“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.”
Client Mary asks: Joel, I’ve just started my new job and it’s been only a few months. I feel like I could be making a better impression on my coworkers. I know there’s more I could be doing to really shine. How can I stand out, aside from producing good work?
Coach Joel answers: Many factors aside from sheer ability to get the work done influence the impression people make at work. Furthermore, an array of social factors affect ability to get the job done as a team. Become a superstar employee by mastering these methods of making a good impression at work, and you’re sure to stand out.
Once you’ve created a good impression of yourself at work, maintaining it is easy. People’s expectations toward others guide how they treat them—in other words, we all tend to behave the way others expect us to act.
- Envision the interactions you want to have
Whether you’re going to a work party or a business lunch, or just showing up to your office in the morning, envision the kinds of interactions you want to engage in. Think about what you want to get out of the interactions. This will help you to focus your energy toward specific objectives.
- Be perceptive about others
Most of us fear that our contributions go unseen. Making a good impression means working to point out your coworkers’ large and small contributions, or qualities that you admire. This will go a long way toward relationship-building. Voicing your observations about little things you’ve noticed will show you have a keen eye for detail—and they’ll appreciate your presence more.
- Know your capacity
Define expectations when taking on a project (or turning it down). Taking on more projects won’t necessarily impress your boss or coworkers, who will quickly realize if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Articulating your capacities—regardless of whether you say “yes” or “no”—shows foresight, self-awareness, and concern for the company. If you do want to accept but know you couldn’t handle more work beyond that project, say so—it will help your boss and team plan better.
- Share your accomplishments
If you don’t point out your successes, people might not notice them. State them matter-of-factly when they happen, knowing they’re not just your personal wins but also the team’s accomplishments.
- Become a good follower
While this might sound counterintuitive, it’s not. A good leader knows how to follow the leadership of others, and doing so shows humbleness. A good follower takes initiative, welcomes feedback, and owns up to mistakes.
- Initiate conversation about ideas
When you have a new idea, get input on it. Likewise, invite others to discuss ideas with you. Brainstorm on important topics with coworkers before a team meeting, so you’ll all have more to contribute.
- Be accessible
Getting back to people quickly about their questions will signal that you’re professional. Whether replying to email or in-person requests, communicate in a timely manner. Delaying a response can feel like a passive aggressive way of saying you don’t want to be bothered.
- Stay out of gossip culture
Gossip undermines the corporate culture. This might seem like a no-brainer, but how often have you heard idle banter that could truly hurt the subject of conversation? If there’s a problem to address and people need to compare notes, that’s fine. If it goes beyond that, however, people should be putting their energy into solving the problem rather than publicly stewing over it.
- Create a 90-day plan
If you’re starting a new job, create a plan for what you want to accomplish in your first 90 days of your job. A plan will keep you on track and help you exceed your boss’s expectations. Try using this strategy even if you’ve been at your job for a while. Imagine yourself coming in fresh, with three months to prove yourself—what would you focus on? Even if you never show the plan to anyone else, it can add an element of excitement to your work.
- Share stories about your life
Develop more positive work relationships with your coworkers and boss by sharing about your life outside of work. You don’t need to relay the most intimate details; things like hobbies, volunteering, and vacations will give people a fuller picture of you. Plus, showing that you have a zest for life outside of work will give people a more positive impression of you. When people realize, “Oh, he’s not only a great accountant; he also loves nature photography and helps a local nonprofit file its taxes,” they’re sure to be impressed. Moreover, they’ll share about their own lives and you’ll find more common ground as a result.
As you take these steps, you’re sure to create a good impression at work, making you stand out to your boss and coworkers. These tips will help you become more of a team player, and people will take notice.
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
Image courtesy of Coloures-pic / fotolia.com
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Dennis felt excited at this new recognition. He’d just been asked to take a considerable promotion. He wasn’t new to leadership, but this was certainly a new position. A stretch. He was moving into a position of greater responsibility. He now had five teams to oversee. Some of the people he didn’t even know.
Dennis knew in order to succeed at this new job, he needed extra preparation. He didn’t have a lot of time to be up and running. He had to learn the essentials of this new leadership position right away.
