As we begin this new year, please allow me to wish you the best of career success in 2006. On behalf of my colleagues here at WJM Associates, I hope this is the year that you win that big promotion or new job.
When you do move up the ladder, either with your current organization or another one, there are a number of key steps you can take to help assure a successful beginning of this next stage of your career. I've listed a dozen of them below, and encourage you to keep them handy when your "big day" finally arrives.
- Ask in-depth questions. Your staff, your colleagues and your new boss will feel better about your intelligence by appreciating your level of inquiry. Ask questions that are open-ended, so that the responses you receive are more than simply "yes" or "no."
- Make collective decisions. Consensus enables people to understand your decision-making process and gives you the best thoughts possible from those around you.
- Understand completely your boss's expectations, even the hidden ones. This takes time, and is easier said than done. What your boss says is not always what he or she means … or feels.
- Get to know people, but start with the bottom of the hierarchy and work your way up. The insights of your staff and colleagues can often enrich your perspective of those above you.
- Spend a great deal of time evaluating your peers. Find out who has the power – and who does not – and why that is so. You can avoid repeating others' mistakes.
- Schedule time with peers to make sure you understand where they are going, so that you do not get in the way or become obtrusive to their way of operating.
- Make sure you know what your colleagues and staff expect of you. Use an open dialog with peers and subordinates to solicit their opinions as to what is expected. Share with them what you are going to do and see if they react in a supportive fashion.
- Set a plan for six months, but keep it very flexible. Recognize that you must learn before you can contribute.
- Make the function you are directing an essential part of the business. Human Resources, Marketing and other traditional staff functions should be part of the strategic business plan, and not an afterthought.
- Recognize that you are living under a microscope, at least for the first few months, because you are new and influential. Everything you do will be observed. Your appearance, style, mannerisms, speech patterns, and choice of words are all critical during this time of "getting to know people." And remember: it is okay to say "I do not know". Honesty helps build trust.
- Ask for feedback – from your staff, your peers, your internal clients, and, especially, your boss. When it comes to understanding what others think of you and your performance, you can't have too much knowledge.
- Ask for more feedback. 'Nuff said.