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.

The fatal flaw of trying to please everyone…

Mark-Zuckerberg_10

I recently went out to lunch with my family. It was Saturday afternoon and my father-in-law, who was planning a drive to the neighboring city for the weekend, joined us. At the restaurant, he realized that his old school Garmin GPS had been drained of its battery and required a recharge. He pulled out the wall charger and looked around for an outlet.

In an effort to help, as a good son-in-law would, I took charge. Instead of suggesting that he use the navigation app on his smartphone, I told him not to worry, grabbed the device and the charger and walked over to the concierge. They refused to help. Undaunted, I looked around and saw a wall outlet right by the door.

I quickly savored my small victory and plugged in the device. I realized that I really couldn’t leave just out in the open (you know … because theft of GPS devices is so rampant these days). In a moment of genius, I figured out a way to hide the device from main view by placing it inside a hard to reach crevice, making it difficult to steal easily. Plus it was right in my line of sight, so if anyone tried to steal it, I’d see them.

Fast forward to paying the check and packing. Now it was time to go grab that Garmin and return it triumphantly to my father-in-law, who as I imagined it, would jump for joy at my success. His appreciation would know no bounds and I’d collect some brownie points from the wife for future use.

Slam dunk!

I unplug the charger from the phone, pull the device out of its well-hidden spot and push the power button in delightful anticipation. Nothing happens. I try again. Nothing. I flip the device and see that the lithium ion battery had actually come apart when I’d placed the device into the crevice. This was because the cover of the device had to be removed in order to plug the charger into it. So, the battery never got charged.

With my hopes for brownie points, appreciation of my efforts and celebration of my genius completely gone, I handed the device back to my grim looking father-in-law with an apology. At the same time, I looked up to see my wife laughing at me and shaking her head.

“I can’t believe that the battery came off. All that work for nothing,” she said jokingly. “That is classic you.”

As she said this, something in my mind clicked.

“Classic me?”

“Does she believe that I failed to succeed in getting the Garmin charged because I did a half-assed job?”

“Does she have an impression that I fail a lot?”

During the drive back home, I started thinking.

It was true that I didn’t check the device to make sure that the battery was still in its place while charging. In fact, I didn’t even check to see if the outlet was working. It was a half-assed job. In my desire for a quick win and to get an easy approval from my father-in-law, I didn’t check to make sure that everything was working as expected before sitting down to eat. A tiny oversight that cost me big.

It also hit me that I have this tendency to jump up and offer help as much as possible. It’s my way to get the appreciation and approval from others. However, because I jump to help out on all situations, I don’t always succeed. It’s either because I didn’t have enough time. Or I didn’t have enough resources. Or because, to be honest, it really wasn’t something I wanted to do but offered to help anyway.

My intentions and my efforts, no matter how benevolent, were useless.

And there is the problem.

Even though I probably satisfied my family over 80% of the time, people tend to remember disappointments more vividly and for a longer time than moments of happiness. So, in my wife’s mind, the “classic” me failed a lot. The “classic” me didn’t always put 100% effort in achieving success when it came to helping my family. She placed a deep discount on the value of my successes.

The same is true at the office.

There are many of us who happily on a new project or a new assignment or a new task even when we already have enough on our plate. Because we are ambitious. We are driven. We want to get noticed.

And what better way to get exposure than to get your hands in as many initiatives and projects as possible.

But here’s the thing. No matter how well intentioned you are or how many long hours you are willing to put, when you spread yourself across too many activities, you are bound to fail at a few.

Some you will fail because you weren’t able to devote enough time to go through the minutia. Some will fail because you relied too heavily on someone who didn’t care as much about the project’s success. But most of the time, you may not completely fail. You’ll work extra hard to finish the project but will end up delivering a low quality product. You tried to please everyone, juggled too much stuff and things fell through the cracks.

It happens.

You may not even notice. You’re so busy focusing on the 8 out of ten projects that were completed successfully and on-time, that you minimized the two failures.

But as I said, people don’t place as high a value on the successes of others as they place on their failures.

