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New Tools for the New Year: Management

New Tools for the New Year: Management

    This has been a tough year for a lot of businesses. The economy has yet to rebound (it may never fully) and with a downtrodden economic situation often comes a despressed workforce. I’m not talking about the overall unemployment problem; I’m talking about the problem that those who have jobs are dealing with: elevated stress and a heavier workload.

    If you’re a manager of a team or are running your own business that requires you to be a rock solid manager of your own self, there’s rarely a better time than the start of a new year to tweak your system and explore new tools to helpy you with your overall management skills. As part of our year-end New Tools for a New Year series, I’m going to offer some new tools for you to try and help you get a better handle on management in the coming year. Some will be specific tools that require specific time and attention to become familar with, while others will simply be tools that are new in name only – as in, you’ve been using something similar for years and may just need a bit of a reboot to get a jumpstart to the new year.

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    Asana

    You know, I’ve tried a ton of task management apps – both aiming to improve collaboration between teams and aiming to improve individual efforts – and no web app has come close to getting it as right as Asana has. We’ve touched on this new player in the productivity realm before, and I’ll be doing a deeper dive in the next couple of weeks as to what the results of long term use of Asana is.

    The people behind Asana understand that seamless connection is the key to improved productivity – and better management. There’s no bottleneck that they’ve put in place; the information involved with tasks, priorities and assignments can flow as freely as you want. With a new iPhone app now in the App Store, now Asana can go with team members anywhere.

    As for barriers to entry, they are few and far between…if any. Price certainly isn’t one; Asana is free for teams of up to 30 people.

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    If you’re not using a task manager so that you and your team can manage all they’ve got on the go, then Asana is your best bet – bar none.

    37Signals

    Another great resource you should look is to 37Signals. Whether you decide to use any one of the company’s popular software solutions (Highrise, Basecamp, etc.) or start to align your own mandate with theirs, it’s a good place to start.

    Jason Fried has not only put together a stellar team that offers fantastic tools for you to better manage your work and team, but his book REWORK (co-authored by David Heinemeier Hansson) is required reading for any manager or entrepreneur trying to make their way in the world today.

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    Oh, and his TED talk on “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” is another great thing to let your eyes – and brain – absorb.

    MeetingBurner

    Another thing that can really slow down workflow and kill momentum is meetings. Whether it is through overkill or unwieldy tools or distraction, meetings can hinder progress more than help it along. Even iwth the advent of online meetings through Skype or similar tools haven’t made meetings really all that better.

    But MeetingBurner can change all of that.

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    It’s simple to use, incredibly robust and flexible (it can be used for webinars, for example) and you can get in and out of it as needed. We’re going to take a more comprehensive look at MeetingBurner in the coming weeks, but let me say now that going to a meeting – online or off – hasn’t been terribly pleasant for me until this service came along. MeetingBurner’s mission says it all:

    “The world wastes billions of dollars per year in inefficient and ineffective meetings and we are going to change that. With MeetingBurner we want to build a community of online meeting fanatics who want to change the world by making meeting easier, faster, and more efficient.”

    I think perhaps the idea that you can burn through a meeting and have more takeaways than giveaways says something for progress in this area of technology. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking to have the same effect on your management results.

    Conclusion

    You want to start off the new year right, putting your best foot forward in your work and in life. Giving these new tools a test run to start things off in 2012 may just extend the reach of your foot that much further.

    (Photo credit: Businessman Cheers with his Tablet via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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