Friday, September 16, 2011

Manage Your Manager (¡Haz click aquí para Español!)

My Boss doesn't like me.
My Boss plays favorites.
My Boss is an idiot.....I can't believe he/she has gotten this far?!
My Boss is an @!#@&!!

Does any of the above sound familiar?

Let me begin by saying -- I don't deny that for many of you some/all of those statements are true.
More often than not, a manager earns their colorful title.

But sometimes managers get a bad rap for the shortcomings of their personnel.
When you say, "He/She (the Boss) is an idiot" - is that more of a reflection of you (and your work)?

Like so many of you, I place my leaders on an unrealistic and sometimes unfair pedestal.
Often I have thought, "Surely this person is in their position because of superior intellect, above and beyond work ethic and super human ability to WIN, WIN, WIN"!!!

The truth is while some are very special and have earned their post because of a lot of hard work and sacrifice; many managers are just regular peeps as flawed, insecure and vulnerable as the rest of us.

We all make the symbolic trip down the yellow brick road to the Emerald city of Oz for enlightenment, courage and passion only to peek behind the curtain and come to the realization - our managers are not the all knowing, all powerful wizard.

You might be thinking: "So - I got it, Hugo. He/She isn't super natural, but he/she is clueless. I'm not getting ahead because of his/her playing favorites. "He's/She's threatened by me and I just can't take it anymore".

Well, hold on....just a second.

If you are waiting for your manager to tap you on the shoulder and give you a promotion, raise in salary or hand you a plum assignment - get comfortable because you might be waiting for a long time. Don't wait for things to happen.....make them happen!

It's time to manage your manager!

There are many ways to go about doing it...I'm going to just focus on three: communication, relationship and problem solving.

My abuelita use to tell me: "El que no llora, no mama". It loosely translates to “if you don’t ask, you don’t receive”.

If you don't ask for a promotion, a raise, etc. -- you're not going to get it.

Your manager has a lot on his/her plate and unless you're not vocalizing what you want...chances are - they don't know about it.
Don't assume that your supervisor should be obvious to the great work you are doing. You probably see one third of the work that they are responsible for. I am not saying to be sympathetic to your bosses' work load (we all have more than our share) - I'm just asking you to be more understanding (as I am sure you would want co-workers to be with you).

If you feel your great work is not being recognized by your manager -- then make sure you tell them about it! We need to be our biggest fans and loudest cheerleaders.

When you finally muster up the courage to sit down with your boss to tell them what you want -- be prepared to have a solid pitch for why you deserve it.

The reasons for that promotion need to be observable....give them examples you can both discuss.
Most of us go through an annual evaluation (our salary increases are largely based on it)....well, evaluate yourself before meeting with your manager. You need to be honest with yourself about what your strengths and development needs are. Maybe the development needs are what's keeping you from moving ahead. And if that's the case - then embrace that reality and work towards improving them (and make sure your manager knows it) in order to get what you want in the future. Even your strengths can get better (with more time and experience).

Managers value honesty and they appreciate an employee who understands "I am better at my job today when compared to yesterday - but not as good as I will be tomorrow".

Now approaching your manager with demands/asks can be intimidating...but it wouldn't be if you had a relationship.

A relationship doesn't mean you're friends. It means you have a workplace relationship at a level of trust where you feel comfortable setting up a time to discuss your wants/concerns. Like all relationships it builds over time, must be honest and you need to nurture it.

Start by setting up a meeting to re-introduce yourself. Make sure to keep it concise (don't waste your manager's time and yours).....strategize the conversation around three points that are most important to you.

(ex. You meet with your manager to discuss a promotion - becoming project leader. Identify (again observable examples) of your work and how it has prepared you for greater responsibility. Also speak to the "stretch"; these are certain responsibilities required by the position that you are familiar with, but not in practice....with coaching - you will be successful in fulfilling those requirements).

Like any relationship - it's a two way street. Make sure you learn about the responsibilities and pressures of your manager's job. Most managers live by "you take the credit and I will take the blame" philosophy. That means the buck stops with matter how big or small the issue/mistake is, your boss will be held responsible for it.

Now that doesn't mean an employee won't be held accountable for their work, but it is an interdependent relationship.
Your success and failure will also be his or the same way that their success and failure will be yours.

A smart manager learns early on the importance of delegating responsibility - developing a mentoring relationship with an employee is key to effectively and positively achieve goals. Be sure to be a "go to person"; someone your supervisor trusts enough to seek their help.

