No single person, no matter how intelligent or experienced, can understand everything there is to know about a given job. Questions will come up, and when they do, the individual – whether a software developer, project manager, sales engineer – or any other title, needs to have a handle on the specific support that is needed, and how to ask for it.
With more people working remotely than ever before, this topic is emerging as a persistent issue. This is particularly true in fields like tech, in which teams must understand how to quickly resolve network and other systemic breakdowns and problems. Here are some ideas how to overcome lack of on-the-job support and seek help:
- Be sure to reach out to the right person. Many times, unhelpful or unsupportive people are acting out of lack of knowledge. Before you text, email, or phone, consider if you are contacting the correct individual. This person may have taken a different position in the company and is no longer current on the issues you need. If you require specific examples of what to do, reach out to someone good at providing practical advice – not someone who offers platitudes like, “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.”
- Understand the support you need and ask for it Make it clear to colleagues and supervisors alike where you need help. Do you need support on a particular problem? Do you require assistance to better understand the project in its entirety? Perhaps you need to just grasp your specific role in it? Maybe you need greater flexibility to make a deadline. What is it, exactly, that you need? It’s not a good idea to assume that people will automatically know. Tell them.
- Set realistic expectations of others. Many times, people are weathering enough challenges of their own to help out. They may not have the time or resources to be as supportive as you’d like them to be. Is it possible you’re asking for too much? This is where realistic expectations come in. Be sure you’re asking for assistance, nothing more. If your requests are excessive, you will need to start giving back before you can expect any support in return.
- Lack of support often means lack of communication. It can prove difficult to obtain the help you need if there is a big gap in communication. An outgoing person may be happy to talk at length about your problem. But if you assimilate information better by watching a video that explains the issue, contact a colleague who will use a platform like this to help. You may not “get” what the other person is saying or the individual you’re asking might not understand your request because of a communication gap.
- Network, network, network. You can never know too many people! If a trusted colleague quits to take another job with another company and you’ve relied on him exclusively, what then? The plain fact is that people move away, retire, etc. As noted earlier, no single person knows everything. A network of trusted friends, coworkers, mentors, and the like can help in areas where help and support may be lacking. A change of perspective may be what you need instead of relying on the same person.
- Finally, be sure you are willing to accept criticism. We all like to give good advice but we are sometimes awful at accepting the advice of others as it forces us to admit our weaknesses. It’s normal for an individual to think they know more than they actually do. Remember, there is a reason you asked for assistance. Don’t take their suggestion personally. Consider if doing what the person advises will help you professionally. If it will, do it!
In conclusion, never assume a colleague, supervisor or manager understands what you are asking. Don’t rely on a single coworker for assistance and be sure to reach out to the person who can address your problem best. Good luck!
About the Author, Susanne Tedrick
Susanne Tedrick is an infrastructure specialist for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. In her work, Susanne helps her clients address needs and challenges surrounding cloud adoption, cost optimization and migration. Susanne is the author of the critically acclaimed “Women of Color in Tech” and the upcoming “Innovating For Diversity”. For more information, please visit: www.SusanneTedrick.com.
Four Strategies to Start Using Now
“I learned so much during orientation. It’s too bad I won’t use most of it for six months. I took some notes, but I’m sure I won’t remember half of what they told me to do.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I learned a new piece of equipment today. The person showing me what to do knew everything. The problem I had was the deep dives. He spent so much time on troubleshooting techniques. It was just too much for my first day.”
“I can follow the steps, but I have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing. I sort of feel like a trained monkey. I hope nothing goes wrong because I will have no clue how to fix it if something does.
Despite our best efforts, it’s not as easy as it looks to get the training equation right. We train too early, we train too much, or we make a host of other errors. While some of us learn from our mistakes, many of us practice a cycle of rinse and repeat as we make the same blunders year after year. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. With some careful planning and follow through, you can avoid problems many people will encounter again and again.
Strategy One: Keep Training Relevant and Immediately Applicable
Countless onboarding programs attempt to teach everything a person would ever want to know or need to know about a job in the first few hours, days, or weeks. The information is important, but it has no immediate value. Subsequently, learners become overwhelmed in class, and then they don’t have opportunities to apply or reinforce what they’ve learned for months or even years.
Good training designers know the value of careful pacing, and they practice just-in-time training when they can. Ask yourself, what does my learner need to be successful in the first day, the first week, and the first month? Teach to those needs as much as possible, and save the more in-depth information for a more appropriate time. What do you need to prioritize?
Strategy Two: Connect to Why Again and Again
When people don’t know why they are doing something, they don’t understand the big picture. While they get the process at a surface level, their limited understanding potentially keeps them from following procedures later.
