Having just wrapped up my first decade as a CEO and reflecting on what I want the next decade to look like, I was struck by how much I’ve grown and matured as a leader. The 2010s were filled with many ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, laughter and tears…just like any good decade should be! I took a few moments to jot down what I learned in my first decade as a CEO and this is what I came up with, along with some suggestions for you to consider.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading. I hope this was useful to you as you think about your own leadership journey over the next decade. And, as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares.
Promotions are not given; they are earned.
There is nothing more important to remember than this statement when you are looking to grow within your organization. If you are being passed up for promotions, there is a reason why. Rather than blame your “playing favorites” boss or your “brown nosing” coworkers, take responsibility for what you can control which includes your attitude, performance, and teamwork. Then follow these steps to work your way into a new role.
Develop a Good Relationship with Your Boss
Your boss should be your biggest supporter and he or she can’t be this unless the two of you have a strong relationship. How do you build a strong relationship with your boss? Remember the universal truth…all managers want people on their teams who make their jobs easier. Do your best to make your boss look good; it usually pays dividends. Produce quality and timely work. Look for ways to help her achieve more. Ask for feedback and take action on it. Be forthcoming about ways she can successfully manage you. Build rapport by learning more about him. Put effort into understanding his personality traits and triggers. There are many ways to build a relationship with your manager; it may take some trial and error as you learn what works and what doesn’t, but it’s worth the effort….there is a good chance that he or she will be the one promoting you.
Be an Expert at Your Job
The fastest way to get a promotion is to be a rock star in your current role. Sure, there may be things you don’t like about the job you have now, but so what? Do all parts of your job well; become an expert at it by learning as much as you can, read books and other publications on the subject, ask for more training, acquire new skills and knowledge, and always produce high quality work. Remember, you will never get a promotion if you aren’t doing a great job in your current role.
Add Value and Help the Company Execute its Strategy
Make sure you are working on the right things…things that help the company meet its goals and execute its strategy. If you’re not sure how your job ties to the strategy, ask. Always prioritize your work and do what’s most important first. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that don’t matter.
Be Seen as Helpful
Being a team player builds your credibility throughout the organization and will make you the go-to person when a tough problem needs to be solved. Put the team first, help out a struggling coworker, give credit to others, volunteer to help at company events...there are a million ways to exhibit helpfulness and be a true team player. Remember, though, that perception is reality; it doesn’t matter if you think you are a helpful teammate, what matters more is that others think you are.
Be a Problem Solver
People who expect “management” to fix all the problems in the workplace aren’t typically seen as helpful nor are they often promoted. It takes everyone within the organization to create an effective work environment so if you see a place where the organization can improve, develop some solutions to address the issue and discuss them with your boss. Volunteer to be part of a team tackling tough interdepartmental problems. Proactively address a communication issue with a coworker rather than triangulate through your boss; challenge yourself to achieve a positive outcome. Suggest a better process to ease frustration on a project. In short, be a problem solver, not a problem creator.
People with a positive attitude are generally easier to work with, hence more promotable. Keep your head up in the face of adversity, meet tough challenges head-on with a smile on your face, and view problems as opportunities to make things better. Be friendly, help others, smile more, and complain less. Commit to having a positive effect on everyone you interact with.
Look and Act Professionally - Always
If you want a promotion, look and act the part. Dress professionally, be well groomed, communicate clearly and articulately, use proper grammar, refrain from swearing, don’t gossip, don’t complain, ask questions, smile, and work hard (i.e. while at work stay off of Facebook, don’t text your friends, and refrain from chit chatting endlessly with coworkers). Choose a professional role model and emulate what he or she does.
