Category Archives: 5 Keys to On the Job Success

5 Factors that Influence Your Promotability

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How promotable are you? Your promotability within the organization hinges on several key variables including these I consider critical: (1) your effectiveness as a problem solver; (2) the consistent quality of your work; (3) your communication skills; (4) your attitude on the job—and about the job; and (5) how you promote yourself in the work environment.

  • Your Effectiveness as a Problem Solver. This should go without saying: Your promotability quotient gets higher as your effectiveness as a problem solver increases. Your performance shows your ability to deliver solutions. Problem solvers help generate revenue, avoid costs, improve efficiencies, and otherwise contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization.
  • Your Consistent Quality of Work. This aspect of promotability involves taking ownership of projects and acting with a sense of urgency, striving to complete them ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Your Communication Skills. You’ll find over the course of your working life that, as you ascend in the organization (or across organizations with job changes), your communication style must evolve with each new position of increased responsibility. As a team member, your communication skills are direct and immediately relevant to others. When you manage the team, your communication skills must be sharpened because of the nature of the messages you convey to subordinates and higher-ups.
    As your career develops, your communication skills become more refined because your messages change from people and project issues to establishing direction, forging a mission, and ultimately, to setting a vision. The communication skills of the first-line manager are different from those of the corporate vice-president or CEO because of the content of the messages.
  • Your Attitude on the Job—and About the Job. I’ve seen highly capable technical people with lousy attitudes get passed over for promotion in favor of less capable individuals who possessed a very positive attitude. Much as an ill-fitting suit says something about the wearer, a bad attitude says something about the individual. A bad attitude affects an employee’s approach to the job, work quality, interactions with others, and self-image—and it does not invite promotability.
  • How You Promote Yourself in the Work Environment. The best time to influence your promotability is well before an opportunity opens up for promotion. Build your network of influencers before you need their help; this will remove the perception that you are just jockeying for position for the promotion. Ideally, you want others to think of you first when an opportunity opens up.

All of these factors work together to allow other departments, functional groups, and upper management to include you and your ideas for higher visibility projects, adding even more polish and equity to your brand.

Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of the newly released Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).

 

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5 Keys to On-the-Job Success: No. 4 – Create a Desire to Help Others Succeed

The Roman Emperor Titus (39 – 81 A.D.) once said on reflecting at dinner that he had done nothing to help anybody all day, “Friends, I have lost a day.” It is embracing such a servant attitude that is so often lacking in the business world today. Imagine if Wall Street investment bankers, mortgage brokers, and auto company CEOs, and movers and shakers in Washington, D.C. had just made it their daily mantra: “how can I best serve your needs today?” we would not have nine-plus percent unemployment, record foreclosures, lost retirements, “gas guzzler” entitlement programs, and an economy struggling to find any sense of consistency.

One of the best displays of a servant attitude I have ever witnessed was from an administrative assistant name Amy. No matter what the complaint or who was complaining, Amy was first to offer an apology for any problems caused or inconveniences served up by others, which was usually followed up with “I will take care of that for you.” When I overheard her defuse an incident with her kind words and smile, I took her aside and said “You have such an awesome servant attitude, and it’s a pleasure to work with you.” Her eyes immediately teared up and she replied, “That is the nicest thing anyone has said to me in the ten years I have worked here. You have just made it all worthwhile.” Just a simple acknowledgement of someone’s desire to help others first is usually all the reward such individuals accept, albeit grudgingly, because they do it without expectation of anything in return—it is an outward expression of their inner spirit.

In the same way a burning candle loses nothing to light another candle, so it is with helping others.

  • The best approach is to embrace a worldview that includes helping others in all arenas of life and in a kind manner without expectation of any personal reward
  • Recognize that any individual recognition is most often the result of a team effort.
  • Those other team members may be just as visible as the individual being recognized—or they could be completely invisible, yet the degree of their “visibility” does not diminish the value of their contribution.
  • Serving in any role as a mentor or teacher to others on the job or in the community is a clear expression of the desire to help others succeed.
  • Knowledge works like money—the more you spread it around and keep in circulation, the more it grows.

5 Keys to On-the-Job Success: No. 3 – Cultivate a Sense of Personal Integrity

Cultivating a sense of personal integrity is a quality that, when tarnished, is hard to return to its original luster. And when it is lost altogether, is very difficult to recover. A person’s integrity is wrapped up in their truthfulness about all matters, their honesty in dealing with people and projects, and their reliability to honor their word. Personal integrity is not a badge people wear on the outside, but it is more a reflection of the deeper nature of their character and moral, ethical fiber.

And personal integrity and personal ethics are not just about following the company’s code of ethics, if it has one. Personal integrity involves an ability to control impulses, to delay gratification, and to exhibit self-restraint; it’s about thinking through the consequences of potential actions and a willingness to assume responsibility if those actions are acted upon. Bernie Madoff didn’t have it; neither did the executives for WorldCom or Enron. The newspapers, Internet, cable news channels, and Facebook are filled with such stories on smaller scales every day.

Personal integrity isn’t a matter of degree where a failure to be forthright on a résumé can be dismissed away as a relative minor infraction. You either have personal integrity or you don’t. Managers routinely search court records, credit histories, Google, and social networking sites to glean information about potential candidates or current employees. Ultimately, they want to know “Who are you when no one’s looking?” Companies are not required to disclose the reasons for rejecting any potential candidate, and states with “at will” hiring laws can reject applicants for the most minute impropriety. You may never really know the reason why you didn’t get a job offer. It may have more to do with the goof post and picture you put up on Facebook more so than any shortcoming in your experience or knowledge. I and many other hiring managers will gladly extend an offer to someone who has high personal integrity but may lack some essential skills before we hire the whizz kid who, shall we say, lacks mature discretion about what he or she makes public about his or her personal life.

