How to Master a New Skill Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

by Amy Gallo


We all want to be better at something. After all, self-improvement is necessary to getting ahead at work. But once you know what you want to be better at — be it public speaking, using social media, or analyzing data — how do you start? Of course, learning techniques will vary depending on the skill and the person, but there are some general rules you can follow.

What the Experts Say
Mastering new skills is not optional in today’s business environment. “In a fast-moving, competitive world, being able to learn new skills is one of the keys to success. It’s not enough to be smart — you need to always be getting smarter,” says Heidi Grant Halvorson, a motivational psychologist and author of the HBR Single Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Joseph Weintraub, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Babson College and coauthor of the book,The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business, agrees: “We need to constantly look for opportunities to stretch ourselves in ways that may not always feel comfortable at first. Continual improvement is necessary to get ahead.” Here are some principles to follow in your quest for self-improvement:

Check your readiness
When working on a new skill or competency, you need to ask yourself two things. First, is your goal attainable? “There are certain limits to what you can learn,” explains Weintraub. “For example, you may want to be a brain surgeon, but not have the eye-hand coordination required.” Second, how much time and energy can you give to the project? “It’s not like going to the pharmacy and getting a prescription filled,” says Weintraub. Self-improvement is hard work. Halvorson agrees: “Many people implicitly believe that if you have to work hard at something, it means you lack ability. This is rubbish.” Instead, recognize that learning a new skill takes extreme commitment. Unless your goal is attainable and you’re prepared to work hard, you won’t get very far.

Make sure it’s needed 
Weintraub suggests you also make sure the skill is relevant to your career, your organization, or both. You may be jazzed up about learning how to speak in front of large audiences, but does your manager value that? Unless you absolutely need the skill for your job, or for a future position, it’s unlikely you’ll get money for training or support from your manager. Gaining a new skill is an investment and you need to know upfront what the return will be.

Know how you learn best
Some learn best by looking at graphics or reading. Others would rather watch demonstrations or listen to things being explained. Still others need a “hands-on” experience. Halvorson says you can figure out your ideal learning style by looking back. “Reflect on some of your past learning experiences, and make a list of good ones and another list of bad ones,” she says. “What did the good, effective experiences have in common? How about the bad ones? Identifying common strands can help you determine the learning environment that works best for you.”

Get the right help
Eliciting support from others can greatly increase learning. Find someone you trust who has mastered the skill you’re trying to attain. And look beyond your immediate manager who has to evaluate you. Weintraub suggests you ask yourself: “Who in my organization, other than my boss, would notice my changes and give me honest feedback?” Then approach that person and say something like, “You are so comfortable with [the skill], something I’m not particularly good at. I’m really trying to work on that and would love to spend some time with you, learn from you, and get your feedback.” If you can’t find a mentor inside your company, look for people in your industry or from your network. “Ultimately, you want to go with the best teacher. If there is someone in your organization who is able and willing to provide quality mentoring, then great. If not, seek outside help,” says Halvorson.

Start small
Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. “You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll never do it,” says Weintraub. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time, and break that skill down into manageable goals. For example, if you’re trying to become more assertive, you might focus on speaking up more often in meetings by pushing yourself to talk within the first five minutes.

Reflect along the way
To move from experimentation to mastery, you need to reflect on what you are learning. Otherwise the new skill won’t stick. Halvorson and Weintraub both suggest talking to others. “Always share your goals with those individuals who can provide informational or emotional support along the way,” says Halvorson. “Even if that person doesn’t have the answer, he can help you and keep you honest about how much you’re improving,” says Weintraub. Talking about your progress helps you get valuable feedback, keeps you accountable, and cements the change.

Challenge yourself to teach it to others

One of the quickest ways to learn something new, and to practice it, is to teach others how to do it. So share what you learn with your team, your manager, or your co-workers. You can force yourself to do it by putting a “teaching” date on your calendar or agreeing to lead a formal training session a few months down the road. With objectives like those, your learning will be much more focused and practical.

