The one trait you need to succeed

gritcover2Do you believe that you need talent to be successful?

You’re wrong.

You need Grit.

Grit” is a trait studied by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist and the bestselling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Leaving a high-paying job in consulting, she began teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school where she realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. To learn more, she joined University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student and began studying people in different types of environments to find common factors that determine success.

“In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”

gritis

Luckily, you don’t have to be born with grit. It can be developed. Studies of world class achievers show they develop grit in four stages:

Interest – This first stage happens when you start to fall in love with an activity and it becomes a passion that drives you to keep getting better at it. Therefore, you should avoid taking on roles or careers in fields that you are not in love with or at least heavily interested in. You must like what you do and be interested in becoming the best at it. Otherwise it will be impossible to become successful.

Practice – The second stage is a period of prolonged skill development and dedicated practice. This is the hardest part because it requires you to keep doing the same thing over and over and over. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve world-class mastery in a field. The Beatles would practice eight hours a day seven days a week and had played over 1,200 concerts before they shot to fame. Kobe Bryant, a world class athlete, would practice shooting from one spot until he made 400 baskets.

Same goes for nerds like Bill Gates. The Gates family lived near the University of Washington. As a teenager, Gates fed his programming addiction by sneaking out of his parents’ home after bedtime to use the University’s computer and had racked up over 10,000 hours of programming experience before he founded Microsoft.

Beyond-the-self purpose –  A “beyond-the-self” sense of purpose gives you a much deeper motivation and can sustain you over a much longer period. This means that you should invest your emotions, your time and your energy into your passion because of reasons other than just being rich or becoming famous or even becoming the CEO of your company. Picking a career just to make money will rarely result in success. Seek a higher purpose, even if it is as simple as being the best at what you do.

Hope – Gritty people are resilient. They have a growth mindset, which provides them with the ability to bounce back and see each obstacle as a chance for improvement. When you lose hope, you fall into a fixed mind set of “things aren’t going to change.” As you look for more and more evidence that nothing is going to change, you’ll prove yourself right because you have stopped trying.

A growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. When people read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.

willing-to-fail

In the end, success comes down to perseverance. The deep desire to complete what you started. To follow through on your commitments. To keep going even if you fail the first time or the first few times. To keep pushing for your ideas even if they get rejected initially. To keep executing on those ideas though you’re up against a bunch of naysayers or road blockers.

Develop grit. That’s how you keep getting promoted. That’s how you get to the top.

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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.

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.

5 HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS GET PROMOTED

This article originally appeared in FastCompany

5 HABITS OF PEOPLE WHO ALWAYS GET PROMOTED

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

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

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

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

1. THEY CHOOSE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT FOR THEIR TALENTS

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

2. THEY PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEIR BOSS VALUES

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

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

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

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

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

4. THEY MAKE SPACE FOR BIGGER THINKING

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

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

5. THEY LIKE THEIR COLLEAGUES

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

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

Why loving what you do is good for your career

follow-your-dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s because we reject our inner voice.

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

So we choose a career that “sounds right.”

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

In the end, your career will suffer.

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

No company wants dead weight.

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

So what do you do?

You change!

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

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

Portrait of a Klimber | Winston Churchill

Chuchill Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how?

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

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

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

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

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

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

hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

enthusiasm

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

As Johnson points out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Winston Churchill

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

Hater’s gonna hate …

Dogs

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

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

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

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

– Paul Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson Five: Have a positive attitude and be an optimist

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

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

So go ahead an enjoy it.

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

Optimist

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

No one likes a downer.

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

 

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.

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