“How do I get promoted?” – a common question I am asked when speaking to groups of young professionals across the country.
For all intents and purposes, the answer is it depends.
Although there are unique circumstances and nuances depending on your industry, company and job function, there are, however, steps you can take to make yourself “promotion ready” no matter that your specific scenario is.
In my next few blog entries I will share with you the 7 steps you can take to make yourself promotion-ready.
Before delving into Step #1, first let’s do a quick attitude check. Making sure you have a “promotion ready attitude” is a foundational step (a Step #0, if you will) before going full force into promotion preparation.
Let me dispel any strong biases in your mind- NO you don’t deserve to get promoted. Nobody owes you a promotion and if anyone has ever “promised” you a promotion (unless it’s the owner/CEO of the company), you should be weary that it will ever come to fruition. Promotions must be earned. Plus, they don’t come around all that often. Think about it- most companies have somewhere between 5 and 8 levels of management, so that means if you end up making it to a C-Level position, you will only be promoted 8 times over a 40-50 year period – that means you will only get promoted once every 5 or 6 years, not every 2 or 3. Studies have found that only 1 in 10 people get promoted each year. This toxic feeling can be labeled as a sense of entitlement.
Closely related to entitlement (especially for us millennials) is impatience. We want instant gratification NOW. We want to know that the hard work we are putting in each day is recognized and will get us somewhere. Unfortunately, we can’t just snap our fingers and get promoted to the next level.
But what if I hate my job right now and would love it if I was in my boss’ position? you may ask… Then don’t show it. Even if your job sucks, you can’t go around airing your negative opinions out about it. People are always watching and this type of attitude doesn’t inspire anyone to give you a shot at the next level.
Earning a promotion comes from consistently delivering results over a long period of time (the operative words here are consistently and long period of time). Promotions don’t just appear overnight. They are earned long before the job opportunity arises. Plus, most of the higher ups in your company or organization already have a mental list of who they feel is ready for the next level.
Now at the same time, you want to diagnose whether your department or company has a toxic culture that isn’t conducive of getting a promotion. Maybe you have a boss who takes credit for all your great work, or a lack of support from your peers or no hope of personal development, even after getting promoted. In those cases, it may be best to find a new job at a new company. But, if your current company does pass this litmus test and is a place where you want to seek career advancement, it’s best to move through these 7 Steps to become “promotion ready.” In conducting this toxic environment litmus test, remember that in many cases it is easier to get promoted from within to look for a promotion elsewhere (so it’s not always best to seek out greener pastures for promotional opportunities).
Now that the foundational step (Step #0) is out of the way, let’s go on to Step 1, Goal Alignment.
No matter how long you have been in a job, it is always possible to recalibrate to better align your goals with those of your boss and the team. Through school and in many job situations we have been trained to focus on our own performance; our own accomplishments, job proficiencies and metrics. In reality, when you fully focus on not making yourself look good, but on making others look good and accomplishing the goals of the team, that is when people take notice.
In basketball, it’s statistically great to be a player that scores 40 or 50 points a game by not passing the ball to teammates, but if you always lose the game, then what’s the point? If instead you focus on passing the ball to your teammate and setting them up to make great shots in a winning effort, you make the whole team successful. While the former gets some of the glory, it is the latter that inspires others and leads to championships.
In a work context, goal alignment is understanding what the vision, objectives and goals of your boss and organization are and then using your talents to their utmost to fulfill these goals. True leaders know what they are good at (and bad at) and contribute their strengths to help the team.
At the very least, remember that your boss either decides or is a key influencer in determining what your annual bonus is, the type of raise you get and whether you are supported in seeking a promotion. If you do all you can to make your boss look good and be successful, don’t you think that will inspire him/her to give you the bigger raise or bonus and support you when you want to pursue a promotion?
Once you have your focus and actions narrowed to what is in the team’s or your boss’ best interest, it’s time to build toward Step #2 in the process, getting mentors.
What have YOU found to be the keys to getting promoted in your career? Let us know in the comments below.
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Recently I came across a blog entry, that really got me worked up.
Basically the author complained about being 24 and not yet getting her “dream job.” While I appreciated how the advice that followed was well intentioned and somewhat informative, what really got me upset was the general attitude and premise of the discussion.
