Published: Working World

If not, Take Action NOW to Become More Effective

Doomsayers have been telling us for years that the American auto industry was going to lose market share, that the Japanese cars were better designed, had better fuel mileage and better catered to customer needs. We proud Americans blithely continued doing business as usual, paying very little attention to the dire warnings.

And we, the American public, watched the Japanese auto industry take larger and larger chunks out of our market share. When it was almost too late, we started pointing our fingers and shaking our collective heads at Detroit. How could the American automakers allow Japan to move in and steal our game? After all, we’re the best!

Then the American auto industry started fighting back and making a difference.

What I’ve said isn’t news to any of us. But, are there lessons we can personally learn from this experience? You bet there are. What happened to America’s global automobile industry is happening right here, right now to each of us.

Weekly we hear about people losing their jobs. Most of us have not seen significant salary increases in years, and we’re nervous each day wondering if we’ll be employed tomorrow. There is a correlation between steps the auto industry has taken to revive their industry and what we can do to rejuvenate our careers. We need to ask ourselves—like the auto industry did—”Are we meeting our client’s (boss’) needs?”

What have we done recently to improve the services we provide, our skills, and the way we do business? Or, are we sitting back like the Detroit-fat-cats 10 years ago handling business as usual, confidant that no one can or will unseat us? “Action now” must be our watchword. Each of us must be responsible for targeting and then carrying out actions that will improve our personal effectiveness.

What “action now” steps can you take?

1. Develop a clear, compelling “vision” for yourself and your career that is bigger and broader than anything you’ve ever dreamed of. Envision this in glorious detail. See yourself working your envisioned job six months from now, a year from now, and then five years in the future. Use this as your benchmark. Continually measure your daily activities and commitments against who you will be tomorrow. Believe that this will work.Did you know that in 1953 the Yale graduating class was asked if they had written out clear, concise goals for the future? Three percent responded that they had. In 1973, the class members were again interviewed, and astonishingly enough to the interviewers, those three percent were worth more financially than the entire remaining 97 percent. Astonishing? No. Reality. So sit down and clearly write out your personal, empowering vision of tomorrow; it will be well worth your time.

2. Think about re-engineering your job. Every position has essential and nonessential aspects. The essentials are those critical ingredients that you and your boss consider absolutely necessary to get the job done. Find out from your boss what your job would look like if you met 100% of his or her expectations. Then study what additional duties you want to take on based upon your interests, strengths, weaknesses and the needs of your organization. This places you in the creative driver’s seat as you redesign your position.

3. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, making a commitment to reading nonfiction is one of the fastest easiest and most dynamic strategies for increasing knowledge. The highly successful businessmen and women in American according to a Gallup study, read one nonfiction book per month. To become one of this select one percent of the business population, simply promise to read one factual book each month. Listening to books on tape during your commute is another option. Remember, in order to increase your salary, you must know more.

4. Improving your vocabulary is another sure-fire way to increase your value. Studies have found that an individual’s salary has a direct correlation to their knowledge of words. The more words you know the more money you make. Does this sound too easy? I challenge you to add one new word to your vocabulary each week and after six months, see if there isn’t a change in the way people relate to you. What do you have to lose?

5. Enhancing your ability to speak in front of an audience is an important skill. Lee Iacocca in his autobiography said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your brains won’t get you anywhere.” So you’re scared to death at the thought of speaking in public; well, you’re not alone. Fear of public speaking is always among the top 10 listed fears. Start working on your fear now by taking a public speaking class or joining the Toastmasters Club.

6. Personal orderliness and organizational skills are habits that will improve your chances for professional growth. A recent survey indicated that 50 out of 52 executives stated that they would not promote a person with a messy desk or work environment, even if that person was doing a good job. It was felt that if a person could not organize his desk, he could not be trusted with more responsibility within the company. With this in mind, start cleaning your desk and work area now!

7. Develop a network of individuals—both within your company and outside—that you can call on for help, information or support. Create a game plan. Make yourself known to those individuals within your organization who can impact your career. Find the companies that are doing a better job in your industry and get acquainted with key people there. These new relationships will truly enhance your career.

8. One of the quickest ways to increase your efficiency is to develop a “To do” list. The first day you use your list, you will increase your efficiency by 25%. There is a mountain load of studies and statistics that show us for every hour spent effectively planning out workload, we will save three to four hours in execution.

A secondary benefit is that the results obtained through planning are significantly better than without. I also suggest that you keep your completed “To Do” Lists for referral during your performance evaluation.

Take “action now” and with effort, you will make a difference to your career. This strategy is working for the auto industry. Each of us committed to take small improvement steps daily (the Japanese call it “Kaizen”) will make the difference! Plus, you will become happier with your job than ever before! Start today.

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