“When you learn how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”
~ Anonymous ~
Client Nathan Asks: I am completely frustrated. As the client development manager for my firm, I am expected to be the “idea person” when it comes to new business development and client relations. And I think I have a ton of good ideas at work. But whenever I get into a staff meeting, my ideas–even my participation in discussions–are almost totally ignored. I’m not a “rah rah” sort of person and maybe that’s what people are expecting. I’m pretty low key and I feel I’m presenting good ideas—it’s just that nobody’s hearing me.
Coach Joel Answers: It’s not unusual for people in almost any role to sometimes have difficulty getting attention, let alone get their ideas accepted and implemented. Here are three things I think you should do right now to improve your acceptance ratio:
- Build a support network
- Support the ideas of your colleagues
- Improve your presentation skills
1. Build a support network. The key to your success is to consult others and build support for big initiatives before you launch them. When you want to introduce a new strategy, schedule a series of one-on-ones with different people within the company—or even outside the company if that’s appropriate. Present your idea and ask for their thoughts, a critique of your plan, and listen. Incorporate what input you can, and you’ll stand a good chance of gaining their buy-in. Be selective about who you choose to hear your ideas. Pick thought leaders, people who have had success implementing their own ideas and whom you can trust to keep it confidential until you’re ready to go public.
2. Support the ideas of your colleagues. There are plenty of ways to increase your visibility in meetings, and one of the easiest ways is to say positive things about the work others are doing. While you’re planning your next big thing, begin to lay the groundwork for support by supporting others. If someone floats a new idea in staff meeting, find something to like about it and say so. You may even add a new piece to it, if that’s appropriate. It’s just simple psychology: people are more likely to support someone who they feel will support them. Pay a compliment after the fact as well: “That was a super idea for revamping the web page, Marcia. Let me know if I can help.”
3. Improve your personal presentation skills. It’s all about having executive presence. To do this, you’re going to have to move beyond your comfort zone. You’ve fallen into the trap of not speaking up because you’ve convinced yourself that nobody’s listening, or worse—that you don’t have any good ideas. Drop those thoughts and begin to practice communicating clearly and decisively. Do this before you bring anything to the table in a meeting. Use Power Point or other visuals to add some spark to your presentation. This will make you feel more confident because you’ll have the information you need right in front of you. And practice, practice, practice.
Right now you and your ideas are being seen in black and white. If you’ll start implementing these three strategies, it won’t be long before you’ll be showing off every idea in HD color.
Do you feel like the Invisible Man (or Woman?) Joel has helped hundreds of clients develop and implement plans for getting heard and getting their ideas accepted. Why not email him today?
Talkback: How do you gain acceptance for your ideas? Share your best strategies here.
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“You can have results or you can have excuses. However, you cannot have both. What’s it gonna be?”
~ Stephen Luke ~
Client Jill Asks: “I just don’t get it. I put in longer hours than anyone in my department. I come to every team meeting and propose at least one creative, new initiative. But I’m just not getting through to anyone. No one notices how hard I work, and no one seems particularly interested in my ideas. And I’m sure not getting any face time with C-level managers. I know I’m missing something here. What is it?”
Coach Joel Answers: You’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re a creative person, so it’s natural that you would focus on the creative part of your business—coming up with new ideas in your workplace, developing unique strategies for your company and your clients. But how are you presenting those? You keep trying to impress people with how creative you are. What you need to do is speak about your ideas in terms of results. Impress them with your outcomes, not your talents or your work ethic.
An article in the Harvard Business Review indicates that 69% of US employers judge their employees’ performance by what they accomplish rather than the hours on their time log. Many companies are removing the barriers of work time and place in order to retain top talent. Employees have the freedom to work when and how they want, as long as they are achieving their productivity goals. (Galinsky, November, 2012.) So let’s shift your focus from ideas to results. Here’s a four-point plan I recommend.
- Be results-driven. When you present a new idea to your boss or your team, state the idea in just a sentence or two. Then go immediately to results. How much revenue will your strategy generate? How will it reduce expenses or improve client services? Give them specific numbers.
- Give them a by-when. Tell them who’s going to do what and when it will be completed. Nothing can tarnish your shining reputation more than not finishing the job, even if you have to be satisfied with less-than-fabulous results. A runner would always rather finish the race, even if she comes in last, rather than drop out halfway through.
