“Successful people turn everyone who can help them into sometime mentors.”
~ John Crosby ~
Virginia is hoping to be promoted soon. She approached me to find out what she can do to increase her chances of getting the position she desires.
As I told Virginia, there is one thing you can do that is so important, you are practically shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t do it.
Studies have shown that a mentoring relationship with an influential individual can increase your chances of being promoted by more than 80 percent. So if you don’t have a mentor, it’s time to get one now.
A mentor can help you understand the culture and inner workings of the organization. He or she can work with you to create career plans, improve areas of weakness, provide honest feedback and introduce you to other supportive people.
Katherine Klein, a Wharton management professor, says that mentoring is “a sounding board and a place where it’s safe to be vulnerable and get career advice. It’s a relationship where one can let one’s guard down, a place where one can get honest feedback, and a place, ideally, where one can get psychological and social support in handling stressful situations.”
Klein adds, “Mentors also should have an understanding of the organization’s values, culture and norms so they can pass these along to mentees. The mentor should be sensitive to the mentee’s needs and wishes, and enhance the mentee’s career potential, while simultaneously looking for ways the mentee’s potential can benefit the organization.”
Often, when initiating the mentoring relationship, you may feel like you are invading your mentor’s space and time. You may be hesitant to reach out and ask for help. However, the mentor also gains from the relationship; says Klein “You get the satisfaction of seeing somebody develop. And don’t forget that mentees may be in a position to help the mentor at some point.
“Mentees may also make the mentor look good.” Terri Scandura, a management professor and dean of the graduate school of the University of Miami, says, “Dealing with a person who is your junior improves your network. Mentors know more about what goes on in lower levels when they deal with mentees. Junior people can provide information to mentors…. [They] are up on the latest technology and knowledge. So it’s an interactive process: Mentors and protégés become co-learners.”
Here are some tips for selecting a mentor:
1. Choose someone you (and others) respect.
Identify an individual who you admire who has accomplished things you hope to accomplish some day.
2. Your mentor should have influence and power in the organization.
This, along with their knowledge, experience and competence, will help to open doors and introduce you to other influential people in the organization.
3. He or she is willing to invest time and is committed to your success.
Look for a respected person who is your senior and is willing to invest time in – and take responsibility for – your success and development. Likely candidates are executives with a reputation for helping others succeed.
4. Good mentors ask tough questions and hold you accountable.
Honesty and trust are critical in a mentoring relationship. He or she will offer constructive criticism when necessary, but will also take joy in your triumphs. The situation is considered ideal when both individuals – the mentor and the mentee – learn and grow as a result of the relationship.
5. Work with a mentor who is positive and enthusiastic.
Your goal is not just to learn from a mentor, but to be inspired. A good mentor is upbeat and optimistic. If you’re energized and raring to go after meeting with him or her, you’ll know you’ve selected the ideal person!
Are you ready to take action to make that next promotion happen? Sign up for Joel’s Career Advancement Coaching program and learn exactly what you need to do to take your career to the next level.
Talkback: Do you have a mentor? How did you find him or her? Do you have any tips to add for our readers?
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“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.”
~ Oliver Goldsmith ~
A client—we’ll call him Steve—told me he knew a man who sucked all the oxygen out of the room. This person was brilliant, but he talked way too much and annoyed everyone around him. He never knew this because people weren’t willing to tell him and he never asked for feedback on how he was perceived.
Do you know how you are perceived by others in your organization? Even if you think you do, do you really? One of the best ways find out is to simply ask.
Get feedback from your immediate manager, peer, someone you don’t report to, someone more senior than you, your boss’s boss, from your key customers or others outside the organization. Knowing how others perceive you plays a very important role in your own self development.
Here are eight tips to help you ask for, and learn from, feedback so that you will be able to influence how others perceive you at work:
1. Choose the right time and place when asking for feedback.
Select a time when you and the person you’re asking for feedback aren’t busy or preoccupied with other matters. Conduct the conversation in a private place where there will be minimal distractions. It also might help to schedule the meeting in advance to give that person time to think about how you’re perceived and not just offer off-the-cuff responses. Also, when you schedule your conversation in advance, it underscores that you’re serious and consider this a priority.
2. Explain why you’re interested in learning how you’re perceived.
Be sincere and honest. You might say, “I want to make sure I’m projecting a professional image, Sarah. You’ve seen me interact with customers and vendors when we’ve had problems. How do I come across in those situations?”
3. Make it clear you’re not fishing for compliments; you want their honest assessment.
People may hold back or tell you what they think you want to hear. They’re afraid of hurting your feelings or that you might become defensive. Sometimes it helps to admit a personal flaw or shortcoming to encourage people to open up. For example, “I know I get impatient and sometimes interrupt people to get to the point. I’m trying to work on that. Are there other things people have mentioned to you about my personal style?”