I think it is ridiculous early in your career to be out in search of your “dream job.” This causes delusions of grandeur and this mentality leads people to feel certain jobs are “under” them or not worth their time.
The truth is, whatever you think your dream job is right now, it will change. Guaranteed. I am 100% sure that for most people, your idea of your “dream job” will be very different 5, 10 and even 20 years from now.
I think this mentality is where many millennials go wrong. We are a passionate bunch that believe in changing the world. We are socially conscious and enthusiastic and have the energy to make our dent in the universe. But at the same time, the answer is not to go out on a Don Quixote journey to find the job that is perfect for us. This mentality also paints you in a corner because if you focus all your effort on one niche area, when your passions shift, it is difficult to take that experience and relevant skills and apply them elsewhere.
Note: I don’t want to burst everyone’s bubble or come across as a naysayer preaching that we should all “give up now!” On the contrary, I am as optimistic as it comes, but I know that my goals, focus and concept of a “dream job” is very different at 30 than it was when I was 24.
The answer is to build foundational skills
Instead of searching endlessly for your dream job and crying because you have yet to have it handed to you, focus on finding (and seizing) opportunities that help you build transferable skills.
Instead of focusing on one small niche area that may be interesting to you now, put equal focus into getting experience that will help you no matter what job, company or industry you will be in.
Our parents’ generation made something like an average of 5 career changes over the course of their 40+ year career. For our generation, that number could be twice as large.
Given that change will happen (multiple times), it is crucial to have skills that will make you successful with whatever your career may hand you.
Skills like project management, product development, managing people, and so on, are important skills whether you are in accounting or operations, whether you are in retail or tech, whether you are at a big company or a start-up.
I believe that your ultimate success in business is more contingent upon what you can lead others to do than you are capable of doing yourself (ex: your ability to lead ten people to make 8 widgets/day provides an 8x output compared to your ability to make 10 widgets/day all by yourself). I know that my experience managing teams will help me be successful no matter what company I work for and what functional area I work in.
It doesn’t have to come from your job
But what about my passions? you might ask…
I am not suggesting you discard your passions and join the ranks of mindless drones collecting paychecks and savoring a measly 2 weeks of vacation a year. I am merely questioning whether your career has to fulfill all your passions.
You don’t have to drop your whole career just to seek your passion, be more creative about it. I have seen time and time again how friends have started a side business or taken a leadership position in a non-profit to explore their passions. The things you do outside of work present a prime place to explore your passions. This is why it is important to seek variety, so you don’t fully focus only on your full-time job.
Ultimately, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be anxiously waiting for or endlessly seeking what you consider to be your “dream job.” The fact is that your dreams and passions will change and you may never even find that dream job you have fixated on. Or worse, you may get that job and realize that your dream job is really a nightmare. Who’s to say that if you find that dream job that you would even be ready for it or would even be good at it?
That is why we all should build foundational skills at age 24 (and beyond) that will help us as our careers take its own uncharted course, instead of just endlessly seeking a “dream job” that will solve all our troubles and make you instantly fulfilled.
Life and careers are much harder than this. Those who are most successful build skills while their passions are developing and then use these skills to be the best when great opportunities come along (note that I didn’t label it as a “dream job” coming along).
“Dream jobs” will always remain just that, dreams. Instead of dreaming, go out there and build up skills that will make you successful wherever your career may take you. Then, jump on opportunities that you are passionate about, and see what exciting results follow.
What do YOU think?
Have you found your “dream job” or have you fallen short? Have you seen how skills you built early on have helped you in other jobs?
In the final entry of our series, we will look at the most important success factor within the first 60 days of any new job, the “why” – as in, “why am I here?”
This element comes last because it generally comes near the end of the 60 day period (and in some cases even after the first 60 days has concluded). The “why” is about purpose and because it is so substantial, it is not something that should be rushed.
While the “what” more closely relates to a job description or set of responsibilities that are applicable to anyone who takes on your job, the “why” is more about the unique work that you do.
The “why” is about impact. It is about leaving your mark.
When you start a new job you should always be on the hunt for things that you can do to improve the organization. Look for initiatives to lead or things to be a part of that go above and beyond what your boss considers to be your job.
Finding out why you are in a position and then following it through to completion will be a key influence to the raises you receive, the bonuses you are offered and the career opportunities (for promotion or otherwise) that you are given.
