Over the years I’ve watched an interesting—if frustrating—scenario play out at numerous companies. Maybe you’ve seen it too? First, you take a talented, very hardworking woman who’s stretched almost to a breaking point by trying to do far more than humanly possible with very limited budget and resources. She works her butt off, accomplishes miracles considering the lack of resources, but eventually gets laid off anyway. Then, she’s replaced by a man who demands – and gets – twice or three times as many resources (and often a higher salary, too). With a lot fewer gymnastics and a lot less stress, he produces somewhat better results than she did and his managers congratulate themselves on “finally getting the right person in that position.” Good grief!
Here are five tips to help you to ask for and get the resources you need to do a great job. It’s easier than you think. Plus commanding an appropriate level of resources will help you not only produce better results, but also command more professional respect.
1) Start with the tools you need to do your job better and more efficiently
Would you berate a professional carpenter for being lazy or extravagant if he used a $300 hydraulic nail gun instead of a $10 hammer? Of course not! Having the right tool makes him much more efficient and valuable. If there is a tool or software package that would save you a lot of time or help you produce much better results, ask your boss for it. Even better: if possible just buy it, add it to your monthly expense report and tell your boss about the great results you’re getting after having taken the initiative.
2) Delegate! Just because you can do something yourself doesn’t mean you should
The more you focus on your higher level skills, the more valuable you will be and the more marketable experience you will build. If someone else in your office can make hotel reservations or order lunch without totally botching the task, delegate it to her and use the extra 20-30 minutes to review the strategic tasks on your to do list. The same goes for more skilled work. I’m currently teaching a junior team member in our office how to program HTML and delegating intranet updates and email projects to her. It’s a win for both of us – I’m creating a new resource to help with my workload and she’s building new, higher-level skills to boost her own marketability.
3) Find great vendors for specialized tasks
Let’s face it, a great vendor can often do work faster, better and more efficiently than you can. Don’t beat yourself up if someone could do a portion of your job better than you can. A specialist with the right training, the right tools and the right expertise ought to do a better job. Sure, you could design your own brochure. But if your only layout tool is Microsoft Word and it takes you four days to generate a design that isn’t grossly unprofessional, did you really save money by not hiring a talented, skilled designer?
When service providers contact you, take the time to speak with them about their services. Put together a file of vendor information so you have it ready when a project requires outside expertise or when your workload precludes your doing the project yourself. Building a strong network of vendors and service providers makes you more valuable and can be a great source of information about your industry and local market. The effort will benefit both you and your company.
4) Make your boss set priorities
Pssst! Here’s a secret: just because your boss tells you to do something doesn’t mean you automatically have to! Your work time is a finite resource – train your boss to use it wisely. If you already have 14 projects to do this week and your boss dumps two more on the stack, don’t just assume you have to struggle to try – and probably fail – to get everything done. Take a few minutes with your boss to outline the list of projects you’re working on and the time they will require then ask him or her to prioritize which have to be done and which can wait for later. This is a great time to suggest options for delegating some of the tasks to co-workers or to skilled vendors you’re conveniently already interviewed.
5) Practice asking!
If you’ve been afraid to ask for what you need for a long time, don’t expect the first time to be easy. Before you speak to your boss, take some time to practice the words, tone and spin you want to use in your discussion. Don’t beg. Don’t whine. Don’t apologize. Be as objective and confident as possible. Take on the attitude that you’re working with your boss to find the best solution for your department and your company. You don’t have to wing it either. Practice what you want to say in front of the mirror at home or in the car. You can even ask a friend to help you role play the interaction if you’re extra nervous.
And anyway, what’s the worst that can happen if you ask for the resources you need to do your job effectively? You could get fired, right? So what? Then, you could become the new hire at another company who walks in demanding adequate resources and a pay raise, gets them, and does a better job because of it. Hee, hee, hee! Go girl!