Proud dad moment here. My 8 year old son – who was incredibly shy a year ago – has grown so much in the past 12 months. Tonight he faced a pressure situation and did not fail to perform.
He plays little league baseball. It was the bottom of the 5th inning. 2 outs. Runners at 1st & 3rd. A storm was about to roll in. Winds were blowing from left field and gusting over 15 mph. My son came up to bat. The score was tied.
After a ball and then a strike, my son hit a single and the runner on 3rd scored!
He knew the game was on his shoulders. He stepped up, concentrated, and performed when it really counted.
I’m beyond proud. Not only for the win, but for how he handled himself under pressure. He learned how to perform under stress. He did the basics and followed through.
To get some insight, I interviewed 20 of my favorite executives to find out why so many up-and-comers were finding themselves part-way-and-stuck. Straight from their (anonymous) mouths, here’s what bosses are trying to tell us in those less-than-fun meetings.
1. You Lack the Skills Necessary to do the Job
“Julie is very efficient and effective in the completion of her daily tasks. The position she was hoping to get, however, requires strong analytical skills she doesn’t have.”
One of the most common misconceptions employees have about promotion decisions is that they’re based solely on performance in their current role. While that’s certainly a consideration, success in one area doesn’t always translate to success in another. For instance, someone who excels at data entry may need additional education or training to become a data analyst, a job that requires strategic thinking and problem solving abilities.
The secret to getting ahead? Become familiar with the requirements of the job you want, and determine what skills you need to improve upon if you’re going to succeed in it. Then, talk to your boss. Let her know you’re interested in moving up, and ask for her advice on how to get there.
2. You Lack the Soft Skills Necessary to do the Job
“Pam is extremely accomplished, technically. Before we can promote her, though, we’d like for her to spend some time developing her leadership and teamwork skills.”
Here’s something else The Powers That Be (TPTB) don’t tell you up front: These skills aren’t always technical. Particularly if you’re moving up to management, you’ll need to have mastered some soft skills—like conflict negotiation, diplomacy, and business communication—and coming up short might very well be a deal breaker.
Develop the soft skills you’ll need to succeed in the job you want, then highlight them through your involvement in programs that are important (and visible) to TBTP. Perhaps you can become an informal mentor to a newer employee, or volunteer to lead a presentation or training. Whichever method you choose, you’ll be signaling to your boss that you’re ready for management.
3. You Don’t Take Feedback
“I’ve really tried to develop Mary, to get her ready for a promotion. But she gets very defensive when I give her constructive feedback. I feel like she spends more time trying to prove me wrong than she does trying to improve.”
I doubt there is a woman among us that hasn’t struggled to keep her composure when receiving “constructive” criticism. But remember—feedback is not always a bad thing. Is it possible that your boss has some valid points? She’s telling you how to improve your performance—and this is good information to have when you’re gunning for a promotion.
When you receive feedback, whether in your review or in the hallway, resist the urge to defend yourself. Try to take it in and see what you can learn from it, instead.
4. You Lack Professionalism
“What frustrates me more than anything else is employees who are consistently negative about the company. What they don’t understand is, the things they say—they get back to us. Why would we promote anyone who behaves like that?”
It’s not unreasonable to expect that, as you move up the career ladder, you’ll begin to conduct yourself more professionally—and not just when the boss is looking. This came up several times in different contexts—from an inability to maintain confidentiality to participation in office gossip—and was identified by executives as the most difficult challenge for employees to overcome.
This may seem obvious, but how you behave in the company of co-workers is just as important, if not more so, as how you behave around management. For example, you can and should identify problems within your department and company, but you should not pontificate about those problems in the break room—which gives the impression that you’re looking for an audience, instead of a solution.
5. You Don’t Take Initiative
“Jennifer is quick to recognize areas that could use improvement, but we can’t get her to go beyond lodging the complaint. We’d really like to see her take the initiative to come up with solutions, not just expect everything to be fixed by management.”
Becoming a problem solver shows that you care—not only about your own career, but about the long-term health of the business as well. Don’t just document the problems you see, analyze the issues and find ways to get involved in developing the solutions. Collaborating with others to create positive change will identify you as a leader in your organization. Remember, anyone can drop a complaint into the suggestion box.
6. You Think Like an Employee—Not a Manager
“Craig is good at his job, but it seems like he’s more committed to getting on the freeway by 10 ’til than he is to the success of his department.”
Remember, TPTB are anointing future leaders here. If you’re giving them the impression you’re only showing up for a paycheck, it’s not likely that you’ll be high on their list of candidates. No, you don’t have to become a workaholic or start hanging out long past five or six just to “be seen,” but it’s a good idea to express interest in the things that happen when the meter isn’t running.