The positive “mark” that you leave on an organization does not have to be a grand ordeal, simple things work too. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should do something that will last long after you have moved on to a new job.
A large strategic partnership, organization restructuring effort or redefining of a process can be great things to be a part of to leave your mark, but the genesis of the idea does not have to be grand. Focus on an issue that you see over and over again. Think about the pain points of others (your customer or co-workers alike), then brainstorm ways to improve them.
A good way to put it in context is to identify a responsibility you can take on or an initiative you can create that will allow you to accomplish something worthy of being listed on your resume.
When I was managing a call center, I found that morale was an issue. Shortly after starting the position, we had to move offices, finding a new space in another location 45 miles away. All the employees were experiencing a big change in their normal day to day routines (commutes and otherwise) and it took a toll on everyone’s attitude. I saw this situation as an opportunity.
I teamed up with a peer of mine and we created the “Morale Committee.” We brought together volunteers throughout the organization who wanted to help improve office morale and get our teams past the adjustment period after moving offices. We put together recognition events: raffles, birthday celebrations, contests, and soon morale really improved and more people wanted to be part of the committee. It ended up that for a few years after I left the committee lived on, maintaining the high level of morale within the office and leaving a lasting impression of the impact I had made.
No matter how big or small, find ways that you can leave a positive impact and create fulfilling reasons why you should be in the job you are in.
To summarize, within the first 60 days of any job, remember the Who, What, How, Where and Why:
- Who are you
- What is your job
- How do you manage
- Where do you position yourself
- Why are you here
When you have each of these down, you will be well on your way to being successful in any new job. It was the successful implementation of these 5 things that led a manager of mine to say to me during a performance review three months into my job, “In my 25 years working you are the best person I have ever hired for any position I have ever hired for.” Others who I have shared this formula with have experienced similar results.
I hope this formula can bring you the same level of success.
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The “where” in our 60 days to new job success analogy refers to “where do I position myself.” The “where” is all about politics and alignment. A portion of this is gossip avoidance and the other is relationship building.
As much as we despise work politics and do our best to avoid them, they are inevitable.
Watercooler talk happens all the time and is fairly easy to get sucked into. By nature, the gossipers seek out people to share their latest stories with. In particular, when you first start a job, the gossipers will test you out to see if you will become a source for them or a welcoming ear to engage in back office chat.
If you become engaged with them, it will be hard to get out, so make sure to avoid these situations or at the very least don’t acknowledge them. Even an occasionally, “really, I don’t believe that” from you when hearing about the latest rumor going around the office makes you an accessory. Without knowing it, that gossiper may move on to the next person quoting that he/she talked to you and that you totally agree with them, even if you never said anything in the first place. As a rule of thumb, don’t even be part of the rumor conversation (this goes without saying that you shouldn’t do anything to be the person gossiped about).
On the relationship building front, most of us are familiar with the fact that in order to get recognition and move up within an organization, you need to have the support of people around you. From the beginning, it is important what sides you pick and who you align with. Similar to the advice related to rumors, do your best to avoid siding with any peers in the office because they may bring you into situations that will compromise your neutrality and could hurt you later.
Picking sides tends to lead to behind closed door conversations and situations that cause you to focus more on politics and positioning than actually doing your job.
STARs are transparent. Instead of worrying about how things are perceived (making yourself look good and other look bad), a STAR does her job and lets her results speak to her worth to the organization instead of relying on politicking.
As eluded to, the simple answer to “where do I position myself?” is to position yourself as a neutral outside party. Help everyone and engage in rumor-mongering with no one.
When looking longer term, political alignment is a factor that will influence your career at any company. If you align yourself with a certain executive, leveraging them as a mentor or following their lead as they move to different positions within the company, be conscious of how they are being perceived because how others view them will affect how they view you. Just as within the first 60 days, it is best to avoid choosing just one side.
Our concluding blog entry for the series will focus on the all important “why” in ensuring success within the first 60 days of any new job.
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Now, we look at the all important “how” of transitioning into any new job; “how do I manage.”
When I say “how do I manage,” I am referring to the how you manage the relationships with your boss, your peers, with the people you interact with (in different departments or otherwise) to do your job, and in management roles- how to manage your new team.
