Monthly Archives: August 2016
It’s happened to all of us at one time or another — from grammar school all the way up through to our careers: we’re placed into a new team to complete a project, and something just doesn’t click.
Suddenly, a group of people who are ordinarily competent and diligent can’t seem to get anything done. Deadlines whiz past like the scenery outside a high speed train and projects sink toward failure.
Why is that? What is it that turns teams into dysfunctional groups of people? I’ve identified nine key factors that can turn an otherwise competent team into a sinking mess:
- Ego When someone’s ego is more important than the team, the project, or the goal, things break down quickly. This can happen when one person is more interested in “looking good” for the boss than getting the work done, when someone is always placing blame, or when someone feels and acts like they are too good to do the necessary work.
- Negative competition Lighthearted competition can be a good thing, especially for certain kinds of teams. In a sales team, for example, individual members can be motivated by gamifying their work with a leaderboard or bonuses for high performance. But when competition goes too far, it can destroy a sense of teamwork and create a “you versus me” atmosphere that isn’t good for anyone.
- Poor communication When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it causes all sorts of problems: duplicate work, forgotten work, missed deadlines, etc. Communication is absolutely key to a team that works.
- Micromanagement When employees have to get approval or sign-off on every single thing they do, it slows down the workflow considerably. Team leaders need to be able to trust employees to make the right choices, and employees need to feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. The right balance here is key.
- Criticism without praise I’ve known managers in my career whose entire management philosophy was to criticize everything and rarely if ever dole out praise. I think you can imagine how well that went over with their team. Constructive criticism (keyword: constructive) is vital to helping employees grow, but generous and well timed praise is also important for maintaining enthusiasm and morale.
- Unreasonable expectations As a member of a team, nothing feels worse than the sinking feeling of knowing that you will never reach your targets, no matter how hard you work. Goals that are a stretch and require a lot of the team are good, but goals that are way out of reach are depressing. It won’t make employees work harder; it will make them want to give up.
- Half-hearted work Having one or more member of the team who only puts in half an effort — showing up late, leaving early, checking email all day, etc. — has a decidedly negative impact on the whole team. It’s important that everyone is putting in a full, equal effort.
- Stubbornness When members of a team adopt a “my way or the highway” approach, no one benefits. When working in a team, everyone needs to be open to new ideas, new approaches, and experimentation — even, and perhaps especially, the leader. Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it.
- Leading with emotions Instinct, emotions, and gut feelings all have their place, but bringing emotions too much into the team can have a deleterious effect. A team member who always feels spurned when his idea isn’t chosen, who sees slights (real and imagined) in every interaction, or who takes home the stress and anxiety about a project may be bringing too many emotions into the workplace.
Of course, these aren’t the only culprits, but some of the most pervasive I see. What problems do teams experience that you would add to the list? I’d be interested in your contributions in the comments below.
Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then please click ‘Follow‘ and feel free to also connect via Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and The Advanced Performance Institute.
You might also be interested in my brand new and free ebook on Big Data in Practice, which includes 3 Amazing use cases from NASA, Dominos Pizza and the NFL. You can download the ebook from here: Big Data in Practice eBook
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@or 860-387-0503
In a letter addressed to the University of Chicago’s incoming freshmen yesterday, university officials stated their stance against using trigger warnings and safe spaces to shield students from unpopular, possibly offensive topics. University officials indicated their concern while favoring a school environment that encourages learning about others’ perspectives through open communication.
As a college student, I applaud the University’s decision.
Although I realize the intent of these warnings and intellectual safe spaces, I have also witnessed the detrimental consequences these “safety measures” can have. In an environment overly sheltered from outsider ideas, people can become hypersensitive, taking offense at ideas not meant to be offensive and losing track of the idea’s main focus.
“In an environment overly sheltered from outsider ideas, people can become hypersensitive, taking offense at ideas not meant to be offensive and losing track of the idea’s main focus.”
I will use an example from my own college experiences to delineate my point. On March 22, Larry Moneta, Duke Vice President for Student Affairs, sent a mass email to students expressing his condolences to those affected by the Brussels terrorist attack that happened earlier that morning. In his email, he also reaches out to the Duke Muslim community, expressing his sympathies and offering students ways to receive emotional support.