For example, if someone is learning how to use a print/copier/scanner/fax machine and part of the process is putting the guard up on the paper tray with jobs over 100 sheets, without explaining as to why that’s important to do, that learner might take it upon himself to skip that step back on the job. Only when papers are scattered all over the floor and have to be re-collated does the learning know the importance of raising the guard.
Great trainers make connections. They repeatedly explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, why procedures are written as they are, and so forth. Are you connecting the dots as well as you should, or could you do a better job?
Strategy Three: Use Multiple Channels to Cement Learning
I showed her how to do it, she did it, and now she’s trained. Maybe that’s true for the simple stuff, but for the complex processes and procedures, multi-channel encoding reigns supreme.
For example, show learners in real-time how to complete a process. Then do it again, at the same time providing a narration track while the learner takes notes. Next, have the learner read aloud the notes she’s taken. Finally, have the learner demonstrate the procedure.
The multi-channel approach allows learners to see, to hear, to write, to speak, and to do whatever process they are learning. Depending on the learner, some senses may be more powerful than others. And in rare cases where there is no preference, repetition wins the day. What can you do differently to engage more senses?
Strategy Four: Teach with Reference Tools
- It’s one thing to conquer a task during class or one-on-one job coaching, but it’s entirely another to reproduce those results on the job.
- People who have mastered the training function know to develop and teach reference tools in addition to processes themselves.
- Ask yourself what kinds of support you need to develop. Decide where you need to incorporate them in your training plans. Those who learn how to solve problems themselves are worth their weight in gold. In addition to strong productivity, these people are also usually happier and more motivated than those who don’t have the tools to stand on their own feet.
Four strategies and none hard: make training relevant, connecting to why, repeating information using different channels, and incorporating the tools learners should use to solve problems back on the job. If done deliberately and with routine, you will almost certainly get a good result.
About the Author
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team provide onsite, virtual, and online soft-skills training courses and workshops to clients in the United States and internationally. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
By Susan Robertson
The short answer? BOTH. Or NEITHER. It’s solely dependent on how the meeting is structured and managed,
A recent study found that online interactions result in less creativity than face-to-face. The reason: when online, people mostly stare at the screen, rather than letting their eyes wander around, which sparks more divergent thought. But the flaw with this study was that the conditions that actually result in creative thinking were not set; not in the online nor the in-person experiments. So, even though the in-person interactions were slightly more creative, neither were very creative at all, in the absolute.
Effective creative thinking requires adherence to specific guidelines. If done casually, without guidelines, it won’t be effective regardless of online or in-person.
10 RULES FOR BRAINSTORMING SUCCESS – In any environment.
- FREE THEM FROM FEAR – It’s very difficult for people to share ideas if they’re concerned about negative consequences. A climate that helps people get past the fear is critical. One key principle is to prohibit any evaluation (even positive evaluation) during the idea generation phase. All evaluation occurs only after idea generation is complete.
- USE THE POWER OF THE GROUP. Build, combine, and create new ideas in the moment. Don’t just collect ideas that people have already had. The building and combining is where the magic happens. Break up into pairs or small groups to encourage even more building and combining.
- GET OUTSIDE STIMULOUS. Asking the same people to sit in the same place and review the same information won’t result in exciting, new ideas. Talk to your customers, talk to other experts, explore what other industries are doing. Have the in-person meeting in a park or museum. If online, mail everyone some dollar-store toys in advance, or play music or show unusual pictures.
- ENCOURAGE THE CRAZY. Something often heard at the beginning of a brainstorming: “Every idea is a good idea.” Followed by a collective eye roll because no one believes it. While it’s not true that every idea is a practical idea, it is true that every idea can offer useful stimulus for additional ideas. Sometimes ideas thrown in as jokes can be the spark that leads to new direction and a winning idea. So allow, encourage, and use every idea, even if only for creative fodder.
- IT’S A NUMBERS GAME. The more “at bats” you have, the more likely you are to hit a home-run. Drive for quantity. Ensure the session is long enough to generate lots. If you only spend 10 minutes, don’t expect great results.
- LAUGH A LOT. Humor stimulates creativity, so let it happen. One easy way – have everyone introduce themselves by answering a fun or silly question. Here’s one used in a session in December – “What’s something you DON’T need more of for the holidays?” The resulting answers were hilarious, and some even started sparking real ideas.
- HOMEWORK IS REQUIRED. Both individual and group efforts are critical for success. Insist on individual preparation. Ensure everyone knows the goal, and ask them to do some homework in advance.
