Being effective – Prioritization and Judgment

This post is the last of the series of posts I am doing on Being Effective at workplace.

Prioritization is about working on things that are most important (and not merely most urgent) for the organization and for self. Judgment is about making decisions at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons. Making good judgment and being able to prioritize the work correctly greatly aid the effectiveness of people. Prioritization allows one to focus on a few important things and deliver results, rather than spreading the energy too thin on too many things. Judgment allows one to make right decisions at the right time, even with incomplete data, and complete the work in time.


For effective people, prioritization is all about alignment. Here are some of the tenets of effective prioritization I have seen practiced:

  • Understanding goals and objectives of the organization/team: Priorities of work must be aligned with organizational goals and objectives. Depending on the work and scope of influence someone has, this may mean team level, department level, or organization level. To achieve this alignment, these goals and objectives must be understood well. This is not as easy as it sounds. Organizational goals are usually stated more generic manner (‘increase revenue by 30%’) than what is usable. Effective people constantly try to interpret them and also use behaviors of senior management to understand these objectives better (‘actions speak louder than words’). Continue reading

Being Effective at Workplace – Collaboration

This post is a part of the series of posts I am doing on Being Effective at workplace.

Collaboration is the act of working with others, usually without having formal authority over them, to produce a result. Collaborating is an act of free will, which means people cannot be forced to collaborate. This also means that producing results out of a collaboration can be very hard and very dependent on how the collaborators choose to act.

As I discussed in ‘Taking Initiatives‘ post, for effective people, success depends a lot on how they work with others without having formal authority over them. Hence collaboration is an important activity and being effective at collaboration is an essential goal for them. There are 3 aspects of effective collaboration that I want to talk about in this post.

Influencing and Persuasion Skills

Since leader of the collaborating team doesn’t have formal authority, it is obvious they need to show influencing and persuasion skills in order to get results. These are well-researched topic (see couple of these: The Art of Woo and Exerting Influence Without Authority). To summarize, these are some of the key points to keep in mind when you employ these skills in a collaboration setting: Continue reading

Being Effective at workplace – Taking Initiatives

initiativeThis post is a part of the series of posts I am doing on Being Effective at workplace.

Taking initiative is about picking up organizational challenges to solve without being asked and delivering results. Taking initiative is a well-known way to achieve stardom at workplace. A FastCompany article has this to say from the book How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed:

For stars, initiative generally has four elements: It means doing something above and beyond your job description. It means helping other people. Usually it involves some element of risk-taking. And when you’re really taking initiative, it involves seeing an activity through to completion.

Here are a couple of other rules about initiative: First, before you take on anything new, make sure that you’re doing your assigned job well. Second, remember that social initiatives don’t count for much. Organizing the company picnic or a blood drive won’t get you the kind of recognition you want. They’re fine things to do – but do them because they bring you satisfaction. Third, the kind of initiatives that matter to your career are those that relate to the company’s critical path. Find out what promotes the company’s core mission, and tie your initiatives to it.

However, taking initiative is hard:

  • Since it is taking something beyond your regular work, it requires extra time investment which few people seem to have in today’s busy organizations.
  • It requires risk taking and results may not always be there, so an organization too focused on fixing problems and eradicating failure may actually penalize initiative-takers in many cases. Continue reading

Being Effective at workplace – Active learning

This post is a part of the series of posts I am doing on Being Effective at workplace.

Active Learning is the most important attribute of an effective person. Learning in workplace could be a tricky thing though. Learning while working requires reflecting on the work, the results and the process, but we tend to be so focused on the tasks and outcomes that learning takes a backseat most of the time. However, effective learners find time to step back from even the most crunch time and attempt to synthesize their work into bytes of learning that they can absorb and apply.

Most organizations have processes like retrospectives (reviewing lessons learned and areas of improvement in an agile development model), postmortem, RCA, etc. in order to learn from their experiences, but they tend to become about process and less about learning. Effective learners create their own process for learning from their work and environment and continuously apply it to the next set of work they do.

Here are a few ways of active learning that I have observed and found useful:

  • Set learning goals before starting the work. This allows you to focus on exactly what you want to learn rather than getting influenced by the pressures of the work. You need to know what to learn, what not to learn, and what to un-learn. “What to learn” Continue reading

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: Continue reading