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.

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.

 

Leaders & Leadership | thoughts from GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt

boss-vs-leader-800x800

The General Electric company is consistently recognized as an excellent breeding ground for future business leaders. So much so, that many of the current Fortune 500 leaders today rotated through GE doors before they became CEO. Jim McNerney, Chairman & CEO of Boeing, came from GE. Bob Nardelli, ex-CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler as well. So did David Cote, CEO of Honeywell. The list goes on.

The only other institution with such a reputation is Harvard.

“Firms led by CEOs who were trained at GE will outperform firms led by CEOs who were not; GE’s reputation for developing CEO talent is, in fact, well deserved and not mere hype; and GE appears to develop more CEO talent than other noted CEO talent-generating firms.” – Ivey Business Journal

So when GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt shares his thoughts on leadership and the evolving role of leaders, the Korporate Klimber pays attention.

Here’s what Jeff wrote recently |

[Recently], Aon Hewitt named GE the #1 company for developing leaders. They are an HR consulting company, so their designation means a lot. GE always ranks near the top of the list, but it is nice to be #1. A few days earlier, the Hay Group, another HR consulting firm, named GE #2 on its list of best companies for leadership.

The ratings are based on: practices and culture; global development; business and leadership strategy; reputation; and financial performance. GE tends to do well across all of the categories … that is one of our strengths.

One of the reasons GE has endured as a respected company is our commitment to leadership. However, I have always believed that “leadership has no shelf life.” In other words, as times change, techniques and emphasis must change as well. In our volatile world, leadership must adapt.

Great leaders embrace change. You, as an aspiring leader, should never accept the status quo or the phrase “Well, this is how it’s always been done.” People who say that will never become leaders. Change in inevitable. Success requires us to not only embrace the idea of change, but also that one become an agent for change.

Jeff goes on to say |

So let’s start with the elements of leadership that stand the test of time: a commitment to performance, a foundation of integrity and a desire to learn. These have been traits of good GE leaders for more than 100 years. They will – they must – never change. And, we stand by these foundations in good times and bad.

Pay attention. This is important.

Commitment to performance – You’ve got to work hard. There’s no way around it. No shortcuts. No “hacks”. But notice that he says “commitment to performance” not commitment to hard work. This means that it’s the end result i.e. the quality of the product you deliver that determines the quality of your performance. And as we all know, every high quality product requires hard work and attention to detail.

Foundation of integrity – Success without integrity will not last. Just look at Elliot Spitzer. He was the best attorney general that New York state ever had. He became governor. He was going to be the next president of the United States. Then, he gets caught for hiring prostitutes. This guy, who was the poster child for upholding the law, does something illegal. He lost his integrity. He lost the trust of those who put him up on a pedestal.

If success is built on relationships, and if relationships require trust, then how can one be successful without integrity?

Do the right thing. Always.

Desire to learn – The world is changing and so are the requirements of the workplace. Many of the skills that were important to succeed at a job just a decade ago are obsolete today. Adapt or become irrelevant. Learning and knowing new things, keeps you relevant.

No one likes stale potato chips. Keep yourself fresh. Never stop learning.

Here’s Jeff again |

But leadership must evolve with the times. Let me describe three aspects of leadership that are vastly different today than when I was growing up in the company.

Today, leaders must be deep first and broad second. The emphasis on a “general leader” is declining. Domain matters. Our best leaders have great instincts for markets, customers, data. General leaders can do ok for 2 or 3 years. Domain leaders build ideas that last.

Today, leaders must be risk managers not control freaks. I grew up in a controls-based company. But, the environment was easier. Good leaders today manage the 3-4 things that really count; they know how to prioritize.

Today, purpose is more important than process. In the past, we were more of a process-oriented company. Doing things the right way is still important today. However, in this slow-growth world, outcomes for our customers matter most. Leaders must have a passion for winning.

Passion for winning! You’ve already got that. That’s why you’re reading this blog and this article. Otherwise you’d be going through slides of top 10 twerkers in Romania or something.

Now all you need to do is develop the other skills.

Keep Klimbing.

 

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.

