Be Productive With Attitude: Got Gumption?

Posted By on February 21, 2011

One of my favorite movies is The Holiday, and in it, Kate Winslet’s character learns all about gumption from watching heroines in old movies.

Gumption, in her case, was the fearless determination to dump the philandering boyfriend and leap forward into her new life.

Gumption is a necessary tool in your productivity arsenal.

When in doubt, ask questions

I’ve seen a lack of gumption in the workplace time and time again, and it holds back productivity and the ability to move forward on projects and tasks.

There was the case of the assistant who merely returned tasks back to her pile when a question arose. Instead of asking someone, the task sat there uncompleted until someone asked her for it maybe a week or two later. Imagine the manager’s ire when the assistant pulled out the piece of paper and said, “Oh, yes, I had a question.”

If I had been the manager in that situation, I would have to stop myself from screaming, “Then why didn’t you ASK the bloody question two weeks ago?”

In my work as an in-house organizer, I’ve heard of this sort of thing in various departments and in other companies. The accounting person who doesn’t understand a bill for reimbursement or payment and just puts it to the side until the account is in arrears.

The lab manager entering an online report for his doctor receives a message that the doctor herself has to enter the report, not the lab manager. Instead of alerting the doctor, he simply closed the online program, and when asked by the doctor, said he had completed the report. A month later, the doctor receives nasty e-mails and phone calls asking why she hadn’t turned the report in.

Take responsibility, take action

Speaking up is only one part of gumption. The other component of gumption is taking initiative. If you see a problem up ahead, take some action, do some detective work and come up with a creative solution.

When working with managers and faculty, I see a lack of gumption just by looking at their calendars. If the person keeping their calendar is just scheduling meeting after meeting without thought or feedback, that shows a lack of gumption. Gumption means asking if the boss wants time between meetings. Do they want all of these meetings seemingly “at once,” or would they like they to schedule some down time or office time to work on a deadline.

Having boundaries increases productivity

Gumption gives you the strength to say no. We have a saying in the organizing world that saying no to someone else, is saying yes to yourself.

When you have gumption, you can say no without fear, guilt or shame. Gumption gives you boundaries, and those boundaries give you peace of mind.

So let me hear from you. How did you use gumption this week?

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