Monday, September 28, 2009


One of my favorite questions to ask employees is "Do you feel content and challenged in your role?"

If their answer is indicating in any way boredom the conversation usually follows with more open-ended questions about why the associate gets bored and what he/she is doing about it.

One of my least favorite answers to hear is "When my work is done, there is nothing else for me to do." What does that mean exactly? Does it mean team members truly lack the clarity to see that there always is something to do?

When team mates don't have the inherent vision to see their role's infinite possibilities it is time to break down the communication to the most basic of levels.

These question and answer exercises might seem simple but simple fixes have the power to avert huge mistakes. Think about the hospitals that have given 100 grams instead of 10 of a prescribed medicine, or more recently, the embryo implant mix-ups. Simple errors, sometimes with fatal results, abound not only in the medical but also in the corporate world. No streamlining of methods or processes that will help your productivity, safety and morale is ever too small.

Ideally, we'd all hire solely go-getters, but the reality of it is that sometimes people have to be taught to be seismic thinkers, sometimes people need a bit of a shake up to shape up, and many times with a little positive Q&A leadership people will surprise you with performances high on the Richter Scale. So go ask. Find out if the boredom is justified or not...but above all remind them to not to wait until you ask & give them the tools to fix and outgrow these challenges.

Here is a sample list for those times when there's "nothing to do":

■ Document patterns observed

Based on the premise that most processes can be improved at one time or another a good question to ask is, "When was the last time you got frustrated with another department?" Well, there it is! you have plenty to do. Spend time improving communication processes, if you repeatedly ask a department/co-worker to answer all of your questions and invariably some answers are missing, then perhaps you need to establish a system that everyone will follow when communicating in written form.

■ Document proposed solutions to patterns observed

Teach them, if necessary, to view all "issues" as growth opportunities.

■ Mentoring

To follow up on the prior point: even better, instead of teaching them yourself, pair them up by empowering someone to be a mentor and help others develop untapped skills.

■ Improve job description & requirements

Because of the rushed pace of the workplace the clear, written delineating of the day-to-day basic activities falls through the cracks and people learn as they go. Why not take a quick moment to jot down things that will save time and be helpful to others following in our footsteps?

■ Advance own skills by doing tutorials (online, books, etc.)

■ Present info learned from tutorials

This will enhance your team member's ability to communicate with larger groups and instill leadership qualities in the process.

■ Job performance update

■ Job shadowing

■ Goal documenting & updating

■ Clean up of computer files (email, Word docs, etc.)

This will help all your systems run more smoothly and avert technical problems.

■ Organize physical work materials

■ Offer assistance to a co-worker or department

It might not be a bad idea to customize a list to your associate's roles, print it and post it in a prominent area of their work space. Let's make today and all of the days to come No Excuses Day.

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