Be a squeaky wheel…(with class)

squeaky_wheel

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

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

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

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

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

Ask for feedback. Ask for counseling and coaching.

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

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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

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

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

Demand feedback.

19 Hard Truths You Have to Accept to Be Successful

RealityCheck

Found on themuse.com

Before You Respond to that Email, Pause – Harvard Business Review

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This article was posted on the Harvard Business Review

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Before You Respond to that Email, Pause   Anthony K. Tjan

Someone sends you an email message or a text, and you’re unsure how to respond. It’s about a complex negotiation, or a politically sensitive situation. Or maybe it’s just from a person who unnerves you.

For a moment, you pause. But for most of us, most of the time, that pause doesn’t last long. Instead we react, feeling the need to immediately craft a response. And often we then hit “send” without fully thinking. The result: an awkward or incomplete message that causes the recipient to pause, then react, often starting or continuing a cycle of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Yes, people today expect and want an instantaneous reply to any message. We often accommodate them because delay feels like a violation of modern-day social norms.

But there are many times when we should not immediately reply. And the truth is, we usually know them when they come. That’s what that initial pause is about. The key is to heed it.

There is a simple two-step method to making the pause work for you. First, buy yourself some time to think. Second, follow the four simple C’s of effective communication that help determine how best to respond in terms of the context, content, channel, and contact.

Buying Time

There are a few practical ways to buy some time when you get a message where your gut tells you not to respond or where you are not sure how to respond.

  • The non-response response – “Got your message.” This is meant to serve as an acknowledgement but really is only filler. It may aggravate someone in the midst of a negotiation or other serious exchange.
  • The expectation-setter – “Got it. Lot on the plate today, I’ll get back to you tomorrow afternoon.” This is often a good middle ground. It provides an immediate response of acknowledgment and resets the timetable.
  • The confident pause – Don’t respond. Really. Just don’t. Pausing for at least 24 hours is a pretty good rule of thumb. Not responding is its own kind of response, which can often work to your advantage.

Once you’ve bought yourself some time, you soak in the information from the message and think of what the best response might be. There are four C’s that have served as a useful checklist for me to use during that pause time before I respond to a difficult message: context, content, contact, and channel.

The Four C’s of Effective Communication

Context – Having the right situational context is key. Who are the relevant parties to the conversation or discussion thread? Are there relationships and inter-dependencies and previous conversations that I’m not aware of? Do I fully understand what is at stake? In the multi-party transactions in which we often get involved in venture capital, sending out a quick response to even a simple query can backfire if the timing is wrong or the information out of date. Sometimes you can even answer a specific question in a technically correct manner, but be practically incorrect because you’ve failed to appreciate the bigger picture.

Content – The message needs to be delivered in clear manner with the right tone and style for the occasion. Having the right content means checking facts and being consistent with past discussion threads. If there is one thing that I have seen kill a negotiation or productive progress in a discussion, it is inconsistency of message, which both confuses others and diminishes your credibility. Get the facts and your message points straight in your head, then focus on delivering them in the clearest, most understandable, most consistent manner possible.

Contact – Are you even the right person to respond? It happens often: we are asked something and fail to realize that we might not be the best person to respond. Consider if someone else might be more knowledgeable or better suited in style to respond, especially in a crisis (where it is usually best to have only a single point of contact). There is a reason why terrorist and hostage negotiations are not conducted over Google Docs. And even in an open and collaborative everyday work culture, there are many times when deferring to someone else is the right answer. Also, consider if the person on the other side who is asking a question or provoking a discussion is the right contact person as well. And always — always! — be wary of “reply all” and judicious with the cc function.

Channel – Just because someone contacts you by email or text does not mean you have to respond by that channel. Email and text lend themselves to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. They are often likelier to prolong or inflame a debate than to resolve it. Sometimes it’s much more effective and efficient just to pick up the phone or meet up in person. Email is great for transmitting factual information — a spreadsheet of a business model, for example, or a summary of a prior discussion. But when there are issues to resolve, talking usually works better.

As the pressure grows to respond quickly, the value of pausing and thinking is growing too. We all should work toward developing better, saner norms of communication amid the explosion of channels available to us. But that will take time and thought to get right. In the interim, we just need to stop being so damned trigger-happy with that send button.

Email etiquette | the CC

EmailEtiquette

One of my favorite sources of office etiquette is Ross McCammon who writes articles as the Equire Guy for Entreprenuer magazine.

His recent article on the etiquette of using the CC feature in emails is brilliant. We’ve all used it. We’ve all been a victim of someone else using it on us when we’ve least expected it. Some of us may have even been thrown under the bus via the CC. It sucks!

If you’ve ever been confused about when and how to CC someone else in an email thread, read on. Below is the excerpt as it appeared in the Feb 2015 copy of Entreprenuer.

You’re at a party talking to your co-worker Dave. You’re having a nice back-and-forth about work stuff, the softball game next week, what the smell is …

As Dave is talking to you, he taps Susan on the shoulder and beckons her over. So now it’s you, Dave and Susan. But he doesn’t say anything to Susan or even disclose why he asked her over. He just continues talking to you like Susan’s not even there saying out loud everything you guys were discussing before she got there. Even the stuff about Susan. And she’s not saying anything. She’s just standing there, looking blankly at the space between you and Dave.

