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About to get fired? What to do when the writing’s on the wall.

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

There are certain experiences we can all do without in our career, and getting fired probably takes the cake. So recognizing the signs of an impending pink slip is definitely something you should know about. Throughout my 35 years of experience of thinking about how to measure success at work, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying careers that are just about to go south. They’ve all got one thing in common: the writing’s always on the wall.  

 

What’s surprising is that in so many cases, it’s the bosses themselves who actually write on the wall - sometimes even in bold, capital letters. This is generally done to allow their subordinates to plan their own escape route, unscathed from the embarrassment of being fired.

 

Writing on the wall in this case usually comes under two main themes: shutting you out and reducing your footprint, which are two indicators of how to measure success at work.

 

Shutting you out might include a reduction in:

 

involving you in new ventures;

informing you of upcoming events;

asking your opinion;

inviting you to meetings;

planning future projects.

 

Reducing your footprint might include:

 

taking away responsibility from you;

not implementing your decisions;

praising you less;

avoiding you in general.

 

Some or any of these behaviors are telltale signs that the writing’s indeed on the wall - and that you should look into it.

But just as this is as clear as day to you and me, it’s always shocking to me how many managers refuse to read the writing on the wall. Not only will they ignore the writing, but they’ll also often put a spin on it, dismissing it with thoughts, such as:

 

“I’m probably just imaging this.”

“My boss is all worked up this week.”

“My boss and I have been experiencing a sort of rough patch recently.”

 

...or any other possible excuse.

 

When we dismiss the writing on the wall, not only do we fail at preparing ourselves for the inevitable, we also end up emotionally demolished once we’re actually fired.

 

This kind of scenario usually plays out not because we haven’t recognized the writing on the wall, but due to our natural tendency to deny bad news. Now denial isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it has many advantages, such as helping us survive challenging times. But when the writing's on the wall, denial can lead us down a slippery slope to misery. So I think you’ll agree that facing an impending pink slip with denial is not the way to go. Instead, you need to take control. Here’s what you should do:

 

When you begin to detect any signs of writing on the wall for a period of time that makes you start to feel uncomfortable, share this feeling with a co-worker, friend, or significant other - someone not directly involved. Run the signs by them and ask them what they think. Pay attention to any differences there might be between their interpretation and yours. Once you’ve identified any differences, try your best to view these signs through their eyes.

 

If you’re lucky, perhaps you’re just overreacting to a specific incident and everything’s fine. But if indeed the writing's on the wall, you must immediately acknowledge it so that you can remain in control of your own career. Your goal at this point is to prevent unnecessary heartache as you carefully calculate your next move.

 

Remember that though getting fired is probably the worst thing that’ll occur in your career, it happens every day. With the right pre-planning, you’ll find yourself up on your feet again, ready to take on your next challenge.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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2 Steps to Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions

The New Year’s festivities have come and gone and many of us have returned to work with renewed excitement and optimism for the new year - great for getting started on those New Year’s Resolutions.

 

But it’ll take more than just good vibes to keep you going throughout the year. One way of knowing how to measure success at work and towards your next promotion is through one magic word: STEP

 

Of course by STEP, I mean step-by-step. Consider which of these scenarios will work out for the long term:

 

1.    You decide to go running every morning, so you wake up the next morning and begin your new daily routine.

 

2.    You decide to go running every morning, so as a first step, you begin with twice a week, eventually increasing to three times a week and so on.

 

I don’t know which scenario you chose, but here are some really interesting numbers about a past experiment in which respondents were asked this question before they attempted to meet their long term goals.

 

On the whole, 60% of respondents chose scenario 1, while the other 40% chose scenario 2. This isn’t really surprising, as most of us approach new challenges imbued with optimism.

 

But here’s the really interesting part:

 

Of the respondents who chose scenario 1, less than 10% were able to meet their own goals, while of those who chose scenario 2, this number was over 90%. Talk about the power of outlook on achieving goals!