- IT’S NOT CASUAL. Effective brainstorming requires skillful facilitation, which is a different set of skills from managing other meeting types. There must be a designated facilitator, who is NOT the primary problem owner. The role of the facilitator is to objectively manage the process. Ideally, the facilitator should be someone who has no stake in the outcome and can remain neutral to all content. Designate a facilitator far enough in advance that the person has time to fully plan the session, and potentially to study up on how to do it well.
- IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, BUT DOESN’T ACT LIKE A DUCK, IT’S NOT A DUCK. If you can’t, or don’t intend to, follow the guidelines for successful brainstorming, then don’t call it brainstorming. For example, a meeting that just becomes a stage for one person to spout their opinions isn’t useful. And if a brainstorming is not organized and structured appropriately, everyone will feel how ineffective it is, and they’ll be sure to skip your next session. So, either set up for success, or don’t bother.
- YOU’RE NOT DONE UNTIL YOU DECIDE. Everyone has been in this situation; it’s the end of a brainstorming session, a long list of ideas has been created, and someone volunteers to type up the list. And…. that’s it. There’s no action, or at least none that we’re aware of. It’s demotivating to spend time and energy generating ideas only to feel they went nowhere. Plan time for selecting and prioritizing the ideas during the session. Spend at least an equal amount of time on converging as you do on diverging. Yes, you read that right. If you generate ideas for an hour, also spend at least an hour on selecting, clarifying, and planning. If you leave with a huge list of nebulous, potential ideas, that’s not success. The outcome should be a short list of clear ideas, and a plan for action.
Whether in-person or online, creativity happens when the correct conditions are set. If you’re doing it casually, without guidelines, and without skillful facilitation, it may not be tremendously effective. However, with appropriate focus on the process and environment, and by following these rules, you can effectively generate creative solutions in any setting.
About the Author: Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to: https://susanrobertson.co/.
Every year in the spring, Amy B., a buyer for a large retail chain store, hosts an Easter egg decorating teambuilding party, where she and a bunch of her suppliers spend an entire afternoon coloring and bedazzling hard-boiled eggs. None of them bring their kids—they do this for the sheer pleasure of out-of-the office bonding, creating interesting and attractive objects. The group is always amazed at the creativity of the resulting eggs. (And in case you’re wondering, no, none of them are artists.)
So why, as adults, don’t people exercise their inner child-like creativity more often? And what is it about the Easter egg party that allows them to so freely generate and express such range and diversity of ideas? There are several factors—all of which also apply to innovation.
Each egg represents a very low commitment. It is cheap in both time and materials to try any idea they think of, so they try lots of ideas. If one doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter—it’s just one egg. Similarly, in your innovation work, you need to consider and try out many ideas, to ensure that only the best ones move forward. As innovation projects proceed through a company, they get more expensive—in money, time, and labor—at each successive phase. Developing Fail Fast, Fail Cheap methodologies allows you to try out lots of ideas early on, while it’s still cheap.
They leverage not only individual creativity, but also use the power of the group. Someone will think of an idea to try, and then toss it out to the group. Then everyone contributes ideas for how best to accomplish it. No one ever says, “Yes, but that won’t work.” Everyone just thinks of ways to help make it better. The resulting final solutions are nearly always significantly better than what the person would have tried originally. In many companies, the “Yes, But” phenomenon is all too common, and can be very damaging to creativity and innovation. Most ideas aren’t perfect when they’re first conceived, but teams act like they should be. They point out all the problems in an emerging idea before they ever attempt to find out if there’s anything good about it. For innovation and creative problem solving to thrive, it’s critical to create an environment that nurtures ideas rather than stifles them, so you get the benefit of the best thinking of the entire team.
They are willing to start over when something clearly isn’t working. One woman brought eggs that were not naturally white; instead, they were brown. It wasn’t clear that dyeing them would work very well, if at all. And, in fact, the first few attempts didn’t work. So, she scraped off all the color on her unsuccessful eggs several times. But when she chose red, yellow, and orange colors and left them in the dye bath long enough, she got some of the most uniquely rich and vividly colored eggs anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, in large organizations, too many innovation projects that aren’t quite hitting the mark proceed too far. It’s important to recognize when an idea isn’t working, and then be willing to start again when you need to.
Reframing the goal results in more divergent ideas. The woman with the brown eggs also tried other methods of decorating the eggs, not just coloring them with dye. Once she reframed the problem from coloring eggs to decorating eggs, everyone else also began creating the most innovative and unusual eggs of all. This reframing of the problem is a critical step in effective problem-solving and innovation. This is because the way a problem is stated affects the potential solutions you will think of. So when addressing any obstacle, it’s a good idea to question the way the challenge or problem is worded, to see if you can reframe it to get to different and better solutions.
So the next time you find yourself with eggs to decorate—or a challenge to meet—keep these tips in mind to help you think more creatively and come up with more innovative solutions…
- Fail fast, fail cheap. Test many possible ideas.
