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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

What Do You Do?

help your colleagues understand how you help the company

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

If your colleagues do not truly understand how your work in training and employee communication impacts the bottom line, you may not be contributing all you could to your organization's success. And it starts with the deceptively simple question, "What do you do?"

Let's look at three ways to answer that question, using some other business function as an example. Imagine you meet a few people from another part of the company and ask, "What do you do?"

Your new acquaintances could answer:

  1. With a label, such as a job title or department. "We work in Quality Assurance."
  2. With activities, how they spend their time all day. "We track reports of defects and returns, line stoppages and warranty claims, and perform statistical analyses that show whether we are meeting our quality standards."
  3. With what they do FOR the company, the benefit they bring. "We work to ensure that the quality of our work enhances our reputation and minimizes costs due to things like warranty claims, repairs and replacements, and time spent on customer service ."

When people hear a label for what you do, they assume they know what that means. They usually don't assume correctly, because your job is more complicated, and more specific, than a generic label. But because they think they know what you do, they unilaterally (and often incorrectly) decide whether you, and they, can work together to produce better results.

And when you talk about your activities, you produce one of two effects. Either they assume they understand all you do, and what you offer, just as with the label. Or their eyes glaze over as they decide that those activities have little to do with them.

After all, looking at the answers above, you might quickly lose interest in someone's reports on statistical analyses of defect rates. But if you understand that better work reduces costs, or helps you market the company, you might suddenly recognize common interests between your department's goals and the QA function.

I strongly recommend that you make it a habit to talk about your work along the lines of answer #3 above, even to people you work with every day, much less when you meet people for the first time.

Why talk about the benefits your work brings to the organization? You might think I'm encouraging some kind of "internal marketing" here, but that's not the real point. Sure, it is good for you to keep your value to the organization as visible as possible . . .

. . . but it is also good for the company! The real problem with the first two answers above is that they don't give your colleagues the opportunity to use your services and skills to achieve better results for the company.

Marketing coaches talk about the "elevator speech," the ability to explain what you do, in a meaningful and engaging way, in the time it takes to ride the elevator with someone you have just met. Now, "elevator speeches" are highly overrated and never sufficient, but they are a good starting point for people who aren't used to presenting their benefits to others.

So, try the following:

  • Devote some time explicitly to developing a brief description of how you help the company, the benefit your work brings, simply and compactly. If you come back to this exercise regularly, rather than trying to do it all at once, you'll find that both your understanding of what you do, and your ability to communicate what that is, will improve.
  • Practice talking in terms of benefits. Start with your colleagues, and make it a habit, in memos, in meetings, in business conversations, to tie your activities to the benefit they will bring to the organization. Get comfortable with this approach so that you automatically talk about how you contribute to the company when you meet someone new.
  • Remind yourself that, far from being "pushy" or "self-promoting," talking about the benefits of your work opens the doors for others to work with you in more productive ways that return enhanced results for the company.

The best answers take a little longer than just giving your job title, but not much longer. And they build relationships as they create opportunities for better team work in advancing the company's aims.

You owe it to your company to help your colleagues see what you really do, and what you can do together for the benefit of everyone in the organization.

© 2008 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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