“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.”
~ Margaret Cho ~
Rosie has been with her company for a little less than a year. Last month she had a very positive performance review with Jake, her immediate boss. During the review, Rosie told Jake that she felt she could handle a bigger workload, and Jake seemed to agree, but nothing happened.
Yesterday Rosie found out that Jan, a co-worker with the same job title she has, was promoted—and it’s been only a year since her last promotion. Rosie knows Jan earned it, but now she’s wondering how to ask for a similar opportunity to prove herself. Rosie wonders if she should have been more aggressive in her review with Jake and in following up afterward. Of course Jan’s promotion is unrelated to Rosie’s performance, but now Rosie wants to ask for larger-scale projects and more important work without seeming like she’s jealous or resentful of Jan.
If, like Rosie, you’re feeling stifled at work and would like to take on more responsibility and get promoted, Step One is to share your aspirations openly and specifically with your boss. Don’t be shy. Ask your boss exactly what you need to do to get promoted. The more clarity you have on the specific steps you should take, the easier it will be for you to take action and achieve your goals. Over the next three to six months, schedule time every two to four weeks to discuss your progress.
Here are some of the questions Rosie asked Jake:
- How does the promotion process work?
- What do I need to be doing over the next three to six months to get promoted?
- What kind of data or information can I provide you to document my progress?
- What larger-scale projects can I own right now?
- Do I need to increase my visibility with other decision-makers to improve my chances for promotion?
When it comes to visibility with other company leaders, especially C-level managers, Jake had some specific suggestions for Rosie. In addition to taking on larger scale projects, Jake suggested Rosie look for projects outside her own specific area, particularly projects that were being neglected or that no one wanted to do. Completing an “orphaned” project successfully is a great way to gain visibility. Jake also suggested that Rosie look for one or more advocates, either inside or outside the company who would be willing to speak up on her behalf. An advocate can easily raise your profile with your boss’s boss and other high level executives by publicizing your successes.
Rosie took Jake’s advice and developed her game plan. She volunteered to head up the company’s web site revamp—a project that had been languishing for a year for lack of leadership. She completed it successfully in less than three months, and both Jake and her recently recruited advocate made sure everyone—including the company president—knew what she had done. It was no surprise that Rosie got that coveted promotion at her next performance review.
If you’ve been passed over for a promotion, or even if you’d just like to take on more challenges where you are, now is the time to act. Develop a list of five actions you could take immediately to improve your visibility. Then schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss them.
Talkback: Have you successfully improved your visibility in your company? How did you do it? Share your experience here.
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“If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.”
~ Pete Rose ~
Kimberly, a free-lance marketing consultant, landed an assignment to temporarily replace Jennifer, the VP of marketing at a large financial institution for six to twelve months. Jennifer was taking a leave due to complications from a high-risk pregnancy.
Because of her medical condition, she had very little time to brief Kimberly, but as she was leaving she informed Kimberly that she had just fired Jerry, a young IT guy—and the only IT guy in the department.
A couple of days later Jerry emailed Kimberly and asked if they could meet off-site for coffee. By this time, Kimberly had heard a little of the backstory on Jerry, the principle fact being that he was the son of the company’s CEO! Kimberly was a little intrigued by this political hot potato, so she agreed to meet him. Here are the facts as Jerry presented them to Kimberly:
- Jerry’s former boss had indeed felt pressured to take him on because of his father’s status, although his father never asked for that favor.
- Jerry’s boss did not respect his expertise in IT and did not accept any of his recommendations for moving key projects forward, even though Jerry felt he had come up with good solutions.
- Other people in the department put him down in order to appear to agree with his boss, so he felt he had no peer support.
Jerry asked Kimberly to give him a second chance.
Kimberly admired Jerry’s initiative in telling her his story. She agreed to look at his proposal for completing the department’s major project, a revamp of the internal employee intranet. After reviewing his proposal, Kimberly felt he was on the right track so she went to her boss, Larry, and told him she wanted to rehire Jerry on a temporary basis to follow through on the intranet project. When Jerry completed that project, Kimberly and Larry would meet and reevaluate the situation. Larry agreed.
Kimberly brought Jerry back into the department with little fanfare and no explanation, other than that the team needed his help on this critical project, which was lagging way behind schedule. In the meantime, Kimberly expected Jerry to meet with her twice weekly —once for project updates, and once for employee coaching sessions to improving his communication skills and reframing his mindset that “everybody resents me because I’m the boss’s son.”