Be patient
“Too often, we approach a new skill with the attitude that we should nail it right out of the gate,” says Halvorson. The reality is that it takes much longer. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It usually takes six months or more to develop a new skill,” says Weintraub. And it may take longer for others to see and appreciate it. “People around you will only notice 10% of every 100% change you make,” he says.

Principles to Remember


  • Select a skill that is valued by your organization and manager
  • Divide the skill up into smaller, manageable tasks
  • Reflect on what you’ve learned and what you still want to accomplish



  • Try to learn in a vacuum — ask others for guidance and feedback
  • Rely solely on your boss for advice — you may want to involve someone who isn’t responsible for evaluating you
  • Assume it’s going to happen overnight — it usually takes at least six months to develop a new skill


Case study #1: Learn by trial and error
Jaime Petkanics was a basic Excel user when she started her first job out of college. As a recruiter for JP Morgan, data analysis wasn’t one of the required skills. However, a few months in, she was asked to build an Excel model that would track and report the success rates of campus recruiting efforts. “I was totally out of my element,” she admits. “Excel is not a core part of a recruiter’s job. I was focused on hiring people — that’s what I was being measured on.” But she had an interest in analysis (that’s why she chose to do recruiting at an investment bank), and wanted to prove herself as a newcomer.

She started by learning as much as possible on her own. She found tutorials on Google, and watched instructional videos on YouTube. But she still struggled. “When I got stuck, I would ask bankers. They build models every day so I was able to leverage my connections and find people who had the right skills,” she says. Over the course of two weeks, Jaime developed the model. “I didn’t get it perfect the first time. There were mistakes in the formulas and people found errors,” she says. But she continued to refine it, and because of her success, others asked her to take on similar projects. “Once people knew that I could pull data together quickly — and make sense of it — I started to get a lot of requests.”

She admits this trial- and-error approach wasn’t the most effective way to learn Excel but given the immediacy of the need, it was necessary. By the time she left the job almost three years later, Excel and data analytics were strengths that helped her land her next position.

Case study #2: Experiment with different approaches
Safia Syed, a regional finance controller at a global outsourcing company, noticed that any time she suggested an improvement to a financial or IT system, colleagues resisted. Her ideas went through numerous rounds of review and were heavily questioned. She decided that her communication style was hindering her, and needed to be changed. “I was given feedback a few times that I was too opinionated,” she says.

Safia started by reading books about how to persuade people effectively and joined Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization. Through that program, she learned how to connect with stakeholders and present ideas in a more appealing way. Also, coincidentally during the same time, the president of Safia’s company started interviewing key employees to better understand what they did or did not like about their jobs. This provided Safia with a perfect opportunity. She explained her desire to see her ideas have more impact and the boss advised her to focus less on why something needed to be changed and more on how it could happen, including what she could do to make sure it did.

Safia realized she had been assuming that her colleagues understood what the problems were and how to fix them. She had been highlighting what needed to be done, and leaving it at that. With her new understanding in hand, she was able to try a different approach: she mapped out a process and pointed to the root causes. This helped her audience understand where they could make changes and how exactly she could help.

Safia has noticed a big difference in how colleagues respond to her suggestions: they are now more open to hearing them, and willing to work with her to implement them.

Source: Harvard Business Review Blogs


3 smart ways to become indispensable Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 

Just doing your job isn’t enough these days. (Workplace superstars have always known that.)

“With the reality of a tight employment market, adding value beyond your job description is a must for everybody,” says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone.

He recently offered a few tips on his blog for being indispensable in your workplace:

1. Ask seemingly stupid questions. “If you ask questions that are like no other, you get results that are unlike any that the world has seen,” Ferrazzi says.

2. Develop a niche. “Think of several areas where your company or department underperforms and choose to focus on the one area that is least attended to,” he says.

