Among my favourite principles of leveraging insider secrets to protect your job or, better, to move up the corporate ladder is the concept of spotting and then climbing aboard the unspoken but visible behavioural trends that you can observe in others. Much like the vapour trail left by high-flying jets in the upper atmosphere.

My best way to explain this is to use a poker player analogy.

When playing poker, the great players learn to spot certain subconscious signals that emanate from competitive players. They call that a “tell”. Your boss has a tell. Watch for it. How? Look at what he or she does, not what they say. Actions, as the adage says, speaks louder than words.

Another adage to drive home this point: “Seeing is believing”.  If your boss, the company, or other executives give presentations, or send memos, or put up promotional material claiming that innovation is a core value and that they encourage and nurture innovators, but the people who get ahead are those who do not innovate and instead conform to the old ways, then you have the evidence you seek. You won’t get ahead by being an innovator despite how hard you try. Secretly you will be regarded as rocking the boat.

Another “tell” to which to be alert is the reluctance to share valuable experience or information. Would you tell your competition everything you plan to do? Nope. Would you tell your competition how to replicate your successes so that they can do it faster and less expensively than when you did it? Nope. For the very same reason that an enemy can short-circuit his, her, or the company’s costly learning experiences, and do more, better, faster, and less expensively, the public face seldom tells all you need to know.

Of the same ilk, is that of outright misdirection. Some stakeholder important to your success or project may want to disrupt your progress by providing misinformation, the office equivalents of land mines. That can be a dangerous game for the stakeholder to play but he or she may have some very selfish reasons for doing so. I know of no way to learn of this possiblity other than learning as much as you can about that stakeholder by talking to others who have done work for that stakeholder to determine if they experienced any landmines of their own. Another reason it is great to develop mentors and a strong internal network.

It’s never solely what they say, but always about what they do.

Don’t be too hesitant to canvass other managers or executives to learn more about your boss, or stakeholders championing or sponsoring your work. This is the time when strong mentors can pay big dividends for your career interests. Develop at least a handful of trusted mentors. To learn how, read my nugget, BEST AND SAFEST INVESTMENT  by clicking here.  or by searching “mentor” or “networking using the search box.

Once you are fairly certain you know what strategy you must adopt for any given workload or project, take the time to clarify it with your boss. Provide an outline or even a detailed plan of what you intend to do. Get your boss’, or any other key stakeholder’s agreement, to be sure he or she is fully on board and fully aligned and in agreement.

One last point. Others around you will succeed in ways that you wont or can’t.  Stay positive. Don’t sour in any way. Instead, learn to find aspects of what your colleague did that you can genuinely and sincerely compliment. Show no animosity. You will disarm your highly competitive colleague.

Offer to help superstars who are succeeding. They will often appreciate the opportunity to offload a bit of their own workload. It will give you a chance to become an insider to that person’s success and along the way to ask questions and accelerate your learning.

Lastly, an outright word of warning…

If you’ve been told anytime during your career by any manager who conducted your performance appraisals, or if you suspect, that your attitude, behaviour, or image does not quite fit with the image the company expects of its employees, then heads up when you are offered a job as a “promotion” or for “broadening”. You may think it is a reward. It may be an opportunity for the company to reset your performance requirements. You may have to start at “zero” again and re-establish your credentials. If a downsizing occurs before you establish a new network and a history of great performance in the new division, you may be among the first people to be let go. It’s not what your boss tells you that the move is. It’s what the move proves to be.