When I read his email, I was happy to see that Moneta was taking stronger measures to make Duke feel more like “home” to those who felt less safe amid recent terrorist attacks. There were others, however, who did not share my positive reaction. Just over three hours after he sent his email, Moneta sent another mass email apologizing for “neglect[ing] to acknowledge the tragic bombings that took place in Turkey” the previous week. It was evident that he had received complaints from at least several students upset about how Moneta acknowledged the tragedy in Brussels but not Turkey.
I could not help feeling surprised by the negative reception. Although I understood why students would have preferred a supportive email following both attacks, I was shocked at the thought that students could have been offended by Moneta’s actions. In a sheltered college environment, this message of support was, for some, an example of injustice. In the midst of the backlash, some lost focus of what should have been the main takeaway from his original email: that the Duke student body would support anyone affected by tragedy.
Moneta could have avoided all controversy if he mentioned both incidents. He could also have avoided all controversy if he failed to mention both incidents. However, he acknowledged one and forgot the other, and this caused students to lose focus of his well-intentioned message and be upset by his actions.
I am glad to see that Moneta took the time to write his first email and discuss a sensitive topic. As for the controversy it caused, I attribute the negative reception at least partly due to the hypersensitive university environment—a school environment designed to shield students from ideas they may disagree with, an environment in which some perspectives are not given a voice. In this environment, it seems impossible to satisfy everyone. In this environment, even the most positive of ideas can be misconstrued as offensive.
“In this environment, even the most positive of ideas can be misconstrued as offensive.”
People must realize that it is only through an assessment of both a message and its owner’s intentions that people can accurately make their own judgments. Moneta had the best of intentions. He wanted everyone in the student body to feel welcome despite recent events meant to divide people. The backlash he received did not take enough of his intention into account.
The University of Chicago’s decision to favor more open dialogue at the expense of trigger warnings and safe spaces is one to be followed. Success in any interaction depends on communication: being open rather than closed off, desiring to understand others rather than assuming they have nothing worthwhile to listen to. It was strengthened communication that resolved the email controversy, for Moneta sent another follow-up email to further clarify his intentions.
People should not need to feel afraid to express their own ideas. They should refuse to be censored, and they should refuse to censor themselves. What we all need is a safe space for ideas.
“What we all need is a safe space for ideas.”
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@or 860-387-0503
People Get Hundreds of Emails Everyday. Here’s How To Ensure Yours Is Among The Few They Actually Read
Over 100 billion emails are sent every day. That’s 1.1 million emails sent per second.
Personally, I receive hundreds per day — and frankly, most of them are just bad… and most are too long to read.
This blog is a look at how to send effective emails, get your message across and not waste time.
If you are an entrepreneur, mastering this simple skill can make or break your ability to raise money, land customers, attract partners and win over advisors.
Tip 1: Keep it under three lines
I don’t read emails over three lines. I just don’t. I don’t have time for it.
No email should be over three lines.
If you can’t communicate your message in the first few lines, it shouldn’t be an email – instead, the email should be a request for a phone call or meeting (see below).
Tip 2: Make the subject line a) unique, b) meaningful and c) easily searchable
The subject line is one of the (if not THE) most important parts of the email.
You’d be shocked how little people actually pay attention to it and how many people mess it up.
The subject needs to be unique and compelling — just like a headline on a news article, the subject should capture my attention, pique my interest and make me want to open your email.
The subject line should be meaningful: I should know what you want, based on the subject.
And importantly, it needs to be searchable…
Searching through emails on mobile is bad enough (a big business opportunity for the entrepreneurs out there), so I need to be able to remember unique keywords in your email subject to find it quickly. Otherwise, it’s going to get buried.
Tip 3: Use EASY-TO-READ formatting!
It sounds intuitive, but you’d be shocked by how many emails I get with font size 9. It’s impossible to read on my phone.
“Hard to read,” means “it’s not read.”
Keep your audience in mind, and assume they are going to read the email on their phones, or better yet, their smartwatches.
Keep your font size 12 (or even 14) point … and keep your font style simple, ideally sans serif. I like Arial.
Use bold, underline, and ALL CAPS for the MAIN QUESTION,IMPORTANT DATES, and other KEY DETAILS.
