Advancing our resourcefulness is part of our M.A.R.T.E.C.H. competency framework because you are not alone on your quest for more money and more people. Since more money and more people may not be coming anytime soon and you still need to reach your goals, a progression in your resourcefulness will serve you well.
Resourcefulness can be enabled with the right leadership support and employee mindset. Some good old-fashioned grit can also help. Highlighted below are what leaders and employees can do to optimize resourcefulness with some examples from my own experience.
7 Things Leaders Can Do to Encourage Resourcefulness: What can a leader do to help an employee be more resourceful?
Pose the Challenge: What big problem are we trying to solve? The leadership role needs to effectively frame the problem and communicate it so that employees can apply their skills and knowledge to address it. Prior to my transition to the CEO role at Widen, the owner posed our business challenges in a way that allowed us to address them using our own methods and styles; it allowed for our own creativity in addressing the challenge. That challenge was changing Widen into a software company.
Give them Room: Great leaders hire people smarter than they are and they need to let them do what they do best. Leadership trust is imperative to optimizing resourcefulness because that flexibility will allow employees to explore options, stumble, fall, get up again and figure it out. That is earned practical knowledge and it makes the job fun and challenging for the right employees. I fondly recall a statement made by Reed Widen, the owner of Widen, in an interview with Madison InBusiness after announcing my transition to CEO. "It's Matthew's company to run," he said. I interpreted that as room to run.
Leverage your Network: The time to convert all those golf outings, benefit dinners, and business lunches into value is now. Leaders should extend their networks to employees to make sure the value flows through the organization. In a recent example, one of our employees started a ProductTank Meetup group in Madison to create collaboration amongst software product managers. It was a great time to extend the invitation to the other software technology leaders in the area that I have been connected to in the interest of spreading the word about something that can add value to their organizations. Those people are now part of her network.
Be Responsive to Requests: Leaders are not roadblocks, they are enablers. Enabling resourcefulness requires responsiveness from leaders that doesn’t slow the process down. Leaders are not a rubber stamp in the process, however, keeping a valuable employee idle while they wait for approval or action is costly. I frequently think about how I might be slowing our teams down and ways I could be more responsive. An action I took several years ago that improved my responsiveness was my physical proximity to the team. In the most simple move I ever made that had the largest impact, I moved into our open space sitting next to colleagues, not isolated in an office.
Ask the Right Questions: Coaching employees is a great way to help them realize how resourceful they really are. An element to the leader’s role is asking the right questions that allows the employee to think through the answers for themselves. I am as guilty as anyone for entering preacher-mode on occasion, but there is great value in asking questions then shutting up and allowing smart people to think through the situation. Our leadership team was educated on the value of coaching and engaging employees through regular sessions. We continue check-ins with employees thinking through key questions, sometimes breaking the stride of daily operations to think about what they want out of life.
Share the Impact: Employees want to know the impact of their efforts and leaders can share that impact. Impact can be expressed in variety of ways that may include changes in key metrics across financial, customer, process, and learning & growth perspectives. Helping the employee understand their impact on revenue performance, customer satisfaction, and innovation velocity can be motivating. Openly sharing metrics in regular sessions, such as employee meetings, is one way of communicating the impact. We have the slow emergence of our dashboard monitors in our open space; a way to communicate impact in real-time.
Recognize the Effort: It feels good to know you are contributing to something greater and having those efforts recognized by leadership teams encourages more resourcefulness. Leaders shouldn’t save the recognition for the year-end review or the next coaching session, it should be done today, as in go do it right now.
In my experience with this, I can tell you what didn’t work for us. I ruined our kudos board. Our software development team had a kudos board where they would give peer recognition with a Post-it note on a white board and after getting a certain amount, there would be a team lunch. I loved this idea so much that I wanted to do it company-wide, use software technology to enable more of it and give monetary incentives. We stopped the Post-it note process and adopted the new approach. I thought I was doing a great thing, but in short, I ruined our peer recognition. Basically, the physical method of peer recognition without monetary incentive worked better for us. The Post-it note kudos board hasn’t returned.
