If you touch something, improve it along the way!

This headline must sound strange – let me explain what I mean…

I’ve been in previous organizations, where people would forward almost everything, and they would do it with a very ‘helpful’ and crisp “FYI”. There was no gating and selection of what’s useful and should be shared further, nor was there any explanation as to why the content might be relevant. Just forwarding a lot of emails seemed to be a sign of competency in itself. Likewise, attending (not contributing to) as many meetings as possible was a badge of honor.

The lesson I took away from those experiences is that you should try to add value and refinement to everything you touch. There are three scenarios that stick out specifically to me:

Forwarding information without qualifiers

If you received important or useful information, and you have already spent the time to digest it yourself – pay it forward and share that added insight and value. Don’t just forward the information. Rather add your thoughts as to why you think it’s valuable and what the key takeaways are. Share the insights you gained as you were processing the information and add that value to the email you touched.

At the same time, if you didn’t find the information useful enough to parse and process it yourself, don’t forward it at all. Why should others spend the time digesting the information if you already deemed it not important enough to invest your own time in it?

Cryptic answers to requests

Did you ever ask for information, only to get back a “Here you go” with a file attached that you don’t know how to interpret? I certainly have been in that situation many times.

Make it easier for the person who needs information from you. Unless you KNOW that raw data is all they need (and sometimes that’s exactly what the other person needs and asks for), provide the pre-processing and initial explanation. If you provide the data to the answer, you usually also know what it means and what the most important takeaways are. Provide those Cliff-notes, don’t let the recipient re-invent the wheel and re-create the subject matter expertise that you gained over time.

Attending meetings without contributing to moving the topic forward

We all know the meetings where half of the attendees are quiet and seem to be focused on their emails. We all have been that person in a meeting at one point or another. It’s even more tempting now that we are all on the phone for all meetings.

Don’t be. If you already decided to invest the time to attend a meeting – share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Your time is invested already. As we all know, multitasking doesn’t work, so you will not make much progress on other side tasks during the meeting anyway. Instead, make your time and energy count, and contribute ideas to the meeting, moving the topic forward. Don’t be shy, your ideas matter, that’s why you were invited to the meeting.

Pro tip: Turn your video on. It will make you more present to others in the meeting and also increase your engagement as you know that others are ‘watching’.

If you think there is nothing you can contribute, don’t attend the meeting in the first place, and instead spend your time on other tasks that matter more.

There is room for improvement across all organization(s) at all levels, and the best way to improve is to role-model the right behavior. And I want to invite you all to help me role-model those behaviors.

If you touch something, make it a point to improve it before it moves along!

One minute invested this way often scales to ten minutes saved for the recipient.

Make your time and energy count – add value every time you touch something.

Did you like this post? Want to read more?

Check out our book for more thoughts and a week-by-week guide to make strategic changes to improve your health, career, and life purpose:

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Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9781077278929

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