Use line breaks to your advantage. Spacing is key. Give important details their own lines.
Tip 4: Put your specific action request in the first line
A busy exec wants to touch an email once and take action: delete, respond or forward for action.
I want to know what you’re looking for in the first sentence.
Don’t bury the lede. Don’t give me three paragraphs of context – this can come after.
Start with the action/request, and then explain if you need to.
This can be as simple as “FYI:” or “Have time for a 10 min phone call?” or “Can you sign the attached document?”
Then, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, be specific in your request…
Instead of saying, “Can you meet sometime next week?” say, “Can you meet Wed, Sept 10 in XYZ location between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. PST?”
Or, you can say, “I’m available to meet at these three time windows. My EA is copied. What works?” (Then list the three windows.)
This will save you about five emails back and forth figuring out logistics and a lot of unnecessary clutter to your inbox.
Tip 5: Make the ask really, really simple – such that it’s hard for your reader to say “No”
Have your email make a single, specific, simple request:
- Do you have time for a 5 min call this week?
- Please review and sign this document.
- Can you make a quick intro to XYZ person?
- I’d love a letter of support from you. I’ve attached a draft for your review.
I should be able to reply to the email in one word (ideally Yes or No), or forward it on to the right person to reply in full.
If you ask for lengthy feedback on an idea, or are asking for a big favor, or want to set up a three-hour meeting, you’re going to dramatically decrease the probability that a busy executive responds.
Not to mention, these things shouldn’t really be done over email.
Email is not a replacement for a phone call. Keep emails very short and factual. If they are long, then schedule a call or a meeting.
In general, meeting with someone is best, calls are second best, and an email is the third option if you can’t seem to get either of the first two.
Finally — if something is truly urgent, then don’t email… call or send a text
We’ve gotten so addicted to email that sometimes we assume this is the fastest way to get someone’s attention. It’s really not.
An Opportunity for Something Better?
Email really hasn’t changed much since it came out over 45 years ago.
Platforms like Slack and a few plugins and AI assistants have been useful additions to the professional communication ecosystem, but I still think there’s an opportunity to reinvent email in a big way.
We need to rethink email from first principles. I’d love to hear your ideas.
Have an idea? Tweet at me @peterdiamandis and @efficient.
This is the sort of conversation we explore at my 250-person executive mastermind group called Abundance 360.
The program is highly selective. If you’d like to be considered, apply here. Share this with your friends, especially if they are interested in any of the areas outlined above.
P.S. Every week I send out a “Tech Blog” like this one. If you want to sign up, go to Diamandis.com and sign up for this and Abundance Insider.
P.P.S. My dear friend Dan Sullivan and I have a podcast called Exponential Wisdom. Our conversations focus on the exponential technologies creating abundance, the human-technology collaboration, and entrepreneurship. Head here to listen and subscribe: a360.com/podcast
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@or 860-387-050
Ask a college admission representative how they chose their profession and you’ll most likely find many simply fall into the job with the promise of changing students’ lives.
Who wouldn’t love to do that as a profession? The job title of admission representative doesn’t quite fit what they do either; but in the private, for-profit world, they aren’t allowed to use the title of “Counselor” because that would be misleading according to some. If you knew what the job really entailed, it’s hard to come up with another title though.
Although some would say the admission representative working at a private career college “targets” students with low self-esteem or those who are the first generation in their family to go to college, the admission rep doesn’t really control who comes in the door of their school. This is the job of marketing for the most part. But for those students who do come into a career college (usually a for-profit) they typically meet the admission representative first.
And you know what? This same person is the one they call when they are in trouble – when they need guidance or reassurance. They surely run through the crowd of people around them to find their admission representative (who by now is more of a friend) to give them a big hug at graduation.
But with all the bad press against for-profit colleges: subsequent reduction in staff of the BIG players (Corinthian, University of Phoenix, etc.) and fines over a BILLION dollars due in part due to misrepresentation – the fingers are pointing at admission representatives as the bad guys.
Supposedly these are the folks who sit across from a prospective student and leave out the whole truth; play on their emotions; manipulate them; encourage them to take out loans and sometimes downright LIE! (Just Google misleading students and you will find plenty of stories on ITT, DeVry, Globe University and Corinthian.)
