The Low Down On Going Up: 9 Action Steps to Boost your Chances for Success at Work


9 Action Steps to Boost Your Chances of Success At Work
It is frustrating. When asked, “What do I have to do to get an upgrade?” Your manager, whom you know does not have a ‘good feel’ with you, despite your good work, goes into a mumbo jumbo mumble, “You are not systemic. Not strategic.”
You are asking for a specific direction. He is engaging in general white washing. Worse, you sense an unease. You could push on but you don’t want to go there. You are smart. You don’t challenge the unchallengeable.
Books and gurus make you expect leaders to be accessible. “They appreciate if you challenge the status quo.” “They like people who are assertive.” “They value smarter people.” Not 100%. But mostly hogwash. Leaders are people. People are people.
In a corner, your leader could do a few things. He could make you stupid-like, “Do you know what is systemic thinking?” “Do you know what I mean by being strategic?” He could lash out worse. Or, he could assign you to compulsory/critical to your development courses that will make you bleed dull. You know your leader. Don’t go there if it is not going to do you good.
Instant Insight based Over Years

Another advice if you default to gung-ho. You really know your leader? Sometimes, it’s what you think that surprises you.
Is being strategic the door to nirvana? Being strategic is planning work for long term advantage. It is part of the equation, not the catalytic trait for fast trackers. Leaders, as people need positive excitement once in a short while. They need to feel good and feel safe. They need to feel control of the path toward more success. People are people.
You know you leaders best, I hope. At least better than I. I hope. The best way to his heart is to do good work. (For convenience, I am using ‘his’ all the way. Using his/her, worse still, his or her is tiring writing. And tiring reading.) So one more time. What is the best way to his heart? To do good work. To do. Do good. Good work. Mostly action verbs. The adjective that stands out is ‘good.’ The only adjective.
So what is good work? Work that is good for your leader, your handler, your manager, your boss. What about good for me? That takes care of itself. What about the company? Noble thought. Keep thinking about this. Just focus on your boss, for now. You are hired, placed in your position by the boss. You are fired by the boss. You resign from your boss, not the company.
Let’s get back to the “To do. Do good. Good work.”

1.   Support the cause:

Besides having a longer term plan, fast trackers are also opportunists. They champion the leadership flavor of the season. Not only being seen. If the rallying cry is risk taking, these guys jump in with both feet, eyes closed, quickly assembling a focus team, promoting calculated risk taking. (If it is calculated, is it risk?). Topping the success indicators chart. If the current blockbuster is ethics, they are the first to spot weak links. Suggest remedies before the sun set. Others, struggling on ‘definitive understanding’ of the term ‘conflict of interest.’ Tangible deliverables; excellent indicators, fool-proof like process, womb to tomb programs. Recognition and celebration programs are biggies. This is fast tracking. First mover advantage.
9 Action Steps to Boost your Chances of success at Work

Getting on the fast track is rewarding but hard. A fast information network is critical, helping you predict the future. Regular one on one meeting with the boss will help. Informal leaders in the organization is great source.
That is 50% of the battle won. A standby ‘SWAT’ to work on advance information is the other part. You don’t have to ‘own’ people to have a team. You just have to work harder. Sell the goodness. Answer this question well to people you identify, “What’s in it for me?”
As a leader, you have to feed a standby team, ready, at your beck and call to switch focus at a snap of the fingers. What? Bloat my org? In short, you have to be strategic. You must also be brutally opportunistic, not allowing any award winning chance slip through your fingers. 

2.Trace the power, embrace the source

Fast trackers, those who win more and earn more at uncommon pace are ‘deliberate.’  They are in always in control. They move with intent. It is as if their work life is scripted. These winners know who to tee up, who to talk down. They painstakingly forge relevant networks to get the earliest information, enabling them to be ‘strategic’. They have nailed down, understand ‘true core values ‘of the organization. Not those written down and proclaimed, but secret hot buttons prominent players in the organization.
They are wily enough to know, as long as they can ‘engineer’ project justifications and results to serve the boss’s focus areas, the company will be funding your success.
This brings to mind the conversation at lunch. One hot topic, “Could cardinal rules, such as for promotion be bent?”  “At XYZ, it is not if a rule could be bent, it is about who wants to bend it,” another friend interjected. True. Company rule states no one could be promoted more than one level up. In reality, people have skipped up two levels. Those were quietly done. Shh. The cat was out of the bag when there was one “leakage.” It created open dissent at forums. A memo flurry, from the ivory tower, resolutely restated the rule. A lesson about rules. No one cares about rules until someone did. Or did not. And someone found out.
Find a sponsor. Your boss is ready when you are. A sponsor is someone who not only speaks about you. He speaks for you.
Get close to the boss you want. Hiring guideline; before hiring externally, jobs should be posted internally, allowing current employees opportunities for advancement or change of jobs.  A show to following the rule, managers ‘diligently’ advertise internally. You can apply. Follow the process. Who is to challenge your selection by the hiring manager. Rules sometimes make it easier for the less ethical. Follow the black and white, what’s spirit got to do with it? You can be ‘pre-positioned’ for the job.
Hiring managers, not absolutely confident of themselves, hire like-minded and subservient. 