3. Know the new technology. “You don’t need to be a ‘techno geek,’” he says, but you do need to understand how technology could be used to help you add value.

Ferrazzi says, “The great thing about this strategy is that you’re not only creating job security. You’re developing skills and expertise that will nourish your career, wherever you take it.”

Take Control of Your Own Training

If there’s one thing employees have learned from the recession, it is not to rely on the bosses to keep their skills sharp. Fortunately, there are many more ways to stretch your skills.

• Enroll in online webinars or self-directed classes. Many cater to the admin profession, such as those offered by Business Management Daily, publisher of Administrative Pro­fessional Today, and Others, like, can help build technical skills.

• Take the boot camp approach. Target a specific skill set you want to bolster, then enroll in certificate coursework at a local university.

Example: Cristina Planas was seven years into her career when she saw a need to sharpen her advanced writing skills. She tracked down a nondegree course at the University of Miami; her employer agreed to pay a portion of the tuition and let her leave work slightly early once a week.

• Not sure what skills you need? Do research using social-media tools. Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc., a training consultancy, suggests joining online groups and asking questions, such as, “What do you think are the three skills people are looking for in our field?”

Source: by the writers of Business Management Daily


How to be gracious at work Wednesday, Jan 9 2013 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

One of the most gracious First Ladies in U.S. history had a social secretary who gave expert advice on how to be gracious in our work lives. Letitia Baldrige, who was an author and the social secretary and chief of staff to Jackie Kennedy, offered her advice on remaining gracious in a world that sometimes forgets its manners:

1.  Send unexpected email. We all receive plenty of email that keeps us informed. Baldrige recommended taking a few minutes to send affirmative messages to friends.

For example, “I’m so thrilled to hear about your son’s engagement. She sounds like a terrific girl, and how lucky she is to be entering your family.”

“Those kind of messages,” she said, “just make life worthwhile.”

2.  Know how to greet people. From her experience in overseas embassies, Baldrige knew that when you’re expecting a VIP in the office, it pays to do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the person. “The more you’re briefed and the more respectful you can be, the better you’ll be able to handle top guests.”

3.  Ask questions. “It shows you’re interested in something other than yourself,” Baldrige said.

4.  Expand your vocabulary. “If you’re looking up at the Sistine Chapel and all you can think to say is ‘Awesome!’ you need to stop yourself,” she said. “We’ve got to preserve our beautiful language,” but it’s being compromised by our dependence on terse electronic messaging.

Top workplace faux pas

The Protocol School of Wash­­ington, which trains diplomats and international execs, cites these among the top business etiquette missteps:

  • Using swear words
  • Shouting to others across the room
  • Talking on a speakerphone when others are nearby
  • Wearing unprofessional attire
  • Offering a weak handshake
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Displaying poor dining skills
  • Answering calls or texts during conversations and meetings

When I look back on all these worries, I Monday, Jan 7 2013 

When I look back on all these worries,
I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed
that he had had a lot of trouble in his life,
most of which had never happened.
– Winston Churchill

Go Ahead…Be Bored Friday, Nov 23 2012 

by Carole Jackson>, Bottom Line Health

I never thought that I would see an entire book written about the concept of boredom — let alone find it interesting! But I certainly did. The recently published Boredom: A Lively History made me realize how underrated it actually is. Between e-mailing, texting and updating Facebook statuses… working anywhere and everywhere on laptops… and responding to endless phone calls, it seems like no matter where we are, we fill every minute of our free time. And that leaves precious few moments to simply daydream, which helps our creative juices flow. In today’s busy, wired world, slowing down and carving out moments for ourselves is more important than ever. To discuss the latest findings, I called the author, Peter Toohey, PhD, a professor of classics at the University of Calgary in Canada.


