How to juggle team training and your own work
Job advice from Liz Reyer and Diane Stafford
Q: Celia, 44, is a senior consultant. She writes: I have been asked to lead a team of seven fairly inexperienced analysts to help them become a high-performing team. At the same time, my boss says I spend too much time with the team; she wants to see “sufficient” billable hours from me. How do I balance these competing expectations?
A: Focus on creating value around the non billable aspects of your work.
Document the potential positive impact for the company from the training. If each analyst currently bills at $X per hour and moving them up the ladder allows their billable rate to double (for example), it’s easy to quantify the value of your training.
This is especially true if you have capacity challenges. If you and other senior analysts are not able to delegate because your team doesn’t have the skills to back you, your company’s revenue potential hits a cap.
Once you have demonstrated the potential for growth that this staff development unleashes, outline a training protocol that efficiently helps each team member advance. List all of the skill areas in the job, and assess where each person stands on them.
Then determine your approach to filling the gaps. In the case of technical skills, some training may be in order.
If multiple people will benefit, then so much the better, but followup with individualized help as needed.
For other, more subjective needs, a more coaching/mentoring style will be called for. This may apply to, say, becoming a more compelling writer or learning to effectively engage with clients.
There are no shortcuts here. You can let them learn on their own or you can provide guidance, which requires time from you every day.
How much time is needed for this level of leadership? Just to get a rough estimate, if you spend half an hour each day helping each team member, that’s about half of your time. This provides time each week for reviewing their work and coaching them to help them improve it. And it still leaves billable time for you.
This may seem slow; in fact, it’s often faster to just fix things yourself. However, that just puts more demands on you and, paradoxically, challenges your ability to bill time on higher order tasks.
Next, set up a meeting with your boss to review. Bring materials that detail your analysis; having a formal presentation ready will help you make your case. Anticipate her objections, considering any pushback she may be receiving from her leadership. Also include an overview of the risks to the company if this issue isn’t addressed.
By the way, be sure your performance objectives are aligned with your actual work — and are realistic. You likely can’t be 75 per cent billable and deliver a high level of skills acquisition for team members, for example.
Finally, figure out your stress tolerance. If this is a short-term situation, it may be sustainable; if it’s longer term, make sure it won’t lead to burnout for you.
•Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Take care on social media
It’s summer. Vacations beckon. Here are some quickly digestible workplace bites.
Yes, it matters what you put on Instagram, Facebook or anywhere else discoverable online. It matters if you’re job hunting or there’s a possibility you’ll be vetted for any position.
Four out of five job recruiters recently surveyed by the workplace consultancy of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said they do social media and other internet searches to learn about candidates.
Three-fourths of recruiters said they search before they advance applicants to true candidacy status, using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google searches for evidence of drug use, lawsuits, felonies and “unprofessional behaviour.”
On the flip side, some employers said they were concerned if a candidate had no online presence. No tech savviness? False identity? Or clueless about a lot?
There’s lots of advice about how to handle jerks at work or other disagreeable encounters. Outside of advising, “Be nice” or “Don’t engage,” there’s a wrenching issue here.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness in the U.S. notes mental illness is the leading cause of disability in the workplace. Depression is the biggest factor, but that’s not the only reason why a co-worker may behave in off-putting or otherwise disagreeable ways.
Failure to understand and treat mental health conditions contributes to crime, homelessness, unemployment and workplace flare-ups.
•Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star
Jeremy Foxcroft juggles with friends during the UW Juggling Festival in Waterloo this spring. Columnist Liz Reyer has advice for when you have to juggle team training and your own work.