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9 Ways Highly Successful People Get Ahead With The Mighty Checklist

9 Ways Highly Successful People Get Ahead With The Mighty Checklist

The checklist is a simple and effective work hack that many professionals use to improve their performance. Whether you are a surgeon, pilot or software developer, checklists make a difference. They are one of the best ways to avoid problems and increase the consistency of your results.

1. They start with developing their expertise

A checklist puts knowledge into a useful form. However, you cannot get started with a checklist until you develop significant experience and knowledge. For example, if you are building a checklist for a monthly report, wait until you have issued the report two or three times before you create a checklist.

2. They recognize the limits of their knowledge

Successful people spend their own money to obtain additional knowledge – that’s a given. However, they also recognize that more knowledge is not the answer to every problem. In many cases, it is important to consistently and correctly apply the knowledge we already have. A checklist is a great way to improve consistency.

Tip: Resource How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.

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3. They use the checklist to avoid “dumb mistakes”

Do you know that surgeons sometimes leave medical equipment inside patients? According to the Daily Mail, 870 patients in the United Kingdom had medical items left inside them from surgery between 2005 and 2012. That’s a serious problem! Fortunately, this type of error can be presented with a checklist step like “check all medical instruments are accounted for.”

4.They know about the limits of human memory

The human mind is a powerful resource that enables us to accomplish many of our goals. However, there are limits to our memory. For example, memories with a strong emotional aspect tend to last longer. That means a routine step in a work process – unlikely to have any emotional significance – is more likely to be forgotten. Those exact steps are great candidates to be included on a checklist.

Tip: 12 Simple Ways To Improve Your Memory.

5. They work to avoid the biggest causes of failure.

Successful people understand the value of managing risk. As Richard Branson explains in his autobiography, ““It is only by being bold that you get anywhere. If you are a risk-taker, then the art is to protect the downside.” A checklist is a great way to avoid failures. For example, to prevent problems during travel, make sure to keep a copy of your passport identification page.

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Tip: 5 Great Questions to Ask Yourself After a Failure. If you fail, then you have the opportunity to learn from that experience and avoid that problem in the future.

6. They keep their ego and self-confidence under control

Successful people have a great deal of confidence. Their confidence gives them the ability to make presentations, make sales and get ahead. However, confidence makes it easy to skip important steps and details. A checklist reminds you of the importance of working through the most critical steps for a process, each and every time. For example, a wise security precaution is to change your personal passwords annually – no matter how confident you are about them.

Resource: 10 Ways You Can Do To Build Self Confidence Instantly.

7. They use systems to reach success rather than guessing

Successful people put their trust in systems. Once you find a proven method to achieve a result, why waste time continuing to experiment? A checklist is a great system that can improve performance in all areas of life. For example, you can use checklists to improve your evening routine and your professional presentations (e.g. use a checklist to check a presentation for formatting and consistent design).

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If you are very keen to develop a system with a brand new activity, there are two options. You can do an Internet search for a template or checklist to use. Or you can ask an experienced coworker or mentor to see if they have a checklist that you can use.

8. They know the power of communication in working through problems

According to industry surveys, project managers spend 80% of their time on communication. It is a critical skill for high performance in all areas of life. Rather than make assumptions, successful people verify information and communicate proactively. With checklists, medical professionals often include communication steps (e.g. introduce everyone on the team by name and role). For a recurring activity at work, this approach improves results.

Tip: Find out Ten Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills.

9. They know how to work through conflict to their advantage

Successful people know that conflict is a reality in the workplace. Given that reality, professionals build habits and routines to reduce conflict and resolve conflict after it occurs. For example, a team building checklist could include one team lunch per month to increase social bonding in the team. In addition, connecting around common goals in team meetings tends to reduce conflict.

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Resource: Continue your conflict management education by reviewing this guide to 33 conflict management resources.

Featured photo credit: Checklist/DS355 via flickr.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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