“Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life” by Patty Azzarello
“DO Better is about producing exceptional results. DO Better is about working on the right things in the right ways. It’s about rising above the work. DO Better is about freeing yourself from your overwhelming tactical workload and identifying and delivering on the few most critical outcomes—the ones that really count. DO Better is about tuning your job, knowing yourself really well, and putting yourself in situations where you can thrive in your work and accomplish exceptional things. It’s also about how you lead, build trust, delegate, make more time, and build up your energy. Successful people are not burned out and used up. And they are not the ones who were less busy along the way. They deliver remarkable results and leave room to DO even better after that.”
“LOOK Better is about standing out. Successful people do their work and produce their results in a way that is meaningful and visible to people that count. They understand which audiences matter most and they communicate with the right people at the right times, in a compelling way.
LOOK Better is about building personal and professional credibility and becoming more relevant with your key stakeholders. “
“CONNECT Better is about building a broad base of support for yourself, your team, and your work. As you advance, your focus needs to broaden, not deepen.
Successful people are not isolated in their own world. They build the right networks of mentors, partners, and supporters. They know how to get on ‘the List’ of people who get access to the best opportunities.
It’s not about politics; it’s about effectiveness. Successful people build an ‘extra team’ around them and accomplish big things by working with and through others. The higher you go, the more your value is associated with your network.”
“No one other than YOU has any motivation whatsoever to make you less busy.”
“The most successful people are not the ones who were less busy along the way.”
“It’s important to realize that not only do you have permission, but also as a leader you are expected to be able to deal with an overwhelming workload and not be overwhelmed. That’s the job.”
“Your job as a leader is to deal with chaos and pressure and make it more manageable. You are supposed to create systems and processes to get more done with less effort. You are expected to think strategically, prioritize, and focus on the most critical tasks. But you’ll never get to do any of this if you don’t first give yourself permission to be less busy.”
“No one will discover or promote you for being a hard worker. It’s up to you (not your manager or your company) to reinvent your job so that you can work where the value is. “
“But when you are a manager, the value you add to your company is no longer based on the hours you spend at work. It is based on the value of the outcomes you create. If you take an extra hour for lunch and take a walk, and you return with a new idea to improve the efficiency of your team by 20 percent, you’ve added more than one hour of value.”
“On the other hand, if you never take that hour and you stay busy with tactical activities, you may have put in your time and looked busy (delivered lots of output), but you are not creating value (outcomes) by helping the company get the work done in a more efficient or more effective way.”
“You may fall into the trap where you fail to create real value because you have so much energy to just muscle through all the work!”
“You need to pick where you are going to add value (DO Better) and make sure the company actually values it (LOOK Better). Then do it in a sustainable way so you can keep delivering important outcomes.”
“Just know that it’s not the work that matters; it’s the outcomes you deliver.”
“Simply put, highly successful people don’t do everything.
Watch them. They drop the ball on all kinds of things. They disappoint people. They may have disappointed you from time to time.
But if they are successful, the other thing that you will notice is that they have a ruthless focus on the things they care about.”
“Welcome to being a leader. This is your job. Your job is not to deliver work when everything lines up to support you. Your job is to get the most important stuff done despite everything that lines up to kill you.”
“As a manager, you are expected to analyze all the tasks that come in, contain them, and propose a plan that will have the biggest impact on the business. You need to choose from all the work you are getting and map out the right work to achieve the right desired business outcomes.”
“It’s a key part of your job to think through the overwhelming workload and to rework it. Yes, you need to deliver the results, but you don’t necessarily need to do it by completing the ten assignments that come to you, as requested. What if combining three of them into one, dropping four, doing three as defined, and adding a new one is the best way to deliver the desired outcome? It’s your job to realize that and propose it.
If you just try and do everything that is asked of you, you fail in two key ways:
You can’t possibly do it all, so you will fail to deliver some things.
But more important, that’s the wrong job anyway. If you don’t apply strategic thinking and judgment to tune the workload, your boss doesn’t need you. She could just as easily assign all the work directly to your team. Your job is to make sense of it and prioritize it correctly and show how a redefined workload delivers the necessary results. This adds real value—and lets you succeed.”
“Here’s how to advise your executive and negotiate the workload:
Keep a list of everything your boss asks for.
Keep a list of the top strategic priorities you are working on.
Have regular meetings with your boss where you take out these lists.
Make recommendations about what to prioritize, based on the context of business and the content of these two lists.”
“Because you are genuinely succeeding at the things that have the biggest impact on this business, you’ll be forgiven for the things you don’t get done.”
“10 Steps to Ruthless Priorities
Identify what matters most to the business.
Choose your Ruthless Priorities.
