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  • 1. Have you requested a promotion in the last year?
  • 2. Have you ever been rejected for a promotion?
  • 3. Have you ever been offered a promotion?
  • 4. Has a co-worker at the same level ever been promoted instead of you?
  • 5. Has there ever been a position you applied for and didn’t get?
  • 6. Are you hesitant about asking for a promotion for fear of your boss’s response?
  • 7. Have you ever left an organization because you were passed up for promotion there?
  • 8. Do you know if your work environment values you and your work?
  • 9. Do you think that you deserve a promotion?
  • 10. Do you promote your work and yourself at work?
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Going for a promotion? Don't miss these 4 crucial steps.

There’s nothing worse than missing the boat when you want to pursue opportunities at work. Once they’re gone, they’re gone...but you can prevent this.

 

When pursuing your next tempting career advancement opportunity, the most important thing to remember to get ahead in your career is that you should take charge of properly preparing yourself. No one else is going to do it for you - not your boss, not your subordinates...and especially not those competing for the same opportunity.

 

Preparation for seizing a tempting career advancement requires research. Just as a product or service manager conducts thorough market research, an ambitious employee looking for career advancement diligently researches in anticipation of that next opportunity. This is one of the biggest factors affecting career development.

 

Below are the 4 things you must find out before pursuing your next opportunity. This is baseline information. Obviously, you’ll need to find out more according to the actual opportunity.

 

Like in market research, some of the research will be secondary - also known as “desk research” - and will be done by looking, for example, at your company’s website. Other research will be primary - or “field research” and will require you to reach out to other employees to get their take on different issues.

 

But before going on, it is critical that you record all of your findings. This way, you’ll be sure to cover all of the groundwork and use the information to the fullest. (See my post about Rob, who realized the importance of self-discovery.)

 

1.    What are the qualifications and experience needed for that next opportunity? How would you measure the gap between what’s needed and what you can offer?

 

2.    What are the formal and informal expectations of the position? What would be the difference between what’s expected and what you can bring to the table? To answer this second question, fostering your relationship with your manager could help.

 

3.    What was positive about the performance of the last person who held this job? What should have been improved? What then should you emphasize with regard to the advantages that you can bring to the job?

 

4.    How are you perceived by others? How do they see your strengths and weaknesses? In what ways can you use this information to “position” yourself strategically for that next opportunity?

 

If we had to summarize the most important thing from all of these four points, it would be to identify the gaps between what would seem ideal for the new opportunity and what you have in you already and then to do two things: (1) minimize and (2) capitalize. I’ll explain.

 

Minimize the gaps. While you might not completely fit one of the ideal qualifications, perhaps you have something similar to offer that could fit the bill just the same. For example, an opportunity might require sales experience with large retailers, whereas you have mostly worked with small mom and pops. You could highlight that though the sizes are different, you’re well versed at helping retailers manage their shelf space, which is actually a huge issue with large retailers as well. Here, you minimize the gap by showing how your existing expertise is transferable and can be of benefit to the new opportunity.

 

Capitalize on the gaps. Here, you want to position what might seem like a shortcoming as an advantage. For example, if a job requires eight years of experience and you only have two, perhaps you could emphasize that you’d be bringing a more open mind to the job than someone with more experience.

 

Remember that the more serious you are about your information gathering and “gap analysis,” the better positioned you’ll be for your interview. Don’t sell yourself short by taking shortcuts.

 

In my next three posts, I’ll be providing guidance on competing for opportunities with internal and external candidates as well as what to do when you’re the external candidate.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Promotion seekers: 4 steps to winning

There’s a new position open at work and the heat is on. Go for it.

 

This week, I am going to focus on what you should do when competing with a co-worker for an internal promotion as you move along your corporate development career path.

 

Going head-to-head with a co-worker over a promotion can be exhausting. First of all, as in any pursuit of a new opportunity, you’ll be expending energy on positioning yourself as the most well-suited candidate. But trying to beat a co-worker to a promotion has its own baggage as well - all eyes are on you at the company; your status is at stake; and everyone’s nerves seem to be on edge. But by approaching things in a planned and logical manner, you’ll be sure to win.

