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
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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

The Secret to Every Good Story Is a Bad Villain

The Secret to Every Good Story Is a Bad Villain

I have a question for you. You won’t understand at first why it’s important. But it goes right to the heart of who you are, and what your business represents. Just bear with me.

Who is your favorite movie villain of all time?

Darth Vader? Hannibal Lechter? Voldemort? Norman Bates? The alien in Alien?

I have two.

First, Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. I love that she is a misunderstood villain. Or rather, she isn’t really a villain at all—just a high-powered woman doing her job better than anyone else could. She refuses to change her demeanor so people will like her. She doesn’t care if people like her, because she is at the top of her game. I also love that Meryl Streep intentionally chose not to have the character yell. Miranda never raises her voice, so she forces people to listen intently to what she says. Brilliant!

Then there’s Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. I have been a fan of this movie for decades, long before I was interested in financial services. As a character, Gordon is charming, ambitious, successful, driven and even likeable. He has an invincibility about him that is so compelling. His character may also have inspired an era of imitators that nearly took down the financial system as we know it (or at least, it’s fascinating to imagine he did!). All of the movie’s clichés about Wall Street are true: there are still plenty of undesirables in our industry who couldn’t care less about clients. I think Gordon’s character taught us important lessons about the inner workings of Wall Street and capitalism. I could watch this movie every weekend—if only I had the time!

These are the kinds of villains that stick with you. They make a story memorable.

A good villain doesn’t even need to be a person. In Silver Linings Playbook, the villain is really Bradley Cooper’s inability to move forward with his life. In The Martian, it’s the harsh environment of space. It doesn’t matter who—or what—the villain is. What matters is what the villain does.

Villains give heroes something to struggle against, an obstacle to overcome in order to reach a goal. The best villains go way beyond cliché; they’re unpredictable and complex, just like real people. And they pose a serious, believable threat to the hero. They keep us on the edge of our seats! Villains bring conflict to a story—and without conflict, there is no story.

This is a lesson advisors need to remember.

I’ve written before about how critical storytelling has become to advisors. A firm that can craft a unique, compelling story—and then deliver it digitally—will pole-vault ahead of firms that still rely on rainmakers and referrals. Advisors are coming to realize this, too. They’re trying hard to tell good stories.

Then why are so many of their stories so bland?

Here’s what happens. Every time we have an initial call with a prospective client—and I mean, every time—the owner tells us, “I don’t want to be like those other firms with sailboats and compasses all over their websites. I want to be different.” And I think: Sure you do. Everyone wants to be different. Until somebody presents you with a concrete idea that actually differentiates you from the competition. Then you flip out and back off.

Read through advisors’ websites. You’ll find a few that are genuinely compelling, while others were clearly written by committee. They talk about wonderful advisors in a wonderful firm, helping wonderful clients achieve wonderful things, wonderfully. Pure corporate happy talk. Dull as a dial tone. If the firm were a movie character, it would be what screenwriters call a Mary Sue­—an impossibly perfect heroine who never genuinely struggles, and really just serves as the screenwriter’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. There’s no conflict, and therefore no story.

You can’t make a big splash if you’re afraid to make waves. Your story needs tension, conflict, a villain. John Bogle didn’t build Vanguard by saying passive investing is a very nice strategy, too, would you like a piece of cake while you consider it? He created the world’s largest mutual fund company by saying, “Hey, those guys are ripping you off! Let’s stop ‘em.”

What scary problem are you trying to solve for your clients that no one else dares to tackle? What oppressive status quo conditions are you the only one brave enough to overthrow? What is the greatest threat to your clients’ dreams and hopes—and why are you the only one who can rescue them? Are you actually ready to play hero? Have you invested enough in your business to make your promise to help credible?

I know it’s hard to think about your own business this way. It doesn’t come naturally. That’s why, in my next post, I’ll share with you two examples of financial businesses whose stories are very good—precisely because their villains are very, very bad.

Megan Carpenter
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Megan is CEO & Co-Founder at FiComm Partners, LLC. Her team develops winning communications strategies for entrepreneurs in the independent advisory community, and busines ... Click for full bio