7. You Expect It
“Sean has made it clear that he expects to be promoted. The problem is, I feel like he expects to be promoted based on only his length of service. There are others on his team that are more focused on their career development, and even though they’ve not been here as long, it’s likely that they will be promoted before him.”
Lastly, recognize that in today’s environment, tenure is no longer the primary factor in promotion decisions, and is best left out of any arguments you might make on your own behalf. These days, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there six months or six years—it’s all about your contribution.
Being passed over for a promotion doesn’t need to be the end of the world. In fact, it can be a huge learning opportunity—and sometimes, it can also be just the kick in the pants you need to get you started down the right path. So take these lessons, learn from the past, and keep that promotion in your sights.
About the author:
Brandy Lee is a seasoned human resources executive with practical experience in employee development and change management in a variety of industries. As the Practice Director of the HR Services Group at a progressive CPA firm in Orange County, she provides high level consulting services to the firm’s business clients. You can find out more about Brandy by connecting on LinkedIn, or visiting her blog, Real Women Unite, or her wildly funny list of “Things We Learned The Hard Way.”
by Mike Myatt
Have you ever wondered why organizations tolerate dysfunctional leaders? The answer is dysfunction is so prevalent it’s often not even recognized as problematic. Many corporations just desire leaders to go along and get along more than they desire them to lead. It saddens me to articulate this next thought – corporate leadership is rapidly becoming an oxymoron.
Think of those you know in a position of leadership, and if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find they are likely not a leader, but a risk manager. When leaders become conformists who desire to control instead of surrender, they not only fail to inspire and challenge, they fail to lead. Leadership has become synonymous with babysitting in many organizations, which does nothing more than signal a lack of trust in the workforce. I can think of no time in modern history where employees feel less valued and trusted. Remember, a leader’s job is not to place people in a box, but to free them from boxes.
It’s not difficult to find signs of leadership dysfunction in most organizations – all you have to do is open your eyes. Most businesses eventually reach a point of what they refer to as maturity – I call it institutionalization. This phenomenon occurs when blending to the norm sadly becomes the norm. The larger an organization becomes, the more acceptable mediocrity seems to become. Therein lies the problem; leadership exists to disrupt mediocrity – not embrace it.
When history offers its commentary on the evolution of modern business practices, the surprise storyline will be that corporations have been engaged is systematically killing leadership – they are unwittingly participating in leadership genocide. The so-called advances in organizational design theory have been so grossly over-weighted toward risk management, organizations are now built to prevent failure rather than encourage success. Real leaders don’t possess an unhealthy fear of failure – they encourage team members to take risks.
When process becomes more important than people, when collaboration is confused with having a meeting, when potential is held in higher regard than performance, and when independent thinking takes a backseat to conformity, leadership is dysfunctional at best. Leadership simply cannot be engineered according to the mass adoption of a set of rules (best practices). Leadership is about breaking the rules to discover change and innovation (next practices).
What passes for acceptable corporate leadership has regrettably become a watered down, commoditized, politically correct version of the real thing. Until organizations reject those playing leadership and embrace those willing to challenge the status quo, offer new thought, encourage dissenting opinion, and who desire to serve instead of seeking to be served, we’ll continue to see organizations struggle unnecessarily.
by Victor Lipman
The most successful business people I’ve known have had an attitude about them. They’re not easily discouraged by obstacles and issues that might deter others. In fact, they don’t see them as “obstacles and issues,” but problems to solve and situations to work through. In a word, they’re not easily daunted…
They’re not daunted by failure – Fear failure too much and you’ll have a hard time getting past breakfast.
They’re not daunted by rising before the sun does – Show me a successful lazy entrepreneur and I’ll show you a purple beagle.
They’re not daunted by wickedly hard work – Mostly they don’t think of it as “work.”
They’re not daunted by risk – Too much risk is crazy stuff – but nothing really innovatively great was ever accomplished without some degree of risk, often quite a bit.
They’re not daunted by responsibility – No choice but to take it, if you want the rewards that go with it.
They’re not daunted by conflict – Conflict is the currency of leadership – you have to be able to handle it effectively or others won’t want to follow.
They’re not daunted by what you can’t see with the naked eye – Vision in business means looking past the horizon to opportunity invisible to most.
They’re not daunted by bare forearms – As in the kind that go with rolled-up sleeves.
They’re not daunted by admitting fault- Too much hubris and you’ll have trouble working with others, which of course you need to in order to accomplish what you want to.
They’re not daunted by the unknown – That pretty much goes without saying.
by Gary Korisko. (http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/10-character-traits-of-elite-achievers/)
If you have ever worked really hard toward reaching a goal only to get average results, you know how horrible it feels. And to rub salt in the wound, there are usually a few elite achievers who seemingly work no harder than you who absolutely crush that same goal. It’s frustrating, confusing, and a blow to your ego. I get it.