Let’s start with your boss. While at first glance it may seem counter intuitive; wait, I thought my boss manages me, not the other way around. STARs realize that managing is a two way street. Besides doing your job, successful people seek to understand their boss and then adapt to support him or her.
When starting a new position it is crucial to learn how your boss likes to communicate, what his goals are and how he likes to run the team. Moreover, a great way to “manage” your boss is by understanding his strengths and weaknesses. Take note of his strengths but then do your best to mitigate his weaknesses. Often, a simple thing to you could mean a great deal to your boss.
I once had a manager who was a fantastic leader and solid verbal communicator, but had struggled at times with written communication. On countless occasions he would call me into his office to read an email, letter or presentation he was about to send out to ensure the grammar was correct and that he was getting his point across. This took little time and effort for me, but meant a lot to him. Seeing this as an opportunity, I proactively asked if there were ways to assist my boss with written tasks.
The same goes for communication with your boss. In my first job out of school, I made the mistake of deciding not to ask questions of my boss, instead using my peers; I wanted to show her that I knew how to do my job. A couple months later when my first performance review came around, my boss expressed her concern because she wasn’t getting any feedback from me and didn’t think I understood my job. I made the mistake of not learning how she liked to engage with her direct reports, leading to some misunderstandings. Make sure to learn these types of things early on.
Put differently, within the first 60 days of your job, you want to figure out how to make your boss look good.
The same goes for your peers or people in other organizations you need to work with to complete your job responsibilities. Learn how these people like to communicate and get their work done. Note whether the most effective way to get through to them is via email, text, phone calls or face to face meetings. If you adapt to their style, you will find that they will be more willing to help you or make the work you need them to do a priority- ultimately helping you do your job better.
Learning how to “manage up” and cross functionally from the beginning will set you down the path to success in any new role.
In the upcoming entry, we will look at the “where” in how to be successful within the first 2 months of a new job.
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Continuing our series on how to be successful within the first 60 days of any new position, we now focus on the “what”- as in, “what is my job.”
More than anything, the focus is a tactical exercise in fully understanding your job responsibilities. While I wish it was as easy as regularly referring to your job description (which I have found can be notably different than the work I actually end up doing), the goal here is to get a grasp of your day-to-day and make sure you can get to a point where you can work independently, with little to no help.
I recall my transition to a new position a few years ago when I began managing a sales team. Among a number of job responsibilities that I needed to understand, I needed to get a better grasp on how to conduct a coaching session with my sales reps and I had to learn how to complete a number of administrative tasks through our CRM (customer relationship management) software. In this case, and in any new job transition that you face, the key is to master two simple things: (1) asking questions, and (2) finding “mini mentors.”
What many people neglect to think about, is the importance of asking questions. Some feel embarrassed to speak up and admit that they don’t know something, not wanting to appear un-knowledgeable. This is the worst approach you can take. In most situations, no one will tell you every single thing you need to know and if you are not willing to ask questions (paired with some self-directed research) then how are you expected to understand something? Don’t be apprehensive about asking questions. When you first start a job, you are not expected to know it all. Yet if you don’t, then in the months that follow things that you aren’t expected to know on day one become things that you should have learned a while ago. It is important who you ask questions to (better your peers than your boss, and better to spread out the question asking instead of asking one person every single questions about everything).
Secondly, find “mini mentors.” When most of us think of mentorship, we think of a formal relationship we develop with an accomplished person in our field. Someone we can come to when making tough career decisions. While this research is important to have, mentors can also play a more targeted role in your day-to-day work. Find a resource for specific job responsibilities that you can go to when questions arise. In my case, for example, I had a mini-mentor to help me with conducting coaching reviews and a different mentor to help with the tasks I had to do in our CRM system.
When I needed to prepare for my initial coaching sessions or when I wanted to test out a new coaching technique I did test runs with my coaching mini-mentor. When I needed to pull a weekly report on my sales team’s results or wanted to create a new report on their prospecting activity, I reached out to my CRM mini-mentor to walk through how to do this in the system.
For any given job, you can have upwards of a half dozen mini-mentors or more, each providing something valuable to you during your transition to a position (and beyond). It’s a good idea to find ways to reciprocate with your mini-mentors to help them in an area that you are good at that they may need help in.
Remember to seek out and develop relationships with mini-mentors and be willing to ask questions of them (and anyone) when starting a new role.
Next, we will address the “How” in the first 60 days of any new job.