One would think there would be an outcry amongst admission representatives who are doing the right thing. Shouldn’t they be proud of their profession? What’s stopping them from righting the wrong and letting people know their side of the story?
Two possible reasons come to mind. First, we have to look at the schools they work for along with job expectations. Is their employer playing by the rules and making sure that everyone else is, too? Are select behaviors modeled and recognized or does volume of enrollments rule supreme? Are goals realistic and attainable by following the rules? Oftentimes we find it is outdated training with a heavy focus on selling that gets people into trouble.
Secondly, perhaps the admission representative is viewed as a replaceable resource versus a valued professional. This is a strong possibility given there is no formal education required to be an admissions rep. There is no credential or certification for the job, nor is there a united front or membership group for professional development and growth.
We often say if your values don’t align with your organization then it’s time to leave. For the most part, many admission professionals have stood by their organizations because they ARE doing the right thing. Some, I’m sorry to say, may have compromised their own values and validated their actions under the guise of helping students. Yes, there are bad players out there, but a majority of admission representatives are true professionals. It’s time to step up and be recognized!
Join us on June 8th for the Career Education Admissions Symposium in Orlando, Florida! This event brings together admission professionals from community colleges and career colleges along with high school guidance counselors to brainstorm on challenges/opportunities and best practices in working with students interested in career education. It’s time to put aside the for-profit/non-profit, public/private, in-state/out-of-state labels and focus on what really matters – helping prospective students find the right FIT. Click here for more details!
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@or 860-387-0503
Rule #1 in finding a job is People Hire People They Like.
Rule #2 is: Re-read Rule #1.
This rule is not written down in any employee hiring manual. You won’t find it in any job description or ad. When the media interviews leaders about how they hire, they will say, “Blah blah blah we hire the best blah blah blah…”
But I am telling you the truth. If a hiring manager doesn’t like you, they are highly unlikely to hire you.
Let me translate this a bit. If you are any of the following, you won’t get hired:
Yes, I wrote entitled twice.
According to many of my friends who hire, they are tired beyond words of candidates who think they deserve a job because they have checked off all the qualifications. On paper, such a candidate is perfect. In person, they are insufferable.
This does not mean that every candidate has to be the same. Some hiring managers are aggressive, driven, intellectually demanding, or even themselves clueless. You don’t have to be someone that anyone would like; you just have to be likable through the eyes of the person or people who have to say “yes” to your hire.
You also shouldn’t over-inflate my rule. You don’t have to be someone’s new best friend to get hired. You just have to be someone they are willing to have around every day for the next 1,000 days.
Here’s what shocks me: the number of job candidates who think that the hiring process is some sort of hermetically-sealed, principle-driven meritocracy in which they alone are destined to succeed… because they have already deemed themselves the best candidate.
People hire people.
- gut instincts
No matter what a company’s policies say, you must always remember that in looking for a job you are engaging in a process driven by humans.
So how do you act on what I’m saying?
Before you lay out your qualifications or pursue any opportunity, remember that your first goal must be to connect on a human level.
Bruce Kasanoff is a social media ghostwriter for entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators. Learn more at Kasanoff.com.
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@or 860-387-0503
Much has been written about the working habits of millennials in recent years – not all of it positive and, it seems, not all of it true either.
With PwC predicting that this group – today somewhere between their late teens and 35 – will make up a full half of the global workforce by 2020, employers need to look beyond the headlines and stereotypes.
At LinkedIn, we wanted to know more about what drives this vital, and often misunderstood demographic when it comes to the jobs market. So we surveyed over 13,000 of them across the world to see what makes them tick.
Employers have to work harder to keep them
When looking for a job, nearly one in three Millennials (32 per cent) will interview with two or three firms at the same time. That’s more than double the number of Generation X and three times the number of Baby Boomers that do this.
While this may seem disloyal, it’s a natural adaptation to the new world order, where greater connectivity means that it’s easier than ever for professionals to shop around.