Dr. Toohey explained to me that research increasingly supports the notion that daydreaming — just like dreaming at night while you sleep — is actually a dynamic period for the brain. For example, in a recent study done by the University of British Columbia in Canada, investigators placed a group of students in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners and asked them to push a button when numbers appeared on a screen — a mindless, routine task that would give them an opportunity to daydream. After the exercise was over and researchers looked at the fMRI brain scans, they found that the parts of the students’ brains that are associated with complex problem-solving had actually been highly active during episodes of daydreaming.

In other words, while you are bored and daydreaming, you are unknowingly working your way through puzzles that are bothering you, such as figuring out the perfect theme for your child’s birthday party or discovering exactly what to say to your mother-in-law that will prevent her from spending the whole week with your family but won’t insult her. “Sometimes the most useful ideas and solutions come to us when we are trying the least hard,” said Dr. Toohey.


Of course, there are times when concentration is key. Dr. Toohey wouldn’t recommend daydreaming while, say, driving, rushing to meet an important deadline or having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. But there are ways to create space for yourself — dull moments during which it’s perfectly acceptable to let your mind wander.

I don’t know about you, but for me technology — as great as it can be — is often the biggest obstacle. So I’m going to try unplugging myself from all of my various devices (yes — that means the phone, the computer and the TV!) for about 30 minutes a day. Instead, I’m going to go for a walk or a bike ride, whittle a stick or knit a scarf, which will hopefully allow my thoughts to drift off into whatever direction they like.

I know what you’re thinking — it sounds boring. It gives us an uncomfortable feeling when we think about cutting off communication and facing silence. But, ironically, when we’re less wired, our brains’ batteries seem to recharge, so why not give it a shot?

Peter Toohey, PhD, professor of classics, faculty of arts, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dr. Toohey is author of Boredom: A Lively History (Yale).

5 Simple Tips for Teleworkers Tuesday, Nov 13 2012 

by Lea Green

The distinction between professional and personal lives for teleworkers is tenuous at best. To achieve optimal levels of productivity, creativity and happiness in both realms of work and leisure, we must develop boundaries. Here are five lessons I’ve learned  as a telecommuter:

  1. Empower yourself to power down. When your workplace is also your home, it’s all too easy to forget where one ends and the other begins. If you leave your computer open, you’ll remain a slave to it; eventually, your work will be less creative and less rewarding. “Just one more minute” almost always turns into 30. Choose a specified time each day to power down your computer, put your smartphone on vibrate, and just relax.
  2. Compartmentalize to create and recreate. A healthy balance between professional and leisure time begins with establishing clear boundaries. Compartmentalizing involves making and keeping commitments to yourself by creating a designated space devoted to your work. Remove the piles of laundry and the kids’ homework. Formalize routine by establishing a schedule with specific start and stop times, and transition time in between. When the day’s work is done, activities such as working out, gardening or walking the dog can clear the mind, mitigate tension and prevent burnout. Work is work, play is play — strive to be exceptional at both.
  3. Experiment with your creative cycles. Maintaining a regular routine helps keep you disciplined, but discovering your optimal creative cycle is where the magic begins. Telecommuting liberates you to do both in ways that office environments cannot. Understanding the triggers of creative thoughts can be a challenge; however, periods of deep thinking generally require alternating cycles of rest. Recognizing where one ends and the other begins is key. Try getting up early when everyone is asleep or burning some midnight oil. Periods of work and rest that deviate from the typical 9-to-5 schedule may inspire creative cycles.
  4. Daydream to dream big. Telecommuting provides space and opportunity to daydream, an activity that companies such as Google and Gore-Texencourage among their office-bound employees. Rarely inside your cube or while staring at your computer screen does inspiration appear. Instead, insights occur in those odd moments when you’re puttering in the garden, folding laundry or mowing the yard. Although daydreaming might seem counter-intuitive to productivity, it actually increases creative thought.
  5. Train your mind to focus. Whether it’s our work, our hobbies or our families, wherever we place our attention will grow in our lives. Attention has become fragmented in our device-dominated world. Practices such as meditation or yoga train us to focus the mind, increasing our mental endurance and productivity.

