As the economy continues to contract and the competitive challenges become ever more complex, businesses must learn to adapt to a host of issues dealing with structural change. To meet these challenges head on, and in an effort to implement changes aimed toward holding onto any attained edge, each aspect of change must be thought through and implemented with specific actions. One of these structural alternatives relates to expended efforts, aimed toward productivity improvement, and that which simply cannot be over-emphasized.

All too often, most of the time and effort to stay afloat is placed on product improvement and less on personal and professional grooming, that ultimately improves productivity. The mantra of building self-improvement and recognizing one’s own self-worth, however, relates to the leadership’s ability to spread the wealth of knowledge throughout the entire organization, and not just among the top echelon.

By putting into practice actions specifically geared toward personal growth strategies, starting with staying current through what I call “new-change strategies,” not only are you ensuring your continued success, but you are raising the bar for yourself as well as for your associates.

Here are a few tips to help maintain a competitive edge for you and your associates:

1. Learn To Enjoy Learning New Things Even When You Are Good At What You Do Now – You are constantly hearing about green jobs, high-growth industries, new trends in financial stability, and networking trends, but for some reason or another, you are simply not sure what all this means. Well, if you have questions, be brave enough to seek out and find answers. You should want to learn new tasks and jobs even when you are good at what you do currently.

There are always different ways of doing things; changes are occurring everyday. Just remember, a different way of doing something does not mean the old way was wrong; you are just doing it differently. Some will argue that learning new things enhances business mastery and is exciting. The acquisition of “new” knowledge can be the most exhilarating experience of a lifetime, not to mention a gained competitive advantage. Learn to enjoy learning new things!

2. Encourage Your Own Growth As Well As That Of Your Staff – Knowledge is only powerful when you know what and how to make it work in your favour, positively; the broader the horizons the stronger the base. You can inspire others by learning new techniques and then sharing the knowledge. Everyone in your organization must be encouraged to grow alongside you. When they grow, you grow, when you stagnate, so do they. Do not try to learn by yourself, move along with your associates.

Persuade everyone to learn alongside you, by encouraging your associates to attend at least one external conference or workshop. The janitor might have enhanced self-esteem after attending a seminar on new chemicals. Imagine, after attending a seminar or conference, s/he might even start swinging the broom with a bit more skill, or brush the furniture with far greater dexterity. (Wow, do I see a smile?) Confidence built often materializes into mutual success.

3. Design A Learning Carousel In Your Administration – Recycle information learned. On our calendars, we write down appointments for workshops, etc., but how often do we write down time to review the subscribed periodicals and journals throughout the week? I recommend that you develop a merry-go-round of learning and reading frames to your routines.

Plan a specific time on your calendar to look through the books, surf the websites, subscribe to e-books (taped learning) or just to read the ads, explore new technology – this contributes to critical thinking and decision-making processes. Call this your special IQ Treatment Hour. Find your “aha moments” to expand on each day’s findings and your newly discovered horizons.

4. Realize Movement Does Not Mean Progress – The saying that because you are in motion does not mean you are moving provides insight to this learning principle. Compare this to that of a rocking horse; the object moves, but does not go anywhere.

Implement a segment on your monthly agenda for learning together. Ask your associates if they have learned any new technique they can share and, if possible, can any of these be implemented in your organizational systems? Recycling information starts with the internal customer. You will be amazed at how much you all have in common. Move forward by giving access to a wider range of knowledge.

5. Make It a Priority to Attend Creative Lunch & Learn Programs – Host luncheons with your staff to share and learn about new ways and trends in networking, or on time management. Attend a round-table discussion with your counterparts in the community. Go and sit with the gardener and hear what has been happening in the flower beds s/he grooms on the premises. You might learn the differences between weeds and thorns, those you need and those to discard.

Systemically, from top to bottom, encourage learning alternatives in your organization. Remember, your title does not mean you are always right or the wisest; it simply identifies your place on the organizational chart. Do try encouraging creative learning by sharing the wealth of information in your organization.

6. Plan To Speak Less So That You May Learn More – Set a time to attend meetings to only listen. You will be tempted to speak. Do not. Instead, take notes, observe, hear and listen. Sometimes by contributing and speaking we do not get the opportunity to hear others’ perspectives and resolves.

The purpose for this attendance is not to share experiences of your own, but rather to take notes on what others are discussing. Essentially, for now, less is more. Also, if you see your associates doing the same, you should not think they are being negative or discouraged; they might have learned to do this before you.

Here is a thought: After the meeting, you could call the speaker(s), and have a one-on-one chat; tell the speaker(s) how much you appreciated the information, and just wanted a bit more; then you might be able to share. Think how great an impression you will have made on that speaker? Plan to do this very well.

7. Know That You Always Have Time to Do What Has To Be Done – Ever felt you just want to clone yourself? Better yet, you’re starting to believe that maybe everyone was given 24 hours in a day, and you got short-changed. Do not worry, you were given the same amount of hours, and there is always sufficient time. The resolution, however, becomes the tricky part. Here are a few thoughts.

Do not put too much on your plate, only to disappoint the situation by saying you did not do enough. Break up your tasks into small wins. After you have done enough, say, “Well done,” and move to the next day. By the way, try to teach your superiors to plan their meetings and to allow you to implement proper format.

For reinforcement you should attend a time management course, not just a workshop, but a course that teaches how to strengthen, re-design and re-structure your paradigms. You might learn that it is not how much time in a day you are lacking, but organizing your activities is the key to time management. Minimize the workload to accommodate the allotted timeframe.

To summarize, keeping current is a key to your professional development edge through changing the ways you are accustomed to doing things. Productivity improvement relates to staying both contemporary and implementing methodologies that will upgrade the status quo. Do not just learn it; you must continuously improve upon the essentials. Everyone is constantly upgrading their principles, conduct and advantages, so should you.

You have a responsibility to your customers to be as current as possible. Remember to give your best effort to keep learning and re-organizing your mind maps. Learning how to stay in business requires constant upgrading and movement that begins with an actual journey that should not end.

A man, after living a good life, now stands outside The Gate for a while, rings the bell a few times, and eventually walks toward him is St. Peter.

The man spoke, “Good to see you, I have been ringing the bell for a while.”

“You should have sent an email; we don’t have people standing here waiting for arrivals, you know!”

Though amazed, the man asked, “Can you check for my name in the Good Book?”

St. Peter asked, “What book?”

Pointing to the object under St. Peter’s arm, the man replied, “That book. Please, I have lived a good life.”

St. Peter, again a bit more frustrated, said, “There is no book, this is a laptop. Man, what’s your website address?”

The man, of course, never entered the Gates; no website, no records. Even Heaven has upgraded to improve productivity; keeping professionally developed starts with consistent productivity improvements of both self and associates throughout the organization.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon A. Reid is a full time professor in the School of Business at the American Intercontinental University, South Florida, and also CEO of her own Human Resources Management firm. She conducts corporate training on various principles of management and leadership, interpersonal dynamics, strategic planning and systemic leadership. She conducts seminars and workshops on “Managing A Diverse Classroom and Student Population,” for schools, colleges and universities. Ms. Reid holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, a Master of Science in Human Resource Management, and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership. A broadcast jounalist, she conducts discussions under the heading of “Reid Between The Lines.” She can be reached at All Rights Reserved Copyright 2009.