Be Careful When You’re New

Select leader person career to work job

Just started a new job? Managing a new group? Leading a new project? There are lots of great books to help you with the critical steps for success, and of course you can always read my post, Starting a New Job? Hit the Ground Successful! There is another thing that you should do, however, that isn’t really covered in these sources—or maybe it is something you shouldn’t do.

Wait To Bring In People You Trust

You shouldn’t immediately disregard the people who are there and bring in people who you trust from a former life. You should spend some time and effort evaluating the situation for yourself. Don’t bring in your own experts or colleagues to do that evaluation. Do it yourself. Talk to the people who are there. I see new leaders make the assumption that the people who are there ARE the problem. And that is certainly sometimes the case. It is not true, however, that ALL of the people who are there ARE the problem.

Look at:

  • How long they have been there?
  • What roles have they been in?
  • Do they seem frustrated with the current situation?
  • Are they glad that you are there?
  • Can you tell what role previous leadership has had in creating the problem?
  • Don’t take other’s opinion at face value.  What do YOU think?
  • What do THEY think the problem is?
  • What do THEY think the solution is?

I see the same thing happen in organizations over and over. The new guy comes in. He brings in a consulting firm to evaluate the organization OR he brings in the guys from the last organization who helped him be successful. Either of these slows things down. The consultants do not get instant cooperation. They take valuable time and then they only provide recommendations (which are sometimes ‘off’ by some percentage) and you still have to figure out how to implement the recommendations (which, of course, the consultants always suggest that you use them). The guys from the last organization take time to hit the ground running and just because their skills and abilities were right in the old organization, they may or may not be right in the new one. And you are only getting other people’s counsel; you aren’t understanding the situation first hand.

Do It Yourself

Do the investigation on your own. Talk to the people in the organization—you need to do that anyway, both to build the trust and relationships and to thoroughly understand the organization. THEN bring in others to help.

Remember, building trust is a two-way street. If you skip that step and just bring in people you’re comfortable with and already trust, then you are likely to be a long-term visitor in your own organization. And that will not lead to long-term success.



 

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So, You Want To Get Promoted. What Are You Doing About It?

People Who Do Their Job Don’t Get Promoted

performance level conceptual meter

Doing your job is not enough.  You were hired to do your job.  The fact that you do it–even that you do it well–is not enough to make you stand out.  If you don’t stand out, you don’t get promoted. This is a very important concept to “get.”  What are you doing to stand out?  When people across the organization (not just your unit) think of you, do they think you stand out?  Do they think of you as a “go-to” person who “gets it done?”  Do people outside your unit even think of you at all?

There are different cultural expectations within organizations.  “Follow the rules.” “Be a team player.” “Make your boss succeed.” “Get results.” What are the expectations in your organization?  Are you meeting them?  Are you exceeding them?  To get promoted, you must exceed them.  I actually don’t know an organization that doesn’t expect people–leaders–to get results.  Do you get results?  I’m not asking if you try hard.  Or if you work hard.  Or if you do what you are asked.  Do you get results?  Consistently?

Two Sides To Getting Promoted

There are two sides to getting promoted.  First, the need for someone to be in the position has to exist.  Second, you have to be obviously the best choice to fill the position. The first isn’t under your control (although you should always be hyper-aware of these opportunities).  The second is under your control.

  • Sometimes you can see opportunities coming.  Your boss is going to retire.  There is a major reorganization happening soon.  Someone is leaving. The company is growing.
  • Sometimes you know what you want the next step to be.  You may want to go to the next level in your organization. Or you may want to hop to another organization with a new kind of position.

You should have A PLAN for whatever opportunity you see and want.  What skills do you need to acquire.  Are you being obvious in getting those skills?  Are you seeking experiences that will grow those skills?  Do others in the organization know that you’re growing the skills?  It’s always important to remember that people don’t necessarily know that you are growing.  Sorry.  It isn’t obvious unless people are paying close attention.  You need to make it obvious.  How will you stand out so that people will immediately think of you when the opportunity opens?

Stand Out.

I used to sit in on conversations considering people to fill critical positions.  It was unusual when everyone in the group all knew the same people.  Most candidates had one advocate and maybe one other who had an opinion and the rest didn’t know the person.  So . . . the candidate that everyone knew really stood out, especially if all the opinions were glowing.  When you think about the potential next positions for you in your organization, think about who would participate in the decision.  Do they know you?  Do they think highly of you?  What can you do about that?One to Watch Marked Person in Organizational Chart

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Look At Your Organization Through New Eyes. Every Day.