 

Here are four steps you have to take to get ahead of your co-worker:

 

1.    Get to know your competition. Not as your co-worker, but as your competitor for the job you want. The first thing is to identify the possible advantages they might have over you. But what’s important is to widen your focus to what others in the company might see as advantages. This will help avoid any biases you might have towards your competition, resulting in a more realistic picture. Then repeat this process with your competitors’ disadvantages. You should then have a clear list of your competitors’ advantages/disadvantages.


2.   Explore the job’s requirements beyond the formal description. Job descriptions tend to list experience or qualities that an ideal candidate would have. Yet the end of the day, there might be two or three core competencies that are really important when looking at how to measure success at work. For example, I’ve seen many job announcements listing “ability to work in a dynamic environment” as a required quality, yet in reality, most of the time, the person would be working in a very stable environment. On another note, descriptions might include formal requirements but exclude certain skills that are actually very important for the job. For example, an announcement might list several technical skills, but in reality, without team-building abilities, the job can never be done properly. Obviously, you’re not going to find out such missing information in the job announcement. However, you can take advantage of the fact that you’re an internal candidate and find out all of this through informal channels within your organization. If you do this field research right, you’ll know exactly what to highlight when applying for your next promotion.

 

3.     In this step, you want to take the information you gathered in (1) and (2) and create a chart listing both the formal and informal job requirements as well as how you size up to your competition on every requirement.

 

4.     Now that you’ve got a clear picture of how you compare to your competition, it’s time to build your strategy. First, make a note of wherever you have a clear advantage over your competition and ensure that you can express this clearly. This should be pretty easy for you, as you explored this in (1). What’s harder is dealing with the points in which your competitor has an advantage over you or in which you both are about the same. Here, you’ll want to surprise the interviewer - pull some rabbits out of the hat, so to speak. Such rabbits are going to come from what your learned in (2). So, for example, if both you and your competitor have impeccable financial management skills, you’d want to highlight the fact that you’ve initiated many new projects for the organization (which you’d found out as crucial to the successful execution of this particular job). In this way, you differentiate yourself from the competitor by offering information that is unexpected, yet can definitely be a game changer.

 

Competing with an internal candidate is definitely a challenge, yet by following these four steps, you’ll still be able to show that you - and not they - deserve the promotion.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Competing for an executive job with external candidates? Discover why YOU might be at a disadvantage.

It’s well known that while many large organizations might favor hiring from within, most SMEs insist on interviewing both internal and external candidates for new job openings. In fact, many managers see the benefits of hiring from the outside.

 

So beware. If you’re the internal candidate, given the possibility of promoting from outside, your promotion is far from in the bag.

 

Face it. If you were competing for a job in a new company as you paved your corporate development career path, you’d be doing your homework day and night. You’d be scouring the company website, talking to people who know the position, and of course, brushing up on your interviewing skills.

 

The sad fact is that most internal candidates don’t do half of what external candidates do to prepare for their interview - including preparing a resume for internal promotion - simply because they don’t realize that they’re much worse off than being an external one. Surprising? I’ll explain.

 

Here are the two main reasons why internal candidates lose out to external ones:

 

1.    They fall asleep at the switch.

 

As an internal candidate, delete...I repeat...delete the thought that somehow you’re preferred over the external candidate. This is valid even when you’ve been explicitly told that you’re #1 on the shortlist. I can’t count the number of times internal candidates have told me they were a shoe-in, but their organization “had” to interview an external candidate for the sake of good order. Yes, that might’ve been the original intention, but what followed always seemed to surprise the internal candidates. You see, the minute you think you’ve got the cat in the bag, you automatically fall asleep at the switch. You continue to concentrate on your present job and forget how important it is to prepare properly for the interview (see my post about preparation for an internal interview ). The sad result is that you end up performing poorly during the interview. And guess what: the external candidate, who prepared diligently, gets the job.

