Scott Paton  |  03/31/2009

A Time to Grow

Now is not the time to cut back on your personal and professional development.

I‘ve been doing quite a bit of home improvement recently--installing new flooring, painting, etc. I’ve got a few sore muscles but the sense of pride in my achievement (plus the money I saved by doing it myself) makes it all worthwhile.

I have to admit that I’ve never been very handy, and I’ve never really gotten the thrill that some people find from “doing it myself.” My brother genuinely enjoys home improvement and could probably build an exact replica of the Taj Mahal given enough time. Usually my home improvements stem from the need to save money.

This current project--replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with wood flooring--was something that I never thought I would (or could) do. But after some words of encouragement from friends (thanks, Jeff) and getting quotes of $3,000 to install flooring in just one room, I thought it was worth the try. I researched the products, bought the necessary tools, watched a bunch of videos on installation (God bless, You Tube), and took the plunge. Three days later my room was done, it looks terrific, and I saved about $2,500.

I am unbelievably proud of myself. I’m so proud, in fact, that it gave me the confidence to tackle replacing the flooring in my T-shaped hallway with six doorways. I did that this weekend. The flooring is all in; I just have to install the molding.

Reflecting on my flooring accomplishments made me think of some other projects that I might try. It even made me think that maybe there are a few work-related projects that I’ve been putting off that might not be so bad once I get started.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to putting off what I should do. Everyone procrastinates. We let fear keep us from trying new things and taking on new challenges. Fear of failure, fear of doing a mediocre job, or even fear of success can be a powerful force. However, I’ve found that when I do take the leap, I’m amazed at what I can do. Even if I fail, I’ve learned some new skills. Even if I’m really not that good at what I tried or I didn’t enjoy it, at least I made the effort and I can put it behind me.

Making that extra effort might be more than something we all want to do; it might be something we have to do. Times are tough right now. Companies and families are struggling. You might be asked to do a lot more at work than you ever had to before, and given the job market, you might not be able to say no. You could be given projects, processes, or responsibilities that you never considered before. How you approach those new and possibly scary tasks can make a difference. Are you intimidated by the challenge or do you view it as opportunity for growth?

In addition to having new challenges foisted on you, you might want to voluntarily take on some of the stuff that scared you before. When times are tough, it’s not a bad idea to be seen as a hard-working problem-solver who’s not afraid to take on new challenges and responsibilities. Plus taking on new responsibilities, learning new skills, and gaining new expertise might make the difference on your resume should you have to seek a new job.

Fortunately, quality professionals are (or should be) equipped with some skill sets that many others might not have. For example, as a quality professional you should be well-versed in data analysis, making it easier for you to sift through the options available to you. Also, skills such as preventive action, corrective action, root cause analysis, document control, and procedure writing can be invaluable when taking on new projects. If you’re not familiar with any of the aforementioned skills, learning to use them and implementing them in your organization might be a good first step in taking on new challenges.

When times are tight, it’s common for people to conserve their resources. They clip coupons, skip eating out, and put off vacations. Companies lay off workers, put expansion plans on hold, and cut back on training and travel. Don’t make the mistake of cutting back on your personal and professional growth during these times. It’s more important than ever for you to learn new skills and have the courage to grow in order to survive.

Another new project I tackled recently was updating my blog, www.qualitycurmudgeon.com. Frankly, I hadn’t done a great job of keeping my blog current during the last year, so I’ve given it a new look and pledge to keep it fresh with frequent new posts.

I post each one of these columns on the blog as well as other posts and links. I invite you to drop by the site to make comments about this or any of my other columns. While you’re there, post your thoughts on the economy and how you’re managing your personal and professional lives during the economic downturn. I’m trying hard to make the Quality Curmudgeon more of an interactive experience.

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About The Author

Scott Paton’s picture

Scott Paton

Scott Paton is Quality Digest’s editor at large and president of Paton Professional, a provider of books, videos, webinars, and other resources for quality professionals.