Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 98 – Going the extra mile

In this issue we will look at:

•    Where is the … section?
•    To be the best in your field
•    Training dates
•    A Thought to ponder

Where is the … section?
“It’s over there” he said with a vague wave of the arm

Yeah thanks for that

Have you ever done that to a customer? It’s really annoying…

When was the last time you looked at your workplace through the eyes of a customer? Or have you become so jaded you don’t even notice the poor placement of signs anymore? If you have ever seen the programs Undercover Boss or Secret Shopper you will see the cringe worthy examples and more of bad customer service. And given we are in the business of providing information to our clients and customers, surely the first thing we should be doing is making sure they can see signs, they can see what sections they need. Of course there will be times when we get asked, just make sure you don’t fob them off with the vagaries of “it’s over there love” and carry on with your conversation about what you did last night – after all you never know who you may be talking to.

To be the best in your field
To be the best in what you do takes time, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and in some cases natural talent, and not everyone has the capacity to do whatever it takes to get to the top. But there are some simple suggestions we can all use to become better in our chosen profession.

Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. This may sound like an obvious thing to say, but how many people actually practice this technique? Not many I would hazard a guess. Some people guard their jobs and their knowledge like a miser – “knowledge is power” after all, so it may take some skilled negotiation on your part to get some people to part with what they know.

Consider this – every person that you work with has something they can teach you. Given the size of most organisations – this on the job learning will never stop. Every person has a different set of life experiences and formal education they bring to an organisation, so take the opportunity to speak to as many as you can. Ask the question why? Why is a great word, kids use it all the time. Why? Because they are learning all the time.

There is also another aspect to this – be willing to teach as well as learn. In doing so you will learn new things about your own role and the tasks that you are being asked to do.

Read as much as you can. But don’t just read the literature directly associated with your field of expertise. We can borrow so much from other disciplines that we could read 24 hours a day and not have enough time to take it all in. Read as much as you can, don’t just read the easy stuff, be willing to challenge your thinking and your prejudices. Be willing to go outside your current level of reading comfort to get to the nuggets that can improve the way that you do your job. Management, Marketing, IT, Human Resources and a myriad of other disciplines can be applied to our world. If you’ve ever wondered why we cover topics from Occupational Health and Safety to Marketing of Library and Information Services in these newsletters, well now you know.

Go to as many events as you can. This has a double effect for you. Not only can you meet more professional people, you also get to ask lots of questions. You can also share your knowledge with others. But – and this is the key, remember you have to be willing to listen to the answers you received. Be remembered as the person who asked the great questions, but also gave the speaker your full attention as they spoke to you. Few people manage to do this, and if you can, you will be remembered for all the right reasons.

Be open to new experiences. In the contracting arena you never know where you will be asked to go to next. Some people say they will do anything just to get experience, and then when that something turns up, they turn the opportunity down, saying it’s not what they were hoping for after all. Whilst that is ok, we do give you the opportunity to say yes or no. In reality you don’t know where some things may lead you. For example, we had one person (a new registrant) who was contracted to a host employer for just 1 day. That day was extended – day-by-day, week-by-week, until the time came when the person was offered a full time job with the organisation. OK it was a bit of an extreme example, and it has only happened to this agency once, but the point was, this person had little experience in the field, but was willing to do anything and he did it willingly.

Be enthusiastic even when you’re not totally confident in your abilities. As with the example listed above. Be willing to do what you can with the skills that you have, until you have gained additional experience, which can then lead you to other things. Some people make the mistake in thinking that they have all the theory, and a job will be waiting for them when they get out of university. Of course this isn’t always the case. The other side to this particular equation is when someone has all the ego and not much in the way of capability.

So – the next suggestion – be yourself. Unless you are totally rude and obnoxious that is, in which case, you will need to temper your natural self into someone who can get on with other people in the working environment. Being yourself means, being honest – admit when you don’t know something, and be willing to learn. You can’t be half-open minded to new opportunities. You either are, or you’re not.