One little oversight or a little mistake can derail all your efforts.

In the stock trading world, there’s a saying: “You’re only as good as your last trade.”

The same is true in the corporate world. You’re only as good as your last success.

So how does one get around this.

It’s simple!

Just don’t take on everything. Learn to say no. You don’t need to please everyone.

Those who say that the way to career success is to never say no. Those people are assholes. Take a look at them. They’re going no-where. You know why? Because they’re too busy being everyone’s bitch.

When you try to make everyone happy, you make no one happy. When you try to stand for everything … you stand for nothing.

So be strategic about what you take on. Review all the stuff that’s on your plate. Get rid of i.e. delegate items that are time suckers with low impact. Take on projects and tasks that you know for sure you can complete, especially if they are ones with high visibility. Focus on one to two items at a time. And work on these whole-heatedly. Don’t cut corners. Don’t rush. Work your ass of to get nothing short of perfection.

Now you’ll be known only for your successes.

People may not like you for saying ‘no’, but they’ll like you a lot less when you say ‘yes’ and then fail. They may think you’re an asshole but they will begrudgingly respect you for being honest.

In my personal case, I didn’t really have to run around to help my father-in-law. If I hadn’t offered, he would have looked for an outlet and then would have moved on. He wouldn’t even have associated me with that bad experience. Had I not said anything, he would probably have pulled out the navigation app on his phone and used that. Yes, he hates using it but he knows how. In fact, that’s exactly what he did.

We would have gone on with our lives and I would have walked out of that lunch with a neutral score. But I had to get involved and so, by failing, I walked out in negative territory.

At least my beautiful, amazing wife got a huge chuckle.

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

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.

Above All Else – The one skill you need to master

banner_customer_service

Like it or not, YOU are in customer service. You are a business. Your time and skills are the products you sell. Your body and mind are the tools you use. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, your success ultimately depends on your ability to Acquire, Retain and Please your customers.

If you haven’t realized this, you’re way behind on the game.

You’re thinking “What do I know; I don’t work on the sales floor. I work in a back-office function with a lot of smart people, a bunch of idiots and a plethora of assholes.”

Boss Client

 

Unfortunately for you, those idiots and assholes are your customers.

 

If you’re an accountant working in the back-office, who do you think your customers are?

Your most important customer is your boss. You are selling her on you, your brand and the potential she perceives you to have (know your shit). Inability to deliver and lack of motivation will very quickly give her buyer’s remorse.

Your secondary customers – the others who depend on you to make/review entries and perform accountant-like duties. These secondary customers can influence your primary customer so you should always be ON. Piss off a peer and the salt will leak into your brand overnight.

Good customer service means being reliable, likable and knowledgeable. Always deliver what you’ve committed to delivering (under promise but over deliver). No one can recall the times when you came in on schedule, but they damn well will remember if you’re early (sandbag – yeah I said it).

Customer Service

Finally, don’t ever deliberately piss off your customer. A pissed off customer will remember. In fact, the negative experience you provided will last longer in his memory than anything positive you’ve done. And so … in the long chance that he has the ability to influence your career growth, guess which way he’ll go.

Think of yourself as a brand like Nike, Amazon, Zappos etc. Your reputation can make or break your brand. The best way to cultivate a great reputation is to provide great customer service.

Five things you’re doing wrong at work

Career Sabotage

One of my favorite magazines just came out with a great article on the five things you could be doing to hurt your career.

FastCompany spoke to career experts about unwitting actions at the office that may be derailing your career.

1. Being hard on yourself when you fail

Failure happens. But you hurt your career when you let the fear of failure prevent you from sharing new ideas or taking risks. Instead, assess the cause of failure: was it due to lack of support from senior leaders? was it sabotaged? did you fail to plan or communicate appropriately? was it you? or was it due to external influences? Leverage your learnings to ensure success on the next project.