 

2.    The grass is always greener.

 

Sure, you’ve made some valuable contributions to your organization. Otherwise, why would you be a candidate for an internal promotion, right? So, as an internal candidate, you’ve got the home court advantage, right again?

 

Well, not completely. As a home team player, your organization certainly knows your strengths...but also your weaknesses. While I’m sure your strengths outweigh your weaknesses, you’ve got one problem when it comes to your competition: no one knows their weaknesses.

 

After all, who’s going to put their weak points on their resume or provide references who tell it like it is? So here you’re stuck with the very unfair situation in which your company knows all about you - “the good, the bad, and the ugly”...but just the “good” points of your competitor.

 

To add insult to injury, sprinkle in a generous portion of “the grass is always greener” into the mix. In other words, things we don't have always seem to be more appealing than things we do have. (Remember how your friend’s family always seemed a lot cooler than yours?) So then your competition becomes these shiny, new external candidates who seem to be better just because they’re not part of your company.


 

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My #1 piece of advice: it is imperative you approach an internal promotion as if being an internal candidate were a disadvantage instead of an advantage.

 

But the story isn’t all doom and gloom. As an internal candidate, you have access to a wealth of “informal” information that an external candidate could only dream of. This information is the key to your overcoming the disadvantage-point you might find yourself in. For example, you already have a network of people who are either decisionmakers themselves or are close enough to them so that you can gather important information about the promotion process. Through this unofficial  grapevine, you can find out a lot about the most important qualities needed for the job as well as other skills that might be crucial, yet not listed in the job announcement. For more on this, read my post, 4 things you must know before pursuing your next opportunity.

 

Finally, complacency has no place when competing with an external candidate for an internal promotion. Don’t be tricked into thinking that the promotion is yours for the taking. Instead, getting the promotion requires that you fight just as hard as an external candidate will, plus strategically utilize information channels within your organization.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Executive job seekers: avoid these 5 pitfalls

This could’ve been your big break - one of the factors affecting the career development of any manager looking to advance.

 

You were called in for an interview at another company for a fabulous position - a job that would’ve been considered a major promotion at your current organization.

 

All excited (and a little nervous), you prepared yourself for the interview, making sure to find out key data about the company and brushing up on presenting your experience and qualifications.

 

At the interview, things seemed to go well as you explained about yourself and demonstrated your eagerness for the job. As the interview came to a close, you all shook hands. You were optimistic as you left the interview room.

 

But unfortunately, a few days later, you received an email stating that though the hiring committee was impressed with your background, they were still hesitant about your lack of experience in executive management. On a positive note, they’d be happy to hire you at your current managerial level.

 

A bummer. You were not only disappointed with the rejection, but also you were insulted at the thought of being offered to move to another company to do the same job you’re doing now. Following the initial shock, you began to wonder what caused the hiring committee to reject you. After all, they’d called you in for an interview. They must’ve thought that you had at least some chance of being hired. Was the interview conducted in good faith?

 

The good news is yes, you were interviewed in good faith. Companies don’t have time to conduct bogus interviews. But the unfortunate news is that  during your interview, doubts began to arise regarding your ability to be an effective executive manager - one of the major factors affecting career development. As the interview began, you were basically a gamble for the hiring committee - and therefore a heavy risk to the company. And as the interview progressed, the committee never got the feeling that it would be worth their placing their bets on you.

 

So what caused this opportunity of a lifetime to crash and burn? Read on to find out the 5 most common mistakes external candidates make when vying for a job at a higher level.

 

1.    You never saw the gap.

Never mind minding the gap. You didn’t even look for it. As an executive wanna be applying from outside the company, you’re just not going to have everything the company thinks it needs. Your job is to first and foremost acknowledge this gap, ensuring, as much as possible, that you know what’s expected versus what you can realistically bring to the table.

