Be a squeaky wheel…(with class)

squeaky_wheel

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

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

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

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

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

Ask for feedback. Ask for counseling and coaching.

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

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

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

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

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

Demand feedback.

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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.