If those doing the promoting don’t know about the good things you are doing, you won’t be on the radar for a promotion. Self-promotion is an art…it has to be done in a way that balances talking about yourself with humility. You don’t want to be perceived as bragging; that’s just obnoxious. First, make sure your boss knows your career aspirations and engage him or her in creating a career development plan with you (having a career plan is crucial to growing within your organization). Ping your boss regularly, giving updates on progress you’ve made. Keep your boss and peers informed on major projects and broadly share the team’s accomplishments. Bring attention to a big win by asking your boss if you can celebrate by taking the team to lunch. Approach your boss with a solution to a tough problem and ask him or her for support as you take the lead to fix it. Develop a relationship with a mentor higher within the organization who can sing your praises. Well executed self-promotion is subtle, tactful and highly useful.
These are my tips for getting a promotion. While doing these things don’t guarantee a promotion, you increases your chances by doing them well. On the flip side, here are some surefire ways to NOT get a promotion:
Hopefully this article sends you in the right direction…one that places you in the “indispensable” category and helps you achieve the next step in your career. There is almost nothing more rewarding than being recognized for a job well done with an opportunity to grow via a promotion. Remember…
“Do your best, and be a little better than you are.” - Gordon B Hinckley
Good luck and thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate likes, shares, retweets and comments. Please do so if you are so inclined. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
References: Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield. Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how we should all make 2017 the Year of Going Big. Why not? Sure, the turmoil and uncertainly in the world may be frightening but now is not the time to hunker down and make yourself as small as possible. Big change can (and needs) to happen.
So you’ve made a bold, courageous resolution and you are ready to pursue it with gusto. Now what? As famous French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” If you don’t know how to get to where you going, how do you ever get there?
I’d like to share a take away from the book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.” It’s an exercise on how to put together a plan of action to reach a big goal. This exercise is similar to developing a marathon training plan. You know you need to be able to run 26.2 miles at the end of 20 weeks. You also know that you can’t start with 20 mile runs in week 1. Therefore you must develop a plan that works backwards week by week, lining out how you will log your training miles. This is the only way to keep yourself on track to the build motivation, strength and stamina required as you increase your mileage each week. Without this kind of plan, you may run too much too early and hurt yourself or you may not run enough and fail to cross the finish line. The plan is key.
You can use the marathon model to plan any goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that your goal is to get a promotion at the end of the year. You have 10 months to earn it; how do you get there? Start planning backwards. It looks something like this…
This is a simplified example, yes, but you get the idea. I recently did this exercise for a 16 year goal I’ve set for myself and it was incredibly eye-opening and helpful. I feel empowered and excited because I have an outline for success. There is no way I could achieve a goal that's 16 years out without a solid plan now.
You may find that you need to deviate from the plan you’ve created and that’s okay; course correcting along the way is necessary to achieve a goal. This exercise merely helps you think through all the things you need to do to get to where you want to be. Make adjustments as you execute your plan; use this as a tool to ensure you are working on the RIGHT things and taking the RIGHT actions to reach your “big thinking” goal.
Good luck and go for it!
Thank you for reading and as always, please comment, like and share if you are so inclined. I always appreciate the love. To sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox, click here.
One of most important attributes to becoming successful is self-discipline. It’s almost impossible to achieve excellence without it. Self-discipline helps you stay focused; it gives you the gumption to stick with something even when it’s difficult. It helps you choose winning the long game over short term gratification. Self-discipline allows you to overcome obstacles and deal with the discomfort of pushing yourself to new heights. With enough self-discipline, you can form life-long, positive habits; once you form a habit, it no longer requires discipline and you propel yourself towards success because it’s what you do day in and day out.
What is self-discipline? Essentially, it’s the ability to control your impulses, emotions, reactions, and behaviors. It’s the ability to forego short term gratification in favor of long term satisfaction and gain. It’s basically saying no when you really want to say yes.
How does self-discipline lead to forming habits? If you do something over and over again, it eventually becomes a habit and once something a habit, life gets easier; you no longer need willpower to force yourself to do it. For example, last year one of my goals was to do more yoga. I made a commitment to do it 30 minutes every day for 30 days. I felt so much better that I continued for another 30 days which turned in 6 months, etc. Now I get up an hour earlier to start my day off with 60 minutes of yoga. I don’t have to set my alarm anymore and I do it EVERY day. If you would like more insight on how to use discipline to form habits, read the Power of Habit. It’s a fantastic book.
