Be a squeaky wheel…(with class)

squeaky_wheel

They say that the squeaky wheel gets greased. The message of this old idiom is that he who complains long enough will get what he wants.

In the context of an office environment, however, no one likes a complainer. At the office, complainer usually eats lunch alone. Or worst, he’s the first on the list of people to get the pink slips.

But that doesn’t mean that this old idiom should be ignored. There is some real wisdom in it. Said another way, it shows that  the most noticeable person is the one most likely to get the most attention. The key is in how someone is noticeable.

A corporate climber is someone who uses this idiom to her advantage. She communicates with her managers and other stakeholders. She asks questions often and seeks constant feedback.

When in a role, especially a new role or taking up a new project, it’s crucial that you demand (tactfully) of your superiors what is expected of you and maintain an ongoing communication with them with regards to issues you are running into.

Ask for feedback. Ask for counseling and coaching.

The quiet, new person who keeps to himself and whose work a manager has to correct is more likely to be shunned than the new person who constantly asks (smart) questions and stays on her radar.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

For example, once I had two new staff under me. One drove me absolutely fucking insane, question after question and second guessing everything, even my decisions. But as he worked he would keep me apprised of his situation and in the loop. He would seek help and clarification as soon as he encountered an obstacle or an issue. He made sure I reviewed his drafts and working files and that I helped him hone his deliverable to my expectations. In the end, his work was very good. It was always exactly what I wanted.

The other staff was quiet and solitary. I’d assign him a task, with an hourly deadline, and he’d go off on his own. No communication. I thought he had everything taken care of. Come deadline he had some half-assed work ready for me. I was not happy. Not only did he misinterpret my instructions and provided the wrong deliverable, I had to sit with him and spend hours helping him fix his mistakes. It felt like he just wanted someone to hand-hold him through the work. Eventually, I learned to rely on him less and to check up on him more frequently when I assigned him a task or project.

Moral is…make your own personal presence known among your bosses. Show you are active. Even if you are missing things and the numbers don’t add up, asking questions early and often avoids a lot of headache later. Being proactive  just shows that even though you need assistance, you are eager to learn and grow. Be the employee you would want if you owned the company.

Demand feedback.

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Power Climb Rule No 1| Exercise modesty with your boss. Showing-off can kill your career

Corporate success is as much about relationships and managing the emotions of others as it is about hard work, attention to detail, persistence and execution.

The Power Climb Rules are designed to help you master the psychological aspect of climbing the corporate ladder. Based on Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Powerthis series will attempt to give you tools for navigating and mastering the emotional side of corporate success … both yours and of those around you.

Robert Greene’s first law of Power : NEVER OUTSHINE THE MASTER 

We’ve all heard this before – “Your goal is to make your manager more successful. When you make her life easier, career success comes automatically.”

Equally important, is to avoid bruising your boss’s ego by making yourself look better than them. You’re smart, talented and maybe even better at the job than your boss. But don’t let them see that. Avoid attracting attention to yourself at even the tiniest expense of your boss. What they need to see and feel is that you’re there for their benefit, not yours.

Everyone has insecurities. When you display your talents and start attracting attention, you naturally stir up all kinds of resentment, envy and other manifestations of insecurity. A boss who gets angry at your mistakes will forgive them and move on but when a person’s ego is challenged or bruised, he will not forgive.

Here’s an example from Robert Green’s book:

Nicolas Fouquet was French king Louis XIV’s finance minister. His intelligence and cleverness made him indispensable to the king. But he lost everything because he once threw a most spectacular party in honor of the king. He wanted to demonstrate his loyalty by spending an insane amount of money in tribute to the king. He also wanted to gently remind the king of his indispensability showing off his deep political connections and social popularity.

Instead, Louis XIV, who was vain and insecure, felt that Nicolas was flaunting his wealth and power. It also seemed to the king that his own subjects and friends were more charmed by Nicolas than the king himself. Jealousy ensued.

The next day, Nicolas Fouquet was arrested on trumped up charged of stealing from the country’s treasury. He was found guilty and spent the last twenty years of his life in solitary confinement at the most isolated prison in France.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that much has changed since the days of Louis XIV. Those who achieve high standing in life are like kings and queens. They want to feel secure in their positions and superior to those around them in intelligence, wit and charm. You become a threat as soon as you challenge that notion, even if inadvertently.

A more contemporary example is the story of Sarah. Sarah was an operations manager at a large company. Over time, she had built a reputable team that set the bar for high performance. The team was close-knit and greatly respected Sarah as a leader and boss.

Then her company merged with another and Sarah was layered under Amy, a senior manager from the other company. It became quickly apparent that in addition to having a loyal team, Sarah was just better at the job than Amy. Senior leaders, who kept bypassing Amy and going directly to Sarah with issues, showered her with praise.

A couple of months later, Sarah was called into the HR office and fired.

Her firing had nothing to do with her performance. In fact, she had received the highest ratings in her latest employee reviews. She was fired because her greatness highlighted Amy’s shortfalls and flared her insecurities.

Amy realized that she couldn’t match Sarah’s knowledge and work ethic. She also just couldn’t build the same rapport with the team that Sarah had. Her only course of action was to remove Sarah from the competition. Sarah was promptly replaced with someone less intelligent, less attractive and ultimately, less threatening.

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. Make your [leaders] appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

– Robert Greene

By making your manager look good in front of others, you strengthen his position which can only help your own career. It doesn’t take more than following two simple strategies.

