Five Ways to Fast-Track Your Promotion

This article, by former GE CEO Jack Welch originally appeared on LinkedIn

By Jack and Suzy Welch

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:

Over-Deliver.

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.  ­

Love Everyone.

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.

Power Climb Rule 2 | How to get things done by asking for help

ask_for_help_at_work

You know people like this at the office.

They always seem to be having fun. They’re social butterflies, engaging everyone, moving cube to cube, talking, smiling, laughing and generally just enjoying being at the office. You can’t imagine how they get any work done. But they turn out to be one of the most productive and highly regarded people in the company. It’s annoying right?

Want to know how they do it?

They get help.

Many high achievers worry that asking for help is a sign of weakness. That they must do everything on their own otherwise others may believe they’re not up to the job.

Some think that if you want something done properly, you just have to do it yourself.

Ambitious women, especially, have this feeling that asking for help will somehow indicate that they’re not as good as their male counterparts. They’re afraid to come off as whiners.

This type of thinking is self-defeating and a barrier to your career growth.

Doing everything on your own sucks precious time into the black hole of grunt work.

Asking for help i.e. delegating, on the other hand, actually reflects leadership qualities. First, it shows that you can influence others to follow you. Secondly, it reflects your ability to manage and motivate others. Finally, it gives you the opportunity to think strategically on best use of your time for high visibility.

Robert Greene, in his The 48 Laws of Power, writes:

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed … Never do yourself what others can do for you.

The key, however, is to make sure you go about it the right way.

Robert Greene goes on to say:

There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with, and not to confuse your needs with theirs.

It’s never a good idea to just blindly ask help. You’re naive if you think that people will help you out of the goodness of their heart. Everyone around you is there for the same reason – they want to grow their careers. So they have to believe that by helping you, they’re also helping themselves. You’ll never get someone’s best effort and quality if they think they’re doing you a favor.

To do this right, you’ll need to put your soft-skills to work.

Appeal to their self-interest

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

– Robert Greene

Before you make the approach, do your homework. Find out what’s important to the other person and how helping you will benefit them. If they’re ambitious, you can offer to get them visibility by public recognition of their contribution. Or offer to share credit on the end-result if they make significant contributions. It could be as simple as an email thanking them for their crucial contribution, also including their manager in the CC. Not only will they happily accept, they will work their ass off to ensure you get the best quality.

For some others, you may have to offer quid pro-quo i.e. something in return. It could be a promise to help them on their next project or help them solve a problem they have today. Sometimes, people are motivated by external issues. Maybe you can offer to cover for them when they have to duck out for personal reasons. Or you can offer to help them look for a car, or house or even move.

Basically, if you can ensure that the other person is helped by helping you, you’re in.

Caution: It goes without saying that money and sex should never be a part of the conversation. Don’t offer money in return for help. It cheapens everything.

Similarly, never, ever, never (seriously, don’t even think about it) offer sex or anything closely related to sexual stuff in return. It makes you cheap and complicates things.

Set them up for success

Always make sure you’re asking the right person for help. The person’s expertise should match with what you’re asking them to do. Asking the marketing girl to help you with financials is probably a bad idea. It’s just not her expertise. Asking her to jazz up your PowerPoint is probably a better way to go.

It’s also best to do as much of the legwork and prep as possible before you hand over the task. Clearly communicate your expectations and deadlines. Then be available to help them along the way. Otherwise if things go wrong, they’ll throw you under the bus by proclaiming that you set them up for failure. You’ll be stuck redoing their work on top of your own. Set them up for success by making sure that all the guesswork and pre-work is done, especially if it’s not their area of expertise.

Check up on them often.

Not in the annoying “Hey, are you done yet?” way but more in the “Hey, I’m just checking to see how you’re doing. Can I help in any way?”

Offer to help as much as possible. Help them overcome challenges. Connect them with others who can help with other parts of the puzzle. Facilitate. Facilitate. Facilitate. This way, not only do you ensure their success, you guarantee your success.

Show gratitude

Who doesn’t love a pat on the back?

After getting the help you need, make sure to thank your co-worker as much as possible. Make it clear to them and their manager that you could not have completed your part without their input.

Go out of your way. Be genuine.

Give them more credit than they deserve. It won’t hurt you at all.

Nurture the relationship

Don’t you hate those friends and family members that reach out to you only when they need something?

