“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
~ Vince Lombardi ~
Geoffrey’s been totally focused on doing the best job he can. He’s been very intent on making sure his job gets done, and done right. He felt sure this would help him advance his career more quickly.
But when his boss didn’t seem to value Geoffrey’s contributions, he got concerned. What did his boss really want? Why wasn’t doing his job, good enough?
His goal was executive leadership. To do that, he realized he needed to make some changes.
He needed to make sure his work corresponded with the priorities of his boss and of the CEO.
Here are four things Geoffrey did to align his views with the current executive leadership.
- Assess. Spend time thinking about what the CEO might be thinking about. Put yourself into his place. What do you think keeps him awake at night? What worries him? What are the challenges he faces? When you look through his eyes you get a sense of what his priorities are and where he’s focusing his attention.
- Interact. Communicate with other peers and listen to their sense of what is important in the company. Geoffrey needed to get beyond just his work. He needed to reach out and connect with others. As he asked their views on the top goals and values of the company he did two things.
First, he learned what to focus on to make his work valuable to his boss and move his career forward. Second he showed respect and interest in the opinions and leadership views of others. As he engaged them, they came to know and trust him as well. He widened his sphere of influence.
- Ask. Geoffrey was direct. He asked his boss and the CEO what their values and priorities were. He did this during meeting times in a public arena. He also requested weekly or monthly one-on-one feedback times. During those times, he discussed the company and CEO priorities and how he could best align his job with those priorities.
- Communicate. Based on the feedback Geoffrey got from peers and boss, he formulated a plan. He wrote down the work he needed to do and how it supported the priorities of the boss. Then he shared it with his boss—and the CEO, as in the case of Geoffrey’s small company—for their feedback.
This increased his visibility with the boss and the CEO. It showed Geoffrey was concerned about giving value to the company and making his work productive and effective. It also allowed for corrections quickly and easily if Geoffrey’s assessment was off course.
When Geoffrey started implementing this plan of action, he saw immediate results. He focused his efforts on the things that really mattered to the boss and CEO and received high praise. His interactions with his peers harvested trust and acceptance. Geoffrey is acting like an executive leader and is moving toward that leadership position.
For help on how you can step up to executive leadership in your work and capabilities contact Joel.
Talkback: What have you done to insure your work is aligned with the priorities of your boss or CEO?
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“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
Client Kevin Asks: I am so stuck in a rut with my present job—it feels like walking through quicksand. I know what the next step is, the promotion to the job I want but I’m so busy doing what the current job demands that I have no time to even plan a strategy for moving ahead. How can I get out of this swamp?
Coach Joel Answers: Unfortunately, many companies easily overlook the people who labor in silence, who do what it takes to get the job done, but never manage to get ahead. If you really want your paycheck and your job title to match your capabilities and the amount of work you do, you need to focus on creating visibility—and you need to be happy while you’re doing it. Appearances count for a lot, and you need to love the job you have while planning your next move. Here are three important steps you can take right now.
- Love the one you’re with
- Divide and conquer
- Create a new model
1. Love the one you’re with. I see you stressing out a lot because you don’t have the band-width or energy to do everything that’s on your plate right now. Before you can move ahead, you need to enjoy being where you are. Start having fun at it. A few things you can start doing today:
- Ask for positive feedback. Don’t wait for your annual review. Look at your current projects and ask your team members or your boss for some positive input. Focus only on what’s going well.
- Start the day on a high note. When you look at your current projects or to-do list, pick the most enjoyable item and start there. It will change the tone of your whole day by creating energy and enthusiasm.
- List your accomplishments. Once a week, write down everything you’ve accomplished—from small things to big projects. You’ll be amazed at what you’re getting done.
2. Divide and conquer. Even though you’re doing a great job now, what got you here won’t get you there. First, lay out all your current projects and responsibilities. Ask yourself what HAS to get done to continue your success at a base line level so you don’t create any red flags. You might have 1/3 that has to get done, 1/3 that relates to the job you want to have (visible stuff) and the other 1/3 is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less time on. This will create more time and energy for new activities. Here’s the key to making delegation work: keep your name on key projects so you are getting some of the credit while not actually doing the work.
