20 Ways to Improve Your Performance at Work

20 Ways to Improve Your Performance at Work

Personal and professional development help ward off negative thoughts that prevent us from taking steps towards self-improvement.

We often sit back and wait for an annual performance review to identify areas we need to improve. Position yourself to be accountable, improve your skill set, and continually learn by setting personal benchmarks and reviewing them regularly. Learning leads to a better quality of life, boosts confidence and personal development, and influences our life in a positive way.

Here are 20 ways you can take control, improve your reputation and performance at work, and reach new skill levels and professional development.                  

1) Organize & Prioritize

Create a daily schedule and follow it. Identify the top three or four critical projects that need to be completed. Ensure your task list is manageable, adds value, and benefits your firm.

2) Stop Multitasking

Guilty as charged! In the past I’ve been a master multitasker, or so I thought. I could answer a phone call, respond to an email, and dabble on a project simultaneously. I was satisfied that I could work on several projects at once. In reality, the quality of my work was compromised. Multitasking lowers IQ, lowers EQ (emotional intelligence), slows you down, increases stress levels, and causes mistakes. Master unitasking instead.

3) Avoid Distractions

Did you know that focus is a fundamental quality of productive people? Our brains are wired to work best when we focus on a single task. Practice staying focused and strive to complete one task before diving into another.

4) Manage Interruptions

It’s easy to minimize or forget how many times we’re interrupted during the day. Interruptions can come in all forms: co-workers, bosses, family, etc. Here’s a great trick to manage your interruptions. Keep a stack of post it notes or index cards nearby. On the top of each one, write down a person’s name who may interrupt you during the day. The next time they stop in and ask, “Do you have a minute?” say yes, and also talk about the things you’ve jotted down on your list for them. Imagine the time you would save if everyone interrupted you once a day to discuss the three or four things they thought of, rather than three or four times a day for one item.

5) Be a Great Finisher

Many of us are great starters but we fall short on finishing. Think about how many times you’ve started something new: a project, a New Year’s resolution, or a letter and end up adding it back on your to-do list. Keep a journal of completed projects and reflect on it to demonstrate your contributions and accomplishments.

6) Set Milestones

The road to completing a big project may seem overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you from taking time to celebrate interim achievement. Break large projects into blocks of mini-tasks and set individual success metrics to keep your morale and energy levels high. Record your progress, reward yourself, and share your progression with the team.

7) Wear the Bosses Shoes

Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Think about the big picture and look at goals from his/her perspective. One of the most effective strategies is to empathize and discover what his/her aspirations are. Ask questions, “What are you looking for in an employee?” or “What skills and qualities does it take to be successful in my position?” 

8) Get a Mentor/Be a Mentor

Enhance your skills with a mentor. A mentor can offer new insight, perspective, and vision. Working with a mentor will stretch your thinking and supply you with a stream of self-development ideas related to your unique skills and talent. Don’t forget that you can gain experience by mentoring someone else and facilitate your own professional growth which will position you as an asset to your firm.

9) Simply Listen

Listening is vital to effective communication. Spend time thinking about how you listen. Do you interrupt others? Mature listening skills lead to increased productivity with fewer mistakes, innovative growth, and higher client satisfaction rates.

10) Aim for Clarity

Clarity provides confidence. Ask questions if you are not 100 percent sure of your responsibilities. Schedule time quarterly to re-evaluate firm goals, how your responsibilities fulfill those goals, and how you can better partner with team members to reach each goal.

11) Research

Take time to research. Don’t waste other’s time; do your homework before taking on a new task. You’ll be better prepared to present strategies to reach each objective.

12) Write a Letter to Your Future Self

Where do you see yourself in 1 year, 3 years, or even 5 years? What will be the same? What will be different? Write a letter to yourself and work hard to become that person.

13) Identify Your Blind Spots

Blind spots are areas we are unaware of about ourselves and may cause good intentions to be perceived in a negative way. Blind spots can hold you back and prevent professional development. To identify blind spots you must be willing to look at yourself honestly, ask others for feedback, and be willing to make changes. Reach out to your peers and ask how you are perceived; you may discover behaviors that hinder your influence as well as strengths you’re not aware of. View feedback as an asset rather than a judgement; which will allow you to make adjustments to align your reputation with your ideal self.

14) Simplify Something

Often we do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” even if it’s complicated or messy. Find something each week to simplify or automate: a difficult system or process, a messy office, daily tasks, or email. Your efficiency will increase by keeping things simple.

 15) Ask Questions

Constantly challenge yourself by asking, “Is there a more effective way to achieve the same results?” Brainstorm to determine if you are working as efficiently as possible. Always believe that things can be improved.

16) Know Your Competition

Know and observe your competition. Identify what they’re doing right and use it as a learning opportunity to implement something new at your firm.

 17) Acknowledge Others

Help others excel, express gratitude, and give credit where credit is due. You’ll be surprised how much encouragement and motivation a simple, “Great job!” provides. Your team is bound to grow and rise together.

18) Read

Read at least one personal development or industry related article each day. Start a journal to record your notes, identify what you learned, and determine how you can apply your findings personally or in the workplace. Share your information with others to establish expertise.

19) Give Yourself Down Time

Vacation time is critical to professional development. Without it, stress and burn out levels increase and productivity declines. Schedule time away from the office to expand your horizons, re-energize, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

20) Practice Humility

Avoid self-promotion and practice humility. Encourage team members and hold a high respect for their unique skill set and contributions to success.

Passion is one of the most important drivers of success. If you don’t love what you do, it’s difficult to put your best effort forward and perform to the best of your ability. Ensure your values are reflected and respected in your personal and professional life so that you see true meaning in all that you do.