That’s what CC’ing is like. But that’s a particular type of CC – the “discreet insertion CC.” All of a sudden a name appears in an email. Why is that person here? Where did they come from? What is their agenda? Why is their presence not being acknowledged? This is surreptitious. Distasteful. Irritating.

Contrast this with the “Over-insertion CC,” which involves acknowledging that you’ve added someone to the email thread. It’s like the above scenario, only Dave says, “I’m going to bring Susan into this.” Still surreptitious, but less so. And a little less irritating.

Also of note is the “responsibility minimization CC.” It says “By involving someone else, I am making myself less culpable should whatever we’re emailing about go sour.” On the spectrum of Irritation, this falls between the above two types of CC’ing.

The most aggressive approach is the “defensive CC.” It says to the other party: “By involving this particular person, you are not going to so easily get away with what you think you’re getting away with.” Forget irritating. Here, you just seem vaguely sociopathic.

But the worst CC is the “blind CC.” It’s a move straight out of a spy novel. It says “Hey, go over there and stand behind those boxes. Just wait. They’ll come in, we’ll talk, and you’ll hear everything! And they will never know.”

The blind CC says to the CC’d, “I trust you with this information. In fact, I trust you more than I trust the person I’m betraying.” That’s the problem: It’s sneaky. And the 438th rule of business states, “If you benefit from the sneaky behavior of others, at some point the sneaky person will use the sneaky behavior against you.” Your emails will also be copied to someone else without your knowledge.

THE EFFECT ON THE COPIED

Sometimes you’re Susan. You’re the one that’s been brought into the conversation against your will. If you’re only the third or fourth person on the email chain, then you an obligation to acknowledge that you have been pilled into the conversation. And if you have any questions as to why that is, you have an obligation to inquire about what kind of contributions the CC’er thinks you can make. This is an investment. It says to everyone involved: “I want to be of help here, but if I have been CC’s here for ulterior motives, then please think twice about ever CC’ing me again.” It also says: “It may have been a mistake to CC me, because I am the kind of person who forces you to spend a lot of time explaining why I was CC’d. You irritate me, I will irritate you tenfold.”

The ethical problems are obvious: You’re changing the terms of discourse without the other person agreeing to that. CC’ing denies your colleagues a choice. Also, it lessens the importance of the CC’er and it forces the CC’ees to deal with a problem that they didn’t ask to deal with.

AND THEN?

The reason you’re doing the CC’ing is less important than the effect it has on communication – both in the short and long term. The CC suggests you don’t fully trust the person you’re dealing with. (Which, of course, your don’t.) A healthy skepticism is an important virtue in business.

But communicating that skepticism in such an obvios way changes the terms of communication. It says “You and I can’t do this on our own,” or “I won’t let you do this on your own.” When someone inserts a CC, I am immediately less inclined to communicate openly with that person. It degrades our relationship.

The Esquire Guy also provided a quick guide to the do’s and don’ts of email CC. For the entire article, pick up a copy of Entreprenuer today.

EmailGuide2

What your “Out-Of-Office” message says about you…

Out-Of-Office
Your personality heavily influences the path your life will take. The difference between someone who’s a failure vs. someone stuck in mediocrity vs. someone wildly successful is very deeply rooted in your character traits and habits. The differences are very subtle at an individual level but add up quickly.

Recently saw this posted on by Ruslan Kogan on Linkedin which provides a perfect example of the subtle difference between a high performer and a mediocre one.

You can tell a lot about a person’s work ethic from how they word their Out Of Office email template when they go on leave. You can also tell if it’s a person that’s driven by and gets inner fulfillment from achieving an end goal or simply by fulfilling their minimum contractual obligations.

Out Of Office template for someone who always does the bare minimum:

I am out of the office until 20th January and will not be checking my emails during this time. Please email john@smith.com.

Out Of Office template for a high achiever:

I am out of the office until 20th January and will have limited access to emails so please expect a slightly delayed response. You can also contact john@smith.comwhile I’m away or if any matter is urgent, you can call my cell on 0412 345 678.

So keep an eye on what Out Of Office template your team mates choose to use. It’s a good guide.

Which one are you?

Read the entire article “Don’t hire Hotmail users & other tips to save your company culture

Don’t f#@k the drunk intern … and other career saving holiday party tips

office-party-drunk_SRS-Legal-230x300Holiday parties are back! Companies are makin’ money and the ones that aren’t being cheap are bringing back the holiday party in full swing.

While it’s supposed to be a time to hang loose and let your hair down, in reality, it’s the opposite. It’s an opportunity for you to show that you can be reserved and professional when you don’t have to be. It’s an opportunity to show upper management that you can take care of yourself and not embarrass the company if left to your own devices.

Holiday parties won’t make your career. But they can definitely derail it if you’re not careful and if you’re not on your best behavior.

Here’s how not to screw up.

