The 7 secret (and not so secret) ways to get the promotion of your dreams, starting today (PART 3: Doing the job & Acting “As If”)
Ok. Your goals are aligned with your organization’s and you’ve got mentors. What next?
The 3rd step in getting promoted is to start acting “as if” and finding ways to do the job you want.
There is nothing that makes a hiring manager more confident in a candidate than seeing that they have actually succeeded in doing the job she is hiring for. While this can be pretty easy if you are looking for a lateral position at a new company, it can be difficult when you are looking for a job at the next level.
A few years ago I was hiring a new salesperson for my small business sales team. I interviewed one candidate coming from a consumer sales background. As most of us are aware, selling to consumers can be very different than selling to businesses. In his current position, this candidate also had the opportunity to sell products to businesses. When asking him how many business sales he had over the last few months, he responded that he had little to none. This communicated to me that he didn’t really want the job (or that he was letting our beloved millennial “sense of entitlement” get the best of him). He acted like he deserved the job but when I explained to him that someone who really wanted this role would have made an effort to prepare for it, he had no response (and as you can imagine, did not get the job).
Don’t let obstacles stand in your way though, there are things you can do to prove you are ready.
Before going out and taking on too much new responsibility, make sure to do an inventory of what skills are needed to be successful in the promoted role you are interested in. If it is a position managing someone the skills are very different than if you are an individual contributor. Moreover, you don’t want to spend time and energy building skills that those looking to promote you wouldn’t value.
One of the easiest ways to show you are ready for the promoted position is by backing up your boss (if the promotion is in your same organization) or someone who is going on vacation that does the job you want. This (1) helps you validate that it is a job you really want to do, and (2) gives you first-hand experience doing it. The experiences you have actually doing the job will do wonders in convincing people you are ready to be promoted (and make great references during the interview process).
Remember, however that responsibilities you would have in your own job don’t just come from filling in for someone, it also comes from building necessary skills elsewhere. Generally those that are preparing for a promotion have already proven they can be successful at their current job, so creating a new project or getting buy-in for a new initiative is much easier than if not. Be creative and find a way to morph some of your current work responsibilities into tasks that show you have the skills of those who get promoted to the next level.
Make sure to keep track of these additional projects and build a good story that is not only based on experience but also on measureable results.
To the point of acting “as if,” it is important that you begin to act like someone who would be successful in the promoted position. Find a way to distance yourself from your peers in the eyes of your group’s leadership. Start to dress, communicate and exude leadership qualities like those at the level you want to be at. Don’t get caught talking about the crazy thing that went down the previous evening at happy hour around the workplace. At the same time, be sure not to alienate your peers (or be thought of by them as a “sellout”), balancing your time between being part of the group and aligning yourself for promotion. Depending on the culture of your organization, your peers may have influence in you getting promoted (or may at least be someone polled by a hiring manager). You want your peers to think of you as a leader, but someone that is still part of their team.
Once you have started doing the promoted job you are seeking and being viewed by others as someone who has the qualities of someone who should be promoted, then it’s time to move on to Step 4, which we will discuss in the next post.
After you have aligned your goals with those of your boss/organization’s leadership and found ways to make others look good, it’s time to build your support team.
As the saying goes, even Tiger Woods has a coach. Even if you are hot sh*t (or at least think you are), outside parties can help you to succeed and I would venture to say are completely necessary to succeed.
No one ever completely accomplishes any great goal alone. You need others to help you focus on where you want to go and to motivate you when you are faced with obstacles.
In the professional realm mentors fill this “coach” role.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and are tools that are often misunderstood and regularly underutilized.
While it is important to find a mentor who has accomplished what you want to accomplish, is at the top of their game and can help guide you along the way (I refer to these as “macro mentors”), it is important to have what I refer to as “mini mentors” to help you with specific (niche) things as you prepare to get promoted (they also help you once you do get promoted, as mentioned here).
To build on the Tiger Woods example, he doesn’t have just one coach. He has one coach that helps him with putting, a different coach that helps him with chipping and yet another who helps with his drive and perfecting his swing. In the same light, you should find mini mentors that can help you learn and develop the skills you need to show you are promotion ready (and to help you succeed once you are promoted). Find someone who is really good at one skill or characteristic that you need to get promoted and engage them to learn how they do it.