4. Above all: DON’T GET DEFENSIVE!
Even though you don’t intend it, you may come across as defensive by the language you use. When someone shares less than positive feedback, avoid confrontational, in-your-face questions like, “What do you mean?” or “Why do you say that?” or “Does everybody feel that way about me?”
5. Ask for specific examples.
If the feedback is critical or sensitive, take the emotion out of the situation focusing on specific examples of the behavior in question. “Gosh, Jim, I didn’t realize that some people think I always have to do things my way. I certainly don’t want to give that impression. Can you think of any examples recently where I’ve done that? Where I might have turned some people off?”
6. Thank them for their feedback.
May it clear you appreciate their feedback. Also, show you’re serious at self-improvement by enlisting their help in the future. For example, “I’ll try to focus on not dominating conversations, Judy. I really do want to hear other people’s opinions. But if I suffer a relapse, let me know, okay? I won’t take it personally. Just give me a friendly reminder to ‘cool your jets.'”
7. Repeat the process with others.
Solicit feedback from others to confirm or clarify areas that indicate improvement or attention. Look for patterns or common themes. Then work to transform these negative perceptions.
8. Take action.
If you handled these feedback sessions skillfully, you now have valuable intelligence that can go a long way at making you a more effective worker/boss/colleague, etc. Develop an action plan to address the negative perceptions you may be creating, and look for opportunities to emphasize the positive perceptions you hope to convey. Remember that perceptions play a critical role in career advancement and success.
Changing perceptions is the first step in Joel’s PVI formula, which he teaches to his executive coaching clients to help them advance more quickly up the career ladder. If you’re ready to start changing perceptions and increasing your visibility in order to influence your way to the top, sign up for Joel’s career advancement coaching.
Talkback: Do you know how your co-workers perceive you? In what areas do you need to work on changing their perceptions?
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“When we win on an issue we call it leadership. When we lose, we call it politics. Practicing politics simply means increasing your options for effective results.”
~ John Eldred ~
When my client, Miles, heard the phrase “office politics,” it brought up negative associations (backstabbing, kissing up, gossip, who you know gets you to advance). One way to embrace and capitalize on office politics is to get rid of the actual words “office” and “politics” so you won’t feel so charged by these words. Instead think of it as “company culture” or “building relationships” or “how work is done.” When you have a better and more positive perspective, you’ll be able to embrace what is actually happening and leverage it to your benefit.
Once Miles changed his mindset, he was able to use these eight tips to harness the power office polit… er, “company culture,“ and you can do the the same:
1. Persuade others to your opinion.
Nobody exists in an environment where everybody agrees. You will work on projects and assignments in which many different approaches will be used by a variety of people. It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from and their different perspective. At the same time, you want to work on getting others to buy-in to your perspective. You can do this by providing factual information backed with logic. Also, strive to build a reputation that creates immediate respect. This will help you get the things accomplished you need to get done.
2. Don’t intimidate superiors. Try to avoid going over your superior’s head.
Most bosses feel a need to establish and maintain their authority. Often, based on their title and that they are a superior, they feel they can leverage and take advantage of their power and authority. It’s important for you to not intimidate them or go over their head because they will feel the threat of your actions and thus could undermine your career.
3. Make your boss look good.
Watch out for your tendency to avoid making your boss look good. Constantly look for opportunities in which you can help your boss shine. Making your boss look bad or saying something negative about him or her will come back and bite you.
4. Cultivate a positive, accurate and likable image.
The image you project can directly impact how well others trust you, like you and want to work with you. If you project a negative and unlikable image, it makes it easy for people to judge and question you.
5. Communicate accurate information.
If you constantly communicate accurate information, people will be less suspicious and less inclined to question your integrity. When the work politics start to get out of hand, others will rely on you because of the established honest and respectful image you have projected.
6. Be aligned to many groups – not just one.
It’s easy to be aligned to one specific group in your company. You either get drawn or exposed to a few people in one group and latch on to them. However, aligning yourself to many groups will help you when the influence of one group gets diminished or removed. You will want to rely on other groups and create a coalition to champion your ideas and projects.
7. Create allies who like you, support you and will go to bat for you.
Having a strong and wide network of allies is vital when the work politics start to disrupt and damage things around you. You’ll see how beneficial it is to have allies who can help mitigate negative situations.
8. If all else fails, move on.
After exhausting all your resources, talents and abilities in working the political system inside the company and getting nowhere, it might be time to move on. Sometimes the politics are so bad that you need to remove yourself from the toxic environment and make a fresh start in a new company.
If you need help navigating office politics to get ahead at work, Joel’s career advancement coaching could give you the competitive advantage you need. Sign up today!
Talkback: Have you ever gotten tripped up by office politics? What happened?
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“If you want to get across an idea, wrap it up in a person.”
