Consider two administrative assistants within the same company:
Tara forges relationships across departmental lines. She volunteers for committees, proactively meeting new people at company events and doing favors for others.
Max is mainly interested in meeting his team’s needs.
When it’s time for company leadership to tap employees to work on a new, interdepartmental project, whom do you think they’ll pick? And if the company is forced to restructure and lay off, who would least likely be sacrificed? The cross-functional whiz, or the employee who works in a silo?
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Here’s how you can become a cross-functional whiz, like Tara:
Study the other departments to understand what other teams do. Tip: Pretend you’re interviewing for a job in another department, and study its online and offline material.
Walk around the building once a week or so. Schedule 30 minutes to say hello to people you don’t normally see. That way, they can put a name with a face the next time you contact them.
Engender cooperation. Always keep in mind that colleagues (especially those not in your group) will want to know what’s in it for them. Whenever you ask for something, think about how both parties can win.
Example: “Pat, I’m putting together a presentation and I could use some data from your department. I think your manager might be interested to see some of the analysis we’re putting together, as well. I’d be happy to share it with you.”
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— Adapted from “Be a Cross Functional Whiz,” Alexandra Levit, “Water Cooler Wisdom” blog.
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