Creating A Structure for Planning Personal and Professional Success (Nov ’21, week 3 companion article)

In this article, you might get taken on a bit of a ride… or at least be surprised at the direction this takes you.

While last week’s discussion lead by Carrie (podcast HERE and video HERE) was all about taking advantage of specific moments that come to you as part of a partnership (teacher and student), this week is all about being very intentional about your INDIVIDUAL awareness and incorporating that into your day in and day out work.

Within the retail world, ‘planning’ is a non-negotiable skill and one that is usually dictated (at least within some operational functions) by the company or organization that you work for. Their terminology and processes are often thought to be very proprietary and specific. And honestly, MOST are vehemently adhered to for good reason…. standard operating procedures are just that… STANDARDS, due to their proven success and universality.

In this discussion (video link HERE and podcast link HERE), Edward leads us through a new way to think about structure and planning. While holding true to your organization’s SOP or processes, Edward walks us through TWO simple mental concepts that will help and guide you to be more successful both PERSONALLY as well as PROFESSIONALLY that, while completely relevant year-round, can truly help ground you during the hectic holiday season.

Regardless of role, whether an hourly or someone in a supervisory capacity, when time is tight and resources even tighter… projects, goals or tasks can be a BIG DERAILER to personal or professional success. Or at least, they can be seen as impeding progress or simply a nuisance when they are handed to us and are beyond, below or even OUTSIDE our traditional role’s expectations.

This time of year, we are all handed tasks or goals or projects that give us ‘all these feels’… that you are being taken advantage of, that others’ lack of commitment or skill is what is causing YOU to have to pick up the slack… that you’re only worth is that you can ‘fix things’ or ‘get it done’ while others just ring a register, or ‘walk the floor’…

When you are tired, stretched thin AND see weeks of the same on the horizon for yourself and the team until the end of the fiscal year, it is EASY to fall into the blame game… or to point the finger.

It is easy to see something delegated to you as an interruption… a frustration.

Here are the two concepts that Edward and Carrie dig into:

#1. STRUCTURE. Actually more specifically – UNDERSTANDING the organizational structure, your role in it and then CREATING an individual structure for yourself, your team or your peers. Sound different? It is, and it is a super simple way to remind yourself of YOUR importance within the great scheme of things, as well as to recognize the importance of ALL roles that are within your work world.

#2. THE 4 W’s: The WHAT, The WHY, The WHO and The WHEN. And it might seem like a quick mantra for just planning your tasks, but Edward explains why reframing this mantra around YOURSELF, gives you more confidence, understanding and empowerment when tasks or projects unexpectedly come your way…

Recapping a quick story about how these two topics became important to Edward and how he realized they could help drive his engagement at work, strengthen his skills for the future AND build confidence in handling communication with elevated leaders:

After months and months of being ‘tapped’ to take on additional tasks…some within my responsibilities and role, some most DEFINITELY above and outside that bubble… I hit a breaking point and realized that I was beginning to disengage from something I loved to do. I also realized I had said ‘YES’ to each of these tasks without question… so I decided to start asking questions, and I started at the very top: the District Executive who suggested I do these things to begin with…and that’s how I came to realize the importance of these two topics…

Topic Discussion Summaries:

Topic #1: STRUCTURE. Without structure, things fall apart. Seems pretty simple, but when you think of a house… or anything really, even a body… without a strong base structure, things can crumble! Or at least, become less organized, understandable or feel chaotic. Edward’s biggest belief around structure is that truly understanding your organizational structure is critical. Beyond just knowing how your company or store is organized… finding ways to apply that same mentality or ‘organization and structure’ to yourself and your own team (whether a team of peers or direct reports) can be very empowering as well as clarifying!

Understanding where you fall within your organization’s structure is a super basic starting point, but one that should help you understand both your importance and impact. The biggest pitfall that people can fall into doing this exercise is that based on where you are in the structure, that is the level of your importance. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Quite frankly, the way to fully absorb an organizational structure is to visualize it as a pyramid, not a chart. The tip top cannot be at the top without the layers of structure beneath it… and the MORE of a role that is needed, well… that role becomes more critical.

