Maturity for knowledge workers

”Maturity is the ability to do a job whether or not you are supervised, to carry money without spending it and to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.”

_Ann LandersEvery boss wants mature subordinates. Some of you may be asking, then, what it means to be a highly mature knowledge worker in the workplace. Here are some strategies and behaviours you can apply in three situations: when you’re new to the job, once you’ve mastered the job, and when you’re promoted.

When you’re new on the job, as a highly mature knowledge worker you will:

1. Be more than punctual. If office hours start at 9am, the mature person comes 8.30. Why? This is the easiest way to get noticed and impress people.

2. Have a well-prepared mind. You come early and start a to-do list. You check with your boss for today’s priority. You should be ready to start the first task within 20 minutes of arriving at work.

3. Apply proactive learning. You study the organisation, job and people as much as you can _ before Day 1. You come to the office with some idea about the work. You have a list of questions that you would like your boss to answer so you can learn what’s expected. For example: ”If I want to succeed here, how should I behave, what are the norms, what are the do’s and don’ts here? What are the top three priorities of this department in the next three months?”

4. Don’t wait to be spoon-fed. You might have learned from university that organisations will provide orientation, assign mentors, and do on-the-job training for the newcomers. Many organisations don’t do that properly. It doesn’t mean they’re bad. Anyway, you’re not here to whine about the real world compared with the theory. Plan an orientation by yourself. How do you orient yourself? What self-study actions can you take? What materials can you read by yourself first? Basically, keep yourself busy with meaningful activities.

If you follow above steps for three years you should be able to master your role. Now you are becoming a veteran knowledge worker. But don’t fall into a comfort zone trap. A mature knowledge worker who has mastered his or her role will do the following:

1. Volunteer for additional tasks: In most organisations, there are lot of projects aimed at moving the organisation forward. Volunteer to be involved in them. Identify your strengths and offer those strengths to the project. For example, if you’re good at slide presentations, volunteer your time and effort to be a project member. If you’re good at presentation skills, offer yourself to be a presenter.

2. Teach others: Once you’ve mastered your role, you should be able to do your work with less time and effort compared to one or two years ago. Hence, spend your time wisely. Instead of searching the internet or idling on Facebook, use that time to teach others. You can teach your peers, newcomers or even volunteer yourself to the human resources department. You can be an informal trainer for your department to give an orientation for any newcomers, both inside and outside your department.

3. Mentor others. If possible, mentor at least one or two staff. What does a mentor do? You can help the new staff to adjust to the organisation’s culture. You also can help veteran staff to be more productive. You can mentor anyone based on your strengths.

4. Ask for more responsibilities: If you’re good at your job and also good at the above three actions, it’s about time to ask your boss for more responsibilities. Ask for a higher value-task, more challenging work. Don’t ask for more money or a promotion. Those will come if you can demonstrate your capability. Most immature people do it the other way round _ asking for a promotion or more money without showing how good they are.

Once you have demonstrated the above actions, you are already practising leadership, responsibility, accountability and good communication skills. You are highly likely to be considered for a promotion. If you get the promotion, as a mature employee you will:

1. Learn as fast as you can how to perform the new role.

2. Don’t try to do more of the same. You got promoted because the company wants you to play a new role. If you got a promotion and have to supervise others, your role shifts from being a high achiever who gets things done by yourself to being an effective manager who gets things done by others. You will do more things that rely on your communication and influencing skills. Don’t be more of an achiever, be an effective leader.

3. Learn more about your people and learn how to work with them.

4. Find a mentor who is good at people skills so you can continue to learn more about leading others.