The considerations presented here have helped me establish a healthy balance between my job responsibilities and my need for downtime, though undoubtedly others will be added as my circumstances evolve. Balance isn’t always 50/50, and a successful teleworker always seeks to improve the relationship between professional obligations and goals, personal pursuits and desires.

Lea Green is the social media content manager at PGi and telecommutes regularly. She writes for the PGi blog and is passionate about creative writing, collaborative communications technologies, and improving our planet’s well-being. E-mail Greenor follow her on Twitter @lelainey.

From Harvard Business School – We learn best from failure…other’s. Thursday, Oct 18 2012 

New research suggests that the failure of others might be a better source of learning than our own shortcomings or missteps.

Researchers led by Emory University’s Diwas KC recently examined the experiences of cardiovascular surgeons to uncover whether success or failure was the better teacher — and, if so, whose failure held better lessons? The team analyzed data from 71 cardiothoracic surgeons over 10 years as they performed over 6,500 minimally invasive coronary artery bypass grafts, a complicated and relatively new procedure at the time of the study.

They examined the rates of successful and unsuccessful procedures and also the process by which the surgeons were learning and improving their performance. As they analyzed the data, they found something striking: Failure is the best teacher mostly when someone else has failed. Surgeons learned best from their own successes and the failure of others; their failures were much harder to learn from.



Combat Stress – Seven Practical Methods Thursday, Aug 16 2012 

A stress-free lifestyle could very well do wonders in eliminating depression. Here are seven practical methods to combat stress:

1. Express Amusement and Be Happy.
Laugh hard and loud. If you do’nt have a sense of humor, find someone else who does. Laughter releases endorphins (happy chemicals) from the body, and it helps boost your immune system.

2. Take Control Over Your Time and Schedule.
You’ll be much more able to deal with stress if you have a good handle on your job, relationships, and other activities. When you are in control, you are more inclined to stay focused and calm. Plan your time wisely.

  • Remember to leave room for unexpected events, both negative and positive. Be adaptable in rearranging your agenda. Get up 15 minutes early in the morning. Allow an extra 15 minutes to get to all appointments.
  • Avoid procrastinating on important or urgent tasks. Whatever needs doing, do it immediately. Do the unpleasant tasks early, so you won’t have to worry about them for the rest of the day. Keep an appointment or record book. Don’t just rely on your memory.
  • Do your tasks one at a time. Focus your attention on the present moment, whether it’s the person talking to you or the job at hand. This helps you to avoid making errors, which lead to more tension and anxiety. Be patient in waiting. Anxiety caused by impatience can cause your blood pressure to rise.
  • Say no to requests that you cannot accomplish. Delegate trivial tasks. Remember that you don’t have to do it all yourself. Break up a job into separate tasks and assign them to people with the suitable skills.

3. Work Out.
Strive to get some habitual exercise such as brisk walking, swimming, or whatever appeals to you. Play a sport you’re interested in. Aerobic exercises can considerably reduce the stress factor. Exercise also improves sleep and gives you time to think and focus on other things. It also promotes the release of natural soothing chemicals in your body. Do not resort to excessive exercise, however, as this may have an adverse effect and might actually cause depression.

4. Search Out a Support Group.
You’ll be able to manage stress much better if you have other people helping and supporting you. Did you know that married people and people who are outgoing (always meeting with friends) have considerably lower levels of stress in their lives?

  • Choose positive friends who are not worriers. Friends who continually put you down or talk gloomily about life will increase your anxiety. Invite a good friend to help you talk out a problem and get it off your chest. A long-distance call to an old pal can be great therapy.
  • Pardon others instead of holding grudges. Slow down your standards for yourself and others. Don’t expect too much. Perfectionism is not the means to happiness. Become more flexible and adaptable to your environment. Communicate clearly with your co-workers and boss. Ask questions. Repeat instructions that you are given. Clarifying directions at the start of a project can save lots of time later rectifying misunderstandings. Be honest in your dealings with others. Lying and cheating lead to stress.

