For young employees, it can be hard to know when to ask a supervisor or coworker for help and when to just figure something out on your own. Here are three words, in order of importance, to help sort it out:
Accuracy – Independence – Efficiency.
First and foremost, you need to get the task done accurately. If trying without assistance could result in a big screw up, get some guidance. But independence – the ability to work undirected – is a close second in terms of value to the company, so you’d better do all you can to reduce or eliminate the times you need to seek guidance. Finally, efficiency, or the speed at which you can accomplish tasks and your ability to rank-order them and complete the most valuable ones first, comes into play. Once you have accuracy down and you can work independently, focus on improving your efficiency.
Early in a job, the bulk of your focus should be on accuracy. Don’t worry about asking a lot of questions for the first several weeks. But pretty quickly, your focus should turn to independence. How can you extrapolate the answers to general rules so you don’t have to keep asking? The old saying, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question” is only true the first time you ask it. It is dumb if you’re asking the same question a second or third time.
Even in the early stages, where it’s OK to ask for help, you should never approach it as a general, “How do I do this?” Take ownership of the task or process, and come up with your best solution first. Present your top one or two ideas to those in the know. “Can I do it this way?” is a better question than, “Can you tell me how?”
Even if you’re pretty sure your approach will work, double check the first few times. This will give your colleagues confidence in your abilities. After those first few check-ins though, be ready to act on your information independently. Most people are a little uncomfortable with a new employee who doesn’t ask any questions, just as they are with an employee who’s been around a bit and keeps asking them.
Efficiency is where you start to really create value for yourself and others. Get through stages one and two so you can start the real, and life-long work of becoming more efficient (which includes innovating in the way things are done).
The Accuracy – Independence – Efficiency framework was developed by Praxis business partner Ceterus, Inc as a way to help new employees succeed. They’ve used it with much success, and hopefully you can too!