As a result, 30 per cent of Millennials we questioned see themselves leaving their current employer within a year. This is a significant challenge a lot of companies will have to face in the not-too-distant future – but one that they can easily use to their advantage. Employers need to find and experiment with new ways to keep millennials engaged; whether this is by offering bespoke training programmes, secondment opportunities and mini-sabbaticals, or simply by remaining transparent and authentic to their brand values.
They want to try before they buy
One in four Millennials say that they have been approached with roles from companies they’ve never heard of. Not knowing the company or fully understanding the role are the top two reasons that Millennials will reject an opportunity, topping salary and title as the reasons to say no, so employers looking to attract this demographic need to make sure that their reputation precedes them.
Millennials may not be as purpose-driven as we thought
According to our research, compensation and benefits top the list of considerations when it comes to job opportunities for Millennials, followed by career advancement and challenging work. In fact, they seem less preoccupied with culture and values than their older colleagues, with 30 per cent saying their work should be purpose driven compared to nearly half (48 per cent) of Baby Boomers.
This means things like free food, gym membership, and discounts with high street shops go a long way with this group.
All of these trends go to highlight the changes that companies need to be applying to the way they think about talent today. Far from a fad, this could make the difference between being in business in 2020 and not.
Here’s the reality faced by CEOs of most public companies:
- Taking market share, which is much harder than piggybacking on GDP growth, is the only way to satisfy those outsize expectations.
- To take market share, CEOs have to put their companies in a position to innovate and deliver better products and services faster than the competition.
- Cloud computing is the best mechanism to enable CEOs to drive that level of innovation.
Hard-charging startups and powerful incumbents alike are adopting cloud computing for one simple reason: it frees up more resources for innovation. Cloud isn’t simply about whether an application is run from a server accessible via the internet or whether a database sits in a remote location managed by a cloud provider.
What makes cloud computing so revolutionary is that it can permeate everything your company does, from back-office processes to how it goes to market. It makes possible the digital transformation companies need to thrive in today’s market.
Much of the technology running in data centers isn’t necessarily bad. But much of it has spawned slow and unwieldy processes designed to match an older, slower, and similarly unwieldy technology stack. Not that many years ago, every company had the same rigid systems in place, so working in that manner wasn’t a competitive disadvantage. Using cloud providers, companies today can essentially outsource every capital expenditure and all of the personnel necessary to run an IT shop, freeing up resources to deliver innovation to the business.
Cloud computing isn’t an adjunct to what you already do—it’s the support mechanism for regime change your business needs to survive. So, the question isn’t whether you should be using cloud computing—it’s whether your company has the right leadership to make the best strategic use of the cloud, and fast.
I realize that’s a pretty provocative statement, so let me explain why today’s turbulent and rapidly accelerating business environment requires a rigorous evaluation of your leaders.
Stress-Test Your Management Team
You need to talk with your leadership team to ensure they are using the cloud to underpin true digital transformation, and not just to keep up with the Joneses. Think of it as a digital stress test for your senior management. If they fail, it’s time for regime change of a different kind.
For example, ask your CFO how he or she thinks the cloud can help corporate finance. You’ll probably hear that the cloud helps eliminate many investments in infrastructure and maintenance, as well customization fees that can run in the tens of millions of dollars.
But those are mere table stakes. You should also hear about the increased pace of innovation—that years-long engagements with systems integrators will be replaced with regular upgrades throughout the year that cost nothing extra because they come over the web. And those upgrades will include new features that allow the finance function to use the newest innovations in analytics tools immediately.
You also should hear how these enhancements are rolled out simultaneously to remote branch offices and subsidiaries around the world, helping eliminate the inefficiency of disparate systems at different stages of development across departments. If you don’t, your CFO may be too busy looking at last quarter’s results to think effectively about the next quarter and the year to come.
Ask your CMO how the cloud can create new opportunities. You’ll likely hear about the ability to listen to social channels intelligently, to identify new market segments, and to engage with customers in ways that surprise and delight them with world-class service and product innovation.
But you should also hear how the cloud enables new feedback loops that lead to new products and services your customers crave and how it helps create greater brand loyalty and customer stickiness. If you don’t, your CMO may be focused too narrowly on making the current quarter and not enough on making strides to the future.
Ask your CHRO how the cloud helps narrow the skills gap, and you should hear about the ability to recruit more effectively, to onboard and train employees, and to evaluate, identify, retain, and promote the best talent in the organization.