5. Take Breaths Deeply and Slowly.
Calm down your muscles, escalating your stomach and chest. Exhale slowly. Do it again several times. Follow your breath as it flows in and out. Do not try to have power over it. This is a good way to relax in the midst of any activity. This practice allows you to find a breathing pattern that is natural and relaxing to you. Make use of this yoga technique: Inhale slowly, counting to eight. Exhale through your mouth, even more slowly, counting to sixteen. Make a sighing sound as you exhale, and feel tension dissolve. Do it again 10 times.

6. Consume Healthy Foods at the Appropriate Time.
Never skip meals, especially breakfast. Take time out to eat heartily no matter how busy you are. Take nutritious snacks with you everywhere. A nutritionally balanced diet is essential to your health and lifestyle. For example, researchers have found that even small deficiencies of thiamin, a B-complex vitamin, can cause anxiety symptoms. Pantothenic acid, another B-complex vitamin, is critical during times of stress. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sweets, which can worsen symptoms of stress.

7. Live Optimistically.
Count your blessings, particularly when everything seems to go wrong. Believe that many other people are living in worse conditions than you are. Don’t exaggerate the complexity of your problems. Every problem has a solution. All you need to do is find that solution. Learn to be happy and to enjoy life’s blessings. Live one day at a time.

Seven Step Plan to Get Going with Networking Tuesday, Aug 14 2012 

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, feel like you have the gift of gab, or just don’t know how to make small talk—networking know-how is very important for your business success. There is a notion in business that I believe most of us subscribe to that says all things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those they know, like, and trust. And the key to this is obviously being able to develop relationships.

Think of networking as the cultivation of mutually beneficial, win-win relationships. In order to be win-win, there must be GIVE and take (notice the emphasis on give). Networking shouldn’t be viewed as events where you go to sell your business. When effective networking is taking place, the parties involved actively share ideas, information, resources, etc.

Okay, so you know that you should be networking because it is one of the most cost-effective lead generation activities when used wisely, appropriately, and professionally. But, maybe that seems easier said than done. Here is a seven step plan to really get going with networking for your business.

  1. Check out several groups to find the best chemistry and perceived value. Most groups will allow you to come and visit at least a couple of times before you have to join. Ask around to find out why others have joined and what value they get out of belonging. Resist the urge to just go join the Chamber of Commerce simply because everyone tells you that is what you need to do. If that is not where your target group can be found, then you might be wasting a considerable amount of time and money. I’m not telling you not to join the Chamber. Just be clear about what you’d like to get out of this or any other group. If it is to find prospective clients or referral sources, then you need to be networking where those resources can be found.
  2. When you find a group or two, join and go to all the meetings you can. Don’t go just once or twice expecting things to happen and then if they don’t, quit. Building mutually beneficial, win-win relationships will take some time. The contacts you make need to constantly see your face and hear your message. Continual contact with others over time will open up opportunities for you to go deeper and learn more about each others thoughts, ideas, and capabilities in regards to your respective businesses. Know, like, and trust generally only happens over time. Being regular and persistent will pay off.
  3. Get involved – be visible. Do as much as you can to make yourself more visible within the organization. Volunteer to help with meetings, be on committees, or become a leader or board member. Being involved does a couple of things for you and your business. First, you’ll get more opportunities to establish connections and get to know some of the contacts you’ve made even better. Secondly, the higher the visibility you have in the group, the less you’ll have to work to make new connections. Instead, as new people come into the group, they will likely seek you out because they view you as a leader within the organization.
  4. Keep your circles of contacts informed. Don’t just assume that running into someone once a month, or even once a week, will cause them to start doing business with you or sending it your way. You need to let them know what’s going on when you’re not at that particular group in order to inform and educate them. Send them invitations to your events or open houses. Send them email or letters to share big news or success stories, especially anything of relevance to them or those in their networks of contacts. If you believe that you have valuable ideas, information, and resources to share with others, then doesn’t this just make sense?
  5. Work at GIVING referrals and sharing valuable information.
    That’s right, you need to be willing to GIVE before you get. That means you need to get to know other members and what makes a good prospect for them. What kinds of information might you have access to that could be useful to them? You may initially think you don’t have much value to share with others besides your business and what you provide. Part of the key to getting good at giving is to not make assumptions. For example, don’t assume that some basic resource (e.g., a web site) that you’re aware of is familiar to someone you might be talking to just because they are the expert in that field. Be willing to ask if they know about the resource and be ready to share if they don’t. Want to get better at actually giving referrals? Here is a simple question to ask someone with whom you’re connecting. “How am I going to know when I meet a really good prospect for you?” Just the fact that you are willing to explore giving will elevate your know, like, and trust factor.
  6. Focus on Quality, not Quantity, Quantity, Quantity. It’s not necessarily about the number of connections you make, but about the quality of the ones you do make. Are they mutually beneficial, win-win relationships? Quality connections will be identifiable because all involved parties will be actively sharing ideas, information, and resources. Yes, it is true that you need to spend some time and effort getting to know the other person(s) and what’s important to them. But, you also need to be clear and actively thinking about what information or resources you want and need. Staying in touch with and following up with a smaller number of quality relationships will generally be much more productive than trying to follow up with a larger number of superficial contacts.
  7. Be persistent, but be patient. The goal of a networking event shouldn’t necessarily be to come away with prospects every time you go out, but to come away with great connections. Networking usually takes time to get the relationships developed and nurtured.