The word self-discipline makes most people shudder just uttering it but being self-disciplined isn’t about leading a restrictive and boring life void of enjoyment, relaxation, and fun. In fact, it’s next to impossible to be self-disciplined in all areas of your life and I don’t recommend it. Instead, you should use self-discipline to focus your energies on what’s most important to you. Let it help you make the tradeoff between the short and long term so that you make better choices. In the long run, you’ll be happier when you have formed habits that make your life better.
So how do you become more self-disciplined? Here are my tricks:
You are the master of your destiny, the creator of your life. If you want your destiny to look, be and feel a certain way, then you have to develop the discipline to form habits. Vigorous habits will help you get to where you want to be. While it seems counter intuitive, I have found that I am happier and healthier the more self-disciplined I become. I think you will find the same thing, too.
Thanks for reading and as always, I welcome and encourage comments, likes and shares. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
You are a collection of all the stories you’ve told yourself. That’s right, your life is a work of fiction and you are the main character.
We all tell ourselves stories about the things that happen to us, the decisions we make, and why other people do the things they do. You make assumptions and then act upon those assumptions. That’s how you create your life; your stories become your reality. You wear your stories like a warm winter sweater because they give you comfort that you actually understand what’s happening around you. You do this because your brain can’t stand not understanding why something is happening. It is constantly looking for patterns, assigning cause and effect, then creating a narrative that you subsequently believe, even if you have no access to the actual truth. Psychologists and scientists call this the narrative bias. We couldn’t survive without it.
There’s good and bad news to consider when pondering your narrative.
First the bad news. If you create a story that is negative, inaccurate, or based on a lie you’ve been told or that you’ve told yourself, you could send yourself down a path that might lead to poor decisions, low self-esteem and needless suffering.
The good news is that you can create a different story. You can challenge your assumptions. You can think about the way you think. You can break down belief systems that hold you back. You can build upon the positive things that happen in your life. You can choose to let go and move on.
Even though your story might feel real and unchangeable, it isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re living a charmed life or one of struggle and despair. Your story isn’t real and it isn’t permanent.
So pick the one thing in your life you want to change or make happen and tell yourself a different story. One where you are progressing, succeeding and winning. Then start taking action to create that story. It doesn’t mean it’s easy; it just means it’s possible. Be willing to do the hard work.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street. I am not saying you want his story (or maybe you do; he is very wealthy and everyone loves a comeback story) but it’s a statement worth keeping in mind.
“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”
Thanks for reading,
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“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.” -- Babe Ruth
There’s nothing better than being surrounded by really stellar teammates. Each teammate fulfills a role, helping to build the team and move the ball down the field. When a team clicks, all kinds of amazing things can happen. Since most of us can’t truly go it alone, why not do your best to be an excellent teammate? Here’s how…
To be a great teammate you have to show up every day, fully engaged in the work that needs to get done. Showing up means you are fully present and prepared, ready to listen and speak, offering insightful solutions to problems. It means you are there to participate, support your teammates, and give 100% effort. Showing up means you don’t check your emails and texts during meetings, walk in late, or exhibit other disrespectful behaviors like not returning emails and calls, staring off into space during conversations, or giving short, non-helpful responses to questions.
The best teammates offer to help whenever help is needed. They are the go-to people when deadlines are at risk or when a project is losing steam. They don’t say things like, “that’s not my job” or “I’ve already put in my 40 hours.” Be helpful by putting your teammates first. Roll up your sleeves when the workload is heavy, partner with people to develop new processes when old ones no longer work, be willing to answer questions whenever asked, and lend an empathetic shoulder to lean on when times are tough. If you don’t have the answer, direct your teammates to someone who does.