 

So let’s place our bets on the goal achievers (and not just the optimists) and meet your goals for the new year with STEP.

 

State your Goals.

This isn’t about your vision or general direction. This is about clearly expressing what you want - as specifically as possible. A good example might be: I want to be promoted to regional sales manager between September and November of the upcoming year. Fleshing out your goal in this way increases your commitment.

 

Talk your talk.

Once you’ve written out your goal, talk it out. Read it to yourself at least twice a day - treat it like your personal mantra. This will keep you waking up and going to bed with your goal, so that no matter what distracts you during the day, you’ll always come back to what’s most important.

 

Estimate the time to complete milestones.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your goals be accomplished in a day. When you stated your goals, you gave yourself an overall timeframe for completion. Now, you have to break up your goal into smaller milestones, estimating the amount of time it’ll take to meet them. An example of a milestone might be: I’ll hold a meeting with my immediate supervisor by the end of February. Estimating the time for completion will help you meet the milestones on the way to your ultimate goal. It worked for Jane - and will work for you.

 

Peg your progress.

Keep track of your progress, noting any gaps between what you’ve planned and what you’ve achieved - making any necessary adjustments along the way. By pegging your progress, you renew your commitment to your goal, ensuring its accomplishment.

 

So join the people who know how to achieve goals. Follow the STEP process in the new year and make your career dreams come true.

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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Every middle manager needs a dream sponsor

The beginning of January always seems to bring with it our hopes and dreams for the new year. Often, the career goals of a manager cause us to reflect on what we didn’t get to accomplish the previous year. Sure, some of these shortcomings were beyond our control, but in general, we probably could’ve done a better job at staying on track.

 

What commonly happens is that we begin the new year full of optimism and energy, both of which tend to wane as the year marches on. And towards the end, we find ourselves wondering why we failed to meet our goals:

 

1. Perhaps we were too optimistic.

2. Maybe we just ran into bad luck this year.

3. The conditions probably weren’t right.

 

Sure, one or more of these reasons might explain some of the gap between what you’d planned and the career goals of a manager that you actually accomplished. But we can’t attribute them to everything we didn’t get done.

 

In fact, based on my 35 years of experience, the gap between what we’d wanted and what actually got done isn’t the fault of the stars. It’s usually due to a lack of careful planning.

 

Without planning, a dream remains a dream. But with planning, a dream is broken down into specific steps that can be managed.

 

Managing the steps towards your dream

 

One of the best ways to keep you on track towards accomplishing your dreams is finding a “dream sponsor.” We know that sponsors are used in many recovery frameworks to help people get better. Getting help from a sponsor makes sense. When we promise something to just ourselves, we often break these promises with any minor excuse. But when we promise something to someone else, a dream sponsor, we tend to stick to our commitment, lest we let them down. What’s more, a dream sponsor can also support us when things aren’t easy - giving us the encouragement we need to carry on.

 

So as you begin thinking about your goals for the new year, the first step to consider is finding a dream sponsor. This person doesn’t have to fit any profile, just someone whom you trust and who can relate to your specific goals.

 

Here are some practical principles for managing a dream sponsor relationship:

 

1. Agree on times when you’ll report your progress towards your goals.

2. Reach out when you feel as if you’ve gotten off track.

3. Report on all of your successes - no matter how small.

 

If you follow these faithfully, you’ll find yourself this time next year having accomplished much more than you had in the past.

.

I know that some of you might be thinking that you don’t want to burden someone else with your issues. After all, everyone has goals and most of us are struggling to accomplish them. But the truth is that it’s not as much of a burden as you might think. Your dream sponsor’s main job is to be there - the hard work is still up to you.

 

Good luck and let me know how it’s working for you as you begin the new year.

 

And always remember:


Great managers are made. Not born.

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Happy New Year

Thank you!