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Get Out Your ‘Spidey-Sense’

Remember when you were new in your organization? Remember the things you noticed? Remember the things you thought? You noticed what worked and what didn’t seem to be working. You notice who had the power. You noticed who seemed to be moving up (and you probably had a clue as to why). You noticed who annoyed you and who you liked.

Then you settled in. And you started to forget. You got used to things. You became friends with people. Your own prejudices and stereotypes kicked in and overrode your initial impressions. And you went on autopilot.

So you are missing a lot of what is going on in the organization. You are missing the nuances and the undercurrents that can help prepare you for what is going on. Your “Spidey-sense” needs to be turned on at all times.

Here are some times to make sure you’ve got your NEW EYES open:

  • Every time a new executive joins the organization. What ripples are caused when new people join the organization? We tend to assume that they will adjust to the organization (and to an extent they will), but the organization will change around them too. Think of new people as boulders in the white water. The water speed and directions/currents will change when the boulders are moved.
  • Every time the organization is impacted in the market. If you’re not watching the “market” that includes your company, you’re driving down the street toward a dam that has opened up across the street. You will be overtaken by circumstances beyond your control. And you won’t be ready.
  • Every time a new project starts or stops. People are impacted when projects start or stop. Opportunities open up. Companies downsize. This does not necessarily apply only to the people on the project. Sometimes those people are rewarded for the effort they have put into the success of the project—by being moved into your job or into your boss’ job.
  • Every time cost cutting starts. When organizations are cutting costs, they re-look at EVERYTHING. They will at some point look at what value you are adding to the organization. Don’t assume that it is obvious. Use New Eyes to see what they see. In fact, do it before the cost cutting starts. Make sure you’re adding value and that the powers that be know that you are adding value. Don’t assume that it is obvious.
  • Every time the organization gets stretched or starts to grow. Opportunities abound during stretch and growth times. Use NEW EYES to see where the opportunity is. Figure out how to be the one who others think of for those opportunities. Don’t just sit in your day job and let the growth happen around you—be ready and be available for it.
  • When you get a new boss. This is possibly the most important time to be looking through your NEW EYES. Your boss doesn’t know what has gone before. S/he only knows what exists when s/he gets there. If there are problems in the organization, then it is likely that you are perceived (by someone who has just arrived) as part of that problem. Look for ways that you can help your new boss immediately. Look for what your boss wants to accomplish and figure out how to help him/her do it. QUICKLY.
  • When you get new co-workers. Much the same things apply to new colleagues as new bosses. It is a great opportunity to see the organization through new perspectives. What is right and what is wrong about your organization. What can YOU do to help change things that need to be changed? How can you help your new colleagues be successful?
  • When someone important gets fired. In fact when anyone gets fired. Firings should be wake-up calls for everyone. Why did s/he get fired? Did s/he run afoul of someone? Did s/he break a rule? An unwritten rule? Fail to get results? Look at yourself. With NEW EYES.

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What Do You Do If You Get Fired?

Youre Fired

To Be Fired

It is said that the term “fired” came from the founder of NCR, John Patterson, ordering that the desk and chair of an executive who had displeased him be ‘fired’–set on fire on the company grounds. His actions seemed to be focused on public humiliation.  Luckily, today most firings/lay offs are NOT focused on humiliating the person being terminated.  (Oh, and by the way, another of John Patterson’s claims to fame was that he fired Thomas Watson who went on to run what was to become IBM–not such a great track record on management decisions if you ask me:-))

There is very little chance that you won’t be fired during your career.  Back in the day (a long time ago, because it was before my day), people only got fired because they did something wrong.  It is certainly still true that people get fired because they did something wrong.  Most people, however,  get fired (or the easier to swallow “laid off”) for lots of reasons and most of them have little to do specifically with the firee and much to do with the circumstances that the organization finds itself in.  While it doesn’t make it any easier to take, getting fired/laid off today is usually not about you–it’s about the organization.  You have every right to get angry about this.  It IS YOUR life.  Get it out of your head, though, that it is your fault.  It is so common now that most hiring companies assume it isn’t your fault too.

The normal human reaction to being fired/laid off is this:

Losing a job

The good news is that you come out the other side, almost always better.  I’ve had many people tell me that it was the best thing that ever happened to them.  They can see (in hindsight) that they never would have made the move themselves and that the reflection and activities that it took to find a new (and almost always a better) job was one of the most powerful learning experiences they ever had.  This is NOT to say that it isn’t painful.  You go down the left side of this curve and frequently people do things that make it worse.

