July 31, 2009

The Managers Buffet - What will you pick?

We have been writing about productivity for some time now. But how productive are you really? A friend who is also a comedian noted recently that when she has to work 60-hour weeks, she spends 59 hours bitching about working a 60-hour week. I find for me, when I have been hitting it too hard, I am very prone to zone out over my desktop due to fatigue, retracing steps to determine where I left that folder, phone number, even my list of "to do's" or car keys. I have been wondering what helps our productivity (besides sleep).

Two psych types, Mark Scullard and Jeffrey Sugerman, executives at Inscape Publishing asked 5,945 recent training participants about the types of courses that would greatly increase their effectiveness at work. They gathered some of the most frequently sought courses as shown in their data bank. Then they asked everyone to rank their choices. Below is the test they used. Pick some out for yourself that you could use. Then compare it to their results submitted by a broad range of business executives.

Here is a list of training course offerings. Rank the courses by those that would greatly increase your effectiveness at work. (Courses are listed alphabetically)
1. Building emotional intelligence _______
2. Communication skills _____
3. Computer skills _____
4. Critical thinking skills _____
5. Dealing with conflict or difficult people _____
6. Financial skills ______
7. Innovative thinking skills ______
8. Leadership skills _____
9. Management skills _____
10. Negotiation skills ______
11. Project management _____
12. Sales skills ______
13. Stress management ______
14. Technical knowledge related to my job ______
15. Time management ______
16. Working more effectively on a team _____
Circle your top five numbers. Consider why you chose those particular skill sets. What would more skill in those areas do for you and your career?

I was surprised that respondents chose what they did. Number 1 was not surprising however. It was leadership skills (#8) and I hear both employees soliciting that type of training for their company as well as managers saying they need more skills for handling situations that baffle them. However, coming in at # 3 was technical knowledge (# 14). What has been a commonly held belief in the Training industry has been agreement that it was not technical skill sets that were needed but how to manage and lead people. Apparently, the feeling that we need to lock down some technical skills was powerful and needs to be honored. What is not known is what kind of technical skills are needed. Perhaps to counter that surprising hard choice was what came in as response # 2. Respondents noted that dealing with conflict (# 5) and difficult people is an area where more skill building could be useful. I just lunched with a coaching client today and in the conversation, he revealed that conflict was very difficult for him. I believe that few seek conflict but how we deal with it can be very revealing to our management work.

As a coach and a speaker, I would be eager to hear from you as to your choices and why you chose them. I would also like to know where you go to get those needs filled. Since I teach at SMU, our professional Ed courses offer many of these skills, or could if the need becomes identified. In coaching, I find that successful people arm themselves with the skills they need to continue their journey up the ladder. You can do and increase your value and productivity as you do it.

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