By: Erica Woods | Last Updated: 2016-07-07 | Comments | Professional Development Skills Development
During our webinar, 15 Traits of Top Performers, we received a number of questions we didn't have time to address. Below are our answers!
Here are the questions and our responses from the 15 Traits of Top Performers webinar:
When responding to an email I need to follow up on, I CC myself so it reminds me to follow up and helps me stay organized. Do you have any other suggestions for keeping track of follow up items?
A high level of responsiveness, follow up, and follow through are all key traits of top performers! Therefore, having an organizational and "task tracking" system is important to productivity, efficiency, success, and ensuring no follow up items slip through the cracks.
Here are a few systems/processes we follow to stay organized:
- Utilize your calendar as a to-do list for follow-up activities / task reminders. Often times tasks we are assigned have some type of follow-up strategy and it can be difficult to stay organized with so many moving parts throughout the day. If you know you need to report on something within one week, set a calendar appointment 1-2 days before the report is due with all relevant information to ensure follow up is done within that timeframe!
- Hand-written or electronic to-do lists. We're still advocates of the hand-written to-do list, but in this day in age, many people prefer some type of electronic one. Regardless if you have an electronic or paper to-do list, the bottom line is you need to have one you're diligent about updating to ensure no tasks or other follow up items slip through the cracks.
- Create an 'Action Items' or 'Follow Up' type folder in your Inbox. This is great option because you can move emails out of your general Inbox to avoid clutter and help with organization. You can flag emails certain colors, mark messages as unread, etc. Whatever works best for you! We both have an 'Action Items' folder that we move the emails we CC ourselves into. One of us blocks off an hour on our calendar each week to 'Follow Up on Action Items' folder, and the other reviews daily.
- Utilize an Excel or Word Document for 'Action Items' on your desktop. We know many people that keep a Word or Excel document open all day long with their short-term and long-terms tasks.
- Sticky Notes. These are fun to use and are basically post it notes (which we also love) on your Desktop. Different colors can represent different projects, etc.
- Utilize the Notes App on your iPhone. For example, so if you're on the go and think of something that pertains to work, you can add it then and there so you won't forget! If you're like us and wake up, either in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, with an idea or action item you need to add to your list, having a 'To Do List' note tab can be helpful!
Do you have a list of these resources you are mentioning on the webinar?
We believe you mean the Ted Talks, articles and training resources we referenced. Here are the training resources we recommended, both free and those that have a small monthly cost.
Free resources: Microsoft Virtual Academy, Code Academy, Cybrary, Coursera, Ted Talks, YouTube videos, and Lean In
Training resources with a cost: Safari Books Online, Plural Sight and Lynda
We also recommend joining local MeetUps/User Groups and community associations. If you're looking to fine tune your leadership, resource management, communication, and other project management/leadership or soft skill type traits, consider joining a local PMI Chapter so you can browse their meeting topics. You don't need to be a member of PMI or a Project Manager to take advantage of their meetings; it just costs a couple extra dollars to attend one of their luncheons or dinners!
Lastly, we referenced this article around the topic of responsiveness: http://www.staceyhankeinc.com/2014/what-does-your-response-time-say-about-you/
If we have 10 associates in a group and we are only allowed to send 3 associates to a conference, how can we choose which associate to send?
We're sure this is a sensitive subject because you don't want anyone's feeling to be hurt, or for anyone to ever believe there's a sense of unfairness or favoritism! Therefore, we recommend creating an official 'Conference Selection Policy' and Application Process.
Example Policy and Application Process:
We strive to support the learning needs of our team members. Due to budgetary constraints, we will select 3 applicants a year and pay for the fee to attend the ___ conference. If you are not selected, please note that we will provide 2 days of PTO a year if you'd like to pay to attend another conference, which you'll still need to submit a request to your Manager for.
Applicants must have 12 months of tenure, and submit answers to the following conference:
- What conference would you like to go to?
- What's the conference cost?
- Why do you want to attend this conference?
- What benefits will you bring back to the organization/our team from this conference?
- Will you be comfortable taking key learning's from the conference and hosting a brown bag training lunch with the rest of the team?
- What else would be helpful for us to know when making our selections?
Here are a few additional traits you could incorporate into your selection process:
- Communication / social skills: A huge part of conferences is the networking aspect, and there are certainly people out there that aren't comfortable making small talk with strangers (which it totally fine). But in thinking through who you want to represent your company and/or team at a conference, we'd recommend selecting/seeking out those with strong communication and relationship building skills.