And you know what? You’re right – those elite achievers probably aren’t working any harder than you. The difference is that elite achievers have figured out the right things to work hard at. Bear with me here.
It’s all too easy to get bogged down in over-planning, procrastination, and self-doubt. These things are time and energy suckers. You can literally waste days, weeks, and months on these types of unproductive behaviors – and not realize it until it’s too late.
While the average spend time and effort on unproductive tasks, elite achievers spend their time on tasks that move them toward their goals.
There’s good news, though. Elite achievers don’t have a secret weapon or some sort of productivity pill. They’ve just developed certain character traits that make it easier to crush their goals.
That means you could be just one or two small adjustments away from joining the ranks of the elite achievers.
Join The Ranks
After decades in sales management, I have observed that all elite achievers share certain character traits. Adopt these ten traits of elite achievers. Put them to work – and watch your goals become much more attainable.
1. Spend Your Time on Implementation
Busy work isn’t always effective work. Don’t confuse the two. Average people spend their time and energy coming up with, rehashing, and discussing ideas. Elite achievers are motivated to spend their time on implementation of ideas. They know that while ideas are the seeds of results, in and of themselves, they are just ideas until they’re acted upon. A brilliant idea unexecuted is worthless. Results come from action.
2. Have Several Back-Up Plans.
Waiting for the perfect plan or tool is insanity. “Perfect” never shows up. Successful people always have a back-up plan…or two…or three. The elite achievers are ready for the unexpected and can roll with the punches when the unexpected occurs.
3. Create Opportunities
As the rest of the world waits, hopes, and wishes for opportunity – elite achievers know that real opportunity is created. Elite achievers reach out to others, spread the word, and step up to the plate. They create opportunity by letting the world know who they are, what they do, and how they can help. And when they create an opportunity, they fully take advantage of it.
4. Dislike, But Tolerate Failure.
While the masses tend to sit back and stew over their plan because there is a chance they could fail and look stupid, elite achievers forge ahead. They know that while failure certainly sucks, it’s not fatal. And each time they fail, they get a little smarter. Elite achievers understand that the small risk of temporarily looking stupid is outweighed by the possibility of real, permanent success.
5. Become “Strong Like Bull”
Elite achievers are tough. We all want people to like us – but guess what? No matter what you do, no matter how wonderful you are – someone is going to dislike you. Elite achievers understand this. Recently I had someone badmouth my writing because I began a post with the word “so.” Guess how much sleep I lost over that one? (none) The elite achievers know they will occasionally fail, that people are going to dislike them sometimes, and that it will hurt a little. By constantly striving for improvement and expecting a little pain along the way, they know that it hurts much less.
6. Find Out For Yourself – Don’t Listen To The Herd
The mediocre crowd has a tendency to believe conventional assumptions about: Themselves, their industry, their product, and their potential. Elite achievers take the time to find out for themselves. They do research, they think outside the box, they consult trusted advisors. Elite achievers couldn’t care less what the nay-sayers think, because they’ve done the legwork.
7. Give Selflessly
This one may come as a surprise, but truly elite achievers are actually pretty selfless people. They leave “greedy” and “selfish” for the bottom feeders. The elite give their time and knowledge generously because it’s the right thing to do…and because it demonstrates integrity, sincerity, and credibility. Winners give.
8. Develop Ego Strength
The elite don’t second guess their decisions. When they have a good plan, they do their research so they can have full confidence in going after their goals full-tilt. They ignore the less evolved who tell them that they can’t do it. Elite achievers ignore negative people and remain confident in their plan.
9. Form A Brain Trust With Other Elite Achievers
Elite achievers know that regardless of how smart and hard-working they are, they can’t possibly catch every little detail. This is why they seek the company of other achievers. They regularly consult their brain trust, ask for their input, and take their advice. They find people whose opinions they can trust and stay in contact regularly to hash through their successes, failures, and obstacles.
10. Keep Going Until You Get There.
The average person throws in the towel when they run into obstacles – and that’s a shame. Elite achievers know that obstacles just indicate a closer proximity to success. If they fail, elite achievers just tweak their plan and go after their goal again and again until they reach it. There is only one direction: Forward.
Spend some time with this list. I’ll bet you can identify one or more areas that might be slowing you down and affecting your productivity. Begin replacing some of those bad, time-wasting habits with their more productive counterparts and start becoming an elite achiever.
Gary Korisko (@RebootAuthentic) writes about business strategy, market creation, and integrity selling on his blog Reboot Authentic. His eBook, How To Alienate All The Right People, is a real-world guide to breaking away from the herd and doing something special.
@lnspiration4U: “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” – Bill Cosby