Focus on what you are doing, not on what you are not doing.
Ratify your Ruthless Priorities with your boss.
Assign less than 100 percent of your time.
Resist or negotiate away pressures that put Priorities at risk.
Create a new social norm.
Get them done. Finish things!
Recognize and celebrate.”
“You need to get really clear about how all the activity in your team or function truly impacts the business (or doesn’t). You need to connect the dots between your workload and the most important and significant business outcomes.”
“If you only think about why things are important, you will always be stuck thinking everything is important. Try another approach. Ask your team, “How bad is it if we fail?” You will then see an actual priority emerge.”
“It’s not that you can choose the important things over things that are not important. The ruthless part comes in when you prioritize the vitally important Can’t Fails over other really important things.”
“The more you use the following answer—’We will fit that in as long as it does not put our Ruthless Priorities at risk’—the more you will be able to avoid distraction and keep your organization on course to deliver.”
“You can get away with not achieving everything if you deliver remarkable results on the few key things. But if you don’t actually achieve your Ruthless Priorities, you then have no success to offset why you didn’t do better at everything else.”
“There is a well-tested marketing principle that says that for your audience to understand your message well enough to act on it, they must hear or see your message seven times. And for every one time they consciously see it or hear it, they have to be exposed to it three times, thus, the ’21-Times Rule.'”
“By talking about it every single day as a group, they kept the new idea alive and in focus in their work day. It remained clear to everyone that this was still important—this was still the right thing to be doing. Simply by talking about the new expectation as a group, people felt more accountable and more comfortable doing it.”
“Think of your job more as figuring out a better way to deal with all this stuff than it is to DO all this stuff and you’ll be on the right track.”
“For a start, schedule two hours per week and hide. The world will not come to an end. The hiding part is important. Otherwise, this doesn’t work—the activity knows where to find you.”
“This time is just for you—to think, to plan, to focus on what’s most critical, reprioritize, delegate, and create processes. You will never be able to even list your Ruthless Priorities if you don’t give yourself time to think. Remember: You are not taking two hours away from getting work done. You are investing two hours in getting more of the right things done, better.”
” For example, what would happen if you limited doing email to one hour per day? Would the world end? Or would you learn to deal with the most important stuff first? Decide how much time various areas of work are worth, and don’t exceed that amount of time.”
“I know that as a leader I would often send an email to a group that was locked in a festering ‘reply to all’ argument. Mine would read as follows: ‘This is the LAST EMAIL on this topic. All of you please meet on this and bring me your decision by the end of the day, or I will make the decision myself. But no more email on this.'”
“Try having 25- and 50-minute meetings instead of 30- and 60-minute meetings.”
“Don’t resolve things that don’t need to be resolved.”
“She makes a Don’t Do list, which notes the things she will be tempted to spend time on: internet browsing, organizing old data, studying issues of interest. On this list she also put her list of nagging business issues to leave unresolved for the time being. It’s a good tool to remind yourself of the lower-value things that could use up your time and are most likely to tempt you away from your hard, important work.”
“Make three lists on one sheet of paper, in three columns.
In the first column, list the things on your to-do list that you are actually getting done.
In the second column, list things that you have committed to get done to your boss or your customers or your peers or your team—but are not getting done.
In the third column, list the things that you know are really important, but that you have no chance in hell of being able to do because of the existence of the first two lists.”
“Once you have these lists, you can judge whether the right things are in the right columns. You can use the lists to have a discussion with your manager. You will be able to negotiate moving things among the three lists and dropping some things entirely. You will often find that you are stressing out about things your manager no longer really cares about.”
“Once you identify the time slot when you are the most focused and brilliant, for heaven’s sake, don’t spend it doing email! Don’t go to bad meetings! Schedule that time for yourself and get your most important thinking and your most tough, creative, strategic, highest-value work done.”
“Generosity is a multiplier of energy. Help others. Have a sense of humor. Be grateful.”
“Successful people fail more than unsuccessful people.
They try a lot, they do a lot, and they fail a lot. They just get over it and keep going. Less successful people often play it safe or don’t even try. Or when they fail, they get discouraged and just stop—game over.
Do stuff, fail, learn, and try again. Multiple times. See it instead as a step to your future success, and feel good that you are taking action.”
“Don’t assess your life or yourself when you are in a bad mood! There is no upside and no useful information will come of it. You are not [lazy, stupid, ineffective, unlikable, unattractive, slow, incompetent—wherever your mind goes]. You are in a slump. Wait till you are in a better mood—you’ll get a better and more accurate assessment.”
“Sometimes you will need to work around the clock and give up this time, but make sure that it is for special situations: crises, emergencies, big deals, and so on. In the general course of business, you must claim time for yourself. The world will not come to an end if you are not available for two hours a week. Just take it.”