Same goes for work colleagues.

By asking for and accepting a colleague’s help, you’ve created a relationship with that person. They now see you as a partner to their career and as someone they can trust. It’s your responsibility to build on that by checking up on them from time to time. Even if it is to reach out just to say hello.

They will gladly come back to help you again.

And this … is good for your career.

5 HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS GET PROMOTED

This article originally appeared in FastCompany

5 HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS GET PROMOTED

SOME EMPLOYEES JUST SEEM TO BE AHEAD OF THE CURVE AND REAP THE REWARDS. HERE’S HOW TO BE THAT PERSON.

Most of us have had that coworker that seemed to be a perfect fit for the company or team. She always had the right answers. He seemed to know what needed to be done before the company leaders even did. And that “sixth sense” and insight was rewarded with responsibility, autonomy, accolades, and advancement.

“When employees bring those qualities, they’re perceived as leaders in the company, no matter what position they hold,” says Katharine Halpin, CEO and founding principal of The Halpin Companies, Inc., a leadership consultancy in Phoenix, Arizona. “They take ownership for problem solving and dissolving conflict. They naturally have this sort of alignment with the company.”

The good news is that becoming a super-employee isn’t some rarified secret. It’s a combination of skill set and mindset that you can begin to develop for yourself by focusing on these five key habits.

1. THEY CHOOSE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR THEIR TALENTS

It’s hard to be a super-employee if the company’s needs are very different from your abilities, talents, and values, Halpin says. In addition, a 2015 research report by the Cicero Group found that one of the most important factors in employees consistently producing great work was recognition. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said that being recognized by a manager or by the company was the most important driver in great work. So, choosing to work where your work is valued is important.

2. THEY PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEIR BOSS VALUES

Super-employees are studying the preferences and goals of their direct supervisors, their supervisors’ supervisors, and the company at large, says Gayle Lantz, founder of WorkMatters, Inc., a leadership consultancy in Birmingham, Alabama. They may be striving to participate in projects and meetings that aren’t part of their jobs, but which give them access and information to what company leaders think and need.

“They’re doing things above and beyond what other employees are doing, and they’re showing interest. They’re motivated and showing they want to learn what it’s like to be at the top,” she says.

3. THEY FOCUS ON BOTH DAILY RESPONSIBILITIES AND BIG-PICTURE THINKING

Exceptional performers are able to maintain dual focus on both the task at hand, as well as how it fits into the bigger picture, Lantz says. If they don’t understand something, they get the information they need to make its importance clearer.

When you start looking at everyday tasks from both perspectives and truly understand what you need to do and why it needs to be done, you become more strategic and begin to anticipate what needs to be done—sometimes before others know what needs to be done, she says. In addition, you’re better able to prioritize so that your activities and energy are focused where they are of most value to the company, Halpin adds.

4. THEY MAKE SPACE FOR BIGGER THINKING

Keeping some open time in the day, such as scheduling time between meetings and blocks of time for simply thinking or working on projects that require concentration, can also supercharge performance, Halpin says. Super-employees are vigilant about scheduling everything from daily meetings to big projects to ensure that they have the best possible chance at a successful outcome.

“Sometimes, it’s just very practical actions—getting to places early, not rushing from meeting to meeting if you can help it—to give yourself time to do what you need to do. That may be thinking about the purpose of your next meeting, or getting a snack or drink so you’re not hungry or thirsty,” she says. Being harried, distracted, hungry, or otherwise uncomfortable because you’re too rushed is not going to allow you to do your best work and be most insightful, she adds.

5. THEY LIKE THEIR COLLEAGUES

High performers are in tune with the people around them and can sense when they need something. They possess soft skills like empathy and are able to relate well to other people because they take the effort to try to understand them, Lantz says.

“A large part of any business is helping people work together well. Super-employees make that a top priority. They look at relationships as something that’s critical to success in the business—not just doing the work,” she says.

Why loving what you do is good for your career

follow-your-dreams

We’re all unique. Not only in our genetic make-up but also in our emotional and psychological make-up. Our uniqueness attracts us to certain subjects in school, pushes us to pursue an interest or hobby and drives our career choices.

For some, a career choice comes naturally. It was a calling. Or a gut feeling that led them down the path they pursued. To others, it was their destiny to become a doctor, lawyer, actor or politician or social worker.