Think JENGA. Yes… those pieces seemingly down soooo low? They are the foundation the tower is built on!

Now take that understanding of your personal role, then use that same ‘organizational mentality’ and apply it to your own team… whether you lead others or not. This approach to ‘re-organizing’ your personal and individual structure can be VERY helpful to creating a system that will keep the chaos at bay.

When applying this structure to your own individual world, using each member of your team, direct reports or even peers… consider everyone’s strengths. Each individual, if their strength is recognized and utilized, creates a structure for your team that helps solidify the ‘whole’. By communicating everyone’s role in your own structure, you can empower, recognize AND engage your team, direct reports and/or peers in a way that is often overlooked……. and create a TRUE team mentality.

Once you’ve created this structure, if a task is passed to you or you are asked to do something out of the blue, you can rely on it to help keep your actions, plan or communication consistent and in control. Chaos will NOT reign supreme!

Topic #2: THE 4 W’s. What, Why, Who and When… Simple? Yes. Actually used in the field in the moment? Not nearly enough.

It is a super short little mantra that you can keep in your back pocket, it will always help remind you of your structure and give some reasoning as to why you might be being asked to do something, participate in a plan or even create a plan to tackle an issue that has popped up.

  • WHAT – What are your strengths or specialties again?
  • WHY – Why were YOU tapped for this task or plan? Does the task or plan require your skills or specialty, or possibly utilize them in a creative way? Is this an opportunity for you to advance your skill/specialty even more?
  • WHO – Who else has the same specialty? Is there someone who could help? Or might be able to be leveraged (and helped on their own skill journey) to accomplish the task/plan?
  • WHEN – Is this task easy for your skill level? Are you ready for more? Should you expect more? Or do you need more time to build the skill to be ready for the next step in your career? Think of the WHEN as a timeline: Do you fall at the top part of the readiness timeline? Are you comfortably in the middle? Are you at the beginning of the timeline and need a bit more time to hone your specialty or prove you can master the task/plan?

Even in holiday, when your head is down and you are in heavy reaction mode (regardless of role) we tend to fly on autopilot a lot. And when you get bumped off course, being so used to reacting and running smoothly, we react emotionally: “WHY ME?” “THIS IS FRUSTRATING!” “WHY CAN’T SOMEONE ELSE DO IT?” “‘Suzy'” NEVER GETS ASKED TO HELP!” It’s easy to fall into finger pointing and dismissing potential opportunities to prove your skill when you don’t have a structure built in to ground you.

Taking yourself through the 4W’s will help you see your strengths as a part of the whole, why you were ‘tapped’, who else you might be able to leverage to accomplish the task or plan, and when you’ve reached the point where you should expect to be considered that EXPERT and might be ready for more.

So often we are in react mode that we miss the chances to really PROVE ourselves. And if we lead others, we overlook opportunities to help others really advance their skills or goals. This is particularly frequent in Q4, when it becomes easier to just ‘do it yourself’ to get it done, or simply see a task as something that someone gave you just because they didn’t want to do it themselves…

And while this process won’t completely fix or help in EVERY SITUATION, these two exercises will help you.

Understanding your worth and the worth of those around you (and those who report to you) is non-negotiable, regardless of the time of year. Putting these two concepts into your ‘retail toolbox’ will most certainly give you a leg up on a lot of other people just working through the to-do list.

When you’ve got that structure in place… growth comes easier. It becomes natural to participate in and see… and the bonds between team members, locations and goals are strengthened.

Got questions on how to apply these to YOUR work life? Reach out to Edward or Carrie through the Contact Page!

If you’ve found value in our videos, podcasts or articles, please LIKE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW on our various platforms to help us grow our audience!

Our mission is to support as many retail workers as possible with content to improve engagement, career advancement AND enjoyment at work – regardless of your role.

Next week’s topic: Keeping Your Cool in Intense Situations (with customers, peers and supervisors.)

Until then, walk with a purpose, friends!

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