Do NOT skip the party … or be really late

While there is never an obligation to attend a holiday party, don’t be that prick who’s too cool to attend. No matter how lame you think it is, you must go. The people who organize these i.e. most likely your boss(es) will notice. Even if they don’t, don’t miss the opportunity to show off your polished social skills and mingle with upper management.

Showing up extra fashionably late? You’re just being extra dumb. Senior management probably won’t stay too long. For them, this is not a time to hang loose. They’re still working. So, most of them will stick around for the obligatory hour or two and then make an exit. You do not want to miss out.

Married? Don’t take your spouse if they’re not invited. However, definitely do bring them if they are invited. Don’t have a baby sitter? Find one. They’re working? Tell them to call in sick. This is important to you. They need to show up and represent the hell out of you i.e. make you look good.

Which leads me to the one exception. If your spouse or significant other is incapable of making you look good in front of others, then save yourself and leave them at home.

Dress well

This is a no brainer. You’re going to a business social function to see and to be seen. So wear something nice. More importantly, dress with class.

Men | Wear a suit if you can. Even if others don’t. BUT…and it’s a big “but”. Make sure to wear a suit that looks good on you. Don’t pull out that 5 year old suit that’s too big or too tight. If you don’t look good in it, throw it back in the closet and go buy another.

Women | Dress to impress. Look hot without looking slutty. Tight fitting dresses are risky so instead, go with form fitting. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, it shows in your confidence. Just please refrain from showing off too much skin. Avoid making this about your body regardless of how sexy it is. Don’t allow yourself to get boxed as the “chick from legal with the hot legs.” It’s about you as the whole package.

Married? Make your significant other also follow the rules above. They represent you and your brand at this shin-dig. Don’t let them pull you down.

Don’t show up hungry

Yes, there will be food. Tons of free food. But do you really want to waste your time in the food line? Precious time that can be spent mingling. So, grab a drink, walk around and look for the key people you need to get in front of.

When you do eat, keep the items on your plate to things that can be eaten in small bites. Avoid looking gluttonous. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a conversation with a big ass chunk of food in your mouth. Stay away from anything that is too liquid (gravy, sauces, etc) or anything that can stain your clothes if it falls.

Make sure you’ve got nothing in your teeth.

Control alcohol intake

This is NOT the place to get drunk. So go with a plan to stay attentive and focused. Know how many drinks it takes to get you from a good confidence boosting buzz to tipsy. You want to stay in that “confidence boosting buzz.” So as soon as you reach it, stop drinking. Get a glass of water or coke or something. Wait 15-20 mins before the next drink.

Notice that the senior leaders are either drinking water or other non-alcohol beverages or they will nurse their one drink forever. That means, their judgments are not clouded. Neither should yours.

Leverage your spouse…big time

Your spouse or significant other knows you better than anyone else in that room. They can help you raise your profile, both in the room and at the office.

First, your significant other is your arm candy. If they look good, you look good.

Second, your significant other can be a great cheerleader and marketer of your brand. Have them with you when you approach the big boss and her husband. While you’re buttering up the boss, your partner should work on their significant other. While you make a good impression on the lady who has an influence over your career, your spouse can make a good impression on the one person who has influence over the boss lady.

Avoid talking shop

While it’s inevitable that conversations about work will come up, play it smart and keep it light and high level.

  • Don’t bitch about work | by doing so, you’re being a downer.
  • Don’t talk badly about people | anything you say can and will get back to them or worse, HR.
  • Don’t pitch big ideas to the CEO | use the time to connect with her on a personal level and then subtly request if you can put some time on her calendar to discuss some thoughts (ideas) you’ve had. Most likely she will say yes. Leave it at that. Follow through the next day.
  • Don’t linger with one person too long | unless the person is your BFF at the office, don’t hog up all their time.
  • Have a list of people you want to get in front of. Make sure that you do.

Do. Not. Twerk.

If there is dancing, keep it classy.

This ain’t an audition for “Bring it On”. Keep the booty shaking, the soulja boy, the gangnum style, the harlem shake, the anaconda and whatever else you’ve got, to yourself. You may be the best twerker on your block. Your colleagues don’t need to know.

If you’re with a significant other, dance only (or mostly) with them. If you’re by yourself, dance with a group of people you are friends with. No grinding.

Again … keep drinking to a minimum.

No flirting … no hookups

This isn’t prom. OK? The goal of the night shouldn’t be to hook up with someone. Even if the opportunity presents itself like your favorite dessert on a diamond encrusted plate … just walk away. You are being watched and you are being judged. It’s not worth losing your job over or being the known as the creep that took advantage of poor drunk intern.

Some others

  • If sitting at a table, don’t leave without asking if anyone else needs something – we know you can’t carry it all.
  • Make an effort to walk around and say hello to as many people as possible. Don’t sit at one table for the entire evening.
  • Avoid cell phone use. Post to Facebook later.
  • If you do take a call, it better be from the baby sitter or the hospital.

The Korporate Klimber looks at the holiday party as an opportunity to leverage a career boost. I’m not saying that the holiday party is where you pitch your next big idea. Definitely don’t do that. But it is a great opportunity to set the stage for next year.

Just don’t screw it up and become memorable for something stupid.

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

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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.