One of his first steps was to Google “first 90 days as a leader online resources.” There he found articles and resource books. “I wanted to follow the principle of ‘Be. Know. Do’,” said Dennis. “I didn’t want to shoot from the hip.”
To get himself up and running in the shortest amount of time, Dennis decided to focus on these qualities.
- Resilient. Every leader will face some opposition. He needed to be prepared for a lack of agreement with his vision and direction. Also, managers, especially new leaders, make mistakes. That’s part of the risk taking. It’s why they were hired to lead. Dennis realized he needed to accept that mistakes and failures were part of the job. The important thing was to be resilient. Keep going. Keep confident. Keep motivated.
- Unique. Dennis was not hired to do the same old thing. “I needed to recognize my unique strengths and abilities,” Dennis said. “I bring my own brand, my own personality to the mix—and that’s a good thing.” Dennis knew he was good at cross-pollination, bringing ideas and methods used in other industries and finding applicability in his area.
- Thoughtful. The last leader had been autocratic. Dennis wanted to thoughtfully consider the merits of every team member’s ideas. He expected to research—online, and with company resources—to thoughtfully asses the strengths and limitations of the choices. “I wanted to avoid the ‘ready, fire, aim’ I saw in some management,” Dennis said.
- Vision. Dennis needed to know the course he wanted to go. He had to have a clear vision of his position, his responsibilities, and his goals.
- People. There were many new people for Dennis to get to know. He wanted to understand their strengths, their personalities, their attitudes, and how they fit with the teams.
- Culture. Even though Dennis was pretty familiar with the corporate culture, this new position put him in a different aspect of it. He needed to learn what was expected of him in as a leader in this particular place.
- Lead with Confidence. “Once I determined I was the kind of leader I needed to be, and I knew what I needed to know, I wanted to lead with confidence,” Dennis said. “I wanted my people to feel confident I knew what I was doing. I wanted them comfortable following me.”
- Set an Example. Dennis liked leaders that led by example. He wanted to make sure all his actions were impeccable. “If I asked my people to do something, I wanted them to know I was willing to do it too,” Dennis said. “I had skin in the game.”
- Embrace Change. Dennis works in an evolving industry. It is constantly changing. Rather than being reluctant to move in a new direction or cling to established ways, Dennis determined to embrace the change and lead the way.
Dennis implemented his plan. He used online resources freely and felt that he learned new leader essentials faster than he had anticipated. “I’m glad I put in the work early on,” Dennis said. “It really paid off. I feel comfortable in my position and I’ve heard feedback that my workers respect me.”
Just landed your dream leadership position? Contact Joel to learn the new leader essentials that will launch you to success.
Talkback: What have you found most helpful as a new leader? What tips or techniques would you recommend?
“While pay and benefits were important, they weren’t real drivers of retention.”
~ Robert Morgan ~
Dianna has found herself, somewhat unexpectedly, on the hot seat. As HR manager for a large manufacturing and distribution company, she is responsible for so much of the day-to-day operation that she has been ignoring some big picture initiatives. Suddenly, the company’s employee retention strategy, or more correctly its lack of one, has risen to #1 on her CEO’s hot list. Dianna starts researching best practices used in companies similar to hers and then calls her direct reports together for a brainstorming session. As Steven Covey advises in Habit #2 of his classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, most good personal and corporate strategies begin with the end in mind. Diana knows their turnover rate is way too high, so she and her team begin with the goal of reducing turnover by 30% in the next 12 months. The team agrees that their wages and benefits are highly competitive, so they look for other areas that need attention. They focus on developing three key initiatives that can quickly and directly impact their turnover rate.
- Tell the whole truth and nothing but
- Hold managers accountable
- Put out the welcome mat
1. Tell the whole truth and nothing but. A good employee retention strategy starts with recruiting. This philosophy applies whether you are using a search firm, posting on an online job board, or running newspaper ads. Employees most often leave a company in the short term because the job was either oversold or undersold. The new employee needs to fully understand what the job involves and this means his or her expectations should be based in reality. Will he be on the phone six hours a day? Will she be dealing with the public? Does the job involve a certain amount of routine or monotony?Management must clearly communicate what the job responsibilities are before an offer is made.