 

2.    You never bridged the gap.

Maybe at some point you realized that what you could offer might not completely fit the bill. But as a strategy, you thought it would be a good idea to ignore such “minor details” and just concentrate on what you could offer. Bad move. As you rambled on and on about your experience, the parts you strategically ignored were forming a huge elephant in the room. And the fact that you never tried to compensate for your shortcomings doubled the size of the elephant - and knocked you off the shortlist.

 

3.    You widened the gap.

While you were recounting your qualifications and experience, you failed to realize that your canned speech had little relevance to the issues the company was actually facing. The polite smiles you received were not because you were impressing the socks off the committee. They were just polite smiles...waiting for you to end your monologue.

 

4.    You fell into the gap.

This job opportunity was pretty much a long shot. Between us, we know you’d applied for a similar position at your current organization and were rejected. So when you actually landed the interview for this job, you had to ask yourself if they’d possibly made a mistake. But you were still excited about the opportunity, even though the chances of success were slim. Well, it’s exactly this approach to the interview that caused you to get swallowed into the gap. If you’d prepared diligently for the interview, as if you’d been hungry...no...STARVING for the job, then you wouldn’t have fallen into the gap. Instead, you spent energy convincing yourself that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you didn’t get the job. And by doing so, you convinced the hiring committee of the same thing.


 

5.    You missed the gap.

You never really told the hiring committee one thing: why you. Just like when you market a product or service, you have to know how to position yourself for your particular target market. But you failed to do your market research and therefore see how you were going to satisfy the company’s needs better than anyone else.


 

Hopefully, you’ll have another crack at a dream job...and you’ll do it right. The most important lesson to learn is that all of these mistakes result from one thing: lack of productive preparation. So before pursuing your next dream job, make sure you do the following:

 

1.    Find out why the company is interviewing external candidates instead of or in addition to internal ones. What qualities might there be lacking in the internal candidates? Knowing this will help you position yourself as something attractive the company will want to pursue.


 

2.    Research what the company is succeeding at and what challenges it is facing. This will help you know which parts of you to emphasize. As a result, the hiring committee will know it can count on you to both maintain its success and tackle its challenges.

 

3.    Prepare your pitch - and not a generic one either. Make sure it addresses all of the 5 mistakes mentioned above. At the end of your pitch, the hiring committee should feel that you know the company and its needs inside and out - and that you’re the right person to satisfy them.

 

Pursuing a higher level job outside your current organization can be a great challenge - as it takes both you and the hiring committee out of your comfort zones. But with the right research and preparation, it can create a win-win for everyone.

 

Good luck.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

 

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Never stop managing when it comes to your career

Most middle managers place great importance on career management. They read the latest books, view the newest webcasts, and even participate in career management seminars. But based on over 35 years of experience, I’m sorry to say that much of these efforts don’t bear the expected fruits as professional development goals for managers should. Why? It’s simple: one size does not fit all.

 

Instead, to really get ahead, middle managers must practice career management that is both personalized and active. Without these two key ingredients, it will become clear right away that cookie-cutter versions of career management will lead you to nowhere as far as professional development goals for managers are concerned. But you might be thinking that with so many career management programs out there promising success, there must be one that merits a try. My answer to this is the following: try to understand why standard programs won’t work.

 

1.    Your life is going to change.

When you graduated sometime in your twenties and got your first “real job”, you probably had a pretty clear idea of where you wanted to go. But along came a significant other. Or maybe children. Or possibly an elderly parent needing your attention. By the time you hit your 30s, you realized that the plan you’d set out for yourself in your mid-20s was probably not going to play out the way you’d imagined. So then that first plan went out the window. When you hit your 40’s, values other than your career path mostly likely came into play, such as work/life balance, spirituality, and other interests. Once again, wherever you thought you’d be in your career when you were in your twenties has once again taken a detour. My point here is not that you must stick to your original career path. Quite the opposite is true. You have to acknowledge that your personal circumstances have certainly changed - and that you have to actively modify your career management plan to accommodate life’s detours.