Do an inventory of the skills and characteristics you need to develop in order to get promoted. Brainstorm yourself and ask others. Some typical mini mentors may help you with things like: showing you can balance your workload while managing the workload of others (especially relevant when promotion gives you direct reports), executive communication (where you have to present complex topics to leadership in a clear and strategic manner), or it can even be gaining knowledge about a certain topic or internal process where making a subject matter expert (SME) your teacher can be very advantageous to helping you master the subject.
While it is fine to leverage mentors who don’t work at your company, it is a good idea to find at least a couple who are at a higher level within your company (or department) because they can become advocates for you, speaking to hiring managers about how great of a candidate you are or giving you a behind the curtain look at what a hiring manager is really looking for so you can tailor your answers to questions during the interview process. Their network of contacts in the company can make you aware of soon to be open positions and help you understand what your future boss would be like.
There is one important key to leveraging macro and mini mentors that you must keep in mind to be successful.
With mini mentors, you have more power to select who you want to get help from, but it is also important to find ways to return the favor to them. Identify something you are an expert in that can help them and mentor them on it. If you are an expert on a topic that interests them, teach them what you know or if you are effective at a skill they struggle with (let’s say they have poor written communication skills) then you can teach them (in this case, how to write better).
With your macro mentors who have reached the higher level you aspire for, you must remember that they also choose you. This means that finding these macro mentors can take time and may require persistence on your part. If someone you really want to mentor you resists at first, be persistent and show them that you are worth their time. Show them that you are passionate about something they are interested in to catch their attention. At the same time, keep an eye out for someone who proactively helps you. They may be a great candidate to mentor you.
Now that your goals are aligned and you have a team of macro and micro mentors, helping you build the skills necessary to get promoted, it’s time to start doing the job at the next level. Part 3 will discuss how…
“How do I get promoted?” – a common question I am asked when speaking to groups of young professionals across the country.
For all intents and purposes, the answer is it depends.
Although there are unique circumstances and nuances depending on your industry, company and job function, there are, however, steps you can take to make yourself “promotion ready” no matter that your specific scenario is.
In my next few blog entries I will share with you the 7 steps you can take to make yourself promotion-ready.
Before delving into Step #1, first let’s do a quick attitude check. Making sure you have a “promotion ready attitude” is a foundational step (a Step #0, if you will) before going full force into promotion preparation.
Let me dispel any strong biases in your mind- NO you don’t deserve to get promoted. Nobody owes you a promotion and if anyone has ever “promised” you a promotion (unless it’s the owner/CEO of the company), you should be weary that it will ever come to fruition. Promotions must be earned. Plus, they don’t come around all that often. Think about it- most companies have somewhere between 5 and 8 levels of management, so that means if you end up making it to a C-Level position, you will only be promoted 8 times over a 40-50 year period – that means you will only get promoted once every 5 or 6 years, not every 2 or 3. Studies have found that only 1 in 10 people get promoted each year. This toxic feeling can be labeled as a sense of entitlement.
Closely related to entitlement (especially for us millennials) is impatience. We want instant gratification NOW. We want to know that the hard work we are putting in each day is recognized and will get us somewhere. Unfortunately, we can’t just snap our fingers and get promoted to the next level.
But what if I hate my job right now and would love it if I was in my boss’ position? you may ask… Then don’t show it. Even if your job sucks, you can’t go around airing your negative opinions out about it. People are always watching and this type of attitude doesn’t inspire anyone to give you a shot at the next level.
Earning a promotion comes from consistently delivering results over a long period of time (the operative words here are consistently and long period of time). Promotions don’t just appear overnight. They are earned long before the job opportunity arises. Plus, most of the higher ups in your company or organization already have a mental list of who they feel is ready for the next level.
Now at the same time, you want to diagnose whether your department or company has a toxic culture that isn’t conducive of getting a promotion. Maybe you have a boss who takes credit for all your great work, or a lack of support from your peers or no hope of personal development, even after getting promoted. In those cases, it may be best to find a new job at a new company. But, if your current company does pass this litmus test and is a place where you want to seek career advancement, it’s best to move through these 7 Steps to become “promotion ready.” In conducting this toxic environment litmus test, remember that in many cases it is easier to get promoted from within to look for a promotion elsewhere (so it’s not always best to seek out greener pastures for promotional opportunities).
Now that the foundational step (Step #0) is out of the way, let’s go on to Step 1, Goal Alignment.
