Let Your Light Shine – Giving and Getting the Most Out of Your Roles

Whether you are a leader, an employee, a volunteer, or all three, you are contributing to an organizational cause – hopefully, one that you believe in. Here are some tips for both giving and getting the most out of your role.

Ask the why questions

If you don’t understand the big picture or rationale behind a certain task, please ask. Sometimes leaders assume you already know, become too focused on the details, or just presume you don’t care. Once you understand the big picture, make sure others do too. Understanding the why almost always results in a better outcome.

Take advantage of available electronic resources

There may be no dumb questions, but in today’s digital world you should consider whether researching the answer would be better than directly asking. A quick Wikipedia or Google search will do. Checking resources is even more critical if they are internal. If someone in your organization took the time to make the information readily available, they likely expect you to check that first. If nothing else, it is great to be able to say “I checked this resource, but still have questions.” It may seem insignificant but, in the aggregate, time spent answering questions impacts an organization’s bottom-line.

Understand what you have to offer and then offer it

Even if a particular skill does not fall within your defined role, it still may benefit your organization. For example, if you are in finance but also have the unique ability to explain financial concepts to the “average Joe,” offer to provide a Financial 101 course to others in the organization. Or, if you sit on a non-profit board and one of your hobbies is photography, offer to take pictures for social media and/or sell photo-shoots with all profits donated to the organization. The key is to think more broadly about what you have to offer that is of value and then find a way to use it.

Keep your eyes wide open for innovations and improvements

Think frequently, and then think again – how can you better serve your audience; do things more efficiently; or maximize your organization’s impact? When an idea comes to you, write it down immediately (or, trust me, you may forget it); then add it to an ongoing list. Periodically, spend fifteen minutes prioritizing the list. Ideas that rise to the top should be further fleshed out. If it still seems like a good idea, create a concise summary along with the pros and cons and share it with relevant decision-makers. And don’t ever delete ideas from the list. You never know when a “bad” idea could lead to a better one.

Be a life-time learner

Find things that interest you, both personally and professionally, and commit to learning more. With all the great content on the web, you really have no excuse not to take advantage of it. Who cares if it is not related to your responsibilities; you never know where a new path might take you. Even if you just seek out a basic understanding of a new concept, that knowledge will make you a more versatile and valuable contributor.

Share your brilliance

Did you just discover a much quicker way to accomplish a task that would also help others? Or did you just convince a donor to make a large contribution through a novel approach? Share your success as an FYI/best practice with your colleagues and copy in appropriate leadership. You can also share other helpful information such as a summary of a recent seminar or conference you attended or a link to a significant article. A few key guidelines here: 1) don’t constantly bombard others with information; 2) ensure the information is relevant for your chosen audience; and 3) remember, it isn’t about you, it’s about what you have to share.

Avoid reinvention of the wheel

Exchange information broadly. Tell people what you do and learn what they do. Look for anything remotely in common. If you find something, keep talking and see where it takes you. Particularly in large organizations, the right hand usually doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Take it upon yourself to find out. Are there opportunities to leverage someone else’s work or experience? Could someone else benefit from your processes or expertise? Much time is wasted trying to reinvent the wheel. Avoid it whenever you can.

Proactively find solutions to problems

So, you know not to complain about a problem unless you offer a solution, but what if you don’t know whether your solution will work well or you can’t think of one at all? Identify others who are already aware of the problem and, without spreading negativity, engage in some informal brainstorming. If you still can’t find a solution to offer, proceed cautiously. Is there anyone who could fix the problem or is it just a fact of life? If you still feel the need to raise the problem, acknowledge the complexity, demonstrate that you have actively thought about how to solve it, and offer to help however you can.

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