We’re wrapping up 2016 with ten times more subscribers than we had in January, and we have YOU to thank for it! Looking forward to continued success together in  2017!

 

Happy New Year

Etika

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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What role do dreams play in our lives?

Last week, I wrote about turning dreams into reality when it comes to career goals for managers. This week, I’d like to write a few words about the powerful, yet often unacknowledged interconnection between dreams and reality.

 

Throughout our lives, most of us have been taught that there’s a strict separation between our dreams and reality. Dreams are fantasy and reality is our “real life”.  

 

But if dreams, especially the career goals for managers, are the stuff of fantasies, then what about all of those people whose dreams indeed have come true? We read about them every day. What’s so special about these people?

 

They clearly see the undeniable interdependence of dreams and reality. They know that dreams can’t even exist, let alone come true, without being part of their everyday reality. They understand that dreams are the ability to visualize themselves in a better situation.  And that dreaming is the first concrete step towards planning their journey towards a new, improved life.

 

So for you to embark on this journey, you must believe in yourself. And with your dreams as a blueprint, you’ll be well on your way.

 

Enjoy the holiday season!

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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My 4 holiday wishes to help make your career dreams come true

At this time of year, as we gather with our loved ones to celebrate the holidays, we find ourselves reflecting on our lives - family, friends, and career. Often, we ask ourselves where we are in achieving our dreams. Are we completely satisfied? Are we possibly a little disappointed? This is probably why one of the most popular greetings during this time of year is “may all your dreams come true.”

 

So what about your career dreams? Have you met your own expectations? To help you along, allow me to wish you 4 things this holiday season:

 

Holiday Wish #1: Unleash your dreams.

At this magical time of year, dare to dream what you’ve never dreamed before. Dreams allow us to think “out of the box” - to transcend the normal borders of our imagination - beyond how to measure success at work. Use your innate ability to dream about your dream career - especially if it seems to be “the impossible dream.” You see, such “impossibility” is actually the stuff dreams are made of...and facing impossibility in your dreams is the only way to overcome it in life. Here are four useful reminders that will hopefully get you dreaming:

 

Just as in fairy tales, in real life, dreams are meant to come true.

Every great thing we’ve ever known - ideas, inventions, cures - started with a dream.

If you don’t have a dream, you can’t make it come true.

 

Holiday Wish #2: Visualize your success.

This holiday season, do overtime. No, not at work - visualizing. Clearly visualizing the results of your dreams is a crucial bridge towards making the impossible a reality and part of how to measure success at work. This is because of the simple fact that anything you can visualize, you can accomplish.

 

So start by visualizing yourself in your corner office. What does it look like? Where is your desk? What’s the view outside your window? Then visualize yourself in different situations in your new job. What’s it like to run a staff meeting? Give an important presentation? Determine a budget? Don’t worry if your visualizations are a little dull or blurred at the beginning. The more you visualize, the sharper and more detailed the images will become. And make sure that your other senses (hearing, smelling, feeling, maybe even tasting) get in on the act as well. The more senses you involve, the more you’ll actually really know what it’s like to have your dream job. So close your eyes and get to work.

 

Holiday Wish #3: Put your visualization into words.

After you’ve visualized your dream job in as much detail as possible, seize the opportunity to express it in words. When we put our dream job into words, we make it concrete so that we can set the goals needed to turn it into reality. When putting your visualization into words, here are some general questions you should answer:

 

1.    What is your dream job?

2.    When do you want to begin it?

3.    What are some of the major milestones you’ll need to accomplish along the way?

 

So start putting things into words - whether you write them down or record them, now is the time.

 

Holiday Wish #4: Plan it out.

If you’ve gotten this far (with or without the egg nog), consider how you’ll start realizing your dream as you begin the new year. Of course, this isn’t the time to make a very detailed plan, but while you’ve got things going, it would be a good idea to think about the following:

 

1.    Break down your overall dream job goal into smaller, more manageable “mini-goals.”

2.    Assign a rough due date for each of these mini-goals.

3.    Keep your eyes on the ball. No backup plans.

4.    And of course, believe in your dreams!

 

And finally, I’d like to wish you a very joyous holiday season, filled with love, happiness, and peace for all.

