Better Mondays - Chapter Eleven
Bring the Right Kind of Attention to Yourself
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Better Mondays - Is This Book For You? Notes From the Author
Chapter Seven - The Importance of Corporate Culture and Its Influence on Your Career
Chapter Eight - Draw a Line Between Your Personal and Business Life (And Keep it Flexible)
Better Mondays - Chapter Eleven - Bring the Right Kind of Attention to Yourself
Long term career success is rarely dependent upon performance alone. Yes, doing a good job and getting results are important, but they are not the most important traits of those who enjoy the benefits of corporate success.
What makes the defining difference? There are three unbreakable rules for corporate longevity. For decades, they have been the cornerstones of a valued and highly compensated employee . . .
Rule One: Play by the rules. No, I’m not being facetious. I’m telling you that your talents, performance, and ultimate contribution will be more likely appreciated and rewarded when you stay between the lines, follow the standard protocol, and use the existing channels of communication and execution.
Those who take the time to learn and understand their company’s systems and procedures—and use them—will receive recognition for a job well done. See some room for improvement? A little tweak here and there can bring congratulations and promotions. However, be careful! As we previously discussed, suggestions to scrap the status quo and make wholesale replacements can bring disapproval and criticism, especially when the procedures under scrutiny were originated by company patriarchs.
Rule Two: You must meet the expectations of your superiors. Keep in mind these may be different for each ascending level of management. Your regional manager may want to see you spending the majority of your time pursuing new customers and developing future business over the long term. The vice-president, however, may believe the future success of the company is dependent upon removing the deadwood. His goal may be to consolidate sales territories and reduce expenses. So while he will no doubt recognize an aggressive and determined approach, his evaluation of your efforts will more likely be focused on your capacity to assume additional responsibility and handle a heavier workload, without the loss of existing business.
The key is to satisfy the obvious needs of each manager without using “under the table” memos, different versions of the same report, or other “behind-the-back” communications. We’ll get into the nuts and bolts of this process later.
Rule Three: How others perceive you is more important than what you accomplish. Most of your success in a corporate environment will depend not on what you actually do, but on what others believe you do, as well as what they think you can do in the future. Although their opinion may, to some extent, be based on the outcomes you’ve achieved in the past, their perception of your skills, talent, attitude, and loyalty is often as important as your bottom-line results.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, confirmed this idea with a study that showed those who made a good impression on their boss received better performance reviews than those who worked harder but were not as highly thought of.
Is that fair?
No, it’s just the truth.
If you’re going to work for the corporation—and receive all the benefits it offers—you need to understand how the real world of corporate business operates and use that knowledge to your advantage.
Rule Four: The key to long-term corporate survival is compromise. When working for any large company, an individual’s longevity is typically a reflection of their ability to compromise. As an employee, you’ll be asked to do things that seem silly, wasteful, unnecessary, or downright stupid. You may even be used as a scapegoat, expected to take the heat, and still respond with a professional, “Company-First” attitude. And make no mistake, while you’re scrambling to keep the lid on your personal feelings, every move you make, every word you say, will be watched, listened to, and evaluated. How you respond under pressure often defines future opportunities, so keep the bigger picture in mind.
Here are a few of the typical questions a boss uses to appraise their subordinates:
Is this person a “company” man or woman? Is he or she worth keeping?
Should she be considered for promotion?
Is he the kind of person I want representing this company to customers?
Your job—your highest priority—is to make sure the answers reflect a constant stream of yes’s. And that’s true even if you don’t plan on staying with the company in the long term.
Rule Five: Your ability to influence your assignment and career path is directly related to your knowledge of the company’s current business activities, priorities, and future plans from a national (or international) perspective. You need to keep an eye on at least two market locations outside of the one in which you’re currently working. In specific terms, this means being familiar with the general competitive activity, current and historical market share for the past three years, and any new development or demographic information that might impact the company’s business in those locations.
Why become familiar with alien markets?
Being knowledgeable about the bigger picture is the fastest and most effective way to convince management to stop thinking of you as another company drone and consider you as an informed and invested employee—someone who deserves more respect than the guy who just shows up, puts in his time and goes home.
How does this manifest itself in personal power and influence? It can give you leverage when you need it the most.
For example, let’s say a branch manager’s job has opened up in Crapville, Arizona, where the summers are 130 degrees in the shade, and the Gila monsters are large enough to carry off your French Poodle. After being asked to consider the job, you politely explain that you believe your efforts would be better served in Denver or Tampa, because you’ve been reviewing the losses in market share in those locations and have some marketing ideas to turn the situation around, which coincidentally, would result in additional bottom line profits to the company.
Suddenly, the conversation is no longer about Crapville, Arizona.
“Tell me more about our decreasing market share in Denver,” your boss says. “You sound like you’ve got a real handle on what’s going on there.”
In practical terms, staying up-to-date about your company’s business means paying close attention to the current influences in the company’s national marketplace, and at least two specific regions or trade areas within it.
How do you stay current on markets other than your own? At least once a week, search the internet for new articles and information. Use your company’s name, products (if unique), and your company’s three main competitors as search terms. This will provide you with plenty of information to slip into conversations when appropriate.
Yes, it’s extra work, but it can be an effective defense against a sudden or unexpected offer of a transfer to an undesirable location.
The downside? You may have to make good on your alternative suggestions. In the example of being offered a move to Crapville, Arizona, it could mean exploring and even moving to the alternative location(s) you proposed. But in most cases, pursuing those alternatives—ones you’ve personally suggested—will be the lesser evil, and will provide you with a lot more control over your career in the long term.
Coming up next from Better Mondays: Chapter Twelve - Get Caught Doing the Right Thing
Thanks for reading,
Roger Reid | Success Point 360
Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.