153. That’s the number of work emails I received yesterday. And that doesn’t even account for the 45 emails that I had to write and send (nor does it factor in my personal email accounts). Pair that with 5 hours of conference calls and an end-of-day deadline and you have a pretty packed day. Then add in Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, news, TV, phone calls and staying up to date on blogs and articles (like this one) and you start to realize how packed with information a normal day is.
For many of us, this type of constant communication and bombardment of information is typical. It is also robbing us of our time. Beyond depending on these forms of communication and sources of information, we feel like we are “out of the loop” if we spend even a few moments disconnected from them.
While these forms of communication and information sources keep us in the know, they keep us from fully living our lives. They also create clutter and challenge our internal filters that tell us what is worth our time and what wastes it. It also creates a bunch of clutter as we access information from many places and are getting more and more distracted from what is important while the trivial replaces what matters.
Do you really need to monitor that Twitter feed or does it distract you from engaging in an important face-to-face conversation with someone? Do the 20 RSS Feeds giving you various forms of advice really help or do they become a chore or time waster?
What we really need to do is get rid of the clutter. Instead of seeking loads of information, seek simplicity. Take some time to shut things down and just think.
I have found time and time again, that when I resist the urge to become distracted by the various forms of communication and sources of information out there, I begin to listen. I start to listen to those around me and most importantly, I begin to listen to myself.
When you take a step back you start to ask questions like, “is this thing I am doing really getting me closer to my goals?” or “is all this added complexity really helping or distracting me?” things begin to get clearer.
With the publication of my second book approaching, I took some time to conduct a self-inventory. I realized that only a small subset of my activity promoting my first book produced a vast majority of the sales. I became so wrapped up in having to check off boxes and having a presence on every medium that I lost track of what was truly important: getting my message out and helping people.
I am not here to say that all this information and these social platforms are bad, I am just saying that in moderation (a la the age-old advice of Aristotle) it can be incredibly valuable but too much can be damaging.
This “disconnected” time will help you realize what is important and what to eliminate. It is remarkable the ancillary things we do that keep us from reaching our goals, preventing us from spending our time on what is important.
Take time to unplug and ask yourself whether what you are doing now supports your personal and professional goals or whether you are becoming your own biggest obstacle. Instead of adopting the complexities that life has created, seek simplicity and clarity.
Don’t come up with 20 goals to reach. Odds are, focusing on 20 things at once will stop you from accomplishing any of them. Pick 3 or 5 and align your efforts and activities on that targeted list.
Seek simplicity and welcome the moments of clarity that come from when you unplug, take a step back and listen. This is the one thing you can do to make you successful at anything you want to accomplish. Whether a personal issue or complex group project, suddenly complexities will be replaced by an identification of what you need to do to reach your goals; a key first step in finding success.
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Maybe it’s Hollywood, or stories from friends, mentors and parents, but it seems that a majority of us get nervous (or at least a little edgy) when we are “called into the boss’ office?”
It’s not a new thing either, but one that has probably gone back for generations when subjects were called in front of the king. Post like this are typical on career forums:
In this case, the person posting didn’t know of doing anything wrong, but was still concerned.
I think the genesis of this inherent fear comes from the fact that most bosses don’t reach out to their people or “want to talk” unless (A) You did something wrong, or (B) they want something from you. Either case is not all that pleasant for you, the employee.
Recently, I even noticed the feeling in myself. Upon hearing I needed to have a “quick one-on-one” with my boss that he didn’t seem to set up with my other peers, I immediately thought about any reason that he would want to talk with me. Since there didn’t appear to be anything particularly good I feared the worst. Maybe I was in for a big job change or something bad was on the horizon for me.
What made me even more concerned with the feeling I had was that I NEVER felt this way. I noted how my friends and peers would always express fear when being called into the boss’ office, but that I always was hopeful that there was good news coming.
It ended up that just like “Paul” in the post above, my boss had some great news for me. A big career development opportunity. And the reason that no one else was having the “quick one-on-one” was because I was the only one given this great opportunity.
As I left my boss’ office, with a pleasantly surprised smirk on my face, I thought about how I could make sure not to let this fear strike my heart any time in the future I was called in by my boss.