The “Buy-in” is a little known but incredibly powerful tool for corporate success

buy-in-image

You’ve got a good idea. Maybe it’s a new software system to help automate time-consuming manual processes. Maybe you saw a complicated problem and figured out a solution. Or a new initiative aimed at improving current processes. It’s going to help many people across multiple divisions. Implementing it could make a crucial difference for your company and will make every impacted person’s life easier. You talk to your boss and she gives you the go-ahead. You are excited. You spend extra time at the office researching and planning. You do all the work. You create a power point deck to present to the stake holders. You put a meeting on the calendar and invite all the right people. Your research is solid. Your presentation is kick-ass. This is a high-visibility project that could even catapult your career. You can’t wait to blow the socks off everyone.

On the day of the meeting, you present it to the group. But you don’t get the response you were expecting. Instead you get confounding questions and some inane comments in return. The guy in operations who’s group would likely benefit the most, points out a small obscure flaw in your idea and unnecessarily makes it a huge issue. You try to explain that the roadblock he pointed out is minor and can be resolved. But at this point, no one is listening. Before you know, your idea is dead, shot down. You can’t believe it. This was supposed to be a no-brainer. You leave the meeting feeling frustrated at the lack of support.

What happened?

You failed to get the buy-in.

The concept of a buy-in is little understood in the lower ranks of the corporate hierarchy, but it is one of the most effective tools used by those at the top.

The idea of a buy-in is simple. It’s the execution that requires a lot of work on your part.

Wikipedia sums it up the best | “In management and decision making, buy-in signifies the commitment of interested or affected parties to a decision. The goal is to get the stakeholders to ‘buy into’ the decision, that is, to agree (in advance) to give it support , often by having been involved in its formulation.

So what does this mean?

It means you need to get everyone’s involvement and support before you walk into the conference room. Before “officially” presenting an idea in front of many people in a public setting, you need to meet with each person “unofficially”. In this unofficial meeting, take the persons through your idea and your presentation and ask for candid feedback. By discussing it with them privately, you give each person the time to absorb your idea. In addition, you give them an opportunity to privately voice their concerns and opposition and thus, give you time to tweak your plans and presentation. Many follow up meetings may be needed to get their buy in. But in the end, you will have secured support before you even step into the meeting. In a best case, they may even contribute to making your idea better.

DO NOT schedule the official meeting until you have every person’s input and support for your idea.

Listen. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to be self-serving and envious of others. No one, especially those who think you are competing against them at the workplace, wants to see you succeed if they can’t enjoy the same success or be a part of your success. They definitely don’t want to see you come up with great ideas and get a ton of recognition while they sit on their asses doing nothing.

Majority of the time, it’s not even on purpose. Much of human behavior is driven by the subconscious. Your idea may result in a change to the status-quo and many people don’t like change. Usually, in people’s mind, there is a belief system in place about how things should work. Not only are you challenging that belief, you’re telling them that it’s wrong and it needs to change. This makes them uncomfortable. So, it doesn’t matter how great your idea is. It doesn’t even matter if it’s in their best interest. They’re going to find a hole and shoot it down because a) there’s no way you should be getting ahead and b) it’s not aligned with their belief system.

And there’s your ticket. “It’s not aligned with their belief system.” You can work on that.

How? By winning hearts and minds. By gently nudging their belief system to align with yours. Get the idea in front of them beforehand and actively ask for their input. Another subconscious aspect of human nature is advice giving. People LOVE giving advice and opinions. It’s an instant ego booster. By asking for their opinions, you’re making them feel important and getting them to connect with your project at an emotional level [subconsciously]. And honestly, you may actually benefit from their input. As you go through and incorporate everyone’s ideas and even figure out how to address the comments and challenges from the naysayers, you can ensure that you get everyone’s buy-in before you even enter that conference room.

You do this and your success is guaranteed.

A wager…

Here’s the deal.

First, give me $1000.

Then, give me one name from ALL the people you know.

Now sit back and relax. From now on, you’ll get 10% of all their earnings. Forever. Month after month and year after year for the rest of their life. Guaranteed!

Who would you bet on?

Obviously you’ll want to pick the person who you’ve determined will be the most successful over the course of their life. But how do you pick? What criteria do you look for?

This question was posed by Warren Buffet to a group of graduating MBA students a few years ago. Warren Buffet has made a living from picking the right people. He is one of the richest people on the planet, not because he invents things or sells great products but because he bets on people. His business model is to find a company run by the right people, invest in it and let those people keep doing what they do. All the while collecting a small percentage in returns. By doing this, he’s built a company who’s stock is worth $210,500 per share (see BRK.A).

