Weekly achievements

I work in the technical department. One of the biggest problems of my department is that people inside the company in general have not a real understanding of what we are doing and on the problems we are facing. The exception is when something is not working or there is a problem that requires a technical solution. In that case everybody is looking at us waiting for the solution. Of course they do not have a clue on what the solution is but they understand clearly what are the implications of not having yet this solution, simply because it’s their problem and someone as to fix it as soon as possible.

The implications of all of this is that the point of contact between technical department and our customer (the rest of the company) is only in moments of crisis, pressure and in bad moments in general. Moreover, the same is happening inside the department. If you do your job and you are doing it well nobody is focusing on you and what you are doing. If you are doing the job in a sufficient way or with outstanding solutions is something that very few colleagues will realize, not even your boss. Of course when later a problem comes out because of a poor performance there is an ex-post evaluation of all your previous works (obviously with a bad attitude).

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So, the problem is – how to have a good perception of what is going on in your department focusing more on the positive results than in the problems?

I have got an idea about this and I ask to everybody reading this post to share it, if you believe it is worth spreading it.

The idea is very simple, I have asked to the people working in my department to send me every Friday afternoon an e-mail with the subject “weekly achievements” (so will be easy to filter on your e-mail client). The content of the e-mail should be just few bullet points focused on the achievements that everybody has done during the week.

The results of this practice have been impressive in the results. The wonderful thing is that now people tells me why they are satisfied and for what reason. Basically I have understood much more about their capabilities, their problems, their concerns with the weekly achievements than asking directly what you are doing and how is going. The principle is very easy, everybody of us have a different perception of what it’s easy and what it’s difficult and according to that the sense of satisfaction is very dependent on the progress made and the results achieved more than on the final outcome itself. These facts have profound implications in terms of managing people. Not only you understand better your peers perspective on the task, but you could easily guess their difficulties, their preferences and their skills. It is true even the opposite. If there are no achievements to underline or they do not propose any convincing task to be satisfied of, probably it means that the job assigned it’s not stimulating at all and that the tasks to be performed are just routine jobs and the sense of initiative and satisfaction is really low (and probably final outcome will be just acceptable in the best case). Knowing exactly all these situations allows you as a manager to leverage on the people’s potential, you can better motivate them and at the same time you could help them to improve and to target new challenges with the right help at the right moment. You could adapt the tasks to the right people, you could assign the jobs stimulating the initiative of your employees and even make them improve the most boring tasks creating the right process of involvement and leveraging on their own creativity.

If you think that this is good idea, spread it, try to apply it and share your findings on this blog and on the web. I’m looking forward to know the potential improvements that a similar approach has on your particular situation.

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The most valuable asset that you have: your opinion

When I ask to give me a summary report to the people who works for me I always ask to have their opinion on the subject. The reason is simple: I give you this task because I believe you are competent for the task assigned and I expect from you a professional result. And if you have to give me back a professional result, then you have to be professional in a complete and competent way – basically in this moment you are a consultant who is paid for giving back a service. When you pay a consultant, you are not paying him only for the service, you are paying him for his reputation, for his capabilities, for his history of achievements and so on. When I ask you a report I’m asking you the same. I want you to be my consultant.

When you are offering your service to someone, you have to try to give your best and you have to put on the table all your capabilities and all your experience in order to demonstrate that you are competent and to maximize the return that you can get from the service offered. And one the most important assets that you have is your experience, your capabilities and your reputation. And according to that you have all the rights to express your opinion. Moreover, because your opinion is the synthesis of your past experience, of your knowledge and your expertise, your opinion is very valuable and probably is the most valuable asset that you have because it represents the sinthesis of your knowledge. So you have to use that asset.

This is valid at all level of the organizations. For managers, for employees and also for manual and repetitive jobs. The opinion of the worker in the assembly line is very valuable because he’s the most involved in the manufacturing process and could see things that a lot of managers are not even able to guess.

So remember, your opinion is very important and very valuable,  it is the expression of your brand and it is a very important asset that requires investments (improvement and knowledge development) but that must used in order to create profits and maximize your return on investments that in this case is your unique life experience.

Are you trustable?

The title of this post is not new, is something that is bouncing in my head from some weeks ago. I remember that I read an article about that (“Do your people trust you?“) and what I clearly remember is the most important question that every manager should ask themselves: “Are you trustable?” The answer could seem easy or maybe silly, but probably could be not so easy if made like this: “Do your employees define you as a trustable person?” The answer probably in this case is not so easy and could sound like “I don’t know” or even worst “I don’t care”.

But let’s start from the beginning. What do I mean when I say trust? Well, trust for me is a very deep and important form of relationship. Trust means that you “believe” in someone else’s words, in its motivations and that despite a possible disagreement his words have a great value and impact on your behavior (in the positive sense). When you trust someone you are going to do things that you normally don’t do by yourself. That you are going to consider way of thinkings, aspect of your life and so on in a different way, only because you trust him! When you trust someone is because you believe that he owns your respect. Been trustable for me it means that I put something of myself, thoughts, expectations, williness, energy, professionalism, in your hands because I think that this is an investment. And this investment is paying back for the “trust” that I have invested on you. So “trust” is kind of investment, probably the most important and risky investment that we have at our disposal.

Coming back to the first question “Do your employees define you as a trustable person?” Because if the answer is not, then how could you pretend they believe in you and that they do what has been told them to do? And if the answer is “I don’t know” then I think you have to hurry up and start to “know”. It is not something that you could analyze later. It is absolutely fundamental for yourself, for your career and for the relationship with the others. Sometimes we are too much focused in our own improvement that we do not realize that the key point of our improvement is the relationships that we have with our colleagues, with our employees, with our customers.

If you want to have the maximum from the people working for you, you have to give them the maximum of yourself. And that maximum is to be trustable! Is something that you have to be, despite the difficulties, despite the changed situations, despite any kind of challenge that you are facing or obstacles to overcome. Been trustable is the most important investment that you could make in your life.

Why everything that you studied is so important

A friend of mine some days ago asked me: “Why logaritms are important?” My answer was that they are the basics for describing all the exponential relations like in the RF communications and in the sound pressure that are generally expressed in dB (decibell), but this was just the first thing that comes to my mind. So then my friend asked me something about literature and so on. Eventually the real question came in: “why is it so important to study?” and I add something more that a lot of people says often to me: “Don’t tell me that this subject that we have studied have been useful for you in your professional carrer or in your life…”

My answer, always, is that not only has been useful but I would have needed even more knowledge on that subject. The truth is that in my professional life I have used all the things that I have studied; starting from the most important and most used things till the last insignificant things that first or later you realize has an importance too.

The thing that makes some people excel in life is the real ability to connect things together. And in order to do it you need to pick up things from different subjects, from different competences, from different points of view and so on.

When I thing about myself I realize that also the most silly things, which at the time I believed they weren’t so important, if you make the right connections could help you to add a small piece of knowledge to the analysis of the problem. And the more small pieces you put together the more you could make the difference.

Working as an engineer also the Italian literature of the enlighment period has been useful. Sometimes just to share some common thoughts with customers or colleagues.

Of course it is clear that some things are fundamental and some others are (I do not say less important) less correlated with what is your professional life, but you will never know what will be your future carrer or where your passions could drive you for the rest of your life.

So the message is, don’t underevaluate what you studied but cultivate all your passions and be proud of all the time you spent improving yourself because this is what makes you unique and valuable for the others.