No matter how long you have been in a job, it is always possible to recalibrate to better align your goals with those of your boss and the team. Through school and in many job situations we have been trained to focus on our own performance; our own accomplishments, job proficiencies and metrics. In reality, when you fully focus on not making yourself look good, but on making others look good and accomplishing the goals of the team, that is when people take notice.
In basketball, it’s statistically great to be a player that scores 40 or 50 points a game by not passing the ball to teammates, but if you always lose the game, then what’s the point? If instead you focus on passing the ball to your teammate and setting them up to make great shots in a winning effort, you make the whole team successful. While the former gets some of the glory, it is the latter that inspires others and leads to championships.
In a work context, goal alignment is understanding what the vision, objectives and goals of your boss and organization are and then using your talents to their utmost to fulfill these goals. True leaders know what they are good at (and bad at) and contribute their strengths to help the team.
At the very least, remember that your boss either decides or is a key influencer in determining what your annual bonus is, the type of raise you get and whether you are supported in seeking a promotion. If you do all you can to make your boss look good and be successful, don’t you think that will inspire him/her to give you the bigger raise or bonus and support you when you want to pursue a promotion?
Once you have your focus and actions narrowed to what is in the team’s or your boss’ best interest, it’s time to build toward Step #2 in the process, getting mentors.
What have YOU found to be the keys to getting promoted in your career? Let us know in the comments below.
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Recently I came across a blog entry, that really got me worked up.
Basically the author complained about being 24 and not yet getting her “dream job.” While I appreciated how the advice that followed was well intentioned and somewhat informative, what really got me upset was the general attitude and premise of the discussion.
I think it is ridiculous early in your career to be out in search of your “dream job.” This causes delusions of grandeur and this mentality leads people to feel certain jobs are “under” them or not worth their time.
The truth is, whatever you think your dream job is right now, it will change. Guaranteed. I am 100% sure that for most people, your idea of your “dream job” will be very different 5, 10 and even 20 years from now.
I think this mentality is where many millennials go wrong. We are a passionate bunch that believe in changing the world. We are socially conscious and enthusiastic and have the energy to make our dent in the universe. But at the same time, the answer is not to go out on a Don Quixote journey to find the job that is perfect for us. This mentality also paints you in a corner because if you focus all your effort on one niche area, when your passions shift, it is difficult to take that experience and relevant skills and apply them elsewhere.
Note: I don’t want to burst everyone’s bubble or come across as a naysayer preaching that we should all “give up now!” On the contrary, I am as optimistic as it comes, but I know that my goals, focus and concept of a “dream job” is very different at 30 than it was when I was 24.
The answer is to build foundational skills
Instead of searching endlessly for your dream job and crying because you have yet to have it handed to you, focus on finding (and seizing) opportunities that help you build transferable skills.
Instead of focusing on one small niche area that may be interesting to you now, put equal focus into getting experience that will help you no matter what job, company or industry you will be in.
Our parents’ generation made something like an average of 5 career changes over the course of their 40+ year career. For our generation, that number could be twice as large.
Given that change will happen (multiple times), it is crucial to have skills that will make you successful with whatever your career may hand you.
Skills like project management, product development, managing people, and so on, are important skills whether you are in accounting or operations, whether you are in retail or tech, whether you are at a big company or a start-up.
I believe that your ultimate success in business is more contingent upon what you can lead others to do than you are capable of doing yourself (ex: your ability to lead ten people to make 8 widgets/day provides an 8x output compared to your ability to make 10 widgets/day all by yourself). I know that my experience managing teams will help me be successful no matter what company I work for and what functional area I work in.
It doesn’t have to come from your job
But what about my passions? you might ask…
I am not suggesting you discard your passions and join the ranks of mindless drones collecting paychecks and savoring a measly 2 weeks of vacation a year. I am merely questioning whether your career has to fulfill all your passions.
You don’t have to drop your whole career just to seek your passion, be more creative about it. I have seen time and time again how friends have started a side business or taken a leadership position in a non-profit to explore their passions. The things you do outside of work present a prime place to explore your passions. This is why it is important to seek variety, so you don’t fully focus only on your full-time job.
Ultimately, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be anxiously waiting for or endlessly seeking what you consider to be your “dream job.” The fact is that your dreams and passions will change and you may never even find that dream job you have fixated on. Or worse, you may get that job and realize that your dream job is really a nightmare. Who’s to say that if you find that dream job that you would even be ready for it or would even be good at it?
