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How your decisions impact on your effectiveness

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Boost your performance by working out what is important

Understaffed wards, overworked teams, lots to do and no time to do it - sound familiar? We’re always being told to work smarter and not harder but what does that really mean?

Take this example. Imagine you are on a plane with your family and the pilot orders all the passengers to put their oxygen masks on. So whose mask do you attach first? The correct answer should be your own but many people will say they would help their family first, which leaves them breathless and gasping for air.

In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he presented a framework for personal effectiveness that started from within you. He suggested that keeping promises to ourselves precedes making and keeping promises to others.

There’s no easy answer to achieving everything you want to achieve but it is possible to be kinder to yourself and therefore be more effective. Being kinder to yourself and being personally effective go hand in hand. People who stay calm in a crisis tend to achieve better outcomes compared with people who adopt the headless chicken syndrome.

The first step to being more personally effective is to decide what is really important (in the example above this was keeping yourself alive so that you can help others more effectively) and setting your sights on the right objective.

Ways to be increase your performance at work

  • Focus, Focus, Focus - keep your vision clear, simple and constant. You may get distracted but go back to it and remind yourself what you are trying to achieve. Put some time aside for thinking through your goal. Clear your mind of the clutter. Write those small things down on your pad and return to them later when you have time, but keep focused on your main aim
  • You will need drive and commitment - what is your motivation to achieve this goal, is it for care of patients? Performance targets? To gain a new job or to enjoy the day? When you have a clear goal, it is a good idea to break it down into smaller achievable milestones. Achieving one will boost your self-confidence
  • Communicate - you will more than likely want the help of people along the way, so learning to communicate clearly and effectively is a good skill to learn. Be clear, concise and possibly set deadlines for others to get back to you by a certain date
  • Resilience - keep going, it may be tough along the way, but go back to your vision and remember why you are aiming for this. It may be hard but it will be worth it
  • Gratitude - be grateful for what you have achieved. Celebrate and pat yourself on the back. We concentrate too much on negativity. Stop and say I’ve done a great job today, feel it inside don’t look for external gratification

● Covey SR (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. London: Simon and Schuster


Fiona Holt is an associate
for the East Midlands Leadership Academy and manages its Emerging Leaders programme. She also assists with the Aspiring Senior Leaders programme

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