 

Best wishes

 

Etika

 

P.S. And don’t forget:

Great managers are made. Not born.

 

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What are the top 5 reasons why mid-level managers get stuck in their careers?

The symptoms are there.

 

You’ve had this job for about five years. Friends at other organizations are being promoted. You’ve been told to wait just a bit longer for your own corporate development career path.

 

You’re officially stuck in your career.

 

Should you be worried? Yes. Now find out why this is happening.

 

Here are the top 5 reasons why mid-level managers like you are stuck in your career:


 

1.   The narrowing pyramid

 

It’s simple physics. As the pyramid narrows towards the top, less senior positions are available. Will you be there?

 

You were good enough to be promoted from a junior role to a mid-level one, but because the pyramid was still wide at that level, the competition was not quite as tough and there seemed to be more opportunities along your corporate development career path.

 

My advice: Figure out how to make sure that you pass the next round.

 

2.    The competition is on.

 

What about all of the others who are getting promoted? Well, they realized long ago that to realize the career goals of a manager, they need to compete harder.

 

You need to get into the game, too. Unlike your last promotion, it’s not enough to do a good job - or even an excellent job.

 

You have to figure out how to compete with other mid-level managers - by showing that you’re better.

 

My advice: find and develop your relative advantage and make sure you stand out in the crowd.


 

3.    No slack

 

When you were promoted in the past, those above you cut you some slack. They recognized you for your talents and achievements - but also saw your flaws. They figured that you’d be able to work on these as a mid-level manager.

 

But now, don’t expect any slack. Candidates for senior positions are scrutinized from head to toe. Those in charge of promotion are, for the most part, unwilling to compromise. Are you ready for promotion?

 

My advice: make sure that you have developed what it takes to be a senior manager.

 

4.    They’ve changed the rules on you.

 

Nobody told you when you started, but what defines you as “professional” has changed.

 

Over the years, you might have developed as the best sales manager or the most innovative programmer. This has gotten you to where you are today.

 

But to move up the ladder, you’ll need to add sophisticated managerial skills to your portfolio. What helped you in the past has become less relevant. demonstrating that you’re a well-rounded manager is the most important thing you can do now.

 

My advice: refine your management skills and show that you’re worthy of being a senior manager.

 

5.    Resting on your laurels = career coma

 

It’s nice that others have noticed you so far in your career. They’ve taken note of your talents and achievements and have promoted your accordingly.

 

No more. You can’t rest on your laurels and wait for a promotion. Managers who do not take a proactive part in shaping their career fall into career coma, never to wake up again to new opportunities.

 

My advice: don’t wait for someone to shake you out of your comfort zone - discover if you’re ready for promotion now and then find ways to actively take charge. It’s all up to you.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

 

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Give your career a 60% boost this holiday season

The holidays. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or a non-believer - whether you celebrate an actual holiday or just enjoy the lights - there’s just no denying that special end of the year feeling.

 

And it’s not just about decorations and gifts. It’s about your career.

 

During the holiday season, things at the office change. Conversations divert from sales strategies and career advancement solutions to holiday vacations, get-togethers, and gift giving. People talk about the anticipated office party. And managers reflect about the company, sharing their hopes and dreams for the new year. Many of the walls that seem to separate the ranks begin to tumble - at least for a short time.

 

All of this creates the perfect conditions to give your career a holiday boost.

 

FACT: Information from informal channels is over 60% more actionable than information from formal channels.

 

I’ll explain.

 

In the corporate world, formally-communicated information simultaneously serves the interests of corporate goals, company politics, managers, co-workers, etc . Because of the inevitable tension that arises in trying to satisfy everyone, messages are often delivered in a fuzzy way, together with “electric static.” Anyone who’s ever received such messages knows that it’s nearly impossible to understand or take any action based on them, let alone identify any career advancement solutions.