2. Hold managers accountable.Each individual manager must take responsibility for directing the on-boarding process for his or her own employees. This means spending time to acquaint new hires with company policies, procedures, and traditions. Within the first 90 days, the new employee needs to feel totally aligned with the company’s vision and mission, and totally committed to its success. Each manager must develop a training program that not only covers the standard orientation information session but also provides the employee with a personal training and development agenda to be completed within the first 90 to 180 days. The manager also needs to provide a check-in schedule, so that the new employee knows when he will be debriefing or going over personal progress reports with the manager.
3. Put out the welcome mat.Every new employee needs to feel at home from Day One. This means getting ready ahead of time so that there are no missing pieces. All the paperwork is assembled and ready to complete. Someone is available to walk the employee through the how-to, such as enrolling in the insurance program, signing up for the 401-k, the daycare facility, or the softball team. The photo ID badge is issued on the first day so that the new hire doesn’t have to deal with security issues.Someone is designated as the go-to person if questions come up during the first week or two. Most important, every new employee should be put on a team and given a meaningful project or work responsibility to get started on.
Corporate management needs to view employee retention strategies as an investment that pays dividends, not an expense to be avoided. Time and money spent now will add strength to the talent pool and dollars to the bottom line.
Whether it’s an executive coaching program or a strategy development conference, Joel has some answers for you. Contact him today.
Talkback: Is employee turnover costing you money? Or perhaps you’ve tried a strategy that worked. Tell us about your experience.
~ Dave Olsen, Starbucks Chief Coffee Buyer ~
Client Robert Asks: I’m losing people right and left, and I don’t understand why. I’d think that, in this job market, people would be happy just to have a job. We have a good orientation program. But my turnover rate is through the roof and I know it’s costing the company money. What can I do to stop the bleeding? I think I need to design an employee retention program.
Coach Joel Answers: You’re right—losing employees is an expensive proposition. Companies that deal successfully with this issue don’t just rely on an orientation meeting and an employee handbook. An effective program to retain employees involves the entire company and can last a month or two, or even six. Successful on-boarding is the key to employee retention and your program needs to focus more on emotional take-aways than just a list of activities to be checked off. You need to answer these three questions for every new hire:
- Who are we?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
1. Who are we? Most new employees already know something about the company because they’ve been through the recruiting process, so don’t waste a lot of time and energy on company history. Instead, spend time talking about how the company is structured and who reports to whom, both formally and informally. Visuals are helpful here—organization charts, annual reports, and promotional materials, for example. Talk about the company’s value proposition. What sets us apart from our competitors? How do we make money? Why are we successful?
Emphasize how the company treats its customers and clients. Introducing new employees to key clients as part of the formal on-boarding process is a great tactic, but at the very least, have some anecdotes and experiences to share. This makes it real.
2. Why am I here? Establish a clear understanding in each new employee’s mind about how their department and specific job fits into the overall company picture. Make them feel important. Be clear about what you expect from both the department and the employee. This includes short and long term goals, major projects, deadlines and deliverables. Show them how the work gets done. Don’t worry too much about rules and red tape at this point. Instead, get them started on a key project or activity right away, so they know they are adding value to an already valuable business enterprise.
3. Where am I going? The first two steps in the program lay a good foundation for retaining employees, but retention won’t really take hold until the employee feels at home. You can make this happen by helping new employees become a part of the organization as quickly as possible. This starts with introducing them to colleagues and company leaders but that’s only the beginning. Your job is to make them feel that they are part of a great company and that you feel lucky to have them as part of the team. Let them know that relationships count and that their colleagues and the company are there to support both their growth and their contribution. Let them know you’ll have their back, so they are not afraid to try new things.
Show them the path ahead, which includes how to navigate the corporate ladder, what kinds of training, coaching, and personal growth programs are available to them, and how they fit into the company’s future. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about them. Make them feel emotionally involved and committed, and they will be yours for life!
Talkback: Have you tried some employee retention programs that worked? What do your employees say? Share your story here.