Don’t Make It Worse!

You are legitimately angry, feeling betrayed, stunned, devastated, humiliated.  It would be nuts for you NOT to feel these things.  Make sure you don’t burn bridges initially, though, while you’re feeling these things at their most intense.  When someone tells you that you’re fired (and don’t assume that that person wants to be the one doing this–probably they feel almost as bad as you), LISTEN.  Ask questions.  Try not to say any of the angry things that come to mind.  You can say them later.  You can say them to your wife or your job coach or your best friend.  DON’T SAY THEM RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

If you are asked to sign something, it is perfectly ok to say that you’re not ready to sign it or that you want to consult with someone before you do.  Be careful not to sign away any rights you may have. Ask more questions.  Ask for details.  Ask if it is ok to record the questions and answers–you won’t have a great memory of what is happening.  They may say no and if they do, don’t record it.  Without permission it is illegal in several states.  Write down what they are saying about reasons (they’ll likely be light on that detail), severance package, insurance, outplacement, etc.  Writing it down can help to give you something to concentrate on while you are experiencing the confusion and shock of the experience.  Ask if you can call them tomorrow if you have questions–you WILL have questions because only a part of what is being said is going in.

It’s really important to get your head right:

  1. It isn’t your fault
  2. The company screwed up somehow to make this an organizational necessity
  3. Most people (recruiters, hiring managers, friends) assume it is not your fault

The sooner you can wrap your mind around these realities, the sooner you can more to the next step.  If you blame yourself and if you think everyone blames you, you will not approach your job search with the necessary clarity.  You are now in the boat with millions of other people.  And, yes, it is awful.  And yes, it is hard to find another job.  But it is possible and you can do it and you need to approach it like an adventure.  I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous.  You’ll be surprised what this journey brings.  And the sooner you get to it, the sooner you will get the job you need and the one that is better for you than the last one.

Quick! Quick! Build Your Network

LinkedIn:  Occupy your first couple of days–while you’re getting your head right–building your network.  Go to LinkedIn.  Connect, connect, connect.  Ask for references. Fix your profile.  You don’t need to change your job yet, but make sure your profile is as inviting and professional as it can be.  Make sure your skills are clearly listed, especially the ones that recruiters are out there looking for.  ASK people to endorse you–people who know you have those skills.

Reach Out:  It might be hard.  Do it anyway.  Reach out.  Call people.  Let them know that you’re looking.  Pick a very select few to whine to.  To the vast majority of your contacts be positive, open, cheerful and matter of fact.  Remember–not your fault.  They don’t think it is.  The more people who know you’re looking the faster the right match will happen.

Make Your Plan

Outplacement:  If you have access to outplacement, USE IT!!!!  Forget your pride, your anger, your embarrassment.  The faster you start with outplacement, the faster you get a job.  They will help you in all kinds of ways.  If you don’t have access to outplacement, then do it for yourself.

Create a project plan.  You know how to do this:

Set your goals–be specific:  NOT ‘Find a job’, but rather “Find a great job as a Business Analyst in a great company with more than 300 employees and a career path for me to move up.’

  • Identify your critical path tasks–for the above goal, you’d have to do research–
    • What companies fit your criteria?
      • What does “great’ mean to you?
      • What is your ideal career path?
      • What kind of culture do you want to work for?
    • Who do you know with connections into those companies?
    • Create and tailor your resume for those companies.
    • Skill development-what skills do you need?
    • How will you get it?
    • Etc.
  • Identify the resources
    • Whose help do you need?
    • How will you get it?
  • Set your timeline
    • Taking into account the items listed so far–the tasks and resources, what does your timeline look like?
    • How much time–each day, each week–are you going to focus your efforts on finding a job?
  • Do a kick-off
    • After you’ve created a plan–have an official start.
    • Have a way to measure your progress.
    • ‘Getting a job’ isn’t the only measurement you should use–identify ALL the measurements you should be tracking.  What are the things that fill up your funnel that get you to offers that get you to the RIGHT job
      • Network growth
      • Resumes sent
      • Recruiter contacts
      • Requests for references, endorsements, conversations
      • Phone interviews
      • Second interviews
      • Offers
  • Reevaluate regularly

You Will Be Fine.

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September 2, 2014 · 8:27 pm

Think Your Job Is Secure? Think Again. PLEASE.

Recruitment or Employment Issues Chalk Drawing

Think They Can’t Do Without You?