 

On the other hand, there’s informally-communicated information, such as the topics of typical holiday chit-chat. As such information is considered “off the books”, most people are likely to speak candidly. So the result is more reliable and actionable information.

 

Boost your career by utilizing the informal communication channel created during the holiday season. You can do this by discovering and communicating informally-communicated information.

 

Discovering

Your next promotion very much depends on the answers to these two crucial questions:

 

How do your co-workers perceive you and your work?

Do your managers plan on promoting you this year?

 

The holiday season provides you with the opportunity to interface with co-workers and managers that you’d usually have set an appointment with to see. Now is the perfect time to approach these people and to  incorporate these questions into routine holiday small talk. It’s a great chance to “take the pulse” of people at the company to discover the impression you’re making.

 

Communicating

 

If you’re vying for a promotion next year, this is your opportunity to let people know. Instead of waiting for your quarterly performance review with your direct manager, take the time to strike up conversations with several decision-makers, so that you can put your intentions out there. Then, when you follow-up on your ambitions during the new year, no one will be caught off guard.


 

Remember that the holiday season and its openness come only once a year. Take the time to plan how you can take advantage of this opportunity as you journey towards the corner office.

 

Let me know how it works for you...and keep your eyes open for my second holiday season post.

 

And always remember. Great managers are made. Not born.





 

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Help! My Boss is Stealing My Ideas!

Originally posted on the Noomii Career Blog.

 

As a rising star in your organization, you feel that you owe a great deal to your manager. After all, they’re the one 

who’s believed in you and has paved your way so far. Rightly so, you see one of the most important career goals for managers as helping to make your boss look good. So you’re always trying to  generate new and interesting ideas to improve your department. This is admirable of course and will help you not only excel at what you’re doing now but also increase your chances for future promotion.

 

But don’t overdo it.

 

You see, as you climb higher up the corporate ladder, promotion opportunities will become fewer and farther between. In fact, getting that next promotion, one of the major career goals for managers, is going to require much more than just impressing your boss. You’re going to have to start building up your social capital among a much wider and harder to please audience: senior managers in your department, coworkers, and key figures in other departments.

 

Your natural tendency now is to run all of your great ideas past your boss to get their blessing.  But I bet that if you look closely at what actually results from some of these ideas, you’ll be surprised. For example, have you noticed that when you met with your boss, your ideas were given very little consideration, yet they suddenly became reincarnated as part of your boss’s strategic agenda presented to the board? Perhaps you’ve seen this and haven’t wanted to believe it was intentional. Or maybe you’ve known all along it was intentional, but, hey, you owe your boss, so no biggie.

 

But here’s the problem: instead of earning the social capital you need to get that next promotion, your boss is raking it all in. Before we talk about what to do, let’s take a closer look at what’s really going on. If your boss’s “idea borrowing” has occurred more than once or twice, you can be sure that:

 

1.    This is your boss’s way of doing things. They’ll steal your ideas as long as you let them.

 

2.    Your boss has a self-confidence issue - and probably doesn’t believe in their ability to come up with ideas on     their own.

 

3.    You DID NOT cause this to happen. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed this behavior in bosses at all levels countless times over the past 35 years.

 

So what might be some of the motivation behind your boss’s unprofessional behavior? Your boss might feel:

 

1.    ...threatened by you;

2.    ...in competition with you for that next promotion;

3.    ...it’s perfectly legitimate for them to borrow the ideas of their subordinates;

4.    ...they’re helping to fastrack your ideas through the organization.

 

You might identify one of these “excuses” and so your first reaction could be either to clam up - stop sharing your ideas with your boss - or to blow the whistle - calling them on their stealing. I’d save both of these as last resorts.  

