1/1/2003 | 4 MINUTE READ

Give Your People Assignments that Train

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Most assignments are viewed simply as a means of sharing the work burden with employees.


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Most assignments are viewed simply as a means of sharing the work burden with employees. That’s certainly their primary function, but it’s not the whole story. They can serve another, sometimes more important, function: training your people for bigger and better things. To add this vital ingredient to your assignments, give your people the following kind of assignments whenever possible.

Assignments they need to strengthen special weaknesses. In order to get work done, it is only good sense to give it to the most competent worker, but among your responsibilities is that of “stretching” your people. So, fully aware that the job may not be done as well as you would like, give an occasional assignment designed to challenge the employee. Watch his progress from a distance, if possible, so that he will not be nervous about your supervision.

A variety of assignments to test their versatility and add interest to their jobs. Variety in the details makes the whole job more palatable. But be careful not to overspice a job. Too many and too diverse details will overburden your people and kill their interest altogether.

Assignments arranged on a rising scale of importance. Make each hurdle a little higher than the last, assuming that the last was successfully negotiated. It will boost self-confidence, give you a group of people who are ever more valuable.

Assignments that make them feel important. Often, all an employee needs is a vote of confidence from his or her manager to turn in superior work. Most of us tend to live up to what others expect of us. Set high standards, show a worker that you do not doubt his abilities and he will move heaven and earth not to let you down. In the process, he will often discover new strengths that even he didn’t suspect he possessed. Occasionally, then, give an assignment designed to demonstrate that you think an employee has what it takes to outperform himself.

Eight Ways to Harness Worry
Of all the activities in which we engage, the least profitable is worry, for not only is nothing gained by it; much is frequently lost.

Worry saps our energy, distorts our perceptions, can actually result in adverse physical effects.

Some people are chronic worriers and because worry is always concerned with the future, their emotions are continually simmering. Net result: such people often reach a point where they can no longer function.

Some tips on coping with this debilitating emotion:

Admit that the worry exists. It’s useless to shut your eyes to it or imagine that it will go away. Owning up to it is quite different, however, from exaggerating it so that it grows out of all proportion.

Evaluate the cause of the feeling. Understanding the relationship between the cause and the emotion may indicate that there is no real reason for the reaction. A person who has just had a thorough physical examination should have no need to worry about arteriosclerosis.

Do what you must do, despite the feeling. Pushing the panic button only worsens it. There is a pertinent story about an army officer who was told by one of his men just before an attack: “Sir, your knees are shaking.” The officer answered, “Private, if they knew where they had to carry me in a few minutes, they’d fall off.”

Don’t put off trying to resolve the worry. Worry will rarely disappear by itself. If your efforts are unsuccessful, then seek out competent help promptly.

Concentrate on something else. This does not mean kidding yourself. Taking time out from fretting helps prevent worry from building up unnecessarily. When doing this you are aware that you intend to return to the worry, but will do so refreshed.

If possible, associate something positive and pleasant with the cause of the worry. An important trip with the boss or a make-or-break presentation at a top-level meeting can cause worry. But it can also be used to motivate you to do your best if you view it as an opportunity to succeed and make a positive impression on higher management.

Concentrate on the emotion, not the source. Focusing on the cause will increase the intensity of any feeling, positive or negative. If you’re afraid of your superior, constantly thinking about him will only aggravate the fear, like throwing gasoline on a fire. On the other hand, an emotion often disappears under the sunshine of reason. If, for example, you fear your boss, ask yourself such questions as “What good is the worry doing me?” and “Why am I wasting my time and energy in unproductive ways?” Answers to questions like these weaken the power of worry.

It’s undoubtedly utopian to believe that we can ever do away with worry entirely. But like all negative emotions, worry can be understood, harnessed and used in positive ways. In the process, its potential harm can be substantially reduced.

Speak Naturally
Been invited to give a speech? Bear in mind that no speaker is ever asked to talk because he or she has an enormous vocabulary or expresses himself or herself in very complex sentences.

It’s far more difficult to follow a line of thought by ear than by eye. What reads well is not necessarily easy to listen to. So check your speech for simplicity, brightness, good language, and accuracy. When in doubt about your choice of words, stick to the shorter ones. They’re almost always the more effective ones.