Instyant Insight Built Over Years

Deliberately, building their “empires”, cementing their position with like-minded subordinates. This is how dynasties of like-minded leaders are built. Everyone looks out for each other at leadership level. Intent on “milking the cow” – taking every advantage of the company’s goodwill to its employees.  A desperate way up. Be one of the boys.
The smartest people in the board meeting are none wiser. ‘Empire building” is a strategy for air-tight cover ups. And, if the company has monopolistic power in the market, this decadence will not be felt. Unless they are being whacked by a disruptive technology, bleeding profusely.
In short, just don’t be surprised, people may advance by doing what is right for their careers, not what is right for the company. Being nice has little to do with their growth. Or does it?

3) Assume a politically correct persona

Early in 2012 Timothy Judge of the University of Notre Dame, Beth Livingston of Cornell University and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario published a research paper titled, ‘Do nice guys-and gals-really finish last?’
The gist, men who were ‘disagreeable’ consistently earn more than men who were ‘agreeable, ‘among their research subjects. This was an extensive research where the researchers analyzed data collected over 20 years. They pored through three survey results of 10,000 workers. They sampled a broad spectrum of employees of different professions, salaries and ages. It was found that men who are one standard deviation below the mean on agreeableness earned 18% higher pay than those who are one standard deviation above! The difference on earning between women was narrower. Disagreeable women earned 5.5% more than agreeable women.
So, does it mean that one has to be an irreverent bitch to earn more? The authors concluded that, “for men, it literally pays to be a contrarian.” It would seem that disagreeable traits like aggressiveness, inscrutability and stubbornness are often taken to indicate competence in the minds of employers. This was supported by a separate study the researchers did. They had 460 business school students act as human resource managers to hire consultants. Those with ‘disagreeable’ traits were hired over those who were ‘highly agreeable.’ Some of the descriptive used for agreeableness were trusting, straightforward, modest and compliant. “Nice guys finish first” debunked?
Of course, every premise on the internet will have its challengers. There is this article at Forbes which quote Richard Branson in support of nice guys winning the race. Maybe, moving up faster and earning more may not be linked to natural personal trait of being disagreeable but to a deliberate professional persona of being aggressive, assertive and downright inscrutable.
Nothing personal. It’s about projecting the persona. It’s about acting with discipline. It’s about living a professional character at work. Jetting up the career stratosphere?  It’s about being highly disciplined professionals who are strategic and opportunistic. It’s about knowing when to be super aggressive, when to tone down. It’s a career suicide if the guy you were indiscriminately pushy with is your boss. That’s challenging the unchallengeable.
As the editor of the company newsletter and convenient speech writer, I had the privilege of interviewing many senior leaders including the site lead. Sometimes, the interview would be interrupted by executives who had urgent business transactions with him. This young go-getter who was ‘recycled’ by the big man. He was a failed production executive, a disaster at product quality, given a second career life. Showed a lot of fluff, he did not have the steadfastness in production. Too many gates. Either you ship or you don’t.
His superpower, I observed, was using his head. To nod. Projecting traits of an active listener and a like-minded. You may think this is exaggeration. At times, he would nod his head faster than the boss could speak. Like other fast trackers, he was disciplined. He had political savvy. Whenever we talked, it felt like we had ‘scripted’ conversations. Politically correct phrases. Over and over again. Cold calculated look. He was deliberate. Malleable with the site lead, he was rude and, patronizing with his subordinates. “I don’t care how you do it…” “Expletives…” “It’s not my problem…”
Was he a natural nasty guy? At company events, he would sing ballads, love songs, with such gentleness, it was hard linking him with the mean toned demands to his underlings. Another lesson, learn to sing a song or two well…

