ll need on board for it to succeed. Make sure you’ll be able to get the blessing of key stakeholders. Last, “do I understand how important this project is, or isn’t, to the company?” If an idea doesn’t align with your goals or the organisation’s mission, pursuing it is likely to be a waste of time.

(This tip is adapted from “When to Take Initiative at Work, and When Not To,” by Sharon K. Parker and Ying “Lena” Wang.)

Ask your employees to give you feedback

Managers, your employees usually know where you need to improve. That’s valuable information for you to have as you keep growing and advancing — but are you encouraging your team to share it? Make it safe for employees to give you feedback. At team meetings, for example, you could take a moment to report on your recent work and ask people to rate your efforts. They may hesitate at first, but they’ll get more comfortable with it over time. You can also ask a candid direct report to be your coach. Meet regularly to request feedback, and be public about the commitment to show your sincerity. Whatever method you use, give examples of when you’ve gotten tough feedback in the past, to show it’s okay for employees to give it now. You might say, “I’ve heard from Marlon that I am often inaccessible because I spend a lot of time out of the office. I’m working on a plan to fix that. What else can I do to improve?”

(This tip is adapted from “How Leaders Can Ask for the Feedback No One Wants to Give Them,” by Joseph Grenny and Brittney Maxfield.)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, October 7th, 2019