“Once you realize that your job is both your job description and dealing with all the crap that gets in the way of your doing your job description, and that what you are actually getting paid for is dealing with the crap, not the enjoyable parts, it all makes more sense.”
“Consider thinking about your work/life strategy like this:
Do what you love for free.
Work for money.
Change how you do your job to feel less tortured about it—and maybe even feel pretty good about it.
Spend the money you make on doing the things you love when you’re not at work.”
“As I climbed the ranks from sales engineer, to product marketing manager, to VP, GM, and CEO, I always focused on where the technology met the humans—and how to make that part work better and be less annoying.”
“I dealt directly with the technology as little as possible. I didn’t spend time and energy trying to be more technical, because it was not a strength of mine (even though this is what my technology-oriented managers said they expected from me). Instead, I focused on what was a strength and source of energy for me—my understanding and caring about how to help humans work more effectively with technology.”
“If you play to your core strengths, you will be much more successful (because you are using your strengths) and feel far more satisfied in your work (because you are using your strengths).”
“The first and biggest hazard of taking your strengths for granted is that you waste too much time trying to fix your weaknesses. As humans we tend to focus on the things we are not good at. I don’t believe in investing in fixing weaknesses. It is a waste of time and energy, especially compared to building on strengths.”
“The second big hazard of taking your strengths for granted is that you may not fully use them. So you miss an opportunity to excel. What better way to stand out and accomplish remarkable things than to work in the area of your greatest strengths? This also makes work much less painful and more fun. You succeed all the time, and it feels easy.”
“You need to find the essence of WHY you are good at what you are good at. This is where the real you comes in.”
“You have the power to renegotiate the contract of your work to better suit your strengths.”
“If you go to your manager and say, “I want you to change my job so that I can do more of what I like,” that will not go over well. You need to describe why it’s good for the company to change how you do your job. As long as you can show you are doing things that add value to the business, you have the opportunity to renegotiate your contract over time—and you should be doing this.”
“If you lack natural strengths in communications, you can’t simply not communicate. You don’t need to master it or love it, but you do need to do it. Communicating is the one skill area that is worth everyone’s investing in and improving on, even if it is not a core strength.”
“It’s up to you to tune and renegotiate your job over time to better suit your strengths. If you simply leave this to the natural course of events, it will not happen. Jobs don’t rewrite themselves just to suit you. It’s a negotiation. Figure out how to align your strengths with something the business needs, and then make it happen for yourself over time.”
“A weakness is not being good at something. Not being analytical or not being strategic is a weakness. Being a jerk is a behavior problem. Behavior problems impede your ability to work with people. It is worth fixing behavior problems.”
“Yes, it’s important to deliver results, but you need to work on the right things, in the right ways, and at the right level if you want to get ahead. The reason you are not getting anywhere as a workhorse is that you are working the wrong way. You are keeping yourself too busy to add value to the business over and above your personal work output. This can be a hazard both for the individual contributor who never looks up from her work and for the people-manager who can’t let go of the work.”
“If he had stayed in workhorse mode for the whole three months, he would have received a lot of credit for working really hard and delivering good results, but he would have not stood out as someone who was ready to step up to a bigger job.
But by demonstrating his ability to get his arms around the crisis, create systems, and continue to improve the result while spending less and less personal time at it, he became recognized as an effective leader and manager—someone who could take on bigger things without getting fully consumed.”
“First, you need to step back and assess the unplanned crises. List the last ten. Where did they come from? Rank them in order of importance. How many of them were truly important? What do the important ones have in common? Are there any proactive things you can do to prevent some of them from happening? Is there enough commonality in some of them where creating a new process can help? Can you develop new strategies or tools to deal with the unique ones more quickly? Can you push back on the ones that are not really important?”
” If the smaller team is a permanent condition, you must reset the priorities and the workload. At some point you need to step up and build a different and better way of getting the work done, or you will be allowing what should be a temporary condition to send you into workhorse mode, long term. Then you’re stuck.”
“No one cares how hard you work. It’s about results. Not taking vacations is not something to be proud of nor is it a precursor to great success. This is really only a sign of being so out of control at work that you are demonstrating you are someone who can’t plan and prepare enough to take a week off.”
“You must want to do the managerial tasks more than you want to do the work you used to do. You must understand that your job changes dramatically each time you step up a level. It’s not just a different title and pay scale. It’s a different job.”
“You don’t need to know everything you used to know about the content and the detail. In fact, even trying to know as much as your people do about the guts of the work will block your success as a leader.”