Conscientiousness is a trait that is critical for noteworthy effectiveness for any job, regardless of profession or position. Daniel Goleman writes in Working with Emotional Intelligence that “Conscientiousness offers a buffer against the threat of job loss in today’s ever-churning market, because employees with this trait are among the most valued.”[1]

Excessive conscientiousness (that is, conscientiousness without empathy or social competency) can be manifested in rigid conformity that suppresses creativity, fosters resentment from others, and the overbearing weight of micromanagement. When a conscientious member of my team needed to run errands in the morning, or attend a child’s school event, it was no problem to let them do so without having to make them take a half-day’s vacation (what the company guidelines said I had to do). I knew that such absences would not affect their work because their personal integrity and conscientiousness spoke louder than the company’s firm policy. While a “manager’s prerogative” wasn’t written into the policy, I (and other managers) assumed it was available to us.

Personal integrity, then, is reflected in ethical actions,  behavior that is above reproach, reliable trustworthiness, personal responsibility, and intolerance for unethical actions committed by others.

Because we don’t hire résumés; we hire people.


[1] Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books (1998), p. 94.

5 Keys to On-the-Job Success: No. 2 – Cultivate a Sense of Project Urgency

A sense of project urgency implies that your approach to project work is immediate, purposeful, and resolute. You are decisive about which solution to a problem to embrace after a careful evaluation of the problem, the potential causes, and an assessment of all possible resolutions, and how those fixes should be implemented. Such folks rarely keep others waiting or guessing as to how to proceed next. You believe in completing the project sooner rather than later.

Project urgency is not about operating at a harried pace or panicked mode, or constantly being in overdrive as projects come to a conclusion so you can meet budget or schedules. It’s not about putting out “brush fires,” though they will show up from time to time.  It’s about embracing responsiveness in the day-to-day tasks that focus on outcome or results that ultimately lead to successful project completion without having to endure frequent chaotic spurts.

Let’s briefly examine what project urgency looks like.

  • Cultivating a sense of project urgency involves the ability to prioritize the project tasks or deliverables (a product, document, or service) that provide the biggest payoff to the customer of the project.  Sometimes that involves negotiating with other project stakeholders on priorities, but negotiating priorities keeps the ship moving forward.
  • Project urgency demands focus on the stated deliverable requirements, commitment to the schedule for the deliverable, an obligation to provide the highest quality deliverable, and an awareness of the need to communicate clearly and often to other stakeholders in the project.  That means when the project is given the “green light,” let everyone know who may be a potential expeditor or an obstruction that the project is going forward and work through those process variables that may threaten your momentum.
  • Emphasizing project urgency at the expense of clear and frequent communications often results in unnecessary rework, sacrifice in quality, or an extension of the schedule because some of the parties involved in the project “didn’t get the memo” about steps taken to expedite the project.
  • You can’t toss aside due diligence or frequent progress assessment in order to have a sense of project urgency. In fact, urgency demands an evaluation of what’s working and what isn’t. Throw overboard those tasks, strategies, and meetings that impede your progress, but ascertain first whether they facilitate delivery of the project outcome.

Project urgency is the complement of project ownership. Project urgency is often the offspring of highly motivated individuals who come together and bring a focused, friendly, and self-confident element to the task at hand.

5 Keys to On-the-Job Success: No. 1 – Cultivate a Sense of Project Ownership

These five keys to cultivating on-the-job success come directly from Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 because they represent those qualities I have observed in people I have hired and who have gone on to enjoy successful, rewarding careers. First on the list is “Cultivate a Sense of Project Ownership.”

A sense of project ownership is prized by managers everywhere because it communicates to them that you bring to the job a quality mindset, a get-it-done-right-the-first-time approach to whatever project is being undertaken. And rarely do people work in isolation today; everyone is a member of a team, whether as a functional unit or on ad hoc project teams. And whose team doesn’t work hand in hand with other teams?

People who cultivate a sense of project ownership show concern for budgets, schedules, project handoffs (those task being give to you, and those you give to others), and meeting customer requirements—whether that customer is the job foreman, the CEO, or the consumer in the marketplace. It is a forward-moving focus that cannot help but pull in others in its wake. People who display a sense of project ownership are not clock-watchers—they often “call it a day” at some logical stopping point in their task, not when the clock says 5pm or when the whistle blows (union rules not withstanding).

Cultivating a sense of project ownership means that your level of commitment to the effort goes beyond your immediate sphere of influence with the project: to varying degrees, it overlaps with those of others adjacent to your responsibilities and deliverables. Cultivating a sense of project ownership doesn’t mean assuming responsibility for the schedule or deliverables of others—especially if others have already been assigned those responsibilities. But it does require being aware of the quality of the project tasks, assignments, and deliverables coming directly to you from another individual or function, and your ability to enhance the quality of those elements you forward along to the next person or function in the project flow.

Project ownership places you into a cooperative relationship with others whereby everyone learns from everyone else in a way that surpasses mere cognitive capabilities. It’s about developing and managing social intelligence, and when you marry together cognitive capabilities with social intelligence, breakthroughs happen.