How does Buffet find his winners?

He looks at character. Specifically, there are three traits in a person’s character that lead to long-term sustainable success:  Intelligence, Energy & Integrity

Intelligence | It’s not the person with the highest grades or the best SAT scores that possesses the intelligence required for success. It’s much more simple. It’s having the ability to assess situations quickly and make decisions that maximize opportunity while minimizing negative impact. It’s  having adaptive intelligence. Adaptive intelligence, unlike I.Q. intelligence, is not inherent. It’s the ability to see the pole coming at you while you’re running and dodging just enough to avoid a full on blow but instead take a hit on your shoulders and keep running. It’s the ability to see the pattern before it fully emerges and adapt.

Energy | Energy is keeping yourself healthy and to develop a bias to action. People who have a tendency to take action over just thinking about taking action. It’s taking initiative even when the results are not too clear. It’s about having the physical vitality recover from a cold quickly and be back at work the next day to kick ass. It’s having the strength to mentally push yourself into action, to take on more than your share of the workload and a willingness to crush it every single day.

Integrity | This is the most important one of all. Seriously! Without integrity, the other two are worthless. In fact, they are dangerous. We all know that integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. But in this case, it’s more than that. Integrity is about being true to yourself. It’s about formulating a set of values and beliefs and then ensuring that every action, every thought and every part of your life is geared to align with those values.

So, who do you bet on?

What if I told you that there was one person in the world that you know, who you can pick and for that person you don’t have to give me the $1000. More importantly, you will get to keep 100% of the income they earn over their lifetime.

That person, my Korporate Klimbing friends, is YOU.

How? you ask?

The great thing is that none of the three qualities described above are inherent. These are not qualities that successful people are born with. They are self-selected. Each of these qualities can be learned, developed and perfected.

Conor Neill, professor at the prestigious IESE Business School in Spain, gives us tools to get started on developing each of the characteristics above.

Tools for success

Build intelligence | Adaptive intelligence is not something one needs to be born with. The ability to think on your feet and to be able to “pivot” at the right time can be taught.

Write it down

Start by writing stuff down. Start a daily journal or diary. Spend five to ten minutes to write down the ideas you had today, the names of people you’ve met and describe the experiences you’ve had. By writing down ideas on a daily basis, six months from now, you won’t be the intelligence of one moment. Instead, you will have the accumulated intelligence of six months of ideas you’ve written down, of contacts you’ve made and of things you’ve learned. Write down your life. By documenting the learnings from your daily life, you will accumulate intelligence far beyond what you can get from mastering chess strategy or an MBA course.

Maximize energy | Deal with your day one step at a time. Focus your energy on small chunks of deliverables. Break large and complicated projects into small milestones that can be met quickly. High performance athletes don’t think about the finish line or the outcome at the end of the game. Instead, they focus on the next one minute, the next five minutes and what they have to accomplish in that small amount of time. Football quarterbacks focus on moving forward in inches and on moving ten yards at a time. They don’t focus on the outcome of the three hour game. They create short term goals and they meet them. Similarly, focus on the next task. Not on that deliverable due in three months.

Develop integrity | Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and consistent commitment to honor your values and beliefs.

Do you know how a child spells love? T.I.M.E. List the top give things that you consider important to you. Your kids, your parents, your career, you hobbies etc. Now list the top five activities that take up most of your time. The five activities that fill up your calendar. Are they aligned? Most likely not.

The coherence between your time and your values is where integrity begins. So little of our time goes to the things that we mean to do. Integrity is spending your precious time on the things that matter to you. Each day, hundreds of tiny decisions are made on where you spend your time that are not aligned with your values. We find ourselves inadvertently spending hours on Facebook when we just meant to check in for a few mins. Time spent watching the latest reality show. Time spent on playing candy crush. More importantly, time spent on doing things for other people just to please them. Learn to say NO. Say no to the little temptations that suck your time away. The ones that distract you from the things that are important to you. Say no to the requests of others that are not aligned to your values. 

Each one of these characteristics can be developed. More importantly, by turning these into habits, you ensure that they become part of your life.

All it takes is discipline. And practice. Lots. Of. Practice.

Will you bet on yourself?

Bet onyourself