- Consistently exceed expectations. If you present an idea and you get the green light from your boss or upper management, go the second (and third) mile to do even better than you said you would. For example, if your boss would be happy with an 8% or 9% increase in client satisfaction numbers, but you know you can bring it in at 10%, promise 8% and then go for 10%. Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Act like a winner. Believe in your ideas and be confident when you present them. Don’t apologize. Act as if it’s already a done deal. Use confident language. Say “when,” not “if.” Avoid words like “maybe,” “possibly,” or “perhaps.” When you believe in yourself, your confidence will expand and you’ll find that others will begin to believe as well.
If you change your emphasis from ideas to results, I promise you’ll get a dramatically different result for yourself as well.
Talkback: Have you been successful at getting a new idea off the ground? How did you do it? Share your experience here.
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“There is no substitute for hard work.”
~ Thomas Edison ~
Client Susan Asks: I thought I was going to get a nice bonus… and then it didn’t happen. How can I set myself up for a really well-deserved bonus?
Coach Joel Answers: Susan, you know of your worth and value. You’re adding to the company and you can see your contributions. So the key is to maximize your contributions, quantify them, and share them. Let’s discuss each one.
1. Understand Your Unique Skill Set. Stop and think about your combination of talents, skills, and personality. There are some things you do better than anyone around you. This gives you one-of-a-kind attributes. So evaluate what they are. Perhaps you:
- Offer effective ideas
- Build consensus
- Warn of hidden problems
- Work hard
You may want to ask co-workers what they see as your strengths. Once you understand these skills, build to your strengths.
2. Focus on Adding Value. You want to find that sweet intersection where your skills can add the most value to the company. Look for ways you can measurably increase the company’s bottom line. Find a way to connect the dots between your work and the business’s profit. That will help you… and others see your true contribution.
3. Gather Information to Prove Your Case. Keep track of what you do. Note projects completed and how you’ve helped the company. See if you can find statistics that show your hard work. You may also collect praise and commendations from co-workers, subordinates, and bosses.
4. Hedge Your Bets. Don’t assume you know what it takes to qualify for a bonus… or that others know about your work. First, learn your company’s policies about bonuses. Do they have written criteria? Is it up to the boss? If so, discuss it with him or her. You need to know what you must do to qualify.
Second, consider why they may not want to offer you a bonus. Did a group project not do as well as expected? Did you have a change in leadership and they may not know your track record well enough? After you look at possible roadblocks, take the time to overcome those objections. Be prepared to explain or come up with a work-around the limitation.
5. Insure Others Know Your Good Work. Don’t be pushy or obnoxious about self-promotion. On the other hand, you must make sure others know what you are doing. They need to understand the value you are bringing to the workplace. Your mentor should know of your work.
Discuss current projects with your boss and co-workers. Send emails to keep them in the loop. As you keep them up to date, they’ll see your valuable work.
Then, when bonus time comes around, you’ll be in line to get the bonus you deserve.
Want to insure you get a bonus? Contact Joel for personal help to advance your career and win that bonus.
Talkback: What have you found that helped you get the bonus you wanted?
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“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
~ Henry Ford ~
Client Paul asks: One of my coworkers recently told me I’m hard to approach at work. It felt like kind of a blow, since I’ve always thought of myself as being a nice person. How can I change this impression my coworkers have of me?
Coach Joel answers: Paul, developing good relationships is a key part of succeeding at work, yet it’s often neglected. Do you ever have days where you keep your nose to the grindstone, churning out work—and feel like slamming shut your door on anyone who dares interrupt? This kind of attitude actually hurts your own productivity as well as your organization’s. Building good working relationships will help you become a more effective leader, boost your chances of promotion, enhance teamwork, and make you a happier person. These 8 daily habits will help you get there.
1. Communicate clear goals and expectations.
When you communicate clearly—and follow through—you show you’re a trustworthy person. Set clear goals and benchmarks for what you’ll accomplish in projects and your overall job performance, and help those you supervise to do the same. Choose the best medium for your communications, too. If sharing a complicated list of instructions, share it by email or as a hard copy in addition to going over it in person.
2. Share appreciation for others.
Noticing others’ contributions, large or small, will give them a more positive image of you. If others are feeling constantly judged or critiqued, it will be difficult for them to engage in creative, collaborative thinking with you. Knowing they are valued will help them share ideas more freely. Sharing your appreciation also conveys a positive attitude, which exudes confidence in your team.
