3 Major Benefits of Cross-Functional Professional Development

Learn to build professional relationships that make you more valuable to your company.

Sometimes we enjoy working with others, sometimes…not so much.  Typically, our enjoyment is based on our relationships; we rely on a personal exchange in order to get along & work cohesively.  Simply put, personal exchanges are not enough. Here’s why: Business actions, simple or complex, can become personality struggles when a professional connection does not exist.  The real goal is to build professional connections.  Cross Functional Development allows you to create professional relationships in order to get things done, get better results, and integrate your needs into the overall organization.  That’s right, your needs! Professional relationships are built on respect as the primary motivator, more so than likability, providing greater opportunity for you to add value as a better communicator and resource for your organization.

To understand the concept, let’s first explain the difference between Functional and Cross-Functional development.

Functional Development is when you take action to improve your job, get others to buy into your ideas, as well as participate in activities that elevate your exposure within your organization or field.

Some actions you can take…

  • Create tools to proactively communicate your information: share goals and results with others.
  • Make an effort to teach others: explain why certain things are important to you and the company; helping others to understand your role.
  • Listen to feedback: seek out feedback from those you work with (your boss, other departments, your employees and your customers).  Understand the needs they have when working with you and identify what you could do better to support them.
  • Participate in continuous education, seminars, etc.… to update your skills.

Cross Functional Development is when you take action to study the functional development of other jobs or professions in order to develop a well-rounded view of your business.  It is not enough to look at the people you interact with.  Instead you must learn about ALL business functions.  Every aspect of business relates to your job.  By developing yourself cross-functionally you will be able to identify what those professional relationships are and improve upon them.

Some actions you can take…

  • Learn the goals and results of other departments or other levels in your company’s hierarchy.
  • Learn what is important (their needs) to other departments and individuals in your company.  Understand different roles and the impact they have on the company.
  • Establish a working understanding of what each functional area of your business should be doing and how they should work together.

There Are Three Major Benefits of Cross-Functional Development

  1. You will know how to talk with others so that they listen to you.  You will understand how to show them respect for the value they bring and communicate with them in terms they will be able to understand and act on.
  2. Another benefit of cross-functional development pertains to management and leadership.  Nobody has expertise in every field, but leaders are responsible for managing people within various business roles.  If you are managing others, you should have a general understanding not only of their responsibilities, but the expectation they should be setting for themselves.   Managers can use cross-functional development as a means to set expectations for their employees.
  3. The value of your personality and ability to get along with others is huge…and should not be taken for granted.  But through cross-functional development your value becomes an expertise that trumps personality.  You bring value to your organization by creating yourself as a central point resource.  Very few people understand your business, how things work, how things get done effectively.  If you can provide that value to all areas of your company, you will set yourself up for more responsibility and future promotions.

Now, one question that always comes up on this subject is: “How do I get cross-functional knowledge without aggravating people?”  It is a very valid question.  Don’t snoop around by asking questions people don’t want to answer.  You are not a spy.  What you are trying to do is chronicle process flows, understand the business and try to integrate what you are doing to become more service oriented.  Be honest with people.  Explain to them that you want to learn the business.  Ask for a formal sit-down to review your understanding of what happens in each department and find out if your views are accurate, having them fill in the blanks.  If you approach the topic as someone that wants to learn, instead of someone that wants to judge, the likelihood that others will spend the time teaching you greatly improves.   Make sure that as you develop your full view of the business, you go back to those that helped you and share your findings.  This again will set you up as a resource for pulling others together.

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Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

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