That is why we all should build foundational skills at age 24 (and beyond) that will help us as our careers take its own uncharted course, instead of just endlessly seeking a “dream job” that will solve all our troubles and make you instantly fulfilled.
Life and careers are much harder than this. Those who are most successful build skills while their passions are developing and then use these skills to be the best when great opportunities come along (note that I didn’t label it as a “dream job” coming along).
“Dream jobs” will always remain just that, dreams. Instead of dreaming, go out there and build up skills that will make you successful wherever your career may take you. Then, jump on opportunities that you are passionate about, and see what exciting results follow.
What do YOU think?
Have you found your “dream job” or have you fallen short? Have you seen how skills you built early on have helped you in other jobs?
With a number of the talks I have been giving at companies and universities, I recently reconnected with my alma mater. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I searched to see if some of the on-campus activities that I was involved in were still around.
Some extra curricular organizations I was involved in had been around for over 100 years prior to my joining, so it was no surprise that they were thriving as always. Yet what was more affirming was the success attained by a couple organizations that I was at the ground floor of.
One was the course I taught on Leadership through the undergraduate business school and the other was the Freshman Sophomore Business Club.
In both cases, I was not the official “founder” but was the second to have the top “executive” spot. With the Freshman Sophomore Business Club, an organization only open to lower classmen (mostly “pre-business” majors), I was Treasurer my Freshman year and then was elected President the next. My executive team and I took on a club with 10 members (mainly officers) and grew it by over 1000%. My focus at the end of my year as President was to ensure that the next executive committee didn’t face the same problem I had; having to run a young organization with no guidance or mentoring (given that the organization’s founders left office, barely providing a thumb drive with documents they had made over the first year). I worked with my executive team to elect the next set of officers early, pair them with their predecessor and begin to operate the club with the outgoing officers actively present, providing advice and best practices.
The result has been amazing. Besides the growth of the organization, it has continued to operate even though there is almost complete turn over of officers and members every 1-2 years.
For the leadership course (that operated through a program that allows students to gain sponsorship for and teach courses to other students), I took the class as a student the first semester it was offered. One semester later when the course founder graduated, I was selected as someone to take over the course. When my graduation neared a couple years later, I enacted a plan to ensure the course would continue on long after I was gone.
Throughout the semesters I taught the course, I had other students serve as teaching assistants to me. During my 2nd to last semester in college I beefed up the number of teaching assistants and watched them closely, as I planned to choose my successor. Then finally, my last semester in college I selected a successor (who I closely mentored) and monitored how the class was doing to ensure that no issues arose. This was a recipe for success and the course is now the longest running special interest course in the entire undergraduate business school, having run continuously for the last 20+ semesters while most other courses of its kind dissolve when the creator graduates.
The reason I describe these experiences is to offer an example of why building a legacy is important to the future of an organization (or anything you are involved in), but also to point out it is something that takes focus and effort to see through.
In both cases, I made a concerted effort to look toward the future. Being a big believer that good leaders can foster success while they are present but great leaders foster success in those that follow long after they are gone, I didn’t look at the organization’s success within the context of the limited time I led it. I saw that there were certain things that needed to be done with the future in mind.
As managers, or individual contributors within any team or organization there are a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood of future success. Here are a few:
- Share best practices, don’t hoard them. Don’t let the next cycle of leaders make the same mistakes you did. Share with them your failures, why they happened and how you would have done things differently if you could do it all over again. This will give future leaders perspective.
- Allow the next generation of organization leaders to sink or swim, but provide a safety net. Don’t hand-hold your successors too much. Give them clear guidance but then let them run small parts of things to start. When they succeed it helps build confidence in them; when they fail, be there to help them learn how to do better. Your exit shouldn’t be an abrupt stop, it should be a gradual fading out.
- Don’t make it about yourself, let the up-and-comers shine. Confident leaders know they don’t need to take all the credit to feel they have made a different. Let others around you (especially the future of the organization) share in the success and even be at the forefront of who gets the credit. This will inspire people to follow the lead you set while empowering them to strive to reach your vision.
It was really energizing and affirming to see that something I dedicated myself to years ago was still around and thriving. It also made me realize that the effort I put in before I exited stage-left from the organization was worth it.