“So the big question is, If I don’t do what I used to be good at, what do I actually DO now? Really think about that. If you stop doing any of the same work you did yesterday, and now 100 percent of your time is free to do your new next-level management work—what exactly should you be doing?”
“if, as a leader, you are not sure what to do, talk to everybody. You must regularly talk to the individuals who are doing the work and who are closest to the customers if you want to know what is actually happening in your business. This is also how you learn what your job needs to be. In all my executive jobs, I budgeted time every week to talk to the individuals doing the work. I relished the customer visits, not for the customer contact but for the ride in the car with the sales rep. Talking to the people doing the work shows you the way forward.”
“Here are some ideas for what you should be focusing on as a leader at the right level to work on the business.
Build a plan to drive the overall strategy for your team and its contribution to the business. Look for game-changing opportunities.
Clarify Ruthless Priorities. Tune everyone’s workload to ensure that they deliver on the most important things.
Ensure that there is strategic alignment of your team, peers, and boss with priorities and values.
Assess your organization’s fitness for what it needs to do, and make changes, train, and/or upgrade talent where necessary.
Create systems and frameworks to execute, track, and measure the work so you can feel comfortable that you know what is getting done without diving into the details. See also chapter 7, Delegate or Die.
Create a specific learning agenda for your team, such as understanding the financial realities of the business, getting closer to customers, or competitive awareness and positioning.
Develop talent. Help your team become better leaders and support them. Focus on the development of their top talent.
Improve communication inside and outside your organization.
Find ways to steadily reduce the cost of things you do every year to make room for new things. See also chapter 8, Better with Less.
Continually make connections outside your direct organization to create positive visibility for your team and create a broader base of support.”
“If you don’t grow capacity over time, as the business gets harder, you and your team will no longer be qualified at your jobs.”
“Help your boss see the necessary level she needs to transition to by proposing the kinds of measures she should be worried about. This will require you to think and work at your boss’s level so that you can expose her to the right level of strategic thinking.”
“Articulate What Work Should Be Done at Your Level, Your Boss’s Level, and Your Team’s Level”
“If you can drive more conversations to focus on key future desired outcomes instead of current work, the discussions and resulting actions will naturally gravitate to a less detailed, more strategic level.”
” Don’t think of delegating as just giving work to other people; think about it as making sure the highest-value work gets done at the right levels.”
“Delegating is about developing the people on your team so they can step up to do the required work. If you delegate well, they become more valuable over time, and you free up your time so you can also become more valuable over time.”
“And remember, by delegating you are freeing up your time to do different work, work that you need to be doing. While you are delegating, sell the benefit of that work to your team. Everyone wins.”
“Your job is not to cover for work by your team that is not good enough. Your job is to make sure you develop the required capability and capacity in your team to deliver excellent work. If you don’t delegate the work that should be done by your team, you will end up working several jobs because you have failed to build the right, capable team (this is where the ‘or die’ part of ‘delegate or die’ happens).”
“No matter how much (or how little) you know about the work you are delegating, you need to retain ownership of a successful outcome. If you are tempted to either micromanage or abandon the whole thing, the best approach is to set a clear desired outcome and then establish a set of intermediate outcomes and measures along the way.”
“When you delegate to someone, in your initial conversations, make the desired outcome and the time line really clear. Then ask her to come back to you with the plan and milestones. Ask her to define how she wants you to measure them.
When you let the person you delegate to define the measures and the milestones, often you will actually get a better, more aggressive, and complete plan than you would have come up with yourself. And the person will be more accountable to it.”
“If you are not good at doing this tracking and reporting piece yourself, delegate it to someone who is naturally good at it!”
“Always think of delegating as a teaching opportunity. Remember, delegating is about taking responsibility to ensure that the highest-value work gets done at the right levels. It is about pulling your people up and making them more capable.”
“Let your team do the work and accept that it is not perfect, not as good as you would have done it. If it meets the defined desired outcome but it is not exactly as you would have done it, accept it as good enough and then encourage them to get feedback from others. They will learn how they can make it better, just as you did.”
“Standout leadership is not just accepting the team you inherited; it is building a team capable of working at a higher level. There is really no gray area here.”
“If you can’t delegate to a person, you can delegate to a process. You can always invent systems and processes to streamline and offload time-consuming activities. This frees up time for higher-value work.”
“If you can create systems and processes to work more efficiently and effectively, you’ll not only get the work done, but you’ll also be seen as a leader who can prioritize, rise above the tactics, and build value in the business, rather than a known workhorse who can personally handle a virtually unlimited amount of work.”
“It’s your job to figure out how to raise the bar—how to get the right stuff done better and more efficiently. The best leaders find ways to make their resources go further, as a general way of doing business.”