Michael-Jordan-Quote

2. Thinking that self promotion is unprofessional

The Korporate Klimber is a big proponent of self-promotion. No one knows you better than you do. So, if you’re not touting your strengths and not sharing your achievements with others, you’re letting opportunities slip by you. Just don’t be a self-centered douche about it. Be classy by promoting the success of your project and the people involved.

3. Not being a team player

Sometimes, smart, ambitious people get frustrated because others on their team aren’t as smart, as motivated, or as dedicated to a project so they just say “fuck-it” and do everything on their own. This is a bad idea. Not only do you alienate yourself, you’re also sowing the seeds of jealousy and general discontent. If you piss people off, they’re less likely to help you in the future and more likely to take pleasure in watching you fail. Don’t be an island. You may want to laugh at the idea of holding hands and singing kumbaya with your fellow co-workers, but trust me … it is a good career move.

4. Not soliciting feedback constantly

Don’t wait for the annual performance review to find out what your boss really thinks of you. Instead, get in front of him at least once a quarter and ask for his feedback. Get him to help you find your weaknesses and work on them before he puts them down in an official company record at year-end. Jump on any opportunities for a 360-degree feedback.

5. Staying only in your comfort zone

Nothing kills a career faster than someone who doesn’t want to take on new responsibilities and expand their role. If you’re offered a chance to work on something beyond your daily responsibilities, jump on it immediately. But be smart and take on work that has high visibility. Avoid taking on thankless grunt work from your co-worker. Do take on thankless grunt work from your boss and other leaders.

Read the full FAST COMPANY article here:   YOU’RE PROBABLY MAKING THESE FIVE MISTAKES AT WORK

Traits of a high performer part II – Know your shit

Know your shit! Become an expert at your job

Become a subject matter expert as soon as possible. You want to become the person people think of first when they have a question.

As soon as you join a new position or take on a new role, jump head first into it. Take ownership of that role. Don’t be a passive learner during the transition period. Take control and ask questions with the aim to re-assess the job. In fact, question everything. Why is this process being done? What value does this report provide? Who is the audience? Is there a better way to access this information?

When you’re new at a job, you can ask as many seemingly stupid questions as you want because at the end, there are no stupid questions.

By performing a critical review of your new responsibilities and by spending those long hours on learning everything you can about your role itself, the technology used and the people you interact with, you can, within a short period of time, become the subject matter expert.

The next step is to make sure everyone around you perceives you are the expert that everyone relies on.  You do this by making sure you speak up and offer an opinion any time a discussion mentions your area of expertise. At meetings, at events and even informal get-togethers, whenever your subject matter comes up, express an opinion. And be smart about what you say. Think before you speak. Make sure that whatever you say, adds value to the conversation.

As you become to go-to person for your field of expertise, you put yourself on “top of mind” for anyone who has a question.

This makes you valuable.

And this makes you promotable.

Take initiative to improve existing processes

 Don’t just do what you’ve been taught during your training. Instead, once you’ve mastered your role (should take no more than six months) begin implementing changes to make your role better and your job easier. Look for opportunities to improve as much as possible. Change the status-quo!

Creatively think of ways to simplify complicated processes. Get rid of any part of your job that does not add any value, whether it’s a monthly report or a data pull or an analysis. Find out who uses it. If you can’t find anyone that truly benefits from your work…then don’t do it.

By making noise about how the current process is ineffective and by implementing improvements, not only are you making your life and the lives of those you interact with easier, you’re also letting your boss and senior leaders know that you’re not just someone collecting their paycheck but hat you’re someone who’s invested in the company and dedicated to making it better. You are not just a complainer, like hundreds of others around you. You are a doer! You take initiative. You are perceived as someone who can take on a new role, master it and then go fix it.

At big companies, there are a lot of complainers but not enough fixers. When you’re perceived as a problem solver, you’re no longer pigeon-holed into a specific role or skill sets. You’re not just an expert at one thing. You’re an expert at problem solving.

You’re someone who can be relied upon to problem solve other areas.

When you become reliable, you become promotable.

HardWorkCreativity

 

(cont. in part III – Thump your chest)