- Leverage individual and group creativity; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”.
- Be willing to start over when the idea isn’t working.
- Reframe the opportunity to expand your thinking.
About the Author:
Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to:https://susanrobertson.co/
Regardless of what date the calendar shows, business is blooming – and the season for sowing success is officially here. The ways businesses can promote themselves is blooming, too – blogs, podcasts, social media, website search engine optimization, television, magazines! How can business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders weed out what will land on the rocks and what will bear fruit when it comes to publicity?
You see, a targeted publicity campaign is much like gardening. It requires an innate understanding of the medium where your expertise best fits, properly nurturing the attention that you generate, and reaping the rewards of increased awareness of your unique space in the business market.
So where to start? The soil, of course!
The Soil – Your Market
A successful publicity campaign starts with deep knowledge of where your knowledge works. Whether you excel at providing management solutions or the art of making the most of the clock, you don’t simply want to blast out your content like a defective garden hose. Just like different substrates, different avenues exist for your expertise – and you need to choose the one that’s best for your expressed goals.
Whether that means pitching your content out to a specific geographic area or DMA that pertains to a coming event, or providing comment on a national news story, you have to possess a keen awareness of where your knowledge best fits and the outcome that you’re hoping to elicit.
Sowing – Targeted Pitching
Just like you shouldn’t take a scattershot approach to planting seeds you hope will eventually produce fruit, you shouldn’t assume you can just cover each and every aspect of the media with a publicity campaign. It’s about targeted pitching of content to editors, writers, and producers.
Plant your expertise seeds where you have the strongest opportunity for success. That means having a firm grasp on your target market where you know you have a strong shot of developing enduring roots – not just a momentary glimpse of sunlight.
Nurturing – Building Relationships
Anyone who has ever seen that first seedling sprout in their garden or field knows that immediate feeling of elation. Things are happening! I wasn’t just tilling and watering this soil for no reason! It’s a burst of excitement in knowing that your work had paid off. But those same folks will can also identify with watching their work wilt on the vine and the inescapable thought that more could have been done.
Once you have started the process of pitching out your expertise – be it to daily newspapers in the form of interview availability, or articles to trade, industry, and association publications, it’s imperative that you nurture those leads by properly tracking and following up with the editors who have requested your comment or content.
One of the biggest mistakes that is made during a publicity campaign is fostering a one-sided relationship. Each one of those columnists and editors is looking to fill space with intriguing content on a consistent basis. Just like you wouldn’t prune your leaves or fertilize all at once when it’s convenient, you need to maintain a dialogue with those who are looking to you for answers.
That doesn’t mean to bombard them with emails or phone calls—it simply entails having a firm process in place to touch base on the status of your article or interview, and be ready to reach out when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises.
The Harvest – Frequency and Repetition
The pinnacle of sowing season is the harvest—where you can reap the rewards of your time, efforts, energy, and dedication. After months of tending to your crops, it’s finally time to take out your bushels and account for your yield.
In a PR campaign, the sowing season runs year-round as a well-targeted campaign means you’ll receive a bounty of coverage on a consistent basis – regardless of the date on the calendar.
To the Market – Benefiting from Publicity
Off to the market with your haul! This is where the hard work really pays off and you can assign a definitive, tangible value to the time investment to planting, tending, and harvesting your crop.
With publicity, post-placement marketing is a key, critical component in a campaign’s life cycle. Without effective marketing to the associations and industries who utilized your expertise in their publication you cannot truly capitalize on the commitment you made to growing your business or enhancing your audience at the outset.
Effectively marketing the publication that you receive involves outreach to the industries who found direct value in your content—be it your perspective in an interview or your unique selling propositions in articles. Without leveraging these placements and marketing to those industries, you’ll be left with a bounty without a buyer.
With business back in full bloom, events are currently being planned and organizations are seeking experts to enrich their audiences with their point-of-view. To enjoy the full range of benefits of a publicity campaign you must think like a farmer or gardener—determine the fertile soil for your content, sow the seeds of your expertise with targeted pitching, with a green thumb frame-of-mind (in a monetary context, of course), nurture the relationships built, and then leverage your placements to begin marketing your content.
As the gardeners and farmers among you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, care, and dedication you’ll enjoy the rewards of a fruitful publicity endeavor.
About the Author:
Russell Trahan is the Owner/President of PR/PR Public Relations and the Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying A Word. PR/PR/ Public Relations is a boutique agency specializing in thought-leaders and subject-matter experts. He positions his clients’ expertise in front of their target market. PR/PR Public Relations has a 20+ year history of getting 100% of their clients results. For more information, please visit: www.PRPR.net.