Make something that is built to last; be purposeful in succession planning.
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Going from peer to manager can be a difficult process. It is a challenge for you, taking on a management role where you used to be an individual contributor, and it is challenging for your team members, as they have to take orders from someone who used to be their peer.
A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful… for those not familiar with the archetype discussed in my book) is able to leverage the benefit of knowing what it takes to be successful at what her team does while being sensitive to the fact that it may be difficult for their old peers to see them an authority figure.
To start, STAR managers are conscious of the fact that this situation may happen, so they are sensitive about the reputation they create for themselves among their peers. It is much harder to get a team to believe in you as a manager if you were thought of as selfish, scheming or dishonest.
When transitioning from peer to manager, STARs do the following:
- Transition relationships: STAR managers work with their close ex-peers to help them understand their new role and to ask for their support during the transition. The book The First Time Manager, by Loren Belker and Gary Topchik, characterizes the complexities of being promoted to manage your old team well when it notes that knowing employees too well can be an issue because a certain comfort level has already developed. They go on to note the importance of setting the right expectations, rules and regulations, fostering accountability.
- Treat everyone equally: It is natural for people to like and get along with people at varying degrees when you are on their team. As a manager, however, you must make an effort to treat everyone equally. It is okay to have past peers/now employees that are friends who you socialize with outside of work, but you must not show them any favoritism or it will create a division within the team.
- Show your authority: STAR managers treat this as carefully as walking across a frozen pond. As mentioned, you will be challenged by your team. Especially as an ex-peer they will use all kinds of logic to get you to relax as a manager and cut them slack. Ensure that you portray yourself as an authority figure. Discipline rule breaking and seize coaching opportunities. While it is important to exert that you are the boss and that people must follow your lead, be careful how you do this; otherwise your people will develop an “oh you have changed” mentality and not trust you as a manager. It is okay for them to think you have changed, but openly discuss with them why.
- Find ways to show that you are their advocate: Make a concerted effort to show your team that you will stand up for them and support them. Find ways to make positive change. A great place to start is to take your new authority and find ways to remove obstacles that bothered you in the role before you became a manager.
- Keep the right frame of mind: Don’t lose sight of the fact that you understand how to do the job your people are tasked with doing and the challenges they face. Keeping this perspective will help you in shaping the appropriate culture, vision and management style to use with the team.
- Have fun and learn: Since you remember what it is like to be an employee on the team, further integrate what the individuals on the team would typically find fun and look for new learning experiences that are valuable.
- Shift the culture: While there may be pressure to keep things the way they are, make sure to leverage a contingency approach and change the culture to better fit your management style. You may face some pushback from your team on this, but follow through if you believe the change is important.
When taking on a management role in these types of situations, be mindful of not only being tested by your new employees but also of any resentment that exists. In many cases, one of your other ex-peers interviewed for the position you received or possibly thinks they are more deserving of the position than you are. This may cause them to hold a grudge and act in certain ways to make you look like an incompetent leader. This can manifest itself in many ways, like them purposely making mistakes on things that you ask for their help on that they know you won’t catch because of a time crunch or because you trust them with it.
One way to deal with this resentment and animosity is to address the issue head on, speaking to individuals on your team and acknowledging how they feel . When doing this make sure not to come off as if you have an “I won and you didn’t” attitude.
Another way to handle this kind of situation is to be nice to these employees and show them that you value and support them in their own career progression. Specifically seek out their advice and find ways to make them look good. This will calm the resentment and focus them on reaching the team’s goals.
STAR managers see situations to manage where she used to be part of the team as a unique opportunity to help the team be even more successful. She successfully leverages her past experience to remove obstacles, empower her employees and create a culture that the entire team believes will help the team achieve even more.
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
Every time I appoint someone to a vacant position, I make a hundred unhappy and one ungrateful.
– Louis XIV
Everyone has their guilty pleasures. For some it’s chocolate, for others it’s trashy books. While most associate them with their personal lives, these guilty pleasures can creep over into your professional life as well. It can take the form of getting wrapped up in office gossip or even doing something around the office that you shouldn’t do (I’ll let your imaginations go with that one).
My professional guilty pleasure isn’t all that exciting; in fact, it’s downright nerdy. My secret professional love is work conferences.