Michelle Mosher
Development
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Michelle Mosher, is the Business Development/Marketing/Social Media Specialist at Ironstone and brings over 25 years of financial industry experience to the team. She is ... Click for full bio

Understanding ETF Liquidity and Trading

Understanding ETF Liquidity and Trading

Written by: ProShares

ETFs offer attractive features—access to a broad range of asset classes, sectors and styles in a liquid, transparent and cost-effective vehicle. But before using that vehicle, it’s helpful to understand how it works, especially the sources of ETF liquidity and the mechanics of trading them. Understanding these points may help you improve execution when buying and selling ETFs.

The Primary Market—Creation/Redemption of ETF Shares


Most investors trade ETFs on stock exchanges in the secondary market. But the actual creation and redemption of ETF shares occur in the primary market, between the ETF and authorized participants (APs)1—the only parties who transact directly with the ETF. The APs’ ability to continuously create and redeem shares allows them to meet the supply and demand needs of investors, making them key liquidity providers in the secondary market.

Creation. This is how APs introduce new ETF shares to the secondary market. 

  • In-kind—The AP creates ETF shares in large increments—known as creation units—by acquiring the securities that make up the benchmark the fund tracks in their appropriate weightings and amounts to reach creation unit size (blocks ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 fund shares). The AP then delivers those securities to the ETF in exchange for ETF shares.
  • Cash—Alternatively, APs can create ETF shares by exchanging the appropriate amount of cash for ETF shares, for what’s known as a cash create. Often, ETF shares are created using a combination of securities and cash.
  • The AP then offers the ETF shares for sale in the secondary market, where they are traded between buyers and sellers on an exchange.
     

Redemption. This follows the same process in reverse. 

  • The AP redeems ETF shares in large increments—known as redemption units—by acquiring them in the secondary market and transferring them to the ETF in exchange for the underlying securities or cash (or both) in the appropriate weightings and amounts.

The Secondary Market—Costs and Mechanics of Trading ETF Shares


Costs of Trading. In the secondary market, firms that specialize in buying and selling ETF shares—APs or market makers2 (liquidity providers)—trade them to provide market liquidity and make a profit. This profit margin is embedded in the bid/ask spread, which reflects the implicit costs of trading ETFs. 

Bid/ask spread is the difference between the bid—the highest price at which a buyer is willing to buy shares—and the ask—the lowest price at which a seller is willing to sell ETF shares. Three key factors impact the bid/ask spread:

  • Creation/redemption fees charged by the ETF provider to the AP.
  • Spread of the underlying securities—The bid/ask spread and liquidity of the securities that make up the ETF affect the liquidity and the bid/ask spread of the ETF itself. When there are many bids and offers on a security, it is easy to buy and sell, thus the bid/ask spread tends to be tight. When securities are less liquid, the spread is wider, making the cost to acquire them higher. The higher the cost of acquiring the underlying securities, the wider the ETF bid/ask spread.
  • Risk or hedging costs—Holding ETFs entails certain risks, which need to be hedged. Liquidity providers use a variety of financial instruments, including futures, options and other ETFs, to hedge this risk. The more instruments they have to choose from, the lower their hedging costs and the lower the bid/ask spread. The higher the risk, the wider the spread. 
     

ETF bid/ask spread = Creation/redemption fees + spread of underlying securities + risk


Executing Large Orders—Tapping Into Deeper Pools of Liquidity


There are two common ways to execute larger trades directly with liquidity providers, both allowing investors to access deeper pools of liquidity than those offered in the quoted secondary market alone:

  • Risk trade—A liquidity provider will quote a price for an ETF at a given size. If that price is accepted, the trade is executed and the liquidity provider assumes the market risk of providing the liquidity at execution.
  • Create/redeem—For orders that are large enough, it may make sense to work with an AP to create or redeem shares. This type of transaction is usually executed at either the closing market price of the ETF or at the NAV of the ETF plus fees or commissions.
     

Mechanics of Trading. To fully consider an ETF’s total costs, it is important to understand the dynamics of trading. In general, two types of orders are commonly used to trade ETF shares: 

  • Limit order—Buy or sell ETF shares at a specified price. One way investors decide at what price to enter a limit order is to look at the IOPV3 as a guidepost. Limit orders may help investors get the best price, but there’s a risk the order will not be filled.
  • Market order—Buy or sell immediately at the prevailing price available at the time. With market orders, execution may be faster, but the investor has limited control over the execution price.
     

While a large number of transactions are executed using limit or market orders, investors often find their order is larger than the quoted market. There may be “hidden” liquidity within the quote that can be accessed in the market using limit or market orders. However, in some cases, it may make sense to execute trades directly through a liquidity provider. How and when to place an ETF order can depend on many factors, including price sensitivity, level of urgency and overall goals for the portfolio. Determining what factors matter most can help determine the best execution strategy.

Questions? Our capital markets experts can help. Learn more about our ETFs here.

1 An AP is a U.S. registered, self-clearing broker/dealer who signs an agreement with an ETF provider or distributor to become an authorized participant of a fund.

2 A market maker is a broker/dealer that buys and sells securities (or ETFs) from its own inventory to facilitate trading in those securities. Most APs are market makers, but not all market makers are APs.

3 IOPV is the Indicative Optimized Portfolio Value—the intraday net asset value of the basket of underlying securities

Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. ProShares are non-diversified and each entails certain risks, which may include risk associated with the use of derivatives (swap agreements, futures contracts and similar instruments), imperfect benchmark correlation, leverage and market price variance, all of which can increase volatility and decrease performance. Please see their summary and full prospectuses for a more complete description of risks. Carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the prospectus; read carefully before investing; obtain at ProShares.com. There is no guarantee any ProShares ETF will achieve its investment objective. 
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