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|Tuesday, May 22, 2012|
BY TOM COX
When done correctly, internships present an awesome way to get traction on important goals with little effort, while sounding out a potential future hire. Sadly, most internships are not used correctly by the employer. Here are four steps to doing it right.
I recently started supervising an intern, Brian, at a client where I’m a part-time interim executive. He’s smart, thinks he knows more than he does, he’s eager to prove himself — i.e. a typical intern — and he’s ‘free’ except for the time we spend with him. The work I gave him was preparing a draft Decision Brief for the owner on one of the key initiatives for the firm.
The key concept that unlocks your correct use of interns is Steven Covey’s 4 Quadrants of Time Management. All your work is either Urgent or not — ‘urgent’ meaning there’s a looming deadline. And all your work is either Important or not, ‘important’ meaning it has big impact on the key outcomes you are trying to create. So each activity falls into one of four quadrants:
Covey’s crucial point, repeated by every time-management guru since, is that all game-changing progress happens in Quadrant 2.
1. Use their Minds
For my intern Brian, he’s had a few ‘grunt’ activities, however the bulk of his time was on the Decision Brief. He saw how important it was and how much trust he was being given, and he responded like a pro — extra reading, taking some research home, all the things you want to see in a self-motivated teammate. He made numerous good suggestions that showed he’d given the work a lot of thought.
2. Give ‘Inspect-able’ Work
3. Keep them in Quadrant 2
4. Meet Frequently
To give you their best work, your interns will need far more feedback on their work than anyone else. This is a great opportunity for you to practice giving both positive and constructive feedback.
Brian’s draft Decision Brief saved me 20 hours and advanced our timeline by 4 calendar weeks.
What if they don’t do a good job, or make a mistake? Coach them, just as you would any staff member. If they improve, it’s a great investment in your relationship and in their future work products for you. If they don’t improve with coaching, gently let them go.
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