“What I’m actually talking about is doing less with less, but in a way that makes the impact of what you do better. I remember one time my mantra was ‘We are going to be doing less with less, but it’s going to be good!’ People can buy into that.”
“If you never make room in your own budget to do new things, you and your team will be at risk because you will be viewed as doing things the old way as the business changes and grows.”
“Start by assuming you have the same budget as last year; then assign only 80 percent of it to your team. Force them to be creative about how they can deliver their part for less. Work as a team on the Better-with-Less scenarios.”
“Then present the 20 percent you held back as your fund for doing new, exciting, strategic stuff. That is so much more motivating than telling your team you can’t afford the exciting new stuff because you are not getting any more money, and it is exactly what the business needs and expects you to do as a leader.”
“Tell your team, ‘Let’s list the stupid stuff we are doing.’ You will get a rousing discussion and a lot of ideas for things you can stop and improve. Make sure you do this at least once a year. Go through your key programs and brainstorm on the stupid stuff you should stop doing and how you can improve so you can deliver a better result with less work or less money. You’ll be surprised at how many ideas you can come up with that don’t cost anything.”
“As a leader it is your job to cut the cost of doing the same stuff year over year—full stop.”
“This is a key practice that makes the most successful executives stand out, builds trust with your management, and puts you in the running for a bigger job. If you always ask for more money to do new stuff, you will be seen as less strategic and less competent. And more important, this key practice gives you the control to do new or more strategic stuff whether or not you get more money.”
“Remember, you need to rise above the work—it’s not the work that matters, it’s the value of the outcomes you deliver. Find a way.”
“If you are not standing up as a leader, and not standing for anything in particular, then you are projecting apathy. If you are absent personally and emotionally, people will wonder why they should care or invest their time and emotional energy in the business. Leaders who don’t stand for anything destroy trust.”
“Leaders who stick to positioning, read from someone else’s script, or manage themselves to be different from who they really are do not win trust.”
“Inconsistent personality is a big destroyer of trust. This goes back to the previous point. Be you. It’s easier to maintain because you don’t have to remember all the rules about how you are supposed to act. Be yourself. You will be much more consistent and build much more trust.”
“One of the biggest levers of trust I ever discovered was to put out a regular communication, every one to two weeks, about what I saw happening in the business. Deals won, projects completed, new hires, competitive moves, and, of course, reiterating the key priorities.”
“Share your regular updates with your peers and boss too. Your excellent updates will get forwarded around, and through your consistency, your sharing, and your presence as a leader, you will create huge amounts of trust.”
“Make sure your messages are clear, straightforward, and brief. Spending two hours to communicate one decision will bore and frustrate people. First be relevant, concise, and useful. Then repeat.”
“Answer tough questions head on. Acknowledge when things are difficult. Give people a chance to talk about what they are worried about. Let them know that it is a difficult time and you are worried too, then reinforce your commitment to the business and talk about why you are staying there.”
“What is at or near the top of the list for people is to feel like their work matters, that it counts for something. This is a big trust issue. They are trusting you to make sure their work matters.”
“Uncertainty degrades trust.”
“Treating everyone equally is not fair to your high performers. If you treat your high performers the same way you treat your low performers, you will create several problems:
Your high performers lose trust in you because their great work doesn’t count for anything—“There are no consequences for slacking off, so why should I kill myself?”
You let everyone know you are not serious about managing performance, so motivation of the whole team goes down.
Your low performers get away with it, so your high performers do less work, so you deliver less.
More trust degrades, because the capability of your team goes down, so you fail to deliver at the level you need to.”
“As your manager I am going to worry about what matters to you. When I worry about you, what should I worry about?”
“Holding people accountable builds trust; looking the other way or waffling on what is important destroys it.”
“Clarity is very important here. You need to be very clear on outcomes, expectations, measures, and consequences. Then when something doesn’t happen as it should, you have a nonpersonal way of showing it and discussing the gap. If you didn’t complete the step of setting expectations clearly and you can have only a vague conversation to the effect that the result is not good enough, it too easily becomes a personal judgment. Clarity of expectations builds trust in itself because people know what to expect and what they will be measured and judged on.
So be clear and be really hard on the results, but treat the person with consideration and respect. Even when you are being tough on a failure to deliver, personally engaging with the person as a human builds trust for the future.”
“Credibility gives you both a time advantage and a trust advantage. It helps you get more done, go faster, and avoid stupid questions and the need to endlessly defend your honor. It helps you attract top talent, money, and the best projects. Credibility makes you more effective.”
“It’s important to note that although good work doesn’t stand on its own, credibility does not happen without good results. The last thing you want to do is go on a campaign to build your credibility if you don’t deserve it! It all starts with exceptional results and then creating positive visibility for those results.”