3. Spend one-on-one time with team members.
Getting to know coworkers will help you develop good relationships at work. The one-on-one time also promotes openness and collaboration. Go to lunch with someone from a different department, who might have skills that will be useful for a future project. Have coffee with a coworker you haven’t developed a rapport with, and find out what you have in common. Just knowing you care enough to make this time will help break the ice.
4. Address interpersonal problems directly.
If tension is brewing or you have a difficult relationship with a co-worker, address it at the source before the problem gets bigger. If you feel that a team member is not pulling his weight, voice your concerns to him and state your expectations. Keep your tone calm and professional, and give him time to explain his perspective. Through direct communication, you may discover that the real problem is that he doesn’t understand his role, or that he’s wearing too many hats in the organization. Confronting the communication difficulty directly is one of the quickest ways to create good working relationships.
By adopting these daily habits, you’ll increase your coworkers’ respect and confidence in you. . Fortunately, they’re called “habits” for a reason—as you start doing these things on a daily basis, you’ll naturally remember to do them in more situations and with more of the people you encounter.
Try using at least two of these habits per day for the next week. Take notes on how people respond, and email Joel with follow-up questions about your results.
Talkback: Have you found these tips useful in your workplace? Do you have others you’d like to share? Post your ideas below!
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” Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
~ Kofi Annan ~
Client Julia asks: I’ve tried to find a mentor in my company, but most of the higher-level managers are men, and the way they lead groups doesn’t come naturally to me. Am I just not leadership material?
Coach Joel answers: Julia, you just need to tap into your own strengths as a leader. Empirical research shows that women tend to have a range of strengths that make for a great leader. Women aren’t yet getting equal rewards for these strengths—according to Harvard Business Review, only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and just over 5% of executives in Fortune 500 companies are women. However, many qualities women leaders tend to possess are aspects of transformational leadership, which is fast becoming recognized as the most effective leadership style. Transformational leadership motivates employees by helping them find self-worth through the work they do.
That being said, many qualities associated more strongly with men can make for an effective leader as well. The best skills for the job always depend on the context. Both men and women should look at the range of qualities that can make for a great leader, and decide which ones to nurture in themselves, depending on their career goals and personal strengths.
1. Communication Styles
Women tend to have a more cooperative, participatory style of leading. Men tend to have a more “command and control style,” according to the American Psychological Association. They’re more task-oriented and directive, while women are more democratic. That’s often the starkest leadership difference between male and female bosses: Men provide direction for their employees, while women encourage employees to find their own direction. The cooperative style involves more conversation and listening, which often takes more time but leads employees to feel more valued. Both styles are valuable in different contexts. Being highly task-oriented can be highly beneficial where safety is concerned, for example.
2. Reward Systems
Women often motivate their employees by helping them find self-worth and satisfaction in their work, which serves as its own reward. This is a core part of the philosophy of transformational leadership: Help employees find their identity in the work that they do, so it’s more than just a job. Men are more likely to use the transactional leadership approach of providing incentives for succeeding and penalties for failing. Of course, either gender can learn to succeed in either of these leadership styles. Differences in leadership between male and female managers can work in tandem, too, as transactional leaders can ensure accountability while transformational leaders motivate and inspire.
Men tend to be good at branding themselves, meaning they let others know about their successes and strengths. Women are more likely to be modest or silent about their own accomplishments. To succeed as a leader, women should learn to brand themselves by sharing their achievements and skills with others. After all, it’s hard for a person to advance as a leader if people don’t notice what she’s capable of. Branding also brings a leader more respect in her current position. Volunteering for high-profile projects and finding a respected advocate are other great branding strategies that men are often more likely to use than women.
Again, it’s not that people of either gender make better leaders. The reality is that differences between male and female leadership styles can broaden a company’s pool of creativity and innovation. This enhances the success of any company when both men and women are promoted to high-level positions. Whichever gender you are, identify the distinct skills you bring and how to use them to get noticed by potential or current employers. The business of placing women in leadership needs to become a top priority.
Next time you’re in a meeting or talking one-on-one with someone you supervise, take note of which communication, reward systems, and branding styles you use. What comes naturally, and where could you improve? Email Joel for tips on which skills to hone for your career path.
Talkback: Do you feel that your leadership skills are related to your gender? Or do you use skills that aren’t typically associated with your gender? Share your experiences here.
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