First, be good at your job and at anticipating his needs. I’m serious here. Being good at your job is a fundamental requirement. Then get to know your manager and become familiar with his goals. Make it a priority to understand the goals, numbers, projects, and other deliverables he is accountable for so you can support them as much as possible.

Second, occasionally stroke that ego. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a brown nosing, suck-up. You just need to sprinkle bits and pieces of emotional boosts from time to time.

Use subtlety.

Look for and shower her with minor compliments from time to time especially regarding how she’s doing in her role.

Let him … no … give him credit for your work and ideas. Not all. Some. If you have ideas that are better and more creative than your boss, figure out a way to talk to him about it first and let him take the credit for their success. Make it clear that your idea was merely an echo of his idea. Who doesn’t love the limelight?

Make her appear more intelligent than you. Take every chance to seek advice and guidance. Act naive once in a while. Make it seem that you need her expertise. Even if you know the solution, ask for help. Boss’s love feeling needed and giving advise. Seeing themselves as your mentor is a natural ego booster.

Robert Greene says:

It is not a weakness to disguise your strengths if in the end they lead to power. By letting others outshine you, your remain in control, instead of being a victim of their insecurity. If you can make your [managers and leaders] shine even more in the eyes of others, then you are a godsend and you will be instantly promoted.

Why does this work?

Because as your boss, who’s already at a higher position than you, gets promoted, will naturally look to surround herself with the person(s) that helped them get there i.e. you!

Master the annual performance review

Welcome to the new year!

While you’re still recovering from that amazing holiday vacation and desperately trying to hold onto your new year’s resolution, your company wants you to reflect on the past year and tell them all about how you think you did.

It’s called the annual performance review. It’s the report card your company uses to evaluate you. Some companies take this process really seriously. Some don’t.

You, however, should take the performance review process very seriously. It’s the one opportunity the company gives you to actively toot your horn and not feel guilty about it. And the best part is that it becomes part of company records. All your glory (or lack thereof) is read, analyzed and stored for future reference and use.

So, here’s how to ace your review.

Avoid surprises |

If you’re waiting for the year end annual review to find out what your manager thinks of you, you’re screwed. You should know exactly what’s going to be on your review before you walk into your one-on-one. The only way to do this is to get periodic feedback sessions with your boss. Most bosses won’t have the time to set this up so make it your job. One of the first things you should do when starting a new job or starting a new year at the same job is to ask if you can set up periodic informal feedback sessions.

Then follow through.

Set meetings every month or at least once a quarter. It’s your job to know when your boss is unhappy with you and to fix it. Solicit “real time feedback” after a meeting or a pitch and ask for feedback directly both good and bad. It’s fresh and allows you to improve immediately. More importantly, it shows you care

Don’t sit around till the end to find out what you could have done. Too little. Too Late.

Market the hell out of your successes |

Influence your boss’s impression of you by taking action well ahead of review time. Throughout the year, you keep track of the accomplishments you’ve had … both small and large. Talk to your boss about every single one as soon as possible without appearing to be bragging. If possible, thank her for her support or acknowledge how you couldn’t do it without her help.

Then, during the annual review, make sure you line these successes up against your goals. And if you did it right, then your boss will remember all those accomplishments you guys talked about.

Brevity is key |

Seriously, don’t write a book. Be nice to your boss and try to keep your goals and commentary to no more than 500 – 700 characters. In a twitter driven world where 140 characters can move worlds, there’s nothing you can’t say in a few sentences. Use bullet points that get straight to the point. Abbreviation when used appropriately is fine. Do not use language you use to text your friends. No “LOL” or “IDK” or “WTF”

 Use numbers & well defined metrics |

Follow up your successes with quantifiable metrics. You increased sales by 13%. You decreased cost by $180K. You increased productivity by x%. Numbers make an impression. They give instant credibility.

Align your successes with the goals of company |

Some companies will distribute a set of goals for the year. In these cases, make sure that your goals and successes are aligned to leverage the things that are important to your leaders.

Even if your company doesn’t actually distribute goals, you need to figure out what’s important to your boss and the overall company.

Align your goals with those of your boss. This way, when you crush them, you make your boss look good. When he looks good, he will make you look good.

Be a marketing guru |

Highlight strengths but downplay weaknesses. If you led the successful implementation of the new ERP system but it was over budget, then focus on and highlight that you implemented it. Highlight the perceived or realized benefits. Don’t mention the fact that it was over budget.

Don’t lie |

This is a no-brainer. Don’t take credit for shit you didn’t do. The last thing you want is to be called out for being a liar. Remember, anything that goes on your review stays in the system forever. Being known as a liar ain’t a good career move.

Be positive |

The importance of displaying a positive attitude towards your job, your colleagues, your manager and your company can not be understated. The performance evaluation is not an avenue for you to bitch and complain. Remember how I said earlier that it becomes part of your permanent record?

No matter how pissed you are at something, use positive language.

In fact, you need to make sure nothing negative goes onto the evaluation. Nothing negative from you about the company, the job or anything else. And definitely nothig negative about you from your boss.

You can use the annual review to remind your boss about all the great things you accomplished … so that he remembers them when he’s deciding pay raises. You can use the annual review to secure a promotion. And most importantly, you can use the performance review process to set goals and expectations for the upcoming year. This way, when you crush them, your boss will notice.

Finally, the annual performance review a great way to set the stage for your future success at the company. By getting in front of it early every year, you can actively shape the image of you seen by senior leaders. This can be a deciding factor when they’re looking to promote from within.