Bringing the best out of mediocre

Mediocre performance is mostly attributed to average capability. It might be acceptable to be mediocre at an unimportant job. You can find ways to get out of such tasks. But to be mediocre at simple jobs and not being excellent at higher jobs has no excuse at all.

Willingness to perform, coupled with the application of self to the job gets the best out of even mediocre people. People with greater willingness to perform, learn, stretch and work-hard to deliver better results beyond their core capability. People who are not willing, are unable to apply themselves to even the simplest tasks. Mediocre people who apply themselves go farther than the superior people who don’t.

To get the best out of mediocre members of the team, even before finding interventions to improve their performance, check how willing they are. If you can find a way to increase their willingness and application skills, they will be able to perform better than their latent best.

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Servant leadership in the knowledge era

We have been trained to respect and follow those who are knowledgeable. At work, there was a time when many shrewd men mustered power through their knowledge, earned over years of learning and practice. Several folks became leaders through the knowledge they used, to serve others. The first generation of communication networks ensured the fall of the barrier to information access. The second generation of networks over internet enabled free access to information. Digital tools of today make learning, building and applying knowledge on any subject, very seamless. In this context, how valuable is Knowledge and those knowledgeable?

Traditional “top-of-the-pyramid” leadership that generally involves the accumulation and exercise of the power is becoming irrelevant with the abundance of knowledge and knowledge-workforce. This, in turn, is pushing – sharing of power, putting the needs of others first and adoption of inclusive business models. Servant leadership is taking center-stage without any fanfare.

Any business or project you are part of today will have a significant part of knowledge-based work. All stakeholders and customers are also equally knowledgeable or have access to relevant knowledge. Note the frustration of doctors working with patients who meet them with own knowledge acquired through online research and public opinion about their possible disease, conditions, and course of action. To be on the top-of-your-practice, you have to quickly assess how much of knowledge the person already possesses and build/ correct the same to help them with the problem they are facing. Practice servant leadership more actively to be effective in this free-knowledge-era.

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The how of things and why it matters the most

5Ws1H is the best thumb-rule for anyone to manage things in an effective manner. A comprehensive approach to a plan, a solution, an idea, and best customer satisfaction comes from covering – Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. Arranging it appropriately, these define the roadmap. E.g. Who does what, when, where, why and how defines the best plan forward. Though all elements play a significant role, “how” matters the most in the effectiveness of the plan, solution or business idea. As the saying goes, “execution” makes the difference between success and failure.

How is the manner. The wrong manner turns everything sour, even justice and reason. The right one makes up for everything. Right manner can turn a “no” into an acceptable solution. Sweetens the truth, and makes even dead-end, a new beginning. The pleasant manner captures the affection of others. That’s why “how” of things is very important. Speak and act well and you will get out of any difficult situation. Whatever be the circumstance and substance, your stance in right manner helps you progress well.

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How to make people depend on you

Shrewd wisdom advises you to be indispensable at work so that you are always in demand. You can do it in two ways. Become an inevitable-middle-man or a go-to-person. Both of them take a good amount of hard work.

Middle-man-tactics include a combination of
• using the position of power, or access to the people-in-power
• holding access to key information,
• pleasing the customer so much so that they won’t let them move out of their project,
• building a follower-base through politics, power and “taking” capability and so on…

They essentially become the strong-hold. Most of them are hated privately and avoided as-much-as-possible. They also tend to attract-bad-company. In this era of instant gratification, the distance between creation and consumption of value is reducing too fast. Digital technologies promise to make it as-close-to-zero-as-possible. This potentially can eliminate middle-men to a great extent. Companies deal with these guys in different ways as well.

Go-to-persons are those who are always in the top-of-the-list of everyone around them. They do it by being
• Subject Matter Expert
• Troubleshooter, Problem Solver
• Pleasing personality to work-with, friend to everyone around
• building a fan-base through their work, craft and “giving” capability

Most of them are praised privately and recognized publicly. They become the first-choice of people in key projects and initiatives. They also tend to attract-best-people-to-work. Digital is catching up with them too. It is creating access to several people like them outside the company, on-demand and in a cost-effective way. Digital creates the illusion of abundance. Companies embrace it to insure themselves.

If you want to make people depend on you, focus on the value. 10x is the minimum value you should achieve to stay relevant and be significant. Every interaction with people around you and the customers should yield significant value to them. You need a portfolio of niches to be valuable. Use the power of digital. Build your portfolio of skills and niches that is useful to you and your company. Do the opposite of what middle-men do. Be free to work with anyone in the organization. Share key tips, ideas, and information, freely and proactively. Be a good learner and sharpen your go-to-person skills. Be found and easily accessible. Make and keep promises. This helps in making people depend on you!

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Making the most of multiple conflicting priorities

When you are busy building your craft at work, there are always multiple demands showing up regularly. If you’re building an Enterprise, there will be more conflicts on your time and money axes. How you manage these multiple conflicting priorities effectively, decides the rate of your progress.

Beyond typical time management skills, you will need energy management capability. Since only a few tasks can be done in parallel and very few to be delegated as these are critical ones needing your attention, you have to devise an effective energy management technique.

All of us have peaks and valleys in our energy levels in a given day. Some tasks are better done before others show-up or after everyone leave the workplace. And some take little energy when all required people are available. If you divide the work based on when it is best to do, you will find surprising levels of efficiency across tasks on your plate.

It is also useful to set time, money and energy limits for each critical priority. When any two parameters hit their limit, suspend them logically and pick up the next one. This way, you will retain focus and momentum. Keep a journal to track how your energy levels move through the day. Make the best use of it in accomplishing management of multiple conflicting priorities. This, in turn, helps you make the most of multiple conflicting priorities.

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