Kimberly started including Jerry in formal and informal department meetings as part of his employee coaching and having him report to the team on the progress of his project. She also paired him up with a couple of new-hires who needed some IT training. When the project was complete, they staged a big roll-out announcement, a department party to celebrate, and Kimberly made sure Jerry got a lot of kudos.
Based on Jerry’s initial success, Kimberly quickly found another project for him to work on and he continued to blossom. When the Jennifer returned from her maternity leave, she told Kimberly that she didn’t even recognize Jerry as the same person. And she decided to keep him on permanently.
Here’s the takeaway: problem employees can sometimes be saved with good coaching and a willingness to undergo an attitude adjustment.
Take a look at your team. What problem employees might have potential if you provided good guidance and employee coaching? Schedule some meetings with them this week.
Talkback: Have you given a problem employee a second chance? What were your results? Share your story here.
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“The real art of communication is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
~ Unknown ~
Josh is a sales executive at a medium-size software company. He’s always made his numbers and hit his quotas. As he advanced in the organization, his responsibility and the number of people he manages have increased. Josh’s career goal is to become VP of sales within the next year.
He’s always known how to get results, but his fatal flaw is that he has no idea how to manage his people. The bigger his team grew, the more his abrasive and combative style got in his way. Word got back to HR that he was a bully, a hard-ass, blunt, and intimidating. Ultimately, this information was documented and he was laid off.
However, his boss’s boss saw potential in Josh. He liked the work he did and could see he really wanted to learn and grow, to get past his weakness in managing people. The boss knew that, if given the right tools and support, Josh could be extremely valuable to the organization.
When a position opened up, Josh was hired back. This time he was provided with employee training in the form of an executive coach, management training, mentoring and sponsorship. Here are the initial actions his coach took as he helped Josh design a game plan for success.
- He appealed to Josh’s self-interest. The coach asked Josh one critical question: “Given how your co-workers perceive you, what do think will happen to your goal of becoming sales VP if you don’t do anything?’ Following Josh’s answer the coach replied, “So persuade me that there are advantages for you to make some changes in your attitude and behavior, if sales VP is what you really want?”
- He helped Josh see reality. Using his last 360 before he was terminated, his coach painted a clear picture of how he was perceived by others during his employee training. Abrasive people are prone to blame others for their bad behavior, since they often see themselves as superior and all-knowing. Josh soon understood that, in order for the situation to change, he must change. He started by planning his communication in meetings and one-on-ones in advance, which helped him avoid the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks that had alienated his co-workers in the past.
- He played to Josh’s competitive nature. The final question was, “So do you really think you can do this? Can you really change to the point where others perceive you differently?” Josh took that as a challenge. “Of course I can,” he replied.
It’s now been over seven years since Josh was hired back and he’s received performance reviews and thorough 360s. This sales executive is now a VP with a highly motivated and loyal team and he’s never been accused of being abrasive or combative during the whole seven years.
Do you need to change the way people perceive you at work? Write down three relationship issues that you think might be getting in the way of your career goals and start developing your plan to change.
Talkback: Have you turned around a difficult situation or relationship at work? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. ‘You’re fired’ is a very strong term.”
~ Donald Trump ~
Tricia just got fired. Security is putting her personal items in a cardboard box and escorting her to her car. She is in shock.
What now? Her first reaction is to drive far, far away and scream loudly about the unfairness of it all. Doubtless this has happened to the majority of you at one time or another. And screaming, however good it might feel for a moment or two, is not the answer. Instead, follow this plan for closing the door on the past and opening the door to new opportunities.
Stay calm. You may be tempted to verbally retaliate, especially if you feel the firing was unfair, and you probably do. Instead, keep calm. Having a conversation now, while tensions are high, can lead to saying things you’ll regret later.
Be thankful. Thank your boss, the HR representative, or whoever else just let you go for the opportunity they have given you. Be sincere. Any job is an opportunity to learn. And despite being fired, these very same people may be critical to you landing your next position.
Update your social media. Don’t rush to Facebook and slam your now former employer. Don’t tweet sarcastic haikus on Twitter. Instead, let the world know you’re now in the market for a new opportunity. Focus on the positive.
The Next Day
Register for unemployment. In most states, as long as you weren’t fired for willful misconduct, you’ll be eligible for unemployment. Not only will these benefits help tide you over financially while you’re planning what’s next, but the state job service is a valuable source for locating open positions.
Polish up your resume. – Highlight your key skills and experience that fit the types of positions you’ll be applying for. Use quantitative results to really show the value you’ll bring to your next employer. (“Reduced department expenses by 15%.” “Increased sales by 12%.”) Don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments!