Problem Solving
"Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions". If you want to get noticed, grow in your career - be the problem solver in your group.

Managers are inundated with problems; it's refreshing when an employee presents solutions. I am not saying for you to make the decision for your manager (because their ultimate responsibility is based on their acceptance of a course of action). What I would like for your to consider is to present your manager with a problem you have identified and a solution(s) for he/she to consider. In doing so you are proving to be an invaluable asset.

Part of problem solving is also "conflict resolution". Many managers are put into a time consuming "referee" position that often can and should be resolved by the people closest to the issue. There are certain situations where employees find themselves at odds with others in the office....before you feel the need to go seek your manager's help; first consider how you can resolve the problem yourself.

Interpersonal skills are essential for the success of any employee (no matter what the position is). You don't need to be friends with everyone at work, but you do need to have a professional relationship. I'm not going to go into details about conflict resolution (that's a topic for another time), but I do want you to consider always putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are having an issue with. Try to see yourself through their eyes and as best as possible identify how you contributed to the situation negatively (according to their version of events). The beginning of any solution begins in recognizing one's responsibility in escalating the problem.

Managers award employees who consistently practice sensible interpersonal skills; it reinforces the employee's leadership in correctly navigating through the turbulent ocean that an office can sometimes become.

In managing your managers you are essentially managing your careers. Don't let someone else be in the driver's seat of your professional life.

Below are some links with more advice for you.

As always, let me know what you think and if I can answer any questions.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Always Judge A Book By Its Cover (¡Haz click aquí para Español!)

We’ve all heard the old saying...."Don't judge a book by its cover"; a metaphorical phrase meaning "you shouldn't prejudge someone, by their outward appearance".

Well, I'm here to tell you that's just about the worst advice you can get (especially when it pertains to the workplace).

How many times have you picked up a newspaper, magazine or a book, just because of the eye catching front cover?! You wouldn't even think twice about what’s "inside", if not for that attention getting first impression.

It’s the same for all of us.
Whether it’s at a job interview, networking event or the office…you are always being judged and admit it – you’re also doing a lot of the judging!
Don’t feel guilty – there’s nothing wrong with that.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”.
How we present ourselves (clothing, hairstyle, accessories, perfume/cologne, etc.) is pretty much on target about who we are as a person.
Before one word comes out of your mouth, the person directly in front of you has made a dozen assumptions about who you are based on how you look. And before you say, you shouldn’t “assume” – forget about it. A person’s assumptions/perceptions are their reality (regardless of what’s true). So, don’t try to debate it.

The best course of action is to be aware of people’s prejudices based on their observations and take the necessary steps to manage your image.

1. Dress to impress: It is important to dress appropriately for the occasion. I have met with students who visit a newsroom; some are right on – leaving their usual school wardrobe of jeans and a shirt behind, opting for a suit. And then there are the students who are better dressed to hang out with their friends (and that’s being kind). The students who dressed professionally gave me the impression that they understood (and valued) what a rare opportunity it was (to visit a news station and learn first hand about careers in journalism from experienced veterans). They commanded my attention and instantly earned my respect.

2. Dress for the job: If you have an ambition to move up the ladder within your company - make sure you look the part. When you first look (and act the part); you’re sending a very clear signal to your supervisor that you are ready (or on your way) for more responsibility. You want to stand out and not blend in with your peers (almost camouflaged).

3. Don’t dress to distract: When attending an interview - be sure to wear something that is uniform (solid colors always work best), appropriate to the office environment. Don’t wear anything distracting (you don't want the interviewer to be consumed with thoughts of -- "what was he/she thinking when they put "that" on this morning"?).

Especially challenging for women are accessories. You might feel comfortable in your favorite earrings and necklace, but the interviewer might not. And for the men - some places are more casual than others...that might mean tie optional. For both – take it easy on the perfume and cologne. I use to work with a great reporter who bathed in cologne; sometimes making my eyes tear!

4. Less dress is not more: Unfortunately and unfairly (and women in particular know it too well), too often the 300 pound gorilla in the room is "sex". Many men allow their imaginations (and ignorance) rule their thinking. So, my advice is – don’t feed the beast. It's been my experience that less is always more when it comes to ladies fashions. And by "less", I mean show less.

Listen – I strongly believe what matters most is what’s in-between our ears and in our hearts, but the truth is that before anyone can get to know us – they see us. Treat yourself like merchandise – a product that you carefully craft and market wisely. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

As always – feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
Below are some links for more information and advice on how to dress for success.

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