“Credibility is both a powerful weapon and a shield. It helps you advance your cause and defend your progress.”
“Credibility is inversely proportional to roadblocks. People with high credibility get to spend less time defending their honor and their decisions.”
“The most important factor in building your credibility is to make sure that your work is highly relevant to the business. It’s up to you to connect the dots between what you do and what matters to the business.”
“Invest the time to understand what the CEO is worrying and talking about. What are the key initiatives in the business? What markets are top priority? What is needed to go after them? What is the CEO most focused on inventing or changing? What operating efficiencies are being targeted? What customer initiatives are critical right now?”
“If you need to educate people about what you do, by definition, you are not relevant.”
“To be relevant, you need to be a translator when you communicate with people outside your function. I refer to this as using your ‘outside voice.’
Your ‘inside voice’ is the voice you use with your team, within your functional area. It has all your jargon and all your internal measures and priorities. It’s all about describing and measuring what is important to you.
Your ‘outside voice’ is your general manager voice, your business voice. It’s the voice that is relevant to the people outside your function. It’s about business initiatives, not functional projects.”
“Organize your ideas, proposals, and initiatives with labels and headings that comprise only their words describing their initiatives. Use this technique to develop your ‘outside voice.’ Then, when you talk about your work, they will be associating you and your work with the things they already want and care about.”
“So many times during the budget discussion, with the best of intentions, we set our sights on getting the biggest budget possible for our team or function so that we can deliver the most value with it. But strident advocacy for your function in the absence of a larger business context can degrade your credibility. You need to show that you can think like a general manager about the whole business and put the business first, at the center of your thinking and discussions.”
“Nothing will make you stand out more than having a direct effect on revenue.”
“If you take away only two ideas about brand, here’s what they should be:
“When you let people know what to expect from you because you behave consistently, you build up credibility and trust with them. And if you break that consistency, you destroy trust, you lose credibility, and you dramatically weaken your brand.”
“Here are some questions you can use to get a picture of your current brand. Give these questions to five to fifteen people who know you. Get a broad perspective of present and past colleagues, friends, and family. (You will be surprised at how much your family knows about how you act at work.)
When you observe me at work or life, what is always true? What do you always see?
What is my manner of communicating?
What do I ‘look like’ when I am delivering?
What am I expert in?
How do I relate to others at work: What do I give? What do I expect?
How do my personality and values affect what I offer?
What outcomes do you associate with my being involved in something?”
” Make a list of the things you want to be known for. This can be a long list. This is the time to brainstorm. List all of your thoughts about who you are and what you do at your best.
Compare and combine that list with what you learned from others’ input.
Highlight the things that make you most different from others.
Sort the overall long list into categories or themes that define what you most want to be known for. (Aim for three to five at most.)
These themes become your brand attributes.”
” Once you define your brand, you can tune what you do—every single day; in every single meeting; in every single memo, email, or presentation; and in every single conversation—to support your brand.”
“To stay on a forward course in your career, and to be effective in general, you need to have visibility and support beyond your team and your direct boss. You need people above and around you to see you as someone who matters. When the world gets complicated, you need them to advocate for you or to come to your defense; otherwise you can get burned.”
“Your stakeholders are the people directly affected by what you do: your boss, your clients, your employees, your partners.
Your influencers are a bit less clear. These are the people you are not directly connected with but who still have a say in what happens to you.”
“Leaving the perceptions of stakeholders and influencers to chance is one of the mistakes that can completely block your career from advancing—really. Focus on this before you feel like you need to.”
“If you operate in your own department most of the time and don’t have personal relationships or functional reasons to talk to your boss’s boss, your boss’s peers, and leaders of other organizations, you can consider yourself invisible. And you can consider yourself stuck.”
“The trick is to create that opportunity in your own company. Create opportunities to sell yourself to the decision makers in your company. This doesn’t always happen naturally. No one may line this up for you. It is up to you to create that opportunity.”
“If you want that job, you need your boss and your boss’s peers to think you are the best candidate.”
“Stakeholders are people who have a direct interest in or dependence on the work your team puts out. Your boss, your employees, and your partners all fall into this category. Influencers are the people who don’t depend on you or have a structural reason to follow what you do but can have an impact (good or bad) on what happens to you. Often, your boss’s peers fall into this group as do leaders in other organizations.”
“As an example, I have found that with high-level executives you can build credibility just by requesting a short meeting. I request seven minutes and get it done in five. You will get noticed for your precision, and if you get it done on time, you may be invited to stay longer. Either way, the executive will love you for being brief and to the point.”
“My communication plan had three major components:
Get personal introductions to stakeholders across the company.
Get personal introductions to influencers across the company.