Don’t Keep Score
Just because you did something to help a teammate doesn’t mean that you are owed something in return. Score-keeping is the fastest way to erode trust on a team and it shows that you really aren’t being authentic in your giving. Lose the ‘tit for tat’ mentality and be a great teammate because it’s the right thing to do.
Great teammates are honest and direct in their communication. Your teammates should always know where you stand. If you don’t agree with a direction, share why. If you feel that something is being overlooked, speak up. If someone’s communication style is shutting down other team members, pull that person aside and share your observations. Being candid doesn’t mean you have to be rude or discouraging in your choice of words….kindness matters when you have open, honest, and reciprocal communication. And don’t forget to give praise and talk about the good things that are happening…candor can and should highlight the positive, too.
Giving feedback is hard to do and great teammates take it like a champ, making it as easy as possible on those who are forward with constructive criticism. Show your willingness to take feedback by listening closely to what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions and refrain from making excuses or getting defensive. The best possible response is to say thank you and then take action to show that you heard and valued the feedback.
Commit When a Decision is Made
The worst thing you can do as a teammate is walk out of a meeting when something has been agreed upon and badmouth or sabotage the decision. Debate the pros and cons, state your opinion, and provide input, but if a decision doesn’t go your way, you must still commit to a common course of action and implement it as if it were your own idea. Being passive (or passive aggressive) in your support and effort to make the decision a success with undermine the team and your credibility as being a great team player.
Build Relationships and Trust
Great teams are built on relationships and trust. To build these, you must connect with those on your team, always being transparent, honest, and dependable. You must take the time to get to know each person on your team, understanding personalities and working styles, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes, dreams, and fears. You must also let them get to know you; be vulnerable, open, and willing to share personal aspects of yourself. You might be the smartest person on the team but if you fail to connect, you fail at being a great teammate.
Hold Yourself and Other’s Accountable
Accountability is the cornerstone of personal and professional growth. Personal accountability isn’t just about admitting when you made a mistake. It’s about being humble and willing to learn from others. It’s about taking ownership for your attitude, performance, behaviors, teamwork, and life in general. It’s also about holding other’s accountable when they show up with a bad attitude, perform poorly or let the team down. Great teammates understand the importance of accountability and live by the mantra, “I am always accountable to myself and my team; the buck starts and stops with me.”
I am sure there are many other dynamics that could be on this list, but if you start with these eight things, you’ll be well on your way to being seen as a rock star teammate…one who is dependable, accountable, trustworthy, and fully engaged. One on which others can count on through thick and thin. We would all be so lucky to be on teams filled with people who all exhibit these kinds of behaviors. And not these...
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In a recent strategic planning session involving all of the managers and supervisors at StoneAge, I stated admirably that one of our employees was worth a million dollars to our organization because of what he brings to our team and customers on a daily basis. I received several nods of agreement, and then a comment was made by a young manager who said, “I want you to say that about me someday. I’m motived to bring that kind of value to the company.” Since then, I’ve given a lot of thought to her statement. What makes an employee a high performer? What makes someone promotable? What qualities would someone need to exhibit to be invaluable to our company? How would I coach her, and all of our employees with so much potential, to be rock stars in their own right. Ah, the perfect blog topic…how to be a great employee! Want to be a top performer? Exhibit these behaviors…
Deliver Outstanding Performance
Most of us will spend all of our adult lives working. For some of us this idea is exhilarating. For others, it may be demoralizing. But the fact is that most of us HAVE to work. So why not commit to being really great at what you do? Outstanding performance goes beyond just producing quality, timely work and surpassing your agreed-upon performance goals. As described in the book “Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success” top performers are experts in their jobs and focus on doing the right work…work that deliverers the highest value to their teams and companies. Outstanding performance is also based on your perceived helpfulness…do your coworkers see you as a team player who is ready to roll up your sleeves when they ask you for help? Outstanding performance means going the extra mile, always looking for ways to do your job better and improve your team’s overall performance. And it means you are an awesome teammate.