- Passion: Do any of your employees seem especially passionate about the technology, subject matter, etc.? When someone is extremely passionate about something, they are more likely to gain more from a conference simply because they possess the eagerness to learn about that topic and thus will be paying better attention! These types of individuals will also consider this a huge perk of working for your organization/team, so it could be considered an employee retention strategy for them!
- Content delivery: Think through who is really good at taking notes and absorbing information, and also those who are good at relaying new information back to the team in a manner everyone understands. Are there associates of yours that excel at delivering training sessions? When you send a team member to a conference, the hope is that they'll learn something new, network, and build relationships. The real value, however, is how they bring back this new knowledge and findings and share it with those teammates that didn't get to go. Even just knowing they'll be required to make a presentation when they return can be extra motivation for those chosen individuals to be even more present and engaged during the conference!
Remember that there are so many local development conferences/learning opportunities, and you can always share the details of those with your entire team and encourage participation, especially with those applicants who you could not select to attend the conference. As a Manager/Leader, be aware of the local code camps, SQL Saturdays, and other code-a-thons/conferences, and make sure to share those details with your team!
What was that TED talk you mentioned?
There are a number of Ted Talks which have personally changed our insights, giving us new perspectives and/or ideas for how to improve our performance and better manage/lead our teams! The ones we spoke about on the Webinar are included below:
- Shawn Achor's Ted Talk "The Happy Secret to Better Work"
- Amy Cuddy's Ted Talk "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are"
- Simon Sinek's Ted Talk "How Great Leaders Inspire Action"
- Tania Luna's Ted Talk "How a Penny Made Me Feel Like a Millionaire"
What do you think about self-forming (organizing) teams? Some background, we frequently have a reorganization. The team feels frustrated because of the disruption. A team that has just started to work well together gets pulled apart. I think management has a tendency to try to form teams to solve issue, but it takes time for teams to establish good working relationship and self-forming teams can help.
This is a tough question, and to be fully transparent, neither of us are SMEs on self-forming teams. However, a couple initial thoughts/reactions and recommended resources related to developing strong teams:
- Clearly state goals and expectations. It's essential to clearly state expectations and goals from the get go so there is no room for debate and everyone knows, and feels comfortable, with their role on the team. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you delivered a piece of a project only to find out that it's not what was wanted or expected. When employees have clear cut goals of what to work towards and what's expected of them, you'll tend to find that they perform better!
- You can help move a team more quickly through the phases. One way
is by helping everyone get to know each other, and establish trust. There
are two essential actions you can do to assist with this, and/or encourage
your Team Manager/Leader to do. First, the team leader/manager should
communicate to the group who each of the team members are and why they were
selected for that team. Second, spend time doing icebreakers. Some of our
- Partner interviews: individuals pair up and interview each other for a few minutes, and then introduce each other to the rest of the team.
- Two truths and a lie: everyone writes down two truthful facts about themselves, and one lie, and then everyone tries to guess what the lie is.
- What's in your wallet: everyone shares one item in their wallet and how that describes them. One of ours is our REI card, as we're a co-op member and would rather live outside than indoors!
- Favorites: pick several categories that people could share their favorites in, such as travel destination, TV show, movie, outdoor activity, holiday, etc.
- "Patience is a virtue!" Remember that the rule of thumb is about 6 months for a team to move through the 4 stages of team development, which include forming, storming, norming and performing. If your organization constantly does re-structuring before allowing a team to get to, and benefit from the results of, the performing mode, then it'd be wise for leadership to re-visit.
- Purpose increases buy-in/motivation and fosters progress. Team members can experience increased buy-in if they understand the purpose behind their team/efforts, so ensure the "impact" the team will be making is clear! If you think your team would benefit from increased communication from the Manager around the purpose and impact of the team, make that recommendation.
- Susan Wheelan's Creating Effective Teams
- Lisa DiTullio's Project Team Dynamics
- Article: https://scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2013/january/self-organizing-teams-what-and-how
As with all of our webcasts, we encourage you to engage in "reflective learning" and ask yourself the following in relation to the webcast and this follow up tip:
- What is your biggest take away/lesson learned?
- What is one action you'll immediately take based on your lesson learned to influence your performance?
Also, make a continuous practice to identify the strong performers around you, take note of what traits they exhibit and actions they take that make them stand out, and determine how you can adopt those into your behavior and actions so you start to exercise those traits! Never be afraid to take the extra step of reaching out to them to ask them for advice on how they developed those skills/traits.
Have additional questions around traits that can make you a top performer? Enter into the Comments box, and we'll address!
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Last Updated: 2016-07-07
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