Stuck in a rut? Do you use these excuses?:

  • Don’t fit the mold.
  • Someone else is the chosen disciple, shining star, kisses ass, etc.
  • Someone is sleeping with the boss.
  • Don’t want to change
  • Too risky
  • or any of a million more EXCUSES

Stop complaining. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Here’s how…

Short of sacrificing ethics, morality and legality, you need to adopt the mindset that you’ll do whatever it takes to put YOURSELF onto the career path of your choice within your company. It all starts by doing great work on the projects and tasks that have the biggest contribution to the company from within your environmental reach. You may not be able to triple corporate profits from where you are, but you may be able to get some product to an important customer faster than otherwise. That’s just an example. You may not put the division’s entire revenue over forecast, but you may be able to go your forecast better by 40%. Do it. That’s what gets you “noticed” by your immediate manager as a “team player”.

What you will find below are suggestions based on my observations over an extensive, successful management and innovation career. Barring those suggestions, my one piece of advice which I offer as a “RULE“, is: “ALWAYS, and I mean ‘always’, be acting in ways that make your manager look good.”  Chances are quite high that if your manager gets a promotion, he or she will want to take you along, or, recommend you for the vacancy if you’ve “been good”. As a general practice, most companies want to reward by promoting from within.  Don’t step on manager’s toes. Instead, ride their coat tails.

Get more involved. Get involved with after hours committees or in charities. Step up for assignments. Toss your name in the ring for just about any project or activity where people are being enlisted for temporary events or projects. That helps to get you noticed by many of the executives. Granted, this may cause you to take on more than you can chew, but then it will be up to you to manage your own priorities. When you volunteer, you are doing so to get noticed, not to take on everything. Participate to the degree that you will be considered a contributor and no more. This level of participation will allow you to take on a few involvements, for even more visibility by executives, without disappointing anyone.  Most employees hide under the umbrella of a “9 to 5” job, doing only what is asked and necessary to keep their jobs. Get wet. Step out from under the umbrella by volunteering and enlisting.

Be realistic and practical about your credentials. You may not be able to apply for the president’s job, just yet, but you may be qualified for a management job in a sister department. Let your boss know you are aware of that opening and that you’d represent him or her well as a colleague in that job. Climb a step at a time. Don’t leap off tall buildings.

Show you have courage to make some risky decisions. This is delicate. Within every job there are activities that can be RELATIVELY risky. Go for them. It is subjective in all regards. Generally, a risk is some activity of which the odds favor success but are not guaranteed. Gambling, is an action made on very low levels of information with a 50:50 chance of succeeding. Take risks, but don’t gamble.

Learn to communicate wisely and at every SUITABLE opportunity. Do so boldly, plainly, and with transparency. Come to be known as being an “open book”, though you may need to keep some information relatively guarded. If people know you do not carry hidden agendas, they’ll be cooperative. Don’t make them regret helping you! Don’t blatantly use them as stepping stones. Be an “open book”, and let them know that they can turn your pages to read more.

How many times have you been asked a question, the answer to which you hedge to avoid offending anyone? Were you being honest? If you always strive for the mid point to avoid rocking the boat you will forever remain an unknown personality to those around you. Be honest, but not ignorant, abusive, disrespectful. Have the courage and honesty to tell others the truth, provided it is not an attack on their personality and is restricted to their projects, work, activities and not them personally. An exception might be the role of a manager of an employee, in which case truthfulness and honesty during a coaching session is absolutely necessary. Be frank and honest, but not hurtful.

Do you like some people and not others? Get over it. Learn to “like” everyone in your company equally. Make it so that when someone approaches you, he or she is not merely approaching “that Market Analyst in department X”. Doesn’t mean you have to buy dinner for everyone in the company! Doesn’t mean you can’t be selective by growing close friendships with some of your colleagues.  It does mean to act genuinely FRIENDLY to everyone, even if you, yourself are having a very bad day. I want to press home this point by sharing one of my experiences. I was a fairly high-level “boss”. I have a natural curiosity, a gift that I was NOT born with but cultivated. [And you should also cultivate curiosity.] I truly enjoyed speaking with the janitor, briefly, of course. I also stopped for a brief chat to get to know a number of onsite contractors. Almost 10 years later, a guy stopped me at a shopping mall to say hello and he turned to his wife and said, “He was the only boss at company X to stop and have a quite chat with me every time I was on site.”  Befriend EVERYONE.

Smile, genuinely. Beam like sunshine with genuine happiness when you greet people. Don’t be “plastic” about it.   Project a happy body language.  Say “Hello” to everyone when passing in the halls. Have a short, positive phrase to go with that. One of mine: “It don’t get better than this, huh?!”  That made people think a wee bit, but not too much. [Don’t turn everyone into philosophers!] They’d wonder, “That’s poor grammar. It should be ‘doesn’t’. It doesn’t get…” Indeed, a few would be ready to correct me the next time. I had mindshare. And, I’d answer, “I agree, it don’t get much better.”  This kind of happy chat can make you memorable. You’ll be remembered in a positive way. Lift everyone’s spirits, in the hallways.  

Develop your own information circuits. Each “A” activity on your list gives you a chance to build your own communication roads. Communication is a two-way street. Build your roads and that drive on them. When you have an “A” invite a few others to contribute. Is there a smart, respectful way to draw others into your work without imposing too greatly on their work? Is there a smart, respectful way for you to more actively push out and share information in ways that will not appear as bragging? How about status reports? Requests for information? Early hypotheses? Congratulatory notes? An article in company news soliciting an idea? Be creative. There are lots of acceptable ways to create a communications flow. Communications is two-way street. Drive it.

Exemplify trust.  Make it known, always, that you always trust everyone, though you’d be naïve if you really did. You tell your boss that you trust that he or she will have your right career choices in mind, yet, discretely you must learn to drive your own career. You trust your colleagues to “have your back”, but you look over your shoulder, discretely and unobtrusively, just in case.  Employ the caveat of USA President Ronald Reagan who trusted the Russians when the USA-Russia negotiated arms-control agreements, but he did so in a manner shaped after the Russian’s very own adage:  doveryai, no proveryai, “trust, but verify.”

Actively solicit critiques. Avoid or ignore criticisms. When I was a young pup, a high-ranking executive once told me that I’d need to develop “thick skin” to become an executive. I did. As I rose through the ranks I learned that if you attract attention you’ll also attract tons of critics and criticisms and will be the target of all kinds of nasty human vial. That’s a good thing for guys like me. I took his advice to heart and now have thick skin. It acts as a barrier to screen out 99% of employees who simply can’t bring themselves to face the music. Lots of people find it easier to tear down than to help build. Eventually, you will discover the builders. Those go-to people may even evolve into mentors. Avoid the tear-downers and listen to the builders.

Finally, no one wants to work with a snake. A snake is a jerk. A jerk is someone who uses people. If you can demonstrate solid value added benefit to each person who helps you, they will do so again and again. Not only must you give back a benefit, but you must do so in a manner that goes one better in a way that others may not think to do. Give back as much or more.

I know this Nugget turned out to be a biggie. But there is much to say on this topic. And there is more!  Let me also steer you to another very useful Nugget by clicking here:     AND…you might also find this helpful, too:   May you shine in your new career path!!!