 

2.    There’s no “right” rate of advancement.

Off the shelf career management literature and programs will have you believe that if by a certain age you haven’t made it to the C-level, your career is kaput. They’ll urge you to move up the hierarchy every X number of years, so as not to miss the ultimate pie in the sky. In reality, even attempting to make such exact plans is useless. I’m sure you’ve been around long enough to observe yourself or others and to realize that:

We all have a pace that’s just right for us at a given time.

We’re all going to encounter opportunities that might influence how we manage our career.

We know there are positions out there that are worth staying in for just a bit more time in order to gain expertise needed for the next step up.

 

So don’t start setting promotion dates in your calendar just yet. Be aware of the three points above so that you advance according to your personal career circumstances.

 

3.    Business is going to evolve.

Colleges today are struggling to predict the skills first year students are going to need once they join the workforce in four years. So is it really realistic that the career path you plan at any point is going to be relevant in just a few years’ time? I can’t guarantee much about your professional future, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: your profession will change. It might be because your interests evolve. Or maybe it’ll be due to a key technological development. Or perhaps, as you develop, you’ll become more open to new directions. My point here is that whether it’s your decision - or the industry’s - change will be part of your career. So my advice to you is to actively manage your career according to the business environment you’re currently in - always keeping your ear to the ground.  

 

The examples I gave in the three categories above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding that career management is anything but standard. Instead, career management that is both personalized and active - taking into account your life, optimal rate of advancement, and a dynamic business environment - will lead you towards the coveted corner office.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Why are you afraid to make a career change?

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

You’ve finally decided to make a career change and you’re looking forward to better times, an admirable example of the career goals of a manager. But before you make the actual change, I’d like you to consider what might be motivating your decision. In my 35 years of experience, I’ve identified 5 factors that might lead someone to seek greener career pastures as part of their:

 

1.    Underachievement: You know that you could be accomplishing much bigger and better things and you feel you’d be able to do so in a new job.

2.    Boredom: You’re tired of the same job and nothing seems to challenge you anymore, so a new job will hopefully allow you to grow.

3.    Feeling stuck: You can’t seem to get promoted, no matter what you do, so it’s time to let others see your talents.

4.    Lack of success: Failure seems to chase you from job to job, so maybe this time, it won’t catch up.

5.    Increased self-awareness: You know deep down inside that this career isn’t right for you, so you think something else out there might be a better fit.

6.    Any combination of 1-5.

 

Most managers who want to change their job can’t really put their finger on why. They just want out. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many become paralyzed with fear as they consider the pretty scary consequences of making a bad move. Now fear isn’t the worst thing. After all, it keeps us from doing really stupid things like peering over the edge of a cliff, not a good example of career goals of a manager. But on the other hand, fear shouldn’t prevent us from improving our career. The secret here is to know how to control fear instead of letting it control us.

 

When you’re controlled by fear, you’re unable to really express why you want to make a career change. You just know that you’re in distress and that you have to get out of your present situation. In this case, fear of any of the factors listed above will keep you in an inescapable loop and you’ll never move on.

 

On the other hand, when you control fear, you know what the exact reasons are for your career change. Granted, the fear is still there and that’s good (remember the cliff). However, because you know exactly why you want to make the change and where you want to be heading, you’re willing to face and deal with the scary parts as well.

 

So the important lesson here is that before you even consider a career change, you must do some introspection and determine exactly why you want this change and what you are aiming to gain from it. For example, try answering these questions about your next job:

 

1.    What aspects of the job do you see yourself enjoying? For example, in marketing, it might be strategizing.

2.    Taking (1) into account, what do you see as the reason for the enjoyment? For example, do you like analyzing data?

3.    What aspects of the job do you see yourself enjoying less? For example, it might be meetings with clients.

4.    Taking (3) into account, what do you see as the reason for enjoying them less? For example, do you have a fear of public speaking?

 

Using these questions as a guide, you’ll understand the true advantages and disadvantages of making a career change. So while the fear factors above are still very much there, you’ll be better informed - and equipped - to handle them better.

