People ask us how to know when administrative people “own” their jobs. What behavior convinces us that we can depend on them? How do we know when they take responsibility for the outcomes related to their performance? When can we stop worrying about them and stop micromanaging them?
It’s when they become proactive.
One dictionary defines proactive as “the ability to initiate change rather than reacting to events.” Another says “Proactive employees generally do not need to be asked to act, nor do they require detailed instructions.”
Anticipate a need and take the action necessary while preempting undesirable consequences. That is what we look for. Sounds simple, but it’s a tall order. “Proactive” is not generally taught in school, yet it is required to get ahead. Being proactive can be the difference between administrative and clerical.
If you are looking to advance in your job, here are seven tips to becoming proactive:
1. Be a Conceptual Learner. Everybody needs examples, but after a while you should be able to extrapolate the concept from one learning lesson into a similar situation. If you know how to put out the Bar-B-Que fire with a fire extinguisher, don’t let the place burn down from a kitchen fire, even though you weren’t shown how to use the fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
2. Grasp the Big Picture. Understand who in the organization depends on you and why. Understand and calendar all the big deadlines, strategic and tactical, that depend on your performance. Ask questions until you know how your job relates to the income of the business. You can’t take pre-emptive action unless you understand the big picture.
3. Prioritize. Zero in on the time-sensitive tasks and do them first. Don’t wait to be told. Bring your calendar to meetings and listen for deadlines. Anticipate what must be done to meet them.
4. Develop a Sense of Urgency. “I’ve got a call in” is not enough. Regularly check back with people key to the deadline. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the attention. Be sure to thank them when they do get back and tell them why you appreciate it.
5. Verbally Acknowledge. When you receive a lesson, don’t just sit there, say something. It’s OK to ask questions because it shows you want to get the job done. And if you do get it, say it back to them in your own words so they are reassured.
6. Track Your Progress. To give a good progress report you must know the goal and all the deadlines required to get there. So keep track of where you are on your projects, and give your boss a frequent update.
7. Pick up the Pace. Identify the areas that seem to slow you down. Ask for special training in those areas. This sends your boss a message that you want to work smarter, faster and more effectively. A good boss will realize that the one-time cost of what you need pales in comparison to your increased production.
At the end of the day, it’s all about taking action that convinces your boss she doesn’t have to worry about you. Show her that you are a self-starter and have the company’s best interests at heart. When she’s asked about you, she’ll say, “I can rely on Mary, she’s on top of it”.