Employee Development Planning

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about leadership.

Areas I would like to in=mprove in as a Lead, Supply Technician.

Signed, Wanting Some Ideas

Dear Wanting Some Ideas:

Hello and thanks for contacting us. I’m glad you’re asking about professional development, because I would like for you to look at your question (really, just a statement not even a question) as you wrote it. Consider what your Number One developmental need might be! I think you will see that it is probably in communications in general and written communications, specifically. I say that with a good heart and a smile, and want you to know that many people have similar improvement needs–but the improvement can be accomplished with some work and extra effort.You are apparently a Supply Technician who would like to become a Lead (Supervisory or Team Leader Role) or you are currently a Team Leader or Senior Supply Technician and have been asked to develop some professional development plans for yourself. This might be part of regular evaluation programs in your organization or it could be you have been asked to do this as a way to improve your performance.

The reason I have to guess all of that is that you don’t provide any kind of explanation. Instead it’s as though you took a line off your evaluation form, “What are areas in which you would like to improve as a Lead, Supply Technician” and just wrote that quickly and hit “Send.” You also misspelled or mistyped “improve”. Often, with mobile devices and email people think they can just say they were busy and mis-typed. But, it doesn’t matter to those with whom you work whether your mistakes are typos or misspellings, they reduce your credibility tremendously.Also, by not actually writing out a complete sentence or explanation, it gives the impression you really don’t care, you’re just obligated to do it. (Which may be true! 🙂

So, let me give you three steps that will start you on the way to improved written and verbal communications, which is at least one area in which you would like to improve as a Lead, Supply Technician.

1. Speak and write as though you truly care about the person who is reading or hearing the message you want to convey.When you talk to your Mother or Father or children or partner, you put warmth and energy in your voice and you mentally and physically lean toward them to engage them so you can be clear.You CARE about them and you want them to care about you and your message. When partners lose that, the relationship can fail. When parents and children lack that, the closeness fails. When a Lead Supply Technician lacks that, she can be misunderstood, have conflicts, not be as respected as she’d like and also not get opportunities at work that she might like.You may not be having those issues–but I have found that often managers don’t tell employees about those things, they just hold them back from advancement or they feel sorry for them. A young man who works for a military hospital told me not long ago that the worst part about having people think he was a poor communicator was that some people felt sorry for him, as though he wasn’t very bright, while others thought he was in a bad mood or hostile all the time and they didn’t like him as result. He hated both of those and resolved to break old habits and learn new ones. He’s on his way and doing much better!

2. Speak and write so the reader or listener can easily understand the complete message without guessing. Not only understand but not MISunderstand. That means, speaking with clear speech, speaking “up” to be heard, being appropriate as to tone, volume and rate of speaking. In writing it means using full words, complete sentences and correct grammar.Effective communication doesn’t have to be torturous in details, but the idea is to speak so that you don’t have to say it over and over or clarify a lot or explain what you meant or why you are wanting information. I received a letter from a woman I know the other day. She is well educated but she wrote this: “Wat is ur advice for the best biz books?” I know the woman and called her to ask why she would write in that style. She said she was just saving time. She may have been, but if she tries to save time that way at work, she will lose her credibility and influence quickly! And besides, how much time was she saving? Good grief!In your type of work there can be many misunderstandings about requests, availability of supplies, restrictions and requirements, etc. Those often result in conflict and contention. Internal or external customers can start dreading every conversation or email because they know what happened the last time.However, clear communications with a smile or at least with caring, can make even “No” sound better.

3. Ask questions and listen to responses, then be as clear and careful as possible about answering the questions and providing further information that is needed.I asked a question of someone in a medical office the other day and they didn’t look up from the computer screen as they mumbled an answer with no smile or even a tone that sounded as if they cared about me at all. I asked them to repeat it and they continued to look at their computer screen and type a few key strokes. The impression was that I was interfering with their work. I AM their work! I said, with a pleasant tone, “I know you’re busy, but I would really like it if you would look up when you talk to me, so I can hear you better. Could you do that for me?” The clerk immediately apologized and gave me her full attention for the minute or so I was there. Much better!

We multi-task so much nowadays that we often end up not doing our most important task–customer service–at all! So, part of your work as a Lead Supply Technician should be to identify your customers, both internally and externally, and thinking about how you can better serve them. For a Lead, all of your team members are customers. Your peers are customers. Your manager is a customer. Those who request supplies are customers. In return, you are customers of theirs! So, it’s not like you have to do it all. Nevertheless, I think each of us have to be willing to provide 60% and get 40%. The final thing I will mention is that probably you could list Customer Service as an area you would like to improve in, and it would be appreciated by your managers. Use some of the thoughts I’ve mentioned here about expanding your view of who are your customers.I don’t know you or your work situation, so you will have to forgive me if I’m in error about it. However, my experience is that most of us would be correct to say we want to improve in the areas of communication and customer service.A third area which may not apply to you, but which applies to many people, is in the area of interpersonal skills in general. That includes communication as well as sensitivity, empathy, directness and honesty and being appropriate about behavior. We often think because we laugh and joke that we have good interpersonal skills–but that may not be appropriate for many work situations. Or, we think because we have a close group of work friends, we have good interpersonal skills–but we don’t do very well with strangers or in tough situations or when there are disagreements.One of the least effective people I’ve met in a long time told me, not long ago, “I get told all the time that I have poor interpersonal skills. That’s the problem with working around whiners and having idiots for customers.” And, he was serious!(You can see why he is told he lacks interpersonal skills. I’m sure people who interact with him can sense his feelings.) If you combined Effective Written and Verbal Communications, Expanded and Improved Customer Service and Improved Interpersonal Skills, you would have three great areas to suggest for your Employee Development Planning! The other area that might be helpful is Job Skills. That is especially true if there is some area in which you have been struggling, for example, data entry or inventory control or some specific area.So, all of this is a long answer to your short sentence. I took the time to try to figure out what you meant because I know you want to receive a good answer and I was glad you took the time to reach out to us for our thoughts about it. That’s the way communication and customer service works best, isn’t it? When someone asks us for assistance, most of us who want to provide service get concerned and do what we can to help.I worked with a city government organization last month whose mission statement is just this: “We do what we can to help and we act happy for the chance to do it.”I was very impressed with that!I hope these suggestions will be useful. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know if you are able to use or adapt it. Best wishes to you!

Tina Lewis Rowe