The aforementioned leadership contributions is one element to enabling resourcefulness. The other is the employee who is part of daily operations, making things happen. Employees can take the initiative to become more resourceful with some of the actions below.
6 Actions to Improve Employee Resourcefulness: What can an employee do to be more resourceful?
Believe: If you believe in what you are doing, you will find a way to get it done. Believing is step one on a path to being resourceful because your belief will influence your behavior. In a Harvard Business Review article by John Baldoni, The Importance of Resourcefulness, he highlights ways of being resourceful and the importance of confidence and believing in your capabilities, “...you and your colleagues are more capable than you first believed.”
Believing in what is possible creates opportunities from perceived limitations. There are very real obstacles before you and while great leadership will help you remove those obstacles, you also need to take the initiative. In my experience, we had a whole team believe we could escalate to a leadership position within the digital asset management space. And while many claim a market leadership position, I look at our evidence to know that we have accomplished what we believed we could.
Sense of Urgency: Time constraints and realizing the impact of your efforts helps create a sense of urgency. This urgency influences the prioritization of your activities and helps you navigate to the areas that provide the greatest impact as it relates to your goals. As part of a team, you rely on each other but there are times when your urgency is greater than those around you and this means you need to pursue new information on your own. Don’t wait for it, go get it. In a recent example, I was doing some volunteer activities for the school my children attend and we needed a new header graphic for our Facebook page. Normally, I would work through our freelance designer channels but the time sensitivity triggered the need to explore other options. So I find Canva and sign-up. With the help of having a clean image management component through Smartimage, I had a newly designed Facebook graphic in 5 minutes.
Community Participation: Your connection with and responsibility to the community is part of rounding-out your resourcefulness. You can be more resourceful by acting as a resource for others and inturn you will benefit from that giving in a variety of ways. Once you start participating, you will begin to realize all that is available. For example, I participated on a panel for innovation at the Advance Summit, a economic, leadership and diversity conference for the Madison region. As a result of sharing our story, we networked with MadREP teams, the Madison Region Economic Partnership. They furnished us insightful data on the region’s advancement in attracting technology talent that we have used in presentations to promote Madison as the technology hub of the Midwest.
Training Opportunities: Advancing our resourcefulness requires the constant pursuit of new knowledge. Serving the interests of your intellectual wellness keeps you fresh and I encourage you to find these on your own. If you are directed to adopt a new agile process, then you need to increase your knowledge of agile. If you are responsible for interpreting data, perhaps you need some coursework in data science. Don’t wait for someone to offer you a training opportunity, you drive this. In a recent fireside chat at Widen, a local marketing leader shared a similar approach. Paraphrasing, she said, “employees should not wait for me to design them a training schedule, they need to find what they think they need and I’ll help make it work.”
Ask for Forgiveness: A personal favorite. Sometimes you are empowered to make decisions and sometimes it’s not as clear. To me, they’re the same. My interpretation of an environment that is not-as-clear means you are empowered to make decisions and you should make them. Taking action without official permission just means you may need to ask for forgiveness later. I read an Inc. Magazine article from Bill Murphy, Jr. titled 7 Things Really Resourceful People Do. There are some great things in that article and Mr. Murphy highlights bending the rules as the first thing really resourceful people do. Think guidelines, not rules.
Know Thyself: Your resourcefulness can be sharpened through a better understanding of yourself. Perhaps you don’t know the training you need or the direction you want to go. Maybe you are navigating a few paths trying to figure things out. Personal reflections may include a values discovery, clearly defined ethical framework or a strengths assessment. To help employees understand themselves better we have done a variety of things to include MBTI personality type indicators and StrengthsFinders. The StrengthsFinder 2.0 was a great exercise that we shared and discussed with each other. The Gonnering top 5: Activator, Self-Assurance, Futuristic, Learner, Empathy.Consider both the leadership and the employee factor as you advance your resourcefulness on your quest to becoming an awesome marketing technologist.