Publish a brief written report each month that gets my name and the accomplishments of my team in front of a wide audience on a regular basis.”
“If you are executing a communication plan well, you won’t just send a report to everyone or call everyone on the phone. You will tune both the content and the medium of the communication for each key audience or person. It will result in a combination of reports, phone calls, lunches, drop-ins, formal meetings, and introductions.”
“Don’t join late and then stealthily do email while you half-listen to the meeting. Don’t put your phone on mute. Be fully engaged.”
“Look for opportunities to drive the conversation or lead projects. Put yourself at the center of initiatives and issues so people need to reach out to you.”
“Then you can find opportunities to keep the connection fresh by asking for advice specific to something you noticed that they recently did or accomplished, by offering some information of interest, or by giving more feedback from time to time. Remember, be visible but not annoying. If you can’t personalize your communication to something of specific relevance to them, skip it for now and do more research.”
“You need to be able to communicate ideas in a way that leaves the people in the room both intrigued by your idea and impressed with you personally. Never forget that it’s both.”
“When you get visibility, the judgment is either out, ignore, or promote. Even if you are not after a promotion, your need to strive for that judgment in your executive interactions, because the other two choices will not help you succeed in or preserve your current job.”
“Don’t get too hung up on your content and your agenda. If you walk into a room full of people who are asleep after lunch in a boring all-day meeting, your ‘lead’ is to wake them up! If you are in a room full of skeptics, your lead is to create a bridge. If you are in a room full of strangers, your lead is to build their confidence in you. Once you have done that, your next statement should be the most compelling point in your argument.”
“Don’t say ‘utilize’ when ‘use’ will do. Don’t say ‘consequently’ when ‘so’ will do. I cannot think of a single instance in a business conversation when using the word ‘bifurcate’ is necessary, or better than saying ‘split’ or ‘divide.’ Don’t use the work ‘dialog’ as a verb. You don’t sound smart. You just sound verbose and annoying.”
“Be on the lookout for people who want to talk without ever getting to the so, here’s what we DO part. Call them on it. ‘That’s interesting; what do you recommend we do?’ When they reply, ‘I’m just making sure everyone knows this important information’ say, ‘We are discussing achieving specific outcomes and planned actions; do you have a recommendation?’ Don’t tolerate smart talk instead of action.”
“Mentors can challenge you and help you see how you should be making your job bigger, driving transformations, conceiving new opportunities, and developing your team.”
“It’s important to have at least one mentor who is doing the job you aspire to. There are four really valuable things you can gain from these mentors:
They can help you learn the job before you are in it. They can expose you to and teach you about the real requirements and help you practice thinking about them. They can help you win the interview and be more successful once you are in the job.
They might even give you access to special project work at their level so you can build some actual experience before you are in the job. See also chapter 18, The Experience Paradox.
They can get you access to jobs like theirs when they come up because, being in that role, they get asked who to consider. If they are your mentor, not only will they be sure to think of you, but they will know how to recommend you. They can also provide positive back-channel references, which are critical. In this regard, mentors are also one of the keys to getting on ‘the List’ for the top jobs, which I will talk more about in chapter 20, Getting on ‘the List.’
Part of getting the job is showing that you fit there socially. Having mentors who are already there gives you experience relating at that level. So you’ll know how to act, and you’ll have practiced doing it.”
“Sure, you need to be building your personal network directly (which we’ll talk about in the next chapter), but mentors can expand your personal and professional network exponentially—not only in sheer numbers but also in usefulness.”
“It’s also really important to have a mentoring relationship with someone like your boss’s boss, or your boss’s peers. As we talked about in chapter 13, Be Visible, But Not Annoying, you need to understand who has an impact on what happens to you and proactively communicate the right things to them.”
“Make sure you get a mentor higher up in the organization who cares what happens to you!”
“With a mentor you can say, ‘Help! I’m stuck! I have no idea how to do this’—and when you’re in that spot, it sure feels good to have someone to say this to. It’s even more likely you’ll need to say, ‘I’m really struggling with this; can you see what I’m missing?’ or ‘Do you have any thoughts about getting around this issue?’ Chances are your mentor can help, and you’ve got your problem solved!”
“When you are thinking about where to find these kinds of people, here are some ideas:
Look for people who work at an order of magnitude bigger scope or geographic range. You can learn the thinking processes and techniques they use that help them do a bigger job, so you can apply those as your business grows. (Conversely, learning from a mentor at a much smaller company can also be really useful.)
Look for people who are two or three career stages ahead of you—at a bigger company or in a more established business or product line. This will give you ideas for how you must grow and build capability to scale with the business.
