The activities discussed in part one of this article are typically associated with a coatings career in its early stages, although some continue throughout one’s career. In part two, we’ll take a look at even more resources you can use to build your career, understand yourself in relation to your coworkers and manage change.
1. Find a Mentor
As I mentioned, it may be possible to find a mentor through LinkedIn but finding one within your own organization is also recommended. In most cases, a mentor is not your supervisor but someone with whom you can be open and honest. Not that you can’t trust your supervisor, but you typically don’t want to share some things with the person who provides your performance review.
You have to decide what you want to accomplish with a mentor, too. It may be coaching for a specific area where you need improvement. An example would be interpersonal skills of sales communication. Human resource departments offer development courses, and a mentor can help suggest what may be best for you. A mentor may be the person that helps you to network within your organization or who provides connections externally. A mentor shouldn’t be viewed as a permanent fixture, and, as needs change, so can the need for a different mentor. There are good books on coaching and mentoring; I like “Coaching and Mentoring for Dummies” as a general resource.
2. Think Globally
Another consideration is culture. Being American, I admit that I can be American-centric. But the world is global and most all global organizations have employees from many countries working at a site. Understanding, respecting and acknowledging cultural differences, goes a long way in fostering relationships and the development of strong teams. Again, there are numerous books on the subject, but I like Dresser’s Multicultural Manners.” Along those same lines, if you communicate remotely by e-mail, keep your sentences short and avoid idioms.
3. Utilize Training & Assessment Tests
If you are in an organization that requires or voluntarily offers training courses, it is advisable to look at these and decide what is appropriate for your career. You will usually be advised of suggested courses during the follow-up of your performance review to discuss your career development.
I highly recommend that you take several assessments early on to determine traits you may not be aware you have. Although viewed as “soft science” or “fuzzy,” taken collectively, these provide a good picture of yourself. The first is Myers-Briggs, which is a questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. This is also accessible on-line in case your organization does not offer it.
“MyersBriggsTypes” by Jake Beech – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The second is one of a number of assessments for social style. One example I like is here. From this, you get a read on your level of assertiveness, communication style, etc.
The third is an evaluation addressing Kirton Adaptation-Innovation Inventory (KAI). It is a very useful tool to understand the factors that cause stress in an individual, as well as an organization. It is a way to help manage change, such as in mergers and acquisitions, as well as for diversity. We’ve all heard of “thinking outside the box.” But what is this box? I think of the box as a toolbox of the known available tools to a person, team or organization. Some people are happy with the tools they have. Others look for ways to use the tools for new functions and still others like to create new tools for old or new applications.
It takes all types of people to have a successful team and an efficient organization. It seems intuitive that people would want to understand as much about themselves as possible and find ways to work effectively with people with other personalities and styles.
For example, with MBTI, I test as an introvert. Most anyone who knows me feels that this is incorrect and that I’m an extrovert. But my social style is “expressive-expressive,” which explains the appearance that I am an extrovert. I’m also a risk-taker, who only wants to know where the box is to avoid being in it at all. I much prefer to improvise and create. Until I understood this about myself, I really had a problem with detail-oriented, introverted and non-expressive people. I have come to learn the value of diversity – not just from the perspective of culture, but also how a person thinks, feels, innovates, adapts and communicates, among others.
4. Use the Right Tools at the Right Time
There are other tools I use from time-to-time. I encourage people to learn how to use all the tools in a tool box, but to only actually use the ones that you need for a project or exercise. An example is SixSigma. I am certified and have also been trained for Design for SixSigma. I learned all of the tools, but find I rely on certain ones heavily, while ignoring others. Does that make me a bad practitioner? I don’t think so. I just use what I need to get the job done.
The same can be said for leadership tools. These, again, are available through HR at most companies. If you feel you may want to manage projects, a group or an organization, you have to start with the right tools. There are many things you will be taught, but the most important things to remember are what you learned from the “soft skills” toolbox.
The most important additional tools to add to that box are ones that address organizational change (such as mergers, acquisitions or sale of business) and the management of disruptive employees. In the former, you will learn that most people abhor change; or at least the transition to change, since it involves uncertainty. This affects most everyone in an organization, and it is most important to recognize how different people react to the same circumstances. In the latter, you will most likely have to interact in some way with a highly-productive individual who is disruptive and may be toxic to the team or organization. In both cases, this is where your HR partner or mentor can help coach and guide you.
* The use of website names, journals, institutions, etc. does indicate a personal preference based on my experience, but in no way am I associated with anything recommended through employment or any other form or remuneration.
Keywords: LinkedIn, ChemSpider, FreshPatents.com, PC&I, Coatings World, Coatings Tech, ECJ, SixSigma, Myers-Briggs, Kirton Adaptation-Innovation Inventory
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