Start networking. Contact your industry acquaintances and others outside of your industry to let them know you’re in the market. Even if they don’t have an open position ask, “Who else do you know that might be interested in my skills? “Often, the best positions are filled by internal referrals.
Use Internet job boards to the max. There are two ways employers find candidates on job boards: by your response to their job postings and by finding your resume when they search the site.
Create a system. Track each position you apply to, each website you register with, and every person you network with. Because your next move involves following up.
The Next Week
Follow up. Send everyone you’ve contacted a quick e-mail, or give them a call. Remind them about your last conversation and what you’re looking for.
Directly contact companies you’d like to work for. Some of the best positions never reach public job postings. If a company is interested in your skill set they may even create a position for you. If you’re a fit, they know they are making a good investment.
Tricia vowed to treat her job search like a full time job. Although the distractions of being at home were difficult at first, she scheduled her day around the search–eight hours every day, either networking, job searching, or following up. She found her new job in less than six weeks.
No matter where you are in the fired-or-laid-off process, review our checklist and make a plan. Do the things you haven’t been doing and drop the things that aren’t producing results.
Talkback: What’s been your job search strategy? Share your tips and successes here.
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“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.”
~ Earl Wilson ~
Rob’s world seems to be spinning out of control. His desk is piled high with stacks of project data. His email inbox keeps sending him overload messages. He’s often talking on his mobile phone and his office phone at the same time. He’s exhausted during the day but he can’t sleep at night. Why? Rob hasn’t taken a real vacation in more than three years.
Rob oversees a team of 25 people, with four direct reports. He consistently works 60-65 hour weeks. He’s very hesitant to even cut back on his hours because he doesn’t know how he’ll get it all done and still meet his bottom line numbers. A vacation seems like a distant dream. Besides, if he is gone even for a few days, his boss might figure out he’s not indispensable.
One day, over coffee, Rob’s co-worker, Janene, shares an article about how vacations from work improve productivity. The article says:
If you don’t use your vacation days
- Relationships suffer
- Health deteriorates
- Enthusiasm disappears
- Productivity goes down
- Burnout and depression result
- Life balance ceases to exist
Rob realizes that every one of those factors is true for him. The article goes on to discuss the true value of vacations:
A vacation benefits you because
- It improves job satisfaction by minimizing burnout
- Relationships with co-workers and family improve
- Your morale turns positive
- Productivity and creativity increase
Rob is still floundering in his mountain of paperwork when he realizes it’s time for his monthly call with his business coach. He hasn’t met any of his coaching benchmarks for the month so he decides to throw the whole vacation issue in his coach’s lap and ask for advice. If you see yourself in this picture, here are four of the coach’s tips to help you get off the treadmill and reclaim your life and your sanity.
1. Ask for time off when there aren’t any major projects or deadlines.
Yes, it would be great if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, but that’s not meeting either the company’s needs or your best interests. Instead, start your own mental vacation by planning. Where would you like to go? Are you an active vacationer—hiking, whitewater rafting, sailing? Or would you rather spend time at a spa or a retreat? Start to collect brochures and trip information. Pick three or four dates that might be possible.
2. Look at your current workload and choose a time off after a major project is complete.
You don’t want to just drop everything and go, leaving pieces behind for your co-workers or your boss to pick up. Determine a completion date for your most critical project and develop a plan to delegate other responsibilities to your direct reports. As a negotiating point when talking to your boss (see below) offer to work ahead on your part of a project so others can fill in around you while you’re away.
3. Give plenty of notice
The more lead time you provide, the more prepared your boss can be. What’s realistic depends a lot on your own workload, your team situation, and your company’s culture and guidelines about taking time off. Have three or four possible dates in mind so your boss can have some alternatives to think about.
4. Request the time off in-person
Never request vacation time in an email. Talk to your boss in person and do it when he or she is in a good mood and less likely to be stressed or overwhelmed. This could be on a Friday afternoon, but definitely not first thing Monday morning!
Need more ammunition? There’s plenty of research, old and new, to support the time-off concept. A study done over 100 years ago by Dr. Ernst Abbe, a German researcher, evaluated work schedules at Zeiss Optical Works and found that reducing hours by more than 10 percent actually increased worker output. In 1914, Henry Ford appalled his peers by moving production from a six-day to a five-day week. Output increased, while production costs decreased.
There’s a lesson here. Time off is an important part of your work life. You’ve earned it—now take it.
This week, make a list of five dream vacations. Research online, get brochures from a travel agent, and write down some potential dates. Write down a target date to talk to your boss.
Talkback: When was your last vacation? How did you discuss your plans with your boss and ask for time off? Share your story here.
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