I dig ‘em. Whether it’s a live webcast, or even better yet, in person, I crave the stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, a good amount of what happens at conferences is fluff. It can take the form of a ra-ra “repeat after me” chant initiated by a company executive. I have even seen my company hire singers who take a stupid template for a song that they throw three or four relevant references about my company into in order to make it sound like the song was written just for us.
Last week, I attended a multi-day leadership conference that my company put on and was reminded of the great things that in-person conferences offer. Here are 5 reasons why you should love conferences too:
- You can sharpen your sword– In my first book, I referenced the importance of being a constant learner. With the burden of our daily responsibilities and endless inboxes full of to do’s, we often forget to build our skills. A number of famous quotes say something to the effect that once we stop learning we stop living. Careers stall when you forget to sharpen your skills by either learning new things or being reminded of timeless lessons. Conferences can provide you with this training. It’s also a good thing to take advantage of when your company puts money into building your skills.
- It’s a break away from the office– While we have to deal with the backlog of email and other deadlines that don’t just stop because we aren’t at our desks, conferences offer a nice break away from the office. At times these sessions are in other cities, allowing us to get a change of scenery and to clear our heads a little bit. A deviation from the normal day-to-day can give us some good perspective.
- For the networking– With so much training and development happening through web-based content because of the lower cost, in-person conferences are becoming less frequent (side note: I don’t know about you, but I tend to get distracted with web conferences, looking at email or doing something else. With in-person conferences there is a different level of focus). In-person conferences allow you to network with people from different parts of your company and from different geographic areas. Strengthening these relationships, and building new ones through networking, can really help you get your work done faster and more efficiently in the future. Seeing each other face-to-face is an important element of business that helps people buy-in to you and your ideas more; something that is lost in other forms of technology. Plus, the networking (especially the kind that takes place at night after the day’s session) is the most fun.
- The “swag”– Sometimes it’s crap, but other times it can be pretty cool. Most conferences have giveaways and other free stuff handed out at these conferences. From water bottles, to great leadership books to prizes like smartphones, your can pick up some pretty awesome stuff at company conferences.
- The thoughts sparked– Above the other 4 reasons to love in-person conferences, my favorite benefit of this time away from my office is not necessarily the dose of inspiration that a speaker provides, but the thoughts provoked in my own mind. There have been countless times when a speaker is droning away but then offers a statement that provokes an awesome thought in my mind. It could be something I realize that will help me do my job better, or maybe a new idea for a project I am working on; but I have found that the conversation in my head sparked by either something I learn at the conference (or just having the time away to clear my head) has been incredibly valuable throughout my career to this point.
So value the time spent at conferences. It’s better to take a conference call or shoot out a couple emails from the hallway outside the conference room than not go to the conference at all. Who knows, you might make a connecting that leads to your next job, or you may spark a big idea at the next conference you attend. Even a nerdy guilty pleasure like conferences can be a huge help to your career.
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“Wait, what’s a SORD order again?” I asked. “And where do we get the information I need for the account?”
“You get that from BOSS, but you can’t use BOSS-south only BOSS-north, otherwise you will get an error. But before you complete the SORD order you need to go into Telegence and process a request and send a confirmation through to the center,” my peer manager explained.
At the time, my response was probably just like yours is: “Huh?”
As a manager taking over a team, you will most likely face one of two scenarios. Either you will be managing a team where you used to do the job that your employees do (whether you are now managing the team you used to be on or a completely different team doing the same thing), or you will take on the role with little to no idea of exactly what your team’s day-to-day job is like.
Often you will know the main function of your new team or possibly the goal you need to accomplish while in the position, but the vernacular, systems and processes are a total mystery.
A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful) is able to come into situations with little to no previous experience and excel, while the DOPE (someone who Disses Opportunity Potential & Earnings) lets fear, doubt or the urge to take control prevent him from being successful. In my career, I had little to no idea of what my team did day-to-day going into each new management position I took on, but I was able to use a set of transferrable principles that work no matter what situation you must manage.
Here is what STAR managers do to be successful in situations where they have no idea what their team does:
- Admit you don’t know: If you come into a management position as an outsider, your team will be especially critical of your value to them (since most employees want to know how you can help them do their jobs). A STAR manager doesn’t pretend that she knows it all. She acknowledges to her team that they are the experts and that she has much to learn. She does this in a balanced way so as to not lead her employees to think that she is clueless. Let them know that what you think they do is important and that you have much to learn from them.