No matter what you call it, those who encourage their inner voice to express itself and let it guide their life end up loving what they do. They also tend to become wildly wealthy or famous or both. But usually, these people don’t actively seek fame and fortune.

They just want to spend their life doing what they love. Because they love what they do, they naturally want to become better. So they work harder. Hard work leads to small incremental improvements. They get excited and aim for more. They become obsessive in their desire for constant improvement. They don’t care about the hard work or the long hours. They grind away. Lack of sleep is not an obstacle. Lack of a social life or a “work-life” balance goes completely unnoticed. But they do notice the success that comes from each tiny, incremental improvement. Their careers become a very important source of pleasure and fulfillment in life. They are happy.

Financial success, fame and power are usually just side products of their love.

It seems so simple. When you follow your unique inner voice, not only do you get to do what you love, you also achieve success.

So why aren’t we all doing this? Why aren’t we all successful? Why do a majority of us get stuck doing jobs we don’t necessarily like that much?

It’s because we reject our inner voice.

From the moment we’re born, there’s an immense external pressure to ignore that inner voice. We are shaped by the influences of others. Whether it’s from parents who seek to direct their kids into a lucrative and comfortable career path or the unconscious peer pressure that makes you feel embarrassed to be different. Subconsciously these influences drown out our inner voice and superimpose their own.

So we choose a career that “sounds right.”

If it’s a career that doesn’t really suit you, invariably you’re going to lose interest and feelings of dissatisfaction will grow. You may not even realize that the cause of your frustration is the misalignment between your career path and your inner voice. Instead, unlike someone who loves what they do, you will subconsciously begin seeking pleasure and fulfillment from outside your work. You’ll focus on “work-life balance” and place importance on your social life.

In the end, your career will suffer.

As you become increasingly less engaged in your career, you lose focus. The quality of your work suffers. The frustration will creep into your interactions with co-workers. Eventually, you fail to pay attention to the evolving changes in the field. You fall behind and your skill-sets become obsolete. Instead of being the go-to person in your company, you just become dead weight.

No company wants dead weight.

Companies need employees that are engaged. They reward innovators in their field and those who actively lead improvements to the company as a whole. Unfortunately, it’s hard to become an innovator and leader of something you don’t love.

So what do you do?

You change!

Dig deep and find that inner voice. Evaluate your career choices and make changes. It’s not going to be easy. It may even mean taking a lower position or lower pay in a new career path. Don’t worry about that. It will pay off in the long run.

If you love what you do, success will come naturally.

Portrait of a Klimber | Winston Churchill

Chuchill Photo

Sir Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Although he never worked for a corporation, he embodied everything that a Klimber should be.

He was born into an aristocratic family, but his family was by no means rich. He was born premature. He had a lisp all his life. He was raised by his nanny and ignored by his parents. In fact, his dad was an asshole who wrote off Winston as a disappointment early in life. He sucked at school. His life was full of failure … over and over again. But he never let life’s impediments stop him from climbing the social and political ladder. He used it to fuel his ambition.

Starting at the bottom of his country’s political ladder, he leveraged his parents connections, worked his ass off, worked the system and did pretty much whatever he could to reach the top at 10 Downing Street (that’s the White House of England).

Winston Churchill’s ascent to the top of the political ladder, overcoming many challenges along the way, offers many lessons that we Korporate Klimbers can learn from. Over the course of his 90 year life, he not only was a master politician, he accumulated a staggering number of achievements.

According to British historian Paul Johnson’s biography on Wiinston Churchill,

  • He spent 55 years as a member of British Parliament
  • He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for 9 years
  • He took part in 15 battles and was awarded 14 medals
  • He was a prominent figure in the first World War and a dominant one in World War II
  • He was a journalist and war correspondent
  • He was an accomplished historian  and writer, publishing almost 10 million words … more than many professional writers in their lifetime
  • He was a well known and respected artist who painted over 500 canvases
  • He was a Knight of the Order of the Garter, Companion of Honor, Fellow of the Royal Society, a Royal Academician, Elder Brother of the Trinity House, a university Chancellor and a member of the Order of the Merit
  • He hunted big game in Africa (it was cool back then OK..)
  • He had a large and loving family
  • He raised and raced horses
  • He won the Nobel Prize

Simply put, this guy crushed it. Every. Single. Day.

But how?