9 Action Steps to Boost Your Chances of Going Up



4) Unsure of the boss? Get below the radar first

Fast trackers know how to retreat and consolidate. When a narcissistic VP took over a business division, the organization was clouded in fear. His reputation at other organizations preceded him. He was the hatchet man. The one who wielded the axe. He shed headcount where he went. He was not too shy to openly threaten employees. While others went about stressed, in panic, hunkered down to figure out a survival plan, the fast trackers were in action. “They were raising white flags.”  They were loud. They were clear. They made sure the new VP heard, “We are totally subservient and submissive. A successful strategy to ‘get under the radar.’
In a few short months, after the other guys left, the surviving got new appointment letters. From a culture of being innovative where risk taking was encouraged the organization reset to “in transition.” Balancing budget with performance was sacrificed for the big man’s pet projects. Indicator management was rife. Never challenge the unchallengeable.
Publicly accepting their fate, “deliberate nice guys” removed themselves as threats. They were below the VP’s radar when he was looking C.A.V.E. men. People who were Constantly Against Virtually Everything.  Visibly, they were on the same bus with the VP, fiercely supporting the VP’s hot buttons, sacrificing ongoing strategic infrastructure projects. Falling from self-actualization of Maslow’s hierarchy to the survival mode. The corporation had long strived to drive fear out of the organization. Driving fear into the organization was disagreeable? Who cared?
This phenomenon happens when 1) the leader view his role as a powerful position 2) he doesn’t know a heck about the business 3) he lacks the confidence and competence to lead

5) Make the boss successful

You need not climb the steep face of El capital to get noticed. In an environment where excellent engineers or administrators are promoted to leadership position, they are usually prized for technical and not people leadership skills. They leave the latter to others. As well as mundane stuff.
Even the mundane PowerPoint skill will get you somewhere. The boss is too lazy to learn. As a ‘deliberate pro’ assume responsibility for preparing all presentations. This is making your boss successful. Just a caveat. You must be unusually good at it, Power Point and communications skills.  

6) Raise your hands, be visible

Know when to be strategically disagreeable. You know when to ask the hard questions, when to ask the soft questions. You raise their hands in public forums, asking smart questions, raising valid points regularly. Make your participation seem spontaneous but prepare ahead. Questions and talking points have been deliberated with the boss. He had bought in. Know how to plant questions, questioners to support the boss’s cause.
Be prepared. When in a new organization, being thrown in with a new boss or in an unfamiliar role, conduct a risk assessment. “When in doubt, conduct a risk assessment.” From the risks identified, spend time gathering information and develop mitigation plans. Armed with FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Help others ask you questions you can answer. You have to be prepared. When you are quick with data and dates, people think you are sharp. This will get around. You become a visible asset.

7) Be seen as honest

Be seen as honest by being imperfect.  Avoid skeptical attention. People doubt perfection.  One or two yellows and reds in your indicator report may help to sustain your honesty score. Who cares about underspending by 1%?  Is missing out on two innovation suggestions critical when you have 50 in the books? Fast trackers know how to fail strategically, ‘engineering’ their failures into successes. So what if Project A failed? The project was chosen, knowing the risks. The lessons learned are valuable sharing for sister sites with a potential saving of……$ millions. A failed ambition became a model of risk taking.

8) A good score helps

Most organizations and leaders are judged by survey feedbacks. With internal surveys, the fast tracker knows that an invigilation style survey session backed with prior “priming” sessions return better results. For intra-departmental or stakeholder surveys, peer face to face scoring would be an advantage. Prior to meetings, a favorable service update on the stakeholder’s hot button issue prepares the ground. For grassroots’ feedback, having survey stations with guides and a lot of gifts and freebies would likely return better results. An ice cream or sweets before filling up will do some good.
In one sentence; deliberate achievers leave nothing to chance. They plan, deliberate and calibrate. They make strategic plans, are agile to seize current opportunities. They know who to tee up, who to talk down. They don’t challenge the unchallengeable. They know they leave because of the manager. The best way to success is to work with the manager. They are disciplined in projecting the right persona.

9) Do good work

Meet or exceed your commits or have a better reason for failure. Meet 90 % of the quality indicators. Respect timeliness and tidiness. Do more and ask for more. Work this way up.
If you have tried your best, don’t envy the one at the next cubicle who seems to have it easy. He started later and is ahead. If you have done good work and the rest, your turn will come. It might take a little longer.

But, are you ready for this? Researchers also found that tall people earn more money. So do good looking ones. For more on this, ask the mirror.

 



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