 

When deciding to make a career change, don’t let fear take over. Instead, spend some time really understanding what you want out of the change. You’ll see that you’re making the right decision for the right reasons.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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If you want to get promoted, never imitate anyone

Those of you out there who’ve read my posts know that I’m a big believer in tapping into what I like to call your “hidden” potential - and all of us have plenty of that. Discovering and harnessing your own potential is the fastest track to career success - much faster than trying to imitate a role model - no matter how successful they are.  But that doesn’t mean that understanding how a successful person got to where they are shouldn’t be part of your corporate development career path. So here, I want to differentiate between imitating a role model and analyzing someone else’s path to success.

 

When you imitate a role model, your do so because you want to be as similar as possible to that person so that you, too, can be as successful as they are. But beware. By doing this, you’re essentially “forcing” a certain way of life upon yourself. Think of an actor who’s casted to portray a famous historical figure. That actor spends tremendous amounts of time and energy analyzing the way the figure walked, talked, ate, etc.

 

It’s the same when trying to imitate a role model in a bid to improve your corporate development career path. Like the actor, you’ll spend all of your energy adopting the behaviors of someone else. But meanwhile, you’re smudging out who you are as well. When this method fails (it will), you’ll attribute it to not having followed the role model closely enough. Needless to say, this is an incorrect assumption.

 

Instead, consider the following:

 

We’re not actors on a stage. We can’t really erase who we are and take on another persona - not for any significant amount of time, anyway.

 

In most cases, we’re either going to end up barely passing for the other person or not passing at all - and suffering all of the related consequences.

 

Conclusion: imitating a role model is not the way to go. It will only lead to frustration.

 

But you’re probably thinking: there are so many successful people out there, isn’t there some way to learn from them? And my simple answer is this: absolutely. It starts similarly to the scenario above. You choose a successful person whom you think you could learn from. But this time, you’re not going to imitate them. Instead, your job is to discover what has led them to their success and furthermore, to understand which of these success factors you can put into practice yourself. So instead of forcing a model on yourself, you’re doing a bit of analysis and then adopting certain principles for your own career success. I’ll illustrate what I mean.

 

Let’s say you admire a successful CEO, let’s call her Ruth. Your job is to find out what has led to Ruth to her success. For example, Ruth, on her way up the career ladder, worked for three different companies. You might think that this is a success factor, as it allowed Ruth to become familiar with different aspects of the industry. Next, ask yourself if this is something you’d be able to do. Perhaps you’ve already worked at two companies and could possibly work at one more.

 

Another good thing about Ruth is that at her current company, she ensured to make a vertical move at least every three years. You see this, too, as important, as it gives a clear message to the company that you’re aiming high. Would this be possible for you? Perhaps three years is a little too fast for you - maybe four years would do?

 

I’ll give you one more example. Not only has Ruth moved vertically every three years, she’s moved horizontally as well. She’s worked in marketing, sales, and operations, which, as far as you see, is the way to do things for someone who’d like to be the CEO one day. You could take this principle - horizontal movement - and apply it to yourself. You might decide that sales might be unnecessary and replace it with finance, as this would reflect your particular strengths better.  

 

As I hope you’ve noticed, I haven’t suggested that you imitate Ruth’s career path. Instead, I have proposed what I like to call a “backbone analysis” of a successful figure and tried to show you what vertebrae might be applicable for your particular strengths - so that you can harness your own potential.

 

So, yes, you can certainly learn from the many success stories out there - not by imitating them - but by doing a backbone analysis - and then forming your own plan of action.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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How to find out what plans your boss has in store for you

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

How often have you wanted to crawl inside the head of your boss to find out what they’re really thinking about you? More time than not, right? That’s the answer that most middle managers give on career development survey questions - especially those who are serious about managing their career. There are usually two questions that go through a middle manager’s mind when trying to find out what their boss thinks:

 

1.    What plans does my boss have in store for me?

2.    What does my boss really think about me?

 

In this post, I’ll concentrate on the first question. (Look out for my thoughts on the second question in a future post.)