Focus on the Good- Most people’s immediate response to being called into the boss’ office being bad, we overlook great opportunity. Realize that when your boss has really good news or needs your help with something that will help your career (or show that he/she really trusts you), they like to do it privately and often in-person.
Ask for clarity- If ever I am concerned, I look for ways to set my mind at ease. One way of doing this is to ask your boss for clarification on what will be discussed during the meeting. Saying something like, “do I need to have anything prepared for the meeting” will give you more of an indication of the meeting’s focus. If you boss shrugs off your request, it may be an indication that the topic of discussion is no big deal.
Don’t get your boss a reason to call you in for something bad- I know this one is a bit obvious, but when you are always putting out 100% effort and that you make you boss aware of any mistake you make (or a heads up when an issue may be in the making) then you will have little reason to fear being called into your boss’ office.
If what you get called in for ends up being bad, focus on the solution. Don’t immediately assume that it’s the end of the world or that your boss hates you. Instead, brainstorm solutions with your boss and solicit his/her help to correct any mistakes or avoid making them in the future. While your boss has a number of responsibilities and things on their mind, most are mindful of your well-being and want to see you succeed.
For you bosses out there, remember how being called into the boss’ office feels and don’t put your employees through the same agony you know you would have felt. Mix in some good with the bad. As Ken Blanchard says, “catch people doing things right” and let them know you are aware of it.
So next time you get called into your boss’ office, don’t immediately expect the worst. Think about the good things that can come out of it. This type of mentality will help you stay disciplined and motivated to produce the highest quality of work. And when the result of the meeting is bad, don’t leave your boss’ office without at least some idea of how to move forward and do better next time.
With a number of the talks I have been giving at companies and universities, I recently reconnected with my alma mater. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I searched to see if some of the on-campus activities that I was involved in were still around.
Some extra curricular organizations I was involved in had been around for over 100 years prior to my joining, so it was no surprise that they were thriving as always. Yet what was more affirming was the success attained by a couple organizations that I was at the ground floor of.
One was the course I taught on Leadership through the undergraduate business school and the other was the Freshman Sophomore Business Club.
In both cases, I was not the official “founder” but was the second to have the top “executive” spot. With the Freshman Sophomore Business Club, an organization only open to lower classmen (mostly “pre-business” majors), I was Treasurer my Freshman year and then was elected President the next. My executive team and I took on a club with 10 members (mainly officers) and grew it by over 1000%. My focus at the end of my year as President was to ensure that the next executive committee didn’t face the same problem I had; having to run a young organization with no guidance or mentoring (given that the organization’s founders left office, barely providing a thumb drive with documents they had made over the first year). I worked with my executive team to elect the next set of officers early, pair them with their predecessor and begin to operate the club with the outgoing officers actively present, providing advice and best practices.
The result has been amazing. Besides the growth of the organization, it has continued to operate even though there is almost complete turn over of officers and members every 1-2 years.
For the leadership course (that operated through a program that allows students to gain sponsorship for and teach courses to other students), I took the class as a student the first semester it was offered. One semester later when the course founder graduated, I was selected as someone to take over the course. When my graduation neared a couple years later, I enacted a plan to ensure the course would continue on long after I was gone.
Throughout the semesters I taught the course, I had other students serve as teaching assistants to me. During my 2nd to last semester in college I beefed up the number of teaching assistants and watched them closely, as I planned to choose my successor. Then finally, my last semester in college I selected a successor (who I closely mentored) and monitored how the class was doing to ensure that no issues arose. This was a recipe for success and the course is now the longest running special interest course in the entire undergraduate business school, having run continuously for the last 20+ semesters while most other courses of its kind dissolve when the creator graduates.
The reason I describe these experiences is to offer an example of why building a legacy is important to the future of an organization (or anything you are involved in), but also to point out it is something that takes focus and effort to see through.
In both cases, I made a concerted effort to look toward the future. Being a big believer that good leaders can foster success while they are present but great leaders foster success in those that follow long after they are gone, I didn’t look at the organization’s success within the context of the limited time I led it. I saw that there were certain things that needed to be done with the future in mind.
As managers, or individual contributors within any team or organization there are a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood of future success. Here are a few:
- Share best practices, don’t hoard them. Don’t let the next cycle of leaders make the same mistakes you did. Share with them your failures, why they happened and how you would have done things differently if you could do it all over again. This will give future leaders perspective.
