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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

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

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

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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