 

So just why is it so important to know what plans your boss has in store for you? Well, for a middle manager whose eyes are aimed at the next rung on the corporate ladder, getting stuck in a middle management position is the last thing you want. But unfortunately, what happens to many middle managers is that they get so bogged down working on the tasks at hand that they forget to look up to see if they’re actually heading upwards. It’s these managers who get caught by surprise when they’re overlooked for promotion over and over again. So how do you make sure you’re don’t get surprised? It’s by finding out the answer to one of the most popular career development survey questions: What plans does my boss have in store for me? Here are three ways to find out:

 

1.    Just ask.

 

Yes, it’s as simple as that. Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

 

If I wanted to advance to a new position, what would you think?

If I were to apply for a promotion, would you support me?

 

While this is the most straightforward way to ask for your boss’s position, it’s not necessarily going to yield the most honest answer. So instead of taking your boss’s answer at complete face value, use it instead as a barometer to check the general climate. But to get a more accurate answer, you’ll have to do a bit of analysis. I’ll explain in my next two points.


 

2. Match or mix?

 

The general principle here is to understand if there’s a match or mix between what your boss says and what they do. For example, when your boss showers you or others with praise, are there any actions to validate this praise, such as a promotion or even some added responsibility? Or does it all just evaporate into hot air? If it’s the second situation, then there’s a definite mismatch between what your boss says and what they do. This is bad news for you, because it means you can’t count on what your boss says. Here’s another scenario. When you ask your boss about their plans for you, are you given a direct answer - something you can count on? Or are you given the runaround, either by diverting your question to another issue or by being supplied with a vague, lifeless response? Notice that in the second case, your boss doesn’t obligate themselves to any action that would back up their answer to your question. So when might you be able to count on what your boss says? That’s my next point below.

 

3. It’s just between us.

 

One way of trying to measure your boss’s sincerity is by noticing where they make their statements with regard to your future. For example, if, during a one-to-one meeting, your boss declares that your performance is worthy of a promotion, don’t rush to the car showroom just yet. Instead, acknowledge that many bosses use such platitudes to squeeze a bit more motivation out of their employees. After all, they didn’t say that you’re getting a promotion. If, however, this kind of declaration is made at a Friday end of the week toast in front of the whole team, then your chances of promotion are probably higher. In this case, everyone’s heard your boss use the word “promotion” with your name in the same sentence. Of course, none of this is science and I’ve seen both cases go both ways. Nevertheless, it’s generally a good rule of thumb that people know they’re more liable for what they say in public than what they say behind closed doors.

 

Heads up

 

As you can see, none of these methods is foolproof. However, I hope they help remind you to look around you from time to time so as not to miss any opportunities to climb the next run on the corporate ladder.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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What's the best way to work on your weaknesses?

In my last post, I talked about the dangers of over developing your strengths. As I wrote, too much of a good thing can actually overturn  promotion opportunities and sabotage career advancement solutions.

This week, I want to address the flip side - overdoing attempts to improve on weaknesses. I’ll admit, conventional wisdom says that there’s always room for improvement, but my caveat is that there’s a limit, even when it comes to career advancement solutions.

 

For example, let’s say you’re faced with a boss who says you’re too much of an introvert at work. In fact, they tell you that to get promoted, you have to achieve a certain level of assertiveness.

 

As an ambitious middle manager, you’ll take this advice seriously and will do some serious thinking about improving your assertiveness. First, you’ll assess your current assertiveness level - maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10. And then you’ll think about what your boss wants - probably a 9 or 10.

 

The next step would be to think about how to improve your assertiveness. A self-help book? A mentor? A course? So you decide on the best way for you and you take the bull by the horns. At this point, most managers are confident that if they work hard, whatever path they choose, they’ll reach a 9. After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve met a challenge.

