Five Employee Mistakes

Five Employee Mistakes Blocking Company Growth
National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), Workplace News
By: Sunny K. Lurie, PhD, March 2007
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Rapid change, advances in technology, and an explosion of information have touched down like a tornado in the workplace. So how do companies and individuals keep up and stay ahead of the competition? With the information supply doubling every 5 years, more information has been produced in the last 30 years than during the previous 5,000. Through my observations and research of many individuals, it’s time to tear up the old game book and examine some new rules. Let me offer some suggestions to support employees in avoiding mistakes that block growth for them and their organizations.*

Mistake #1: Staying within your comfort zone at work.
For companies to grow, they need employees to stretch and experiment with new ideas This means moving beyond tried-and-true approaches in daily work activities. Cautious people desire a “sure thing,” and may not risk initiating a new approach. Going outside your comfort zone is a willingness to explore new methods that extend past a person’s usual range of action. Reward employees the next time they use a novel solution in a challenging situation and endure the uneasiness of leaving their comfort zone.

Mistake #2: Minimal knowledge sharing or relationship building. To sharpen awareness of market trends and understand how your industry is changing—talk to other people. A great way to continually improve and grow is to build relationships with people inside and outside the company and in a variety of fields. High performers use “relational learning” to constantly solicit information, collaborate, and gain fresh perspectives. Companies that reward employees for circulating ideas and sharing best practices, gain a competitive advantage. As the shelf life of our solutions gets shorter all the time with new answers sprouting up, relational learning is becoming a powerful tool. Use it wisely to capture knowledge, use it, and spread it around.

Mistake #3: Believing change is an obstacle rather than an opportunity. Change is like fire…it will burn you, or it will warm you. Individuals who embrace change as an opportunity for growth are often at an advantage to be warmed by change. These individuals are comparable to a willow tree, well rooted and solid in the earth, but flexible enough to bend in the wind. They are well rooted with a strong sense of purpose, a clear core identity and a good account of their capabilities, but they are flexible enough to tackle new challenges and respond quickly to changing business needs. Expose and reward adaptable behavior whenever it occurs, don’t let it remain invisible.

Mistake #4: Tunnel vision. Look around beyond the confines of your department, the walls separating your office from other areas-marketing, manufacturing, sales, are going away. There is a need for individuals at all levels to be able to see the “big picture.” This ability to think broadly is called “systems” or “process” thinking. It involves blurring the lines, intertwining functional areas into end-to-end processes. A “process” is connecting one job to other tasks in the company so that together the team creates a result of value to the customer. The key words to help organizations grow are “together,” “team,” “result,” and “customer.” Building walls elevates isolation and narrow thinking, tearing down walls promotes teamwork and whole process thinking.

Mistake #5: Dependence on others to define your job and manage your future. Employees can no longer fall into the trap of relying on employers to shape their job or protect their future. It’s time to reframe relationships with organizations. Individuals must take charge of their own career as if they were self-employed. Much like an independent contractor, individuals are a supplier of whatever products and services the organization needs. Instead of having others define one’s job, employees should establish “mutually” acceptable goals. This way they meet the organization’s specific and pressing needs as well as capitalize on their own interests and talents. Self-reliant employees who work in jobs that satisfy both company and personal needs increase their commitment to achieving goals and helping the organization grow.

* Based on S. Lurie’s 1999 research study of individuals in work settings with dramatic change.

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