3. Create a new model. You need to show continuously visible productivity, or put plainly, work on the things that everyone sees. Make sure you understand your boss’s priorities and make them your priorities. Volunteer for high profile projects or new company initiatives. Speak up in meetings. Be enthusiastic and make sure everyone knows you’re happy to be part of the team. Call attention to your successes while sharing plenty of credit with those around you.
Keep your eye on the prize. You already know what your next career move looks like. Keep focusing on that. Ask yourself each day, “What did I do today that fits my new model? How did I move closer to my next dream job? Before long, you’ll be exactly where you want and deserve to be.
If you’re struggling to break out of the pack and move to the next level, email Joel today for more strategies you can use to move to the next level.
Talkback: Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have some success strategies that have helped you break free? Share your experience here.
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“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
~ Rosalynn Carter ~
Client Melanie Asks:
I’m having a real challenge understanding what’s next for me at my company. I’ve been a department manager for five years. I get impeccable performance reviews and consistent kudos from my boss, my peers and my subordinates. I know I’m a good leader. But every manager above me is male. I feel I’ve gone as far as I can go here. Is the glass ceiling for real? Is male leadership ability really superior to female?
Coach Joel Answers:
Your question is certainly a legitimate one. Dozens of leading business publications, including Forbes, Psychology Today, and The Harvard Business Review have done recent studies and articles on male vs. female leadership ability. Here’s what they’ve all concluded: in the top 16 leadership competencies, women outscore men in all but one. In two of the top characteristics (takes initiative, and drives for results), women outrank men by the highest degree of any factor tested—and these particular characteristics have long been thought of as male strengths.
According to the HBR study, a major reason women aren’t moving up as far and as fast as they should is that they don’t self-promote. So here’s a three-point action plan that I would recommend you put in place immediately.
- Establish your brand. You may think you’re well known in the company and that your skills and accomplishments are recognized. But you need more than that. You need to be memorable. This may mean taking on a cause or a project that is languishing and turning it into a winner. It could mean coming up with a high-impact promotional campaign or a can’t-lose money saving strategy.
- Increase your visibility. You can do this in a number of ways. Start by speaking up in meetings, not only to discuss your own projects and ideas but also to acknowledge your team’s efforts or ideas presented by your peers. Volunteer to make presentations or speak at company meetings where top executives will be present. Network at business events, both inside and outside the company, as often as you can.
- Develop advocates. You need people who will speak on your behalf. Look for unexpected sources rather than relying on your immediate boss to do this. Speak to clients, customers, and vendors about your work. Look for allies in other departments or business units. If a client or customer compliments your work, say “Would you mind dropping my CEO an email about that?”
Will you get the promotion you feel you deserve? Will you break through into top management? Another factor revealed in the HBR study is that men in senior management positions still tend to hire other men. While that may be true, choose to focus instead on the fact, supported by scientific data, that when it comes to male vs. female leadership ability, women are the true leaders. Your leadership skills may be rewarded in your current company and they may not. But they will be rewarded—count on it!
If your head is bumping up against a glass ceiling in your company, email Joel for some glass-shattering ideas.
Talkback: What’s your opinion about male vs. female leadership abilities? Share your ideas here.
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“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it. Rather it’s that we aim too low and we reach it.”
~ Michelangelo ~
Client Susan asks: I am scared to be more visible and take on more responsibility. However, I’ve seen how much my career has been limited by the lack of opportunities. I’m fed-up and ready to take the necessary steps to gain more visibility.
Coach Joel answers: Visibility will help you in your career. Help you create opportunities to interact with people in other departments. Show others how talented and how great you are. Take on projects that will not just have more visibility, but more influence, impact and value to the firm. Here are three steps you can take right now to overcome fear and gain visibility:
- List your talents and strengths. You have unique strengths and assets you bring to the job. Write down all your skills and talents. What do you do well? What comes easily to you? You were hired because your employers believed you brought value to the company. What value do you bring?As you list your strengths, you develop confidence. These are likely things you do better than those around you. You might have strong ethics, are dependable, or solve problems well. Give yourself credit where it is due. If you have trouble with this, ask your friends, co-workers, or family to help you see your strengths.