There are lots of reasons that we think we are indispensable at work.  We know more than anyone else.  We’ve been there longer.  We have a close interdependent relationship with the boss.  We’re way better than others who have been there forever.  Whatever it is that you think about why you are indispensable, you are wrong.  NO ONE is indispensable, not even you.  Think about it:

  • The boss who thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread could be gone tomorrow.  It is unlikely that the new boss will instantly see your worth and if you were a favorite, it is likely that your peers aren’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about you.
  • You might have been the best of the best at one time, but does that still apply?
  • How expensive are you?  Are there new people (maybe straight out of school with more developed technical skills?) who are as good or almost as good?
  • Do your peers sing your praises?  Or do they try to scuttle your high horse?
  • Have you consistently over delivered incredible results . . . except for the last 6 months-or even worse-the last year?
  • Is the organization shifting its priorities away from your area of expertise?
  • Do you have a reputation of being negative? Or a diva? Or high maintenance?

They CAN Do Without You!

There are all kinds of reasons that organizations decide to part company with people.  SO MANY of those people are shocked because in their own eyes and mind they were indispensable.  The water closes over you head as you leave with barely a ripple.  People remember you and speak of you occasionally, BUT THEY GO ON WITH THEIR JOB.  They figure out workarounds to close the gap left in your absence.  And those gaps close pretty quickly.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

I’m telling you this so that you will come out of your delusion and will do what it takes to either prevent this situation or be able to deal with it if it happens.  I’m telling you this to get your attention before you find yourself on the outside looking in with total disbelief.

Do you remember what it was like when you started your first job, or your latest new job?  Do you remember how focused you were on understanding everything you needed to know.  Do you remember how careful you were in understanding what your boss wanted and in trying to deliver it?  Do you remember how much you tried to understand the unwritten rules of your organization? If you can re-achieve that heightened level of awareness and attentiveness, then you are much more likely not to take your situation for granted.  You are much more likely to escape being marginalized and finding yourself out the door.

What Should You Do?

Every week (yes, EVERY week):

  • Remind yourself to treat your boss the way you did in your first week in this job
  • Remind yourself that your peers can take you out faster than your boss. How are you helping them?  How do they perceive you?  What can you do to further their agendas?
  • Do something to build your network, both inside and outside the organization.  Who at the top of the organization outside your own management chain knows you?  Who do you know at other organizations that interest you?
  • Keep your skills current.  Get certificates.  Go to school.  Know the latest technology. Stay up to date on what is going on in your industry/field.
  • Ask yourself what you’ve done to add value THIS week.

And maybe then you’ll be indispensable:-)

 

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What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

I have a very clever friend, Deb Graham, founder of ACTStrategic.com, who recently wrote a great article.  She asked several women to tell her what they wish they had know at the beginning of their career, and then she synthesized it into an enlightening article.   You can read her finished paper here.

What a great question!

My Answer to “What I Wish I Had Known At the Beginning of My Career.”

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I started my ‘career’ in my late twenties.  Before that I had jobs that in no way could be considered a career.  When I started the job that became my career, I was young, smart and VERY opinionated.  I thought I knew everything.  The most important thing that I learned, and blessedly I learned it quickly, was that I didn’t know everything.  I learned to listen to others and to be open to possibilities.  One of the most important things that taught me that (and I’m ashamed that I had to learn this) was that I was forced to follow the recommendations of people who worked for me.  I couldn’t figure out any way NOT to follow their recommendations, so I took a deep breath and did what they suggested.  It worked.  It WORKED.  It so worked and it was so nothing that I would have ever thought of that it opened my eyes and my methodologies and changed my career and my life.  I cannot overstate this.  If I hadn’t had this accidental experience, I don’t believe that I would have gone on to manage large departments, nor would I have become VP of Organizational Effectiveness of a large company.

So . . . Lesson #1:  Be open to ideas from all levels of the organization and take chances with people and their ideas.

I had another powerful experience that forced me to understand that the way I look at things can be controlled by me.  I can choose to look at any situation from a completely different perspective–that of the person I’m disagreeing with, that of my boss, that of the customer–INSTANTLY.  I can “flip a switch” on my perspective and REFRAME the situation.  When I remember to do it, it always works.  I am able to see a solution that wasn’t obvious to me before, and I almost always am energized to solve the problem instead of being stuck.

So . . . Lesson #2:  Reframe.  Flip the switch to look at it differently.

What makes you happy?

