The Principle of “Input and Support”

Jul 30, 2012 | Leadership

Administrative professionals often want to be recognized by their executives as valued contributors to the success of the teams and the projects they are supporting.  As members of the team who have access to day to day information and details at a very in-depth level, admins often have good ideas and valid opinions that are worth being considered.  But knowing how and when to share those ideas and when not to is vitally important to becoming a respected team member whose opinion is solicited in the first place.  If you want to become a consistently valued contributor, you must understand and practice the principle of “input and support.”

“Input and support” has become a model throughout my life and my career for how I approach working successfully with others.  Input refers to the time where there is an opportunity for sharing ideas, feedback, opinions, etc.  If a decision has NOT yet been made, then there is typically still time to provide input to key stakeholders or decision makers. This is the RIGHT time to share your thoughts.  Support refers to the time following a decision being made.  Once a decision is made, it’s time to support the decision (unless it’s unlawful or unethical to do so). The opportunity for input has closed. This is the WRONG time to continue giving your two cents on something. It’s time to figure out what you need to do to support the decision – even if it wasn’t one you would have personally selected.

But how do you know if there is still time for your input or if it’s time for you to simply support a decision?  The best way to know for sure is to ask.  Throughout my career, I’ve developed the habit of asking this simple question: Has a final decision been made on this or is there still an opportunity for me to provide some input on this situation?  This question does two things:

1) It clarifies where the decision making process is at for both you and the person you are asking.  Sometimes they aren’t as clear as they should be either and this forces them to think about it a bit. If a decision has been made, then you weight the risks vs. rewards of sharing your input anyway.

2) It tells the person you are asking this question to that you have an idea or opinion that might be worth considering if they are still open to it.  And it does it in a in a very polite and respectful way . Even if a decision has been made, they may still have the power or authority to change it or modify it if your suggestion is one they deem important enough to consider.

The cool thing about practicing the principle of “input and support” is when you show support for someone or something, your opportunities for input will increase over time.

However, if you constantly fight or contradict someone, talk down about projects or decisions that are made, and whisper your discontentment to anyone who passes by your desk, the defenses of those you work with will go up, your lack of support is noted, and your opportunities to provide input and have your ideas heard will decrease.

Input is not a one way street.  If you want to be a recognized administrative leader, you must also be a willing and respectful follower. That means you also need to be open to receiving input from others.  Let me share a few important “rules” to both providing and receiving input that will help you successfully implement the principle of “input and support” into your own life.

3 rules for PROVIDING INPUT:

  1. WHO – Make sure you are providing input to the CORRECT person. It’s important WHO you give input to.  You must give input to someone who can do something about the situation or project being discussed. Does the person you are providing the input to have the ability to act upon the information you are sharing?  Otherwise, your comments may be viewed as gossiping, complaining, or spreading rumors. And you certainly don’t want to go there.
  2. WHEN – Choose the appropriate time to share your input. This is VERY important. Be observant. Know the climate. Watch for clues as to the best time to share your ideas.  Plan your timing as strategically as you can.  Be prepared  BEFORE you approach them so you don’t waste their time or yours.
  3. HOW – Provide input with the right attitude and motives.  How you provide input can make a world of difference. Are you coming at it from a perspective designed to truly help improve the situation?  Or are you just trying to get your way because it makes your job easier?  The tone of voice and your body language make up almost 93% of your verbal face-to-face communication.  That only leaves 7% for your spoken words.  Be respectful at all times. Make sure your motives and attitude are in check if you truly want your input considered and recognized more consistently.

3 rules for RECEIVING INPUT:

  1. Be approachable at all times.  We must be constantly aware of ourselves and how those around us respond to us so we don’t unknowingly send the wrong message.  If you want to become an administrative leader in your organization, people have to feel comfortable around you and sharing ideas and input with you as well.  Do people avoid your desk like the plague or do you have a warm welcoming demeanor that makes people feel comfortable in your presence?
  2. Seek input. In order to truly grow and advance in our careers, it’s important to seek input from others also.  Sometimes you have to ask people – both those who agree with you and those who do not agree with you – to provide input so you can weigh ideas, consider new options, and make better decisions in your day to day responsibilities.
  3. Listen to input. Realize that not all input must be implemented, but you MUST listen to it and give it a fair chance.  If you aren’t sure if an executive or colleague is simply providing input for you to consider (i.e. you have a choice) or giving you a specific directive (i.e. you do not have a choice, you must do it), this is another great place to ask a couple clarifying question:  May I clarify something? Are you providing input for me to consider or is this a directive I need to act upon?

When you develop the habit of practicing “input and support”, your voice will gain strength and your ideas and opinions will become more recognized and valued over time.  There will be times when your input is not taken or even considered.  That’s to be expected.  But when you still positively support the decision that is made, your executives and your teams will notice.  Executives know when they have the support of their administrative support staff and when they do not. Making sure your executives know you are not only willing and able to provide input when the opportunity exists, but you will fully support the decisions and outcomes that they choose to move forward with will elevate your value and open the door for more opportunities to share your ideas and input in the first place. That’s the secret power behind the principle of “input and support.”

© 2012 Julie Perrine International, LLC

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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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