- Dive into your favorite jobs at work. What do you love to do at work? What jobs or accomplishments make you the happiest? When you focus on those jobs and build on those strengths, you’ll have greater job satisfaction and greater visibility. You will also bring more value to the company.There’s a story of a squirrel, a mole and an owl hired at a company. The squirrel worried he lagged behind mole in digging and stayed extra late trying to dig better. The mole feared he wasn’t as good at tree climbing as the squirrel and spent a lot of time practicing climbing. The owl soared on the winds, swooped for the catch, and soon caught the attention of management for her great skills. When we improve what comes naturally, we naturally come to the attention of management. Study and grow in your area of strength.
- Look for gaps and needs. Spend time listening to those around you, especially, those above you. What are the problems they are facing? What does the company need right now? The job of your leaders is to focus on what is the best for the business. Your job is to make the leader look good.Look for places you can match up your strengths with the company’s needs. Here is where you will bring the greatest value to the company. It will impress your boss and make him look good. Your leaders will thank you and be grateful to you for solving that problem.
You will have less fear in speaking up and moving into the limelight when you know you have strengths and talents and you are confident you can use them to help the company’s objectives. Automatically you’ll gain more visibility. People will be delighted to hear what you have to say! You’ll speak from authority… and people will listen.
Personal leadership coaches work with clients to help them find ways to increase visibility and add value to their company. Find out how this can lead you to overcome fears and produce dramatic results. E-mail Joel now to find out how he can help!
Talkback: What’s helped you overcoming fear? Has there been a time you’ve stepped up to add value to the company? What were the results? Leave your comments and advice for Susan below.
“It is important for aspiring managers to make themselves visible to those with higher authority in order to increase their prospects for promotion.”
~ Bernard M. Bass ~
Janet feels like a wren in a cage full of peacocks. Surrounded by superstars with lots of creative credentials, she has trouble getting noticed in staff meetings or even at coffee. She has heard some of her colleagues talk about the personal leadership coaches they work with, but she’s not even sure what that is, let alone how to find a good one.
Janet knows she needs more than just a boost in her self-confidence—she needs a personal brand that will enhance her image. She begins with some self-analysis and decides there are three steps she will take immediately.
- Accentuate the positive
- Act as if
- Ask for opportunities
1. Accentuate the positive.
Janet knows that there are plenty of areas where she’s at the top of her game. But when she’s surrounded by other superstars, it’s tough to be noticed. She begins by questioning her colleagues. When Joe brags about his latest successful client presentation, for example, she asks him for more details. This has the subtle effect of both getting Joe’s attention and giving Janet useful information about what’s recognized and valued in her work group.
It also places her on an even footing with Joe and gives her a chance to talk about some of her latest projects and successes. Asking Joe’s advice lets him know that they are colleagues, not competitors. Janet has taken an important first step in showing other people how she expects to be treated.
2. Act as if.
Janet’s next strategy is to look up. She mentally chooses a couple of managers who are two or three rungs above her on the corporate ladder. Part of what she’s doing is looking for potential mentors or advocates within the organization. But she also begins modeling their behavior. She notices how they act in staff meetings, how they take charge in certain situations, how they organize projects.
She begins to build her personal brand by looking and acting the part of an executive. She polishes her writing skills so that her emails and memos reflect her creativity as well as absolute perfection in grammar and spelling. She upgrades her wardrobe with a few classic pieces that make her look and feel more powerful.
3. Ask for opportunities.
Janet consciously begins to build her success portfolio. She keeps a written record of her successful projects, as well as making a list of ideas for future assignments. She meets with her boss, briefly reviews her recent accomplishments, and asks for a shot at managing a new client proposal.
She takes the same list of ideas and accomplishments to the executives she’s been watching. She asks them to become her mentors and advocates. As mentors, they can provide coaching and advice in internal company structure, plans, and politics. As advocates they can speak up for her and help her publicize herself within the company. They can also advise her about some of the personal leadership coaches that others in the company have used.
Janet’s efforts pay off, not only in increased self-confidence but also in substantial recognition for her contributions. She decides to enhance her progress even further by asking her colleagues how to find a good executive coach.
If you’re feeling shut out or unrecognized, you can implement Janet’s growth strategy on the job, starting tomorrow. And for even better results, get a personal leadership coach who can help you maximize your upward progress.
Talkback: How’s your personal brand? Are you being recognized by your colleagues and your bosses? Share some ideas that have worked for you.