Being Effective at workplace

Performance review time is coming close, and this affords me an opportunity to review my personal performance over last 12 months, as well as those of my reports, my peers and my manager as I prepare to write my feedback. While doing this, I was struck by the differences in results among individuals I have worked closely with, and I was forced (out of my curiosity and interest) to think deeper into these performance reviews (mine and theirs). Performance differences happen because of so many reasons; however, one of the underlying themes I have observed is the notion of ‘being effective’.

Effective is a very commonly used word, and is often mixed with being efficient, and sometimes with the idea of being right or wrong. Therefore, let me define them first, in the context of organization:

  • Being Effective: Producing results aligned with organizational and personal goals with minimal investment of resources
  • Being Efficient: Minimize the wastage of resources in accomplishing a task
  • Being Right: Presenting the ‘correct’ point of view even in the face of opposition and hostility

Note that these are orthogonal; you can be efficient without being effective (‘My meetings never run over, but I have too many meetings and project is getting delayed‘), you can be effective without being efficient (‘I had 1-1 conversation with every participant of the meeting to sell the idea, which took lots of time; but then the actual meeting was a piece of cake and I now have $100K budget for new software‘), and you can be right without being efficient or effective (‘I am telling you this change plan is not going to work, and there is no way you can convince me otherwise; have as many meetings as you like‘).

My personal take on organizational and career growth and success (as defined in a regular workplace, Measuring Career growth, A kinder, gentler philosophy of success and True Success, for different takes on this) is that the most effective people are most successful. These people may (and should) be efficient and right too; however, effectiveness correlates much better with success.

‘Being effective’ is easier said than done! There are certain skills needed in order to be effective at workplace. Also, one can be effective only when one is suitable for the job as far as regular job requirements are concerned; effectiveness skills are needed in addition to the job skills.

Based on my observations of effective people, I have seen following skills at play:

  • Active learning – Seek opportunities to learn and make every experience a learning experience
  • Taking Initiatives – Pick up organization challenges to solve without being asked and delivering results
  • Collaborating – Working well with rest of the organization on a given problem
  • Prioritizing correctly – Work on things that are most important (and not merely most urgent) for the organization and for self
  • Applying sound judgmentJudgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls defines this as “a contextually informed decision-making process encompassing three domains: people, strategy and crisis”. Put simply, make decisions at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons.

All the effective people I have seen take learning very seriously; they are always open to learn new ways of doing things and are always looking for opportunities to apply their new learning. They are also very eager to get exposed to situations that allow them to learn new things. This is an important skill and supplements all the other skills needed to be effective. The way I see it, Learning is at the center of the skills needed for being effective.

I will use next few posts to elaborate on each of these skills that make us more effective (and more successful) at workplace. These are equally applicable to managers and to individual contributors; I will avoid manager-specific examples and case studies to keep the posts more generic. Stay tuned!

Update – here are the links to the posts for each of the topic above:

  • Active learning
  • Taking Initiatives
  • Collaborating
  • Prioritizing and Judgment
  • 8 thoughts on “Being Effective at workplace

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