In my new book that is in the works even as I write this blog, I cover five non-negotiable characteristics that organizations seek.
Here is the first:
Characteristic #1: Hard Working = Smart Working
At the top of the hard working list is dependability. People who take ownership of all aspects of their job are the people who not only have a clear vision of what is expected, but also look further to see what more needs to be or could be done.
I want to drill down into the concept of dependability.
If we borrow from systems engineering, dependability is a measure of a system’s availability, reliability, and its maintainability, maintenance support performance, and, in some cases, other characteristics such as durability, safety and security. Replace the word system with your name. How dependable are you?
If we use the metaphor of a house, dependability is the like the concrete of trust, and trust is the foundation upon which all relationships are built.
Without good concrete, which isyou being dependable, – the foundation of trust crumbles and thus your relationships crumble. This can be costly. In Texas, a school district built a $60 million dollar football stadium (yes, those Texans love their high school football). The general contractor reportedly used inferior concrete, and one year after opening the facility, it had to be shut down for exorbitant repairs. The same thing happens if our dependability, or our team’s dependability, isn’t solid; it ultimately costs us a fortune in both profits and personal energy.
Here is an axiom: Better Consistency = Better Dependability
Here is a second axiom: Confidence Grows as Predictability Increases.
You are most confident in people when you can predict their actions, behaviors, and attitudes. Do they do what they say? Do they stay until the job gets done in a crisis? Do they leave in you in a lurch?
I have a friend from Minnesota who, as a child, never knew “which dad” would come home from work. The dad who was cheerful and wanted to throw the football in the front yard, or the dad who had a hard day at work and exploded on everyone when he walked in the front door. In his mind, his dad was not dependable and the environment, as a result, was chaotic. It affected everyone in the home, and the mother grew tense anticipating the husband’s mood and passed this anxiousness right on to her children as she attempted to have the house perfect for his arrival.
The same applies at work. The more steadfast you are in responses and disposition, the more your fellow team members will respect and trust you. A great question to ask others is, “Where do you see inconsistency in my life, behaviors, attitudes, or responses?” Be ready to receive critique. If you hear an answer once, give it mild consideration. If you hear something repeated by different people 3 or more times, you’d better give that serious weight.
Here is a third axiom: Increased Dependability Leads to Increased Responsibility
If you or a team member has to be continually babysat, you are requiring energy, stress and worry to be expended by the person providing oversight. There is no way they are going to give you more responsibility because it simply means more stress for them. People tend to avoid stress whether consciously or subconsciously.
If you want a larger sphere of influence and more responsibility, one of the best things you can do is to act like the dependable owner of whatever areas you currently have authority over. This is true whether your sphere of responsibility is large or small. Maybe you think, “I only work in the mail room.” When you make sure every envelope is sorted and arrives on time at the recipient’s inbox, before you know it, you’ll be the person asked to train new mail room workers, and after that, you’ll be supervisor of the mail room. As you exhibit an ability to oversee the team in a department in a dependable way, you’ll receive increased responsibility. . Over time, you could find yourself in the C-suite.
Practical Ways to Become More Dependable
1. Seek Responsibilities
Take the initiative in seeking responsibility. Volunteer to help and to ask others what you can take off their plate. Then deliver! Those that don’t seek greater responsibility are typically seen as lazy and unmotivated. But don’t take on more than you can actually handle. That will ultimately bite you as you become seen as unable to deliver results.
2. Live up to your Word
Deliver on your promises whenever possible. That requires being wise before you make them. Don’t set deadlines you can’t make. Don’t promise results you can’t deliver. Undersell and over-deliver.
3. Be Gritty
Be willing to do both the dirty work and to take on a new challenge. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, because only then will you be able to know your limits. If you’re afraid that it’s far from the usual things you do, then think of it as a learning experience. Many a leader has undermined his or herself because they projected an attitude of “what was good for the goose was not good for the gander.” They tell their team by their actions, “I am above doing that.” Their team will take on the same attitude.
Getting Practical For Team Leaders
If you allow people to not be dependable, other team members will notice. Their stress will increase as will their dislike of you, the manager, because they see you doing nothing about an obvious problem. On the other hand, if you deal with those who are undependable fairly and quickly, you’ll create a culture of trust and confidence.
Here is what an excellent article at the Small Business Chronicle says you can do as a leader to foster dependability in your team:
1. Be clear and concise about what is expected of your staff. Communication between management and staff is crucial. You must convey to your employees exactly how the company defines the word "dependable." This usually includes abiding by all company rules, regulations and procedures; arriving to work, meetings and business affairs on time; and responding to customers and completing assignments in an efficient and timely manner. Inform your staff of any expectations regarding assisting co-workers, and remind them the ultimate goal is working toward team and company achievements.
2. Evaluate staff reliability. Review company records that document any previous issues with employee reliability. Investigate employee files to individually evaluate the productivity and assess timeliness and accuracy of your staff members. How many times have they been late? Do they object to overtime? Do they stay late or show up early to complete projects? Which ones take on additional responsibilities when you're understaffed and assist co-workers? How many have they made costly errors, repeatedly?
3. Weed out the bad apples. After evaluating each employee individually, create a list of those who are falling short in the aforementioned areas. Be careful not to over scrutinize, as many times, absences and tardy arrivals are excused when due to circumstances beyond the employee's control. Make a list of only those who exhibit habitual unfavorable behavior.
4. Conduct personal interviews with problem staff members. Once you've got a handle on who may be part of the problem within the company, confront the individuals privately. Request a meeting away from other staff members, review their history of incidents and find out why they continue to happen. Sometimes, the employee was not properly trained, was unaware of the company policy or was insubordinate. Ask questions to find out what he thinks the problem is.
5. Establish a suitable solution. Individual employees will provide varied circumstances requiring different solutions. For example, a valued employee who is consistently late due to personal issues beyond her control may require an adjustment to her schedule to improve her dependability. An inexperienced and ambitious but slow learner may be worth the investment to retrain. Irresponsible and continuously insubordinate individuals should be dismissed because ultimately, they're just costing your company money. Addressing each individual instance or unreliability head on with a reasonable solution will considerably improve your overall staff dependability rate.
6. Update your company policy to include repercussions for unfavorable behavior. Compose a set of company rules regarding tardiness, unscheduled days off, early dismissals, insufficient productivity, missed assignment deadlines and allowances for errors. Enforce these rules by having staff members sign the document to prove that they have been made aware of and understand the rules. Incorporate a system to document instances and a schedule of allowances before consequences are administered.
Start today! Grow your dependability one action at a time, one fulfilled promise at a time, and one consistent attitude as a team. Be gritty. You CAN do this. I believe in you!