Exhibit Your Company’s Values
To be a rock star, you not only have to deliver results, you have to live and breathe your company’s values. You may be talented and smart but if you disregard the very things that are most important to the company, you may not be seen as a top performer. For example, if a core value of your company is teamwork and you blow off your teammates by not responding to emails, leave early when there is still work to be done, make snippy comments or say “that’s not my job” when they ask you for help, you are not a rock star. If another value is agility and you live purely in the black and white and find it torturous to change directions in the middle of a project because the company HAS to get an order out the door, it will be difficult for you to enjoy your job enough to be a rock star. Aligned values matter.
Have a Positive, Can-Do Attitude, Even When Things Are Difficult
There is almost nothing more important than your attitude when wanting to become a rock star employee. Face it, most people don’t want to be around someone who is negative, mean, pompous, or who is generally hard to work with. Like it or not, likeability is important. Be friendly, honest, and helpful. Have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself so seriously. This is especially important when the organization is stressed or going through significant change. How you handle your own stress when times are tough won’t go unnoticed and rock star employees can help others resist diving head first into the downward spiral of negatively and fear.
Be Candid and Solution Focused
Keeping a positive attitude doesn’t mean you don’t bring up problems or express your feelings when you get frustrated or upset. Top performers are committed to communicating candidly. Speak with honesty, authenticity, and directness and always say what you mean rather than beating around the bush (please read my blog on candor here). Additionally, rock stars say to themselves, “I want to be part of the solution, not the problem” and always share ideas with their managers and teammates on how to resolve issues.
Receive Feedback Like a Champ
Everyone needs feedback to grow as a teammate, employee, and as a human being. If your goal is to be a top performer, you have to get good at receiving feedback, both good and bad. My very best employees appreciate feedback, handle it with grace, and take action immediately. And if they react to it poorly, which all of us do from time to time, they take ownership of their reaction and apologize. If you would like more tips on how to receive feedback like a champ, read my blog on it here.
Being a top performer isn’t easy to do. It takes commitment, feedback, and effort. But it’s worth every ounce you put into it as it makes you, your team, and your organization better. That being said, I will leave you with this quote from Woodrow Wilson: "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."
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My three old son, Jack, loves to work. He calls himself a “working man” and he gets upset if we don’t let him help us vacuum, move furniture, drive the forklift, change light bulbs, etc. He loves projects and he begs me to take him to work with me because he “just loves meetings.” At three, he is already a hard worker.
This warms my heart and makes me proud. The world needs more people who work hard.
I cultivate this love to work by showing him that I work hard, too, and that it is enjoyable and rewarding. I make work fun (even if that work is folding laundry or doing dishes) and never do it begrudgingly…rather I find something to appreciate about whatever I am doing in the moment (except spreadsheets…it’s hard for me to find joy in building spreadsheets and I am grateful to those whose talents lie in Excel).
Being a hard worker is a quality that I admire in people. I appreciate those who go the extra mile, are committed to quality, engage in what they do every day (no matter what the task), and drive themselves to be great at their job/passion/life. To have (and be part of) a successful organization, people who work hard are needed. And it’s helpful being around hard working people…their sense of pride in what they do is contagious.
So why is working hard so enjoyable, at least to me?
Because my self-confidence increases through my efforts.
Self-confidence is gained by achieving something and it’s hard to achieve something unless you work at it. Confidence builds upon itself and comes through the commitment to do the work that needs to be done (and then some), persevering even when you are tired and want to give up and quit. The more you accomplish, the more confidence you gain.
For example, when I built my own website, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment (I am non-techy person and never imagined in a million years I could do it myself). It gave me confidence to start writing my blog. The more I write, the more confident I feel. I’m several steps closer to making my dream of writing a New York Times Bestsellers List book possible.
Now that feels pretty dang good (even though it’s not easy) and feeling good is enjoyable.
An important thing to note, though, is that being a hard worker does not mean you always have to be working. To be at your best, you must have down time. It’s easy to burn out and damage your health and relationships if you don’t balance work with all the other important aspects of your life (read my blog on why being successful means having a balanced life here). Every day you should make time to relax, unplug, have some fun, play with your kids/dog/cat, engage in a meaningful conversation with your significant other, and laugh (aka don’t take yourself so seriously).