In his biography, Paul Johnson offers us five lessons on ambition, leadership and the art of climbing from Winston Churchill’s life.

Lesson One: Always aim high. Look ahead and stay focused

Churchill always set very high goals for himself. He then assessed his shortcomings and worked his ass off to overcome the challenges.  As a child, he sucked at school and hated math. But he knew education was important so he overcame his aversion to math to at least get by. He had a speech impediment but he didn’t let it stop him from mastering the English language to become one of the greatest speakers in the 20th century.

His father died at a young age of 45. So he became hell bent on making a name for himself at a young age. And he did this with intense focus.

He sought to be prime minister feeling only he could achieve certain things. In 1940 he aimed not only high but at the highest – to rescue a stricken country in danger of being demoralized, to put it firmly on its feet again, and to carry it to salvation and victory. He did not always meet his elevated targets, but by aiming high he always achieved something worthwhile. – Paul Johnson

Lesson Two: There is no substitute for hard work and persistence

hell

Churchill never backed down from hard work. This is one of the reasons he accomplished so much in his life. He was always doing something.

He worked sixteen hour days and was known for going to sleep at 2 or 3 in the morning. He took jobs that were not ideal if only to get his foot in the door. Then he would excel, get noticed and be promoted.

For example, he wanted to start his career in the military so he applied for the Royal Military College. But he failed the entrance exam … twice. Instead of giving up or even continuing to keep trying, he figured out another way. After failing the exam for infantry, he applied for the cavalry instead because the grade requirements were lower. Then he worked hard to graduate eighth out of a class of 150.

During World War I, as a leader of the British navy, he was blamed for a disastrous failure of Battle of Gallipoli that effectively destroyed his career at the time. He lost his leadership post in the cabinet and had to resign his leadership position in the navy. Instead of giving up, he stayed a member of Parliament waited for his chance.

It finally came when Prime Minster David Lloyd George appointed him to the lowly position of the Minister of Munitions in 1917. He was responsible for making sure that the British troops were well stocked with guns, bullets and weapons to fight the war. It was a position that no one really wanted because the ministry itself was a disorganized, chaotic shitshow. But as soon as he got there, he worked day and night to transform it into an organized, well-oiled machine. He eliminated bureaucratic red-tape and simplified the process so the British soldiers on the ground never ran out of munitions.

Within two years, he was promoted and back in power.

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential. – Winston Churchill

Lesson Three: Never let failures, mistakes, disasters, accidents, illness, unpopularity, and criticism, get you down

enthusiasm

This guy never gave up. No matter what. He failed. He got up and tried again. If that didn’t work, he figured out a different way to attack the problem.

As Johnson points out:

[Churchill’s] power of recuperation, both in physical illness and in psychological responses to abject failure, were astounding… He scrambled to his feet and worked his way back. He had courage … and fortitude. These strengths are inborn but they can also be cultivated, and Churchill worked on them all his life.

Remember how he twice failed to get into the Royal Military Academy. He got what he wanted by figuring out a way to go around this by joining the cavalry. He got his foot in the door, kicked ass and rose to the top.

He wanted to marry women that were way above his league. Two of them rejected his marriage proposal. But he wasn’t deterred. Finally, his third proposal to Clementine Hozier was accepted. They remained faithfully married till the end.

He lost five elections in his life. But he never gave up. He just ran from a different town until he won the next election.

He was kicked out of his leadership position in the navy after the failure of Battle of Gallipoli in WWI where 34 thousand British soldiers died and 78 thousand were wounded. After resigning from his position, he re-enlisted in the Army as a battalion commander. Under his leadership, his battalion became the most active of the British forces by leading 36 assaults into enemy territory in seven short months.

He sums up his philosophy in a speech to students at Harrow School in 1941:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy

– Winston Churchill

Lesson Four: Don’t waste time or emotional energy on anger, hate or revenge

Hater’s gonna hate …

Dogs

In life, you need thick skin. Being sensitive about every time someone said or did something mean is bad for your career.

Holding on to anger and grudges is bad for your health. Bad health leads to bad decisions and therefore bad career choices.

There were a lot of people who did not like Churchill. He was hated. He was back stabbed by members of his own party a few times. He was one of the most laughed at political leaders of his time. But he didn’t let anything stick to him for too long. This is why he outlived many of his opponents. He developed a thick skin.

Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time [if any] and emotional energy on the meanness of life: recrimination, shifting blame to others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas. Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest. It is one reason for his success. There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred… Nothing gave him more pleasure than to replace enmity with friendship.

– Paul Johnson

Look, as you climb the corporate ladder and become more successful, you will inevitably cause resentment in some people and will become a target for others to bring down. Success never comes by being liked by everyone and by being everyone’s friend. But that doesn’t mean that you need to waste your energy on hating those who hate you.

First. It’s not personal. Those people who have a problem with you are driven by their own insecurities. They’re mostly just projecting their own self-hatred and self disappointment onto you. So, there’s nothing you can do to change it anyway.

Second. If you let it get to you, then you’re letting them win. You’re letting them control how much of your energy and time they get to occupy.

Your continued success will be the big ass symbolic middle finger that the haters will see and that my friends, will give you more satisfaction than anything you can do to change their minds.

Plus, by always being nice – even to the people who are mean to you – you can always go back and ask them for help. You never know when you may need them.

Lesson Five: Have a positive attitude and be an optimist

Life is short. If you’re ambitious it’s because you want the better things that life has to offer.

You’re not just working your ass off to benefit some company that’s going to forget all about you as soon as you leave. At the end of the day, the only reason you’re willing to put up with hard work, sweat, tears and a bunch of bullshit is for a better life.

So go ahead an enjoy it.

[Churchill’s] face could light up in the most extraordinarily attractive way as it became suffused with pleasure at an unexpected and welcome event… Joy was a frequent visitor to Churchill’s psyche, banishing boredom, despair, discomfort, and pain. He liked to share his joy, and give joy. It be never be forgotten that Churchill was happy with people. – Paul Johnson

Optimist

You work hard. You need to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Doing so will bring you happiness and give you a positive attitude.

No one likes a downer.

People are attracted to working with those who display a genuine positive attitude. The more people who are willing to work with you, for you and to follow you, the more successful you’ll become.

 

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.

Lateral thinking and 6 new shortcuts to success

Success. Perception vs. Reality

It took the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller 46 years to make a billion dollars. Starting with a single oil refinery in 1863, and over two decades, he painstakingly built an empire.

Seventy years later, Michael Dell [of Dell computers] achieved billionaire status in 14 years. Bill Gates did it in 12. Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg, at the age of 23, became a billionaire in 3 years. Groupon’s Andew Mason did it in two.

How is it that some among us can build eBay in the time it takes the rest of us to build a house? Because most of us follow the same old pre-prescribed paths to achieve success as our parents did and their parents before them. We work hard. However, certain successful innovators break convention to find better routes to stunning accomplishments. They don’t work harder. They work differently.

They utilize lateral thinking.

Shane Snow is a serial entrepreneur and skilled journalist. His book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success delves into reasons why some people are able to achieve incredible success in implausibly short time frames. He then goes on to show how each of us can use these “smartcuts” to to accelerate our success. According to Snow,

“Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So just simply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionally done in the past.”

Snow recently talked to Eric Barker of blog site Barking up the Wrong Tree and shared six strategies to help us get better, faster. Here’s an excerpt:

1) Forget “Paying Your Dues”

If paying your dues was essential, there would be no child prodigies or Zuckerberg billionaires.

“In all sorts of industries, what you see is that the fastest risers and the most successful are often not the ones with the most experience. What the patterns show is that people who tend to switch tracks, switch from different ladders or different careers, end up amassing more skills and more flexibility and more of this critical, lateral thinking that allows them to make breakthroughs and surpass their peers a lot faster than others.”

Often when people talk about the importance of paying dues, they’re afraid of failure or afraid of breaking rules. Playing it safe can help you do “pretty good” — but it’s rarely the way to get to the very top or to get there fast.

So go ahead, shake up that old stoic corporate culture. Don’t sit around in your department, waiting for your boss to retire so you can get promoted to his role. Instead, take some risks at your job. Do things differently. Get noticed and get promoted to be the boss of another department.

2) Find Your Yoda Outside The Office

Snow’s research found that formal mentorship didn’t work. That top lady exec they assign to guide you at the office? Zero effect on your career.

But the mentors you seek out on your own? Boom. They take you to the next level in a big way. But what’s the difference between the two?