 

But, sadly, and I really mean sadly, my 35 years of experience show that the 9 will most likely never come along. Sure, a hard-working manager might achieve a 6 or a 7, but 9 isn’t going to happen. You’re still an introvert.

 

Before you balk at my claim, stay with me. You’re probably thinking of examples in which people have made dramatic changes. I can think of a few as well. But most of us simply cannot completely change a character trait - even with hard work.


Why not? It’s because we’re all assembled differently. Each of us is equipped with a unique mix of talents that come into play in our own special way. That’s what makes teamwork so fruitful, for example.

 

So anyone who thinks they can somehow eradicate parts of their talent mix is heading for big time disappointment. Sure, we can always strive to improve ourselves, but our basic talent mix will always remain in tact.

 

So what about that promotion?

 

Let’s return to our scenario above. Rather than trying to erase your introvertedness, try to concentrate on damage control.

 

For instance, if you’re quiet at meetings, you might be giving the impression that you’re not fully involved with the issue at hand. You know this isn’t true, but your introvertedness is unfortunately speaking for you.

 

In this case, you’d have to develop certain behaviors that could help you seem more engaged at meetings. For example, if you know the subject of the meeting, prepare a short opinion statement about it to present. Or decide before that meeting that you’ll relate to the ideas of at least two coworkers. Following such game plans at meetings and other high stakes activities will put your introvertedness in the back seat - and your talents at the driver’s wheel.

 

So whether you’ve been asked to be more assertive, sensitive, expressive, or any other characteristic, your job is to find the specific behaviors that can be changed in highly visible situations and then to work on them - but never under the delusion that you’ll change your personality.

 

Good luck!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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What’s the best management course to take?

Everywhere we look, we see management courses on nearly every topic imaginable along our corporate development career path - and as someone who’s dedicated to developing managers, I can attest that there’s a lot of great stuff out there.

 

For any manager, professional courses can be be divided into two approaches: those that focus on broadening your strengths and those that help you develop your weaknesses. If you’re looking to advance in your corporate development career path, it’s important to decide which approach is better for you.

 

With the first approach, you decide on something you’re very good at and then try to become excellent at it. Sounds great, right? Not only do you get to immerse yourself in something you probably like, you also come out even better at it. For example, let’s say you’re a master at rapid decision making - a key skill in today’s dynamic business world. In fact, you might even owe your current position to this important ability. Naturally, you’d think that to get further promotions, it would be crucial to further perfect your decision making. But there’s a problem with this logic - and here I’ll quote Voltaire: “Better is the enemy of good.”

 

“Too much of a good thing…”

 

I’ll illustrate Voltaire’s wisdom with my famous cake example. We all know that the more sugar you add to a cake recipe, the sweeter the cake. But can a cake be too sweet? You bet. Just double the amount of sugar in any cake recipe and you’ll get something so sickly sweet that it’s nearly inedible. From this simple example, we learn that too much of a good thing, even a management skill, can be ruinous. In our example, being “too good” at decision making could lead to making rapid conclusions that result in detrimental consequences. So ironically, over training some of our management muscles could eventually turn what were once strengths into weaknesses.

 

Now back to our cake. How can we still get a delicious cake without ruining it with too much sugar? By changing some of the other ingredients. For example, the bakers among us know that if a cake’s not sweet enough, we reduce the salt, thus allowing for the sugar to express its full sweetness.

 

And it’s the same with our management competencies. We want to balance out one competency with others so as to arrive at a purposeful managerial approach. For example, in terms of decisionmaking, rather than measuring effectiveness according to speed, consider other factors such as how many others you involve in the decision. Involving others creates commitment to a decision. And creating commitment is a key skill for senior managers. Involving others, of course, might be something new to you and require practice. But on the upside, the quality of your decision will be much better than if you’d made it alone.  

 

So I hope you see what I’m getting at when it comes to self-development. Rather than remaining in your comfort zone, seek undeveloped pastures so that you can become a more well rounded manager. Working on something you haven’t always excelled at will earn you the recognition of others and pave the way for your next promotion.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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