 

Instead, here’s what I suggest, the next time you come up with a brilliant idea:

 

1.    Give your boss just part of the story. When they ask for the rest, tell them that you’d be happy to accompany them to the next departmental meeting to provide the full picture. In this way, everyone will know whose idea it really was.

 

2.    Spread the word. Instead of just confiding in your boss, let several people know about your idea (especially those who can help increase your social capital). In this way, the right people will know where the good ideas originate.

 

If you concentrate on these two ways of disseminating your ideas, not only will your boss get the message that what’s your is yours, but also you’ll be building up the social capital you need to get your next promotion.

 

Give this a try and let me know how it went.

 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.

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You're going above and beyond at work...but no one seems to notice!?

Originally published on Career Experts.

 

One of the most common reasons why middle managers decide to leave their job is because they’re not recognized for their effort - especially if they feel as if they’re contributing more than others. If you’re in this category, hold off on the cardboard boxes before you consider why your managers might not be taking notice. It could prevent you from leaving your job unnecessarily...and hopefully lead you to the best of career advancement solutions: getting the promotion you deserve.

 

1.    It’s not me. It’s them.

 

Is it really? Sure, you’re applying that elbow grease by the pound, but no one sees anything particularly special about your work. In fact, from what you can tell, your accomplishments don’t pass for more than standard fare at your company. But double check and ask your colleagues directly. Is your output less, the same, or more than theirs? You might be surprised to find out that you’re only Joe or Jane Average. If this turns out to be the case, it’s time to understand that it’s you, not them. When managers find themselves in an environment that’s not a good fit, they’ll often misread the effort meter. The simple reason is that it’s probably taking too much effort to do what is expected. So while you are indeed investing more time, you’re most likely not in the place that’s right for you. Time to check out other career advancement solutions.

 

2.    It’s all in the marketing.

 

Whose fault is it when a product’s target audience isn’t aware the product exists? That’s right - it’s the marketing department. What about all of your effort? Who’s your target audience? And if they don’t know about your effort, whose fault is it again? BINGO. So please don’t follow the assumption that the right people will somehow know about all of the effort you’ve been putting in. Instead, run your career like a marketing campaign, emphasizing self-promotion. Yes, it sounds cheap (and might be sometimes), but the alternative is that someone else takes the credit for your work...and then you’re overlooked when promotion time comes around.

 

3.    Compliments are costly.

 

Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve seen more and more senior managers hesitate and even avoid giving compliments to their middle managers. The reason? Dinero. The old adage was “compliments cost nothing.” But they certainly do today, as many middle managers are quick to respond with another adage: “put your money where your mouth is.” So it’s no surprise that instead of handing you a compliment, your managers remain quiet, for fear of having to back it up with a performance bonus. The good news, though, is that your work might actually be getting noticed...and that a well-deserved promotion is on its way.

 

4.    Plain old jealousy

 

It’s ugly and it’s one of the oldest in the book, but other people might be just plain old jealous of you. You’re burning the midnight oil and turning out some great results, but at the same time you’re (inadvertently) making the slackers look bad. So of course you’re not going to get recognition for your effort; it would just shine a brighter light on what the others haven’t done. And what happens instead? Your amazing accomplishments, which should be a cause celebre, are actually belittled by others, so as not to draw too much attention to their lack of results. Keep yourself on your toes with this one, as the gap between what you’ve done and how it’s received can throw you off course when it comes to assessing your own accomplishments.

 

Now you decide

 

Once you’ve understood why no one seems to notice your going above and beyond, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s time to hit the road. If it’s a matter of lack of awareness or simply a corporate culture that frowns on patting managers on the back, give yourself some time. But if you’re making stupendous effort to accomplish what everyone else does much more easily, it could be time to move on. Just remember that whatever you decide, you should understand why you weren’t recognized for your effort, so that you’ll identify the signs again in the future.


 

And always remember:

 

Great managers are made. Not born.


 

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