Do all that you can in the time that you have been allocated. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. “Busy” work is not productive work. If you use a “to do” list then you will have a list of things that you need to do sitting right at the top. Why are these important? Well you wrote the list and the most important things usually come out of the thought processes first and into the top spots onto the paper. Of the remaining items on the list, some are there because you feel they need doing, and other items are there because someone has asked you to do them. Now these delegated tasks may also be important, so it is up to you to determine which tasks need completing first. And it usually comes down to what is important and urgent as opposed to just “urgent”.

In allocating time to these tasks – it is important to plan ahead and that is where both time and project management come into their own. In order to do more, you have to manage your time and guard it from outside influences. These include other people wanting to offload their tasks onto you because you seem to be able to get things done far more efficiently and effectively. That may be the case, but being the best at what you do should not include bailing everyone else out.

Smile – even if you don’t really enjoy what you are doing. Smile and pretend that you do. Take a good look at the people who work in your organisation – are they happy to be there or are they grouchy as hell?

A hint: happy people will always get more done each day than those people who feel put upon and annoyed by the working life.

As we have mentioned above, be willing to share your knowledge. Write articles and papers. Be known for providing quality information on relevant topics in your field. As you read more, you are able to share more, as you share more, there is more capacity for you to learn more, and so the cycle of learning energy goes around again. Take part in mentoring discussions. If you are a seasoned professional, be willing to give your time to the next generation. Think back to when you were first starting out on the information ladder. How much time did your colleagues and peers spend talking with you, sharing ideas and knowledge? But even if you are new to the profession, you too have something of importance to offer. You have been given the most up to date theoretical knowledge. You will have written articles and papers and gained credible marks for your efforts, so consider taking an aspect of these papers and using them as a basis for articles and papers for the wider community. Be known early in your career as a person with something of use and value to say, and people will respect you as an authority on the subject. You may have noticed here that the word author has the same stem as the word authority. Be an author-ity of your own learning.

Be a people person. In today’s working environment you need to be able to collaborate with a wide variety of people from all walks of life. If you don’t “like” the person, however, then crucial conversations don’t happen. Worse still you don’t really listen to the information you are being given. If you are not listening then you are not learning. In fact most people think they are thinking, when all they are doing is rearranging their prejudices (anon – sorry can’t remember who first said that)…

So, first things first. First you need to identify the person or types of person you don’t get along with. What is it about the person(s) you don’t like? Is their attitude directed at just you, or is their attitude the same no matter what they are doing, or who they are talking to?

The second part of this relates to you. Are you the person with the stinking attitude? Do you go to work hating every minute of it? Because if you do, you will never reach the top of your particular tree, you will be stuck down at the roots complaining about why everyone else can get on but not you. If you can’t resolve a particular issue, if you really can’t sort out the personal relationships, or if the job really wasn’t what you thought it was going to be, you don’t have to stay. Talking of trees, you’re not one, you can move, you can change, you can be whatever you want to be, but first you have to ask – is it your attitude that is holding you back from achieving great things.

Going back to the sharing of knowledge just for a minute, because it is a very important point – do not take the credit for anyone else’s work, thoughts or ideas. And if you are in a senior management role, then you should also know not to discuss shortcomings with a person in public. Be quick to praise in public though. But as for everything else, don’t just offer criticisms offer solutions as well. You see people management is an essential part of being the best in your field. If you want to be the best AND be respected for it, then you have to remember the people who helped you to get to where you are now by sharing their time and their expertise with you.

Be willing to embrace change. Change is inevitable. It is a fact of life, we either change by choice or we change by force. However, there is a third group – those who are unable to change through either willingness or force, well be aware you might just be first on the chopping block if that’s the case. We’re also not talking about change for change sake. But can you work better, smarter, differently. Do you waste time on activities that have no real benefit? Do you really need to do them? Will people notice if you stop doing them? Can these tasks be modified so they benefit more people than the one or two who do currently benefit from your hard work? Going back to your to do lists just for a minute. If you do meaningless tasks for a good proportion of your day, how on earth are you going to complete those items that you are supposed to do today?

Are you willing to go the extra mile?

Hope so