Finally, the most important and the one that took the longest to figure out is to do the work that I love.  I know . . . people say that and it seems obvious, but it is hard to remember.   Figure out what motivates you and surround yourself with things that motivate—this is almost always work that you love, but could be position or money or recognition.  Whatever it is, create your life with motivation and fun and love.  CREATE. YOUR. LIFE.  Don’t waste your life doing stuff that makes you unhappy or demotivates you. Know what you love, what you want to do, what motivates you and create work and life around those things.

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A Note To Executives: You DON’T Know What Is Going On In Your Organization

Dear Executives:

I know you think you know what is going on in your organization.  I know you think you know who the super performers are and who the “C” players are.  I know you think you know the processes and how the organization delivers its results.  I know you think that you’re on top of it all.  You get dashboards and white papers and report outs from consultants to tell you what is going on.  I know you do surveys to ask your employees what they think.

But you still don’t know.  You don’t know what your people are thinking (most of the people who talk to you tell you what you want to hear or what will help them).  You don’t know what isn’t working in the inner workings of the organization.  You don’t know how badly your intent gets communicated down through the organization.  You don’t know what your organization is REALLY capable of (remember, you are probably getting less than 50% of what your organization is capable of, between the ineffective communication, the out-of-tune management, the inefficient measurement and processes and the lack of flexibility within your organization).

How Do I Know, You Might Ask?

Fair question.  I know because I’ve been there.  I’ve been an Executive in a large corporation.  I know what I thought.  I know that I thought I knew all that stuff I just accused you of believing that you know.  And I’ve more recently been in a lot of organizations at all levels where the Executives thought they knew and didn’t have a clue.  As a consultant, sometimes I talk to the Executives, but more often I come in below the C-level to work on a project that is stalled or understaffed.  I see and hear what people below the Executive level say and think.  I see that they do not have a clear understanding of the purpose of any of the “change” things that they are being asked to do.  They do not believe that Executives know what they are doing.

They Do Not Believe That Executives Know What They Are Doing.

Ouch.  Why is that?  It is because the communication from the top to the bottom in most organizations of any size SUCKS.  In both directions.  The messaging going from the top to the bottom doesn’t get down more than a couple of levels (and in my experience, it rarely gets more than one level).  The communication going in the other direction–from the bottom to the top is non-existent.  People at the bottom, or middle, or even almost at the top, learn very quickly how to communicate up.  ‘Tell ’em what they want to hear.’

The bottom line is that you, as an Executive, think that the brilliant plans that you have come up with are being implemented as you expected and that you will soon get the results that you are expecting.  And that won’t happen.  Eventually, you’ll get some of it.  But not all.  And not when you need it.

There is an apocryphal story about General Schwarzkopf wanting to know how well his front line soldiers understood what there orders from the top were, so he walked around and asked them.  Supposedly he was so appalled that he had training developed to teach his Commanders how to communicate “Commander’s Intent” better.  Whether the story about General Schwarzkopf is true or not, I’m willing to bet it is true in your organization.  Go ask them.  Ask them about your key initiatives–don’t cheat–don’t ask them in a way that they can guess the answer.  Ask them the what, why, how, when and who about the things you believe MUST be done within your organization.  And don’t get mad when they can’t tell you.  It isn’t their fault.

Force yourself to go Undercover Boss.  Go find out what is going on in your organization.  Figure out what you need to do about it.

you don't know your organization

So What Do You Do About It?

The first step is to learn to communicate.  Teach your leadership team how to communicate.  Teach your employees how to communicate up.  Teach your leadership team how to listen.  Start with your self.  Tell people WHY things need to be done.  Tell them over and over and over.  Tell them until they are really sick of hearing it.  Then tell them again.  Measure whether your people are telling their people what is happening, when it is happening, why it is happening.  Tell your people that you’re going to go ask people and that people had better know.  And then do it.

Telling people something once in a stand up meeting, or worse, in an email, is not communication.  You have to first get their attention.  Then you have to make them hear you.  Then you have to ensure that they have understood you.  Then you have to review it.  AND THEN YOU MIGHT GET THE ACTION FROM THEM THAT YOU WANT>

Great Books On the Effective Leader Communication:

  • Make to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath:  I probably site this book more than any other when I’m trying to get people to understand why their listeners don’t automatically embrace their perfectly brilliant ideas.  This book helps you understand why you have to help people go through the adoption process that you yourself did to get their buy in.
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini.  This is probably the number one book on how to ‘influence’ people.  This book explains how to get people to say ‘yes’. Everyone should read it.  Everyone at all levels of the organization.

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