- Allow the next generation of organization leaders to sink or swim, but provide a safety net. Don’t hand-hold your successors too much. Give them clear guidance but then let them run small parts of things to start. When they succeed it helps build confidence in them; when they fail, be there to help them learn how to do better. Your exit shouldn’t be an abrupt stop, it should be a gradual fading out.
- Don’t make it about yourself, let the up-and-comers shine. Confident leaders know they don’t need to take all the credit to feel they have made a different. Let others around you (especially the future of the organization) share in the success and even be at the forefront of who gets the credit. This will inspire people to follow the lead you set while empowering them to strive to reach your vision.
It was really energizing and affirming to see that something I dedicated myself to years ago was still around and thriving. It also made me realize that the effort I put in before I exited stage-left from the organization was worth it.
Make something that is built to last; be purposeful in succession planning.
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“Yeah. In a couple days we are presenting to our executive team and I wanted to see if you had that one report we went over at our last team meeting. I wanted to include it,” explained one of the other managers in my office.
“What is the topic?” I inquired.
“The presentation is about (proprietary topic). The Senior VP wanted to learn more about it. (My boss’ peer) will be presenting about it.”
“Oh, ok.” I muttered, surprised by the comment.
I couldn’t believe it. That topic was something that I had been analyzing for months. I was not only part of the team that had conducted an in depth analysis and strategic recommendation but I had been assigned to lead the efforts by my boss’ peer. Now he was going behind my back, taking the work I had done, reformatted a few things and was going to present it to the executive team without even telling me.
The corporate world can be a jungle and not everyone will be looking out for your best interest. There will be people who attempt to get ahead by using your work and if you don’t stick up for yourself then no one will. At the same time though, kicking and screaming isn’t the right way to plead your case and mark your territory. In the situation I faced I had to be strategic about my response.
When facing these types of situations, there is a right and wrong approach. Here are a few ways to keep the credit for your own great work:
- Claim your work- The first way to maintain rightful credit for the work you do is to label it as your own. If you are making a slide deck or word document, put your name or a unique identifier in the footer of each page. Moreover, instead of sending a Microsoft office document, send a PDF so that your work can’t be easily taken or adapted. Finding a place to store it in the cloud that can timestamp your work is another good way to offer proof that you were the original author.
- Don’t assume the worst- It would be a mistake to assume that any time someone replicates your work they have done so with malicious intentions. More often it may be that they forgot who came up with an idea. This possibility intensifies when group work is involved, since there is a higher likelihood people think that a certain idea was originally their own because of the group brainstorming process many teams go through.
- Find a channel to object- When you find out that someone has been copying and taking credit for your work, remember to be professional. Don’t vow to have your revenge. Instead, find a way to prove that they stole your original work and that you should have a share of the credit. Value proof over confrontation.
- Be ok with others using your work- In some respects, sampling of your ideas and work you have done is unavoidable. To help control how your work is disseminated, create some simple guidelines that outline some terms you require if people are to use your work (so they don’t represent that it is their own). Be a team player but ensure that they reference you when sharing your work with others. It is important to do the same when you use the work of someone else. Credit those who rightfully deserve the credit. Moreover, when someone runs with one of your ideas, find ways to get involved in the project so you have some control of how your work is being used.
- Surround yourself with team players- One of the best ways to ensure that you receive rightful credit for your hard work is to find bosses and co-workers who value each other and foster a culture of teaming. If you work in a toxic work culture, where everyone is out there for himself and where your boss regularly takes credit for your work as if it were her own, find a way to get out. Look for healthy work environments where the credit is shared with those that most deserve it.
In the case of the situation above, I decided to keep my cool and instead of confronting my boss’ peer, I shared my concern with my boss. I explained that I felt it was unfair that the work I took the lead with creating was being presented to executives without my participation. I didn’t push to be the one to present it nor did I ask to receive all the credit; instead I just made a case that I should be involved. In turn, my boss breached the topic with his peer.
Soon after, I received a call from my boss’ peer who offered an apology for his mistake. He invited me to participate in the preparations for the executive readout as well as the presentation meeting itself.
Keeping my cool paid off, but so did sticking up for myself and letting it be known that I (just like everyone else) deserved to be credited with the hard work I had done. Leverage the advice outlined above in your workplace interactions to make sure to receive credit for your great work.