And then get you can get back to work!
Falling into the trap of complacency is so easy to do. And it’s no wonder. Humans are homeostatic beings. Just as our bodies work to maintain equilibrium, our brains work to keep our external environment stable, too. We are driven to resist change. We like things just the way they are….even if we actually hate the way things are.
The thing about complacency is that it sneaks up on you ever so quietly. It happens slowly over time, going almost unnoticed. It might be disguised as contentment. It becomes invisible in the wake of success. It conceals itself behind relationships you take for granted. It hides beneath the surface of self-justifying statements like, “I had no control over the outcome” and “I’ve paid my dues and now it’s someone else’s turn” or the worst, “I’m just easily bored.” But make no mistake, it’s always there waiting, luring you into believing that you can sit back and take a well-deserved hiatus from the hard work that’s required (almost constantly) to grow as a person, employee, leader, and organization.
The next thing you know, complacency has led you to mediocrity. Mediocrity results in uninspired, undistinguished, unexceptional, lackluster, and forgettable performance. Whew, that’s a tough place to pull yourself out of. Mediocrity is like thick, sticky mud that sucks you back into the swamp. Unless you are ready to break a serious sweat and painstakingly claw your way out by making major changes to your life, team, or organization, you are stuck.
You must guard against complacency at all costs. The best way to do that is to ALWAYS shake things up. Turn off the TV and put down your phone. Get off the couch and go for a jog. Do something you’ve never done before. Change your routine so you meet new people. Hire a coach. Go see a marriage counselor. Ask for feedback and then do something with it. Admit your weaknesses and work fervently to minimize them. Pitch an idea to your boss. Ask to lead a major project at work. Pay careful attention to your competitors. Stay current on what’s happening in your industry and anticipate how changes in it will affect your business. Pick apart your business model and then reconstruct it. Move people into new positions within your company. Help your employees and coworkers solve problems. Set goals and make a plan to achieve them.
And make sure that you (and your team) are crystal clear on the WHY of what you are trying to achieve. Wandering around aimlessly without a well-defined (and shared) purpose is a surefire way to cultivate complacency. Doing something for the sake of just doing it is about as uninspiring as it gets.
Most importantly, never ignore the little things that start to tear at the fabric of your family/team/organization. Don’t sweep problems under the rug. Act swiftly and with care because if left alone, you are setting the stage for acceptance of complacency and mediocrity.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing (please click the Like buttons below to share…if you are so inclined).
As a CEO of a company, there is very little that I do on a daily basis that creates a tangible work product. By tangible, I mean something that I can count, something that can be easily measured, or something I can touch. When my husband asks me how my day was, I don’t tell him about the number of POs I wrote, boxes I shipped, tools I built, or sales I closed. Instead, I tell him about the conversations I had, the meetings I went to, strategies I implemented, and the decisions I made. Both types of work are important but very different.
Writing this blog has helped me remember how incredibly rewarding it is to create something. Something that I can write, edit, read, share, and track. It has sparked creativity in me that I had forgotten was there. While I love my job and am fulfilled by what I do every day, it’s gratifying (and thought provoking in a different way) to produce a tangible work product.
We humans take things for granted without even recognizing it, especially something like creating because we do it all day, every day. Some of us (like me) get so caught up in the unsolid-ness of our work that we forget what it’s like to produce concrete, physical work. Or opposite, we forget that we are even creating. We get bored with the repetitiousness of what we do and lose sight of the value of producing touchable, shippable work each day.
Creating is what humans are meant to do. And creating something that others can see, touch, smell, hear, taste, share, and experience is worthwhile of our time. While I am inventive, resourceful, and imaginative in my work every day, I am grateful to have been reminded the power of creating a tangible piece of work.
I hope this is a good reminder to you, too.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.