~ Ralph Bunche ~
Being able to influence upwards allows your ideas to be heard and implemented. This directly enhances your value because you are the owner of that idea. Yet how do you break through the layers of bureaucracy to find advocates for your ideas? Diane McGarry, Xerox’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Success at a big company such as Xerox requires an understanding of the many layers of office politics as well as the confidence to put your best ideas forward. You have to know which people you need to get your ideas in front of in order to get those ideas advanced…”
Diane knows how to present her ideas in order to get them implemented. This is a skill you need to master if you want to be an influential leader in your company. Here are seven ways to sell your ideas through upward influence:
1. Know what’s important to your boss.
Have a clear picture of what is important for your boss. Keep that as a priority and make sure these priorities are met. It’s not about trying to meet your needs, but thinking about how your ideas are beneficial for your boss. Part of your role is to support your boss for his/her goals.
2. Get other stakeholders on board
To buy into your ideas the right stakeholders must be on board. This might require going upward and across the organization to build coalitions. If your stakeholders believe the ideas you are suggesting are what they want to support and invest in, this can influence a decision in your favor.
3. Articulate a clear and defined goal.
Focus on why your idea is so important and should be considered. What is the desired end result? This may take a lot of preparation, but in the end your idea will be easier to sell if you provide realistic projections of the desired outcome.
4. Use facts and data.
How many dollars will be generated by your idea? How will it reduce costs or improve customer service? Facts like these are how you achieve buy-in to your ideas. Spend time researching and providing information based on data so it will have a greater chance of being accepted.
5. Be prepared to answer questions and respond to criticism.
Anticipate how others might question or challenge your proposal. Consider submitting a list of “frequently asked questions” with your idea. If you’re presenting in person, rehearse your sales pitch to fine tune your approach and build your confidence.
6. See yourself as the “owner” of your ideas.
See yourself as being self-employed, even if you work in a large company. Your mind-set should be similar to an entrepreneur who is the owner of his or her ideas. Be confident, and enthusiastic about your idea.
7. Don’t give up.
Don’t be discouraged if someone slams the door on your terrific idea. Maybe your timing wasn’t right or you didn’t consider some of the objections. Take stock in your approach and ask for feedback. If your idea has merit, its time will come. And so will yours.
Do you need help selling your ideas to your superiors? Joel’s executive coaching program provides an individualized action plan to help you reach your specific career goals. Click here to see how it works.
Talkback: Do you have great ideas but lack the confidence to pitch them to management? What are the stumbling blocks that keep you from gathering the courage to make a presentation?
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“The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.”
~ Ayn Rand ~
Tammy is good at her job, but her career doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. She has been in the same position for two years and is ready to move up to the next rung of the ladder. One of her co-workers was just promoted to the position she wanted, and now she wonders if she will be stuck in her current position forever.
Getting a promotion requires more effort than merely doing your job and being good at it. Supervisors want to see that you are qualified for the new position, not the one you are already doing. You must stay alert for opportunities to advance or to move laterally to broaden your skills and position yourself for future success.
If you are like Tammy—good at your job but not quite ready for a promotion—here are five tips to help you get out in front of your competition so you are the first person your supervisor thinks of next time there is an opportunity for promotion:
1. Express Your Interest
Let your supervisor know you’re ready for new challenges and want to play a role in any expansion efforts. As companies look for growth opportunities, they will form task forces, study teams and interdepartmental committees. Tell your boss you want to be a participant, not a bystander.
2. Stay on Top of Current Events
Stay alert of your company’s growth plans by reading its news releases and annual and quarterly reports. Get copies of executive speeches and reports from investment firms that follow your company. Then brainstorm how you and your skills can contribute to the success of these ventures.
3. Write Your Own Marketing Plan
If you see an opportunity to market a new product or service, grow your company’s existing portfolio or increase client service, create your own marketing plan. Do your homework, crunch the numbers and write up a proposal to present to your boss or senior management. Even if you fail, you’ll reap dividends from the exposure and gain the reputation that you want to play a bigger role in the success of your organization.
4. Take Advantage of New Training
As companies loosen their purse strings, they’ll also be investing more in training and development. Visit with your supervisor or human resources department to find out what new skills you need to improve your effectiveness and promotability.
5. Network, Network, Network
Keeping your nose to the grindstone is admirable, but it will also pay to get away from your computer and stay actively involved with your network. Keep on top of what other departments and divisions are doing, what their plans are, and how you might fit in.
As your company gears up for growth, find ways to increase your visibility and to showcase your talents to decision-makers in your organization. When in doubt, look for problems to solve. That’s one of the effective ways to get noticed, appreciated and promoted!
If you really want to move up the career ladder quickly, a top-notch executive coach like Joel Garfinkle can help you reach your goals twice as fast. If you’re serious about getting ahead, sign up for executive coaching with Joel today.
Talkback: How long have you been in your current position? Are you ready for a change? What do you need to work on to position yourself for your next promotion?
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