Mentors need to care about you. Here’s Snow:

“Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. They care about you and where your life goes. They are with you for the long haul. They are willing to say, ‘No,’ and to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Those kinds of relationships yield outsized results in terms of future salaries and happiness.”

And caring goes both ways. If you don’t feel a bond with your mentor and you don’t open up, you won’t get the most from them. You need to care about them too.

“An organic mentorship is built around friendship and vulnerability. You need to be open about what you’re scared about and what you’re going through. Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. This is the thing that you see in Star Wars and in the Karate Kid.”

So, go “wax on, wax off” an old Japanese man’s cars. Find a teacher who you care about and who cares about you and you’re not just on your way to a great career, you’re on your way to a primo life.

3) Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed

Seeing others screw up helps you learn. It’s a shortcut to getting around a little known cognitive bias Snow discovered in his research.

When surgeons tried to learn a new procedure, which ones improved the most? The ones who saw others make mistakes.

“Surgeons who did successful surgeries tended to continue to improve, but surgeons that sucked at the surgery got even worse. And if you saw your buddy succeed at a surgery, it didn’t help you at all. But, paradoxically, if you saw your buddy fail at a surgery, you actually got better.”

Huh? So unless you’re good from day one the only way to get better was to watch other people fail? Why?

Because your brain is trying to stop you from feeling bad about yourself. So it lies to you.

When you screw up, you make excuses. “Not my fault. Sun was in my eyes.” When you see someone else do well, you say, “Well, of course, I’d do it just like that.”

But when you see someone else bomb you say “Whoa, better not do that.”

It’s one of the fundamental differences between the beginner and the expert mindset. Beginners need encouragement so they don’t quit. But experts love negative feedback. That’s the secret to how you keep improving.

4) Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.

“I had that idea but they beat me to it.” Ever said that? Okay, you’re now officially a whiner. Because you were dead wrong.

You were actually in the better spot. Research shows the guy who starts second is more likely to win. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. MySpace came before that. In fact, it wasn’t even the second. But it is undisputedly the most successful. Similarly, Google began when Yahoo, Altavista and other search engines were immensely successful and popular. Now, most of us can’t live without Google.

When you’re first you have to waste a lot of time and energy figuring out best practices. When you’re second, you can just play “follow the leader.”

Instead of spending all your time trying to get better, work hard on studying and emulating those who are better than you.

Timing isn’t as big a deal as you thought and you can learn from those who came before you. Look around your company. Around your office. There are so many established processes that waste time and cost your company money. How many approvals does it take to submit a purchase order? Is someone doing it better or faster? Study them. Learn. Replicate. Succeed.

Then repeat.

You’re not too late. You’re right on time.

5) Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.

When you have limitations you can’t take the easy route. Constraints force you to think. And often, unless forced, we don’t think much at all.

When challenged, we have to be original.

“Constraints … give us boundaries that direct our focus and allow us to be more creative. This is why tiny startup companies frequently come up with breakthrough ideas. They start with so few resources that they’re forced to come up with simplifying solutions.”

So don’t bitch about how you don’t get the freedom to be creative at your job. You need the constraints. Change your view. Don’t look at them as roadblocks. Instead they are merely bumps that you need to figure out how to get around. Constraints help you become even more creative.

6) “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That line is from Astro Teller, head of Google X. Those are the guys who build driverless cars and other supercool stuff.

When you try to make something 10% better, your brain is burdened with all the baggage that came before. You have no room to maneuver.

When you say 10 times better, you have to reinvent the whole process. It makes you think big. You toss out the old rules and start fresh. Here’s Shane:

“If you’re aiming for 10% improvement you are going to work within the conventional bounds of what normally happens in your product or industry. If you say that this has to be 10 times better, then it forces you to get down to the first principle of what is most essential. This is a way to force reinvention, which is really what innovation is.”

And when you dream big, people want to join you. Your co-workers talk about you. Senior leaders want to throw money at you to groom you as a future leader. Ambition is a force multiplier. When you think 10x instead of 10%, you behave differently.

Research shows when you set bolder, more audacious goals you work harder than when you’re reasonable. According to Shane:

“Subconsciously, we actually push ourselves harder when we’re going after bigger, loftier, harder goals. Research shows people who set higher goals end up outperforming their peers or themselves because they push themselves harder or because they force themselves to find more creative, alternative, unconventional solutions to problems.”

So dream big. No, even bigger.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.