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Share Your Small Successes In Your Day to Day Work

Share Your Small Successes In Your Day to Day Work

You know those colleagues who seem to define their work responsibilities by email forwarding and conference call attendance? Their actual contribution to the business is zilch, but they manage to advance their careers, and you hate them for it! But don’t be fooled—they have an important lesson to teach you, and you can take advantage of what they teach without joining them.

These people are generally losers who have found little tricks to manage their “careers”. I call them them hyenas; corporate hyenas, because they hang around the lions and leopards—people who do real work—and live off their kills. Only occasionally will they hunt and kill themselves, and when they get pressured, they may chase off the lions and leopards to get a fresh piece of meat.

How to Spot a Hyena

Corporate hyenas pop up in email threads by forwarding them to new people (they “reach out”) suggesting that they connect and alert higher management of progress on various topics. They also keep busy with meetings and conference calls, listening in what’s being said and then repeat it in “corporate speak”. They are easy to spot if you look for them, but it can be notoriously difficult to call them out.

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They have fully adopted the corporate cynicism of: In corporation, it’s not about what you do, it’s about what you tell people you do.

corporate asshole 1

    This behavior can really only be played out in large corporations; there’s nowhere to hide in small organizations. In companies in general, small and large, the pressure on productivity per employee is increasing. This leads to pressure on managers to deliver results, and people management is de-prioritized in turn. Too often, the regular performance review is reduced to a formal HR requirement, so rather than managers actively engaging in the work their reports perform, they rely on the stories about their reports, the stories they are being told by their reports themselves, and the stories they’re told by their management peers. In a small company, poor performance is quickly brought to light and reflected in the stories. In a large corporation there’s plenty of room to hide behind your stories because there are more people around to live off.

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    Corporate hyenas tell their world how great they are and how they are key to a number of different projects, making sure that they keep reminding colleagues (and in particular their direct and matrix managers) thereof. You and I know that their contribution to these projects is negligible, but they look busy!

    Every now and then, typically when new manager is hired from outside the organization, the corporate hyena gets a wake-up call. They either shape up for the time it takes to lull the new manager into their stories, or they are caught out and make a face plant.

    The One Thing You Must Learn From Them:

    Despite these people being nothing but hyenas in suits, they actually have one important lesson to teach you.

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    They make it easy for people to think well of them because that’s the story they tell!

    With the pressure on productivity and the de-prioritization of people management, it’s not enough to do good ol’ honest work: you must promote your work. I am notoriously bad at this. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, being Swedish with the yoke of the Law of Jante (Don’t think you’re better than us) on my shoulders, but having worked in large American corporations for most of my career, and having met more corporate hyenas than I can remember, I was taught early in my career of two good rules to promote my brand as the guy doing that good ol’ honest work.

    1. Make a habit of sharing your small successes in your day-to-day work.

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    • Keep your manager updated about the work you do and ask for feedback to engage him/her.
    • Add your manager and/or other stakeholder on cc: to updates sent to your team and peers.
    • Reach out proactively to a stakeholder whose business your work is impacting, and ask them for feedback.
    • State and show that you’ve come to meetings prepared .

    2. Dedicate 2% of your time—that’s 3 hours per month—to promoting your brand.

    • Review the work you’ve done in the past month, extract the items where you made a difference, and tell the people who benefited from them in an email.
      Example: Let’s say that last month you prepared an ROI-analysis to help a sales guy pitch your company’s new fancy solution to a customer. You know from talking to the sales guy that your analysis was very well-received by the customer, and he’s expecting an order next month. Write an email to the sales guy with his and your manager on cc, saying something along the lines of: “Hi, I’m just checking in to see if the ROI-analysis I did for [customer] helped you progress the sale and if there’s anything else I can assist with to help you win the deal.”
    • Post work that could be of general interest on the corporate intranet.
      Example: If you spent time reviewing what the press says about your and your competitors’ products to prepare for a presentation at an event, post it—that’s certainly info that other people may find useful, so be sure to share it and make sure it has your name in the on front page, and in the footer.
    • Review the key work tasks you’ll be doing in the next month and think about which tasks are relevant to which stakeholders. Make  note of these so you remember to include them in your day-to-day promotion (point 1 above).

    Finally, what is the best way to deal with the corporate hyenas?  Ignore them. Don’t waste your energy on something you can’t control. Instead, put the two lessons above to use, and fight the corporate hyenas on your terms!

    Featured photo credit: Young gangster smoking a cigar in a luxury studio via Shutterstock

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    Last Updated on April 17, 2019

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

    What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

    Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

    They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

    1. Communication Skills

    Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

    To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

    Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

    Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

    After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

    2. Flexibility

    Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

    Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

    Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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    Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

    3. Being a Team Player

    Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

    What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

    This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

    Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

    4. Positive Mental Attitude

    There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

    Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

    Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

    It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

    Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

    5. A Strong Work Ethic

    People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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    If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

    Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

    • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
    • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
    • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
    • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

    For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

    6. Public Speaking

    Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

    Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

    If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

    For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

    Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

    7. Integrity

    From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

    • Always doing what you say you will do
    • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

    …even when no one is around to check up on you.

    There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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    Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

    8. Managing Your Time

    Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

    A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

    Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

    Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

    These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

    9. Assertiveness

    In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

    • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
    • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
    • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
    • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

    Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

    How do you use this information for yourself?

    It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

    Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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    How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

    10. Creative Thinking

    LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

    Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

    How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

    Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

    These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

    You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

    What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

    Final Thoughts

    The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

    So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

    The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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    Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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