Don’t approach networking as a scary proposition or a necessary evil for being in business. Take the pressure off yourself and really focus on how you might be able to connect with someone you meet. Focus on them first and look for ways to be useful to them. As you become known as a connector you’ll eventually be ready to reap what you sow.

Creating SOP manual is easier than you think Saturday, Aug 4 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

If Angie Fuller hadn’t discovered the Standard Operating Procedure manual her predecessor left, she wouldn’t have known how to do her job.

“My predecessor left the day I started,” says Fuller, who is the community outreach and development coordinator at the Allen Foundation. “It was like being thrown into the fire. I didn’t know what my responsibilities were.”

Once she’d settled into her new position, she began updating the SOP manual to accurately reflect her evolving role. That way, if she ever left her job—even for a weeklong vacation— someone else could easily take over.

Follow Fuller’s tips to create an SOP manual for your role:

Use an existing format. “Not having a format to start with is a barrier,” she says. “A fear exists—‘What if I do this wrong?’—so people don’t start at all. I was lucky: Some of the pages had already been done when I started.”

Jot down tasks you do during a typical day, week, month, quarter and year, as you think of them.“Then, just take one at a time and type out what you do to complete the task. When finished, start a new one,” Fuller suggests.

Tip: If time is an issue, mark which tasks on your list are more important and do those first.

Create separate pages for each duty you perform, listing how often to do it, what steps to take, who can answer questions and where to find any necessary documents.

Include even small tasks. Example: Fuller says, “I think it’s second nature to get the mail each day, but my co-workers depend on me delivering and receiving the items from the mail room twice a day at certain times, so I included the times in my procedure manual.”

Be more detailed than you think you need to be. “It will benefit your replacement,” she says. For example, in Fuller’s manual, pages that cover fundraising procedures and data entry are extremely detailed.

“A tip that was given to me once was that if a 12-year-old could follow the instructions and do a task right, then it was detailed enough,” she says.

Tip: For each task document you create, have a co-worker follow your instructions. If he can do the task flawlessly, you’ve done your job.

Use it to manage workload. Fuller says the manual has “saved a ton of headaches for me. I know I can go on vacation, and the critical jobs will be done without me, and I won’t have stacks of work when I return.”

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