- Don’t command control: When entering new management roles, DOPE managers want to exert their control and power at all costs. While it is important that you portray yourself as an authority figure, realize that the team may do things differently than what you would naturally do. Over time it is a good idea to make improvements, but at first be cautious about making any sweeping changes because then not only will you be lost but so will your employees.
- Uphold the attributes of STARs: There are a number of STAR individual contributor traits that specifically apply when you are managing a team where you have no prior experience in a area. STAR managers are fast learners, picking up concepts quickly and understanding how they affect the team. STARs have perspective, being able to take a lesson from the new situation. They are coachable, looking to their employees to teach them what they need to know to be a successful advocate for the team. They are self-aware, conscious of what they know and don’t know and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. STAR managers are resourceful, using many channels to master their new job. They have a positive attitude and they see their employees as customers, searching for ways to support them.
- Search for understanding: Remember that you don’t have to do the whole job that your employees do. You just need to understand it and know how to support them. STAR managers seek to understand how successful people do the job their people do and they find ways to remove the obstacles preventing peak performance.
- Ask peers and your people for advice: Your peer managers are a wealth of information since they have more experience doing the job you were brought in to do. Take note of their best practices and learn from any mistakes they made. Your employees especially like the idea of you coming to them to be taught something, so leverage that when possible.
- Show your cards: Give your employees glimpses that you know what they do and can do it (at least part of it). Particularly with managers who have no experience in their job function, they will attempt to get out of work or trick you into thinking something is harder to do than it really is. Showing these glimpses keeps them in check, wondering what you do and don’t know. Speak the right language and learn the reality of their jobs and not just what they tell you.
- Look for where to make your mark: Find the levers that affect your new employees’ jobs and look for ways to change things for the better. As an outsider you are not bogged down by the typical process and existing way of doing things. You have fresh eyes and can find issues that others would not be able to see. Be careful not to jump into this too soon, but patiently look for the right things to change. This encourages your employees because they will see you as someone who wants to make positive change and help them succeed.
No matter what new language of acronyms and processes that have to be learned, the amount of prior experience or management style, a STAR manager brings in an open mindset and the methods outlined above to be successful with any team focused on any goals.
Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
― George S. Patton Jr.
The STAR manager vs. The DOPE Manager
The DOPE manager… wants to make his team think that he knows what he is doing at all times. He is apprehensive about asking questions and develops a sense of mistrust with his team because he is not open and honest about not having all the answers.
The STAR manager… is honest with herself and her team when she is in uncharted territory. She utilizes her team and others to get advice and is a fast learner, picking up knowledge that will help her effectively manage her team.
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Today I was on NPR sharing my perspective on millennials in the workplace. Here is what I shared during the “Perspectives” segment:
Here is the transcript:
Imagine how I felt, three weeks into my first job out of college and facing the thing that strikes fear into the hearts of employees across the nation. It was time for my performance review.
I wasn’t scared though, I was excited. I was expecting that my boss would give me a big raise and promotion. I was stunned when the first words out of her mouth were, “Aaron, you seem like a bright young man, but I am not sure if you even know how to do your job.” I was crushed. I thought I was doing well at work, but in reality had no idea what the working world was like.
In fact, my misguided expectations were way off. I had expected that it would be like everything else I had done in my life; that I would be given an opportunity and then rewarded for being a part of the team.
My fellow millennials, it’s time for us to wake up. The working world is not like our homes were growing up. Our bosses won’t accommodate for us like our parents did and we won’t be recognized just for showing up. It’s time for us to take action instead of just waiting to be given the careers of our dreams.
Older employees complain about our lack of engagement and inability to take on responsibility and follow-through at work. I for one hate having this stigma associated with me and know that we are better than this reputation. We are creative, enthusiastic and agile, with exciting ideas and new ways of thinking.
We need to take ownership of our careers. No one is going to hand it to us on a silver platter. We will have to earn it with consistent hard work and results. We must be coachable, willing to listen and learn from advice coming from all angles. We must be more self-aware, understanding our natural sense of entitlement and impatience that cause us to give up when we face adversity or skip around between opportunities because we will only settle for the ideal situation. Instead, we must have perspective and realize that the lessons we learn now will help us when we do find our passion.
Don’t just wait for someone to hand you the career you want. Go out there and take it.
With a Perspective, I’m Aaron McDaniel.
Does anyone have their own perspective that they want to share?
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