You should also hear about new avenues for sourcing skilled people across new geographies, demographic segments, and experiences. If you don’t, your CHRO may be too focused on filling open positions than discovering the positions and skills for tomorrow.
The Bottom Line
One of the most effective ways to ensure your company produces a steady supply of innovation is by adopting cloud computing. Indeed, cloud providers take on the cost of maintaining hardware, security controls, patching servers, and offering levels of operational controls greater than typical corporate data centers can achieve. But, because of their own competitive business models, they must continually innovate themselves to provide customers with the most advanced technology.
In the old model of on-premises computing, upgrades meant replicating customized code—requiring untold months to achieve and millions of dollars in opportunity cost. Branch offices and remote locations were often stuck with the previous model year, creating yet more work to homogenize reports.
In the cloud world, customers get hundreds of new features every quarter throughout their organization simultaneously and seamlessly at no extra cost.
Challenging your senior leadership team about their cloud strategies demonstrates to shareholders that you are committed to stronger growth, in a shorter timeframe, than even they may have expected.
When something happens once it is meaningless. When it happens twice it is a coincidence. When it happens thrice it’s a conspiracy. Well, we are well past the conspiracy stage.
Years ago I was working for a recruiter. A colleague interviewed a woman. I was not present during the interview. When they left the conference room the woman asked my colleague, “You know, I have had a number of interviews and no offers. Did you find anything wrong with my interviewing skills?” My colleague assured her that she had not.
Even though I had not been introduced to her, and despite the fact that, at that moment, I was alone with five women all of whom were wearing engagement rings, I said, “Lose the rock!”
Everyone looked at me. The woman had the Hope Diamond on her finger. She, and my colleagues, asked for an explanation.
“When a man sees that ring he immediately assumes you are high maintenance. When the woman at the office who has the largest diamond on her finger, sees that ring, she will realize that if you are hired she will fall to second place and will, therefore, not like you. Lose the ring!”
She rather curtly thanked me and left. I did not fare much better with my colleagues.
Two weeks later I got a call from the woman. She asked me to tell my colleague that she had found a job and was no longer interested in our services. I congratulated her but asked why she was telling me and not my colleague who had been working with her. She told me that the only thing she did differently at her last job interview, which resulted in the job offer, was not to wear the ring.
This just happened again only this time with a career counseling client. I think that makes half a dozen.
Not wearing an engagement ring is not lying. Being engaged is not a “protected class” like gender, religion, or even marital status. After all, just because you are engaged does not mean you are actually going to get married. So not telling an employer that you plan to get married, is fine. It is none of her business. It would only be relevant if, let’s say, you needed some time off in the not too distant future.
So lose the rock! And, if you don’t have one, but got engaged by signing a pre-nup, find a way to let male interviewers know that. They’ll respect you. (Women may as well, but I’m not certain that this is the case.)
In response to some legitimate criticisms/questions, I have written a follow-up article, “What Jewelry Not to Wear to a Job Interview.”
Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.
Sadly, I have reached the maximum number of first-degree connections on LinkedIn. This means we cannot connect. The alternative is for you to “follow” me.
Have job search questions? Send them to me and I’ll try to answer them in 20-seconds.
In New York City on August 19 at Noon? Join me at SIBL for a talk on effective job search strategies.
Who isn’t impatient to get ahead? According to a recent national workforce survey conducted by IPSOS, a global market research firm, and the Jack Welch Management Institute, 31 percent of American professionals said they have been passed over for a promotion they felt they deserved and 43 percent thought about quitting their jobs in the past year, due to frustrations at work and limited opportunity for advancement.
And while promotions can sometimes be limited by the growth of your organization and other factors outside of your control, there are always certain things you can do (and make an effort not to do) to accelerate yours.
Obviously, the only surefire way to move up in the organization is to consistently deliver great results and deliver them the right way. But here are some additional tips to think about that have the power to help you to stand apart and get in the running – fast – so that the next promotion that comes around doesn’t pass you by:
What does that mean? Whenever your boss gives you an assignment or asks you to figure something out, he or she usually already has a pretty good idea of what the answer is. For example, if your manager wants you to confirm that the market share of one of the division’s products is 35% and you go out and do the work only to come back with “Yes, you’re right, it is 35%”, that isn’t over-delivering. It’s just doing what you were assigned.
But guess what? School is the only place where you get an A if you do exactly what you’re asked. Work isn’t like that. To over-deliver, you’ve got to redefine the assignment, make it bigger, and open your boss’s eyes to a larger horizon.
Don’t underestimate the incredible power of positive surprises. If you come back with something that’s truly eye-opening and presents a new opportunity, your superiors are going to remember it for a long, long time. In the example above, for instance, if you came back defining your market share within a larger market definition that no one had thought about before – that spells opportunity… And nothing will serve your promotion ambitions better than making your boss look smarter to his or her leadership.
Don’t Make Your Boss Play Defense.
No matter where you work, your boss has a certain wonderful thing called political capital in the organization that he or she has earned over the years by getting results and being a good team player. The last thing he or she wants to do is use it up on you – especially if you want a promotion. If someone has to come to your defense because you’ve done something stupid or careless — you’ve upset the client or you’ve been late a few times, you are using up political capital. If you ask your coworkers to cover for you, you are using up political capital. And if your boss finds him or herself forced to say things like “Please cut Mary a break because she’s really a good employee; she’s just having some problems with her dog, okay?”, you’re definitely using up political capital.
That usually works precisely one time and then it gets very old. So, pick that time very wisely, once every five years.
When you’re gunning for a promotion, you often start being very, very loving to the people above you – it’s just what happens. And as you spend all of your time tap dancing for the powers that be, you might tend to forget the people who work alongside you and below you and start to ignore them. That’s ugly. Nobody likes it. In fact, even the people in power probably take note and are grossed out by this behavior.
Now, a little bit of boss-handling is always par for the game. “How was your vacation?”, “Understand your son scored two touchdowns on Saturday… Nice going.” Fine — everyone does that sort of thing. But you have to go beyond kissing up and also show some love to your coworkers and people who are subordinate to you. Get to know them as human beings. Find what you authentically like about each one of them — not just in your immediate group but in the whole organization. And yes, it really has to come from a place of authenticity — this is not something that can be phony because people can sense that right away. Yuck.
Just remember the path to your promotion is paved with big love, that’s real, and in every direction.
Volunteer for Tough Duty.
Every once in a while, a boss comes along with an assignment that nobody wants. A risky new initiative. A new job that involves working overnight. The customer with the bad personality that everyone avoids representing. These kinds of risky or unpleasant assignments that no one wants are actually a great opportunity for you to raise your hand and really get out of the pile. You may not succeed at them, but you will get points just for putting yourself out there and saying, “I’ll take the risk. I’ll do it.”
Take those tough assignments just to get yourself on the radar — even if you have to hold your nose while you do it. It could end up being the best career move you ever make.
Seek Mentors… Everywhere.
Look, everybody wants a mentor. Under the right circumstances, having a mentor can be great. Just remember one thing. You’re limiting yourself greatly if you think you have to look to a single person as your mentor. Everyone’s a mentor, everyone. Every person you know knows something that you don’t know — alongside you, up, down, and sideways. People in other companies. People you read about in the newspaper… Everyone.
So if your definition of mentoring is too narrow, redefine it to make everyone your mentor and soak up all the insights, ideas and best practices that live all around you. You’ll be so much smarter for it.
Ultimately, these five “extras” are no substitute for delivering solid results, all the time. But if you wake up every day thinking about how to supercharge your performance with them, it will be very tough for your organization to ignore you for long.
Jack Welch is Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win. The program was recently named the #1 most influential education brand on LinkedIn and one of the top business schools to watch in 2016.
Suzy Welch is co-author, with Jack Welch, of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post best-seller The Real-Life MBA, and of the international best-seller Winning.
Ask a company to segment its customer base, and they’ll likely come up with groups we’ve all heard of—Millennials, GenXers, Boomers, and Silents. Probe a little deeper and they’ll cut the groups by gender, race and ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, income, geography, educational attainment, and a host of other useful demographic descriptors. One more request might even turn up a psychographic segmentation that lumps groups with wide-ranging demographic profiles based on their professed views and observed behaviors.