Also, find at least one mentor who is ten to fifteen years older and way ahead of you career-wise who can act as a career advocate for you and share wisdom and support throughout your career. This person can be inside or outside your company or even in a different industry—it’s the general business experience and wisdom you’re looking for.
Connect with talented peers in other parts of the business. You’ll gain not only ideas for general leadership techniques but also fresh insights about how people in other organizations and roles view what makes your team successful.
Seek out people who do your job in different industries. I know a supply chain manager in a consumer electronics company who developed a relationship in order to learn from the supply chain manager for bananas at a produce company! They both shipped things worldwide that weighed about the same, but the banana guy had much more time pressure because his product would rot after two weeks.
If you are over forty, you also need someone in their twenties who is a master at the Web and social networking. You need to keep up with how the world is communicating. Don’t get left in the dark ages of email. Know how to share information and engage your customers. The young people I get this information from think I am mentoring them! If you are young and an online master, sharing your expertise can be a way to give some real value back to your older mentors.”
“Ten Ideas for Building Your Extra Team
Make a conscious effort to meet people. Learn their names. Say hello. Show respect. (This goes further than you might think.)
Seek input from people. Listen. Say thank you, even if you don’t use the ideas. If you do use them, let the sources know, and tell them how it worked out.
Create opportunities for people to connect with you. Eat lunch with them; spend time in their world. Ride in the car with a sales rep. Spend a few hours on the customer support line.
Be a mentor. Be available to give coaching and advice. Be generous.
Introduce people to each other.
Invite guests to your staff meeting so more people know your goals and your work. Invite a peer and suggest she bring a team member.
Offer to help your peers’ teams when there is an opportunity to add value or help out.
Hold brainstorming sessions for your business and invite people from all over the organization to participate.
Share knowledge. Start an internal blog, share insights, and encourage ideas and feedback.
Give credit where it’s due (if you don’t, don’t expect to get help from these people again).”
“As you advance, success becomes less about what you yourself can do and more and more about what you can accomplish through others. As an executive, your value is largely associated with your network, and your effectiveness is tied to the power of your network.”
“One basic truth about what I refer to as ‘authentic networking’ is that networking is actually about giving, not taking. This point of view really helps take away any negative political edge or discomfort often associated with networking. Once you start to think about building your network by what you can give, and by adding genuine value for others, it becomes much more meaningful and feels much less political. Remember, your network only has value if you put value into it.”
“When I talk about giving things to your network, what I mean is making a connection, offering value, doing a favor, and not asking for anything in return. Here is a list of specific things you can do.
Hello: Just say hello or give people a quick update when something interesting happens. Be the one to stay in touch. You are not asking for anything. You like to hear from people; so do they. People appreciate it when you are the one to make the effort to stay in touch.
Remember things: Listen. Then follow up later: ‘Did your son get his black belt?’ ‘Did you buy those Acoustic Audio speakers?’ ‘How is your daughter doing in New York?’ It feels good when someone remembers your details. When someone tells me something about their work, their hobbies, or their family, I put a note in my contact database, so the next time I connect with them I can remember and ask.
Offer to help: ‘What is your challenge right now? How I can help you?’ I know some really effective salespeople who start every single meeting this way, asking, ‘Before we get on with the agenda for our meeting, what is going on with you, and how can I help you?’
Positive feedback: Most of us live in a professional world with very little positive feedback. How often does someone go out of their way to tell you they admire or appreciate you? When you do this, it stands out, is appreciated, and is memorable. “I was really impressed with [that article, that talk, something gutsy you did in a meeting]—It really made a difference to me. Thank you.” Unsolicited positive feedback is a gift.
Say thank you: I can’t tell you how many people don’t do this. There are people I only hear from when they need a reference, and then after I let them know I gave it, I never hear from them again. Saying thank you is a big deal in your network. Thank people a lot and often. For example, keep a list of all the people you contacted during a project or a job search, and send out a note at the end letting everyone know what happened and saying thank you.
Follow up: When you ask someone in your network for something (like a reference, advice, an introduction) and she follows through, let her know what happened. Did you get the job? Did the idea work? Most people don’t do this either. I do all kinds of things people request of me and I rarely hear back about what happened. When I do, it is the exception, and I am thrilled. Once I got a call from an executive recruiter while I was driving; a referral I’d made had led to an actual placement, and she wanted to thank me. I almost drove off the road! That’s very rare, indeed.
Make an introduction: Be astute about helpful introductions you can make. By doing so you give not just one, but two people a valuable gift without asking for anything in return. Make sure, however, that it’s valuable for both parties; introduce only people you are certain will both benefit from the introduction. That is giving. If you are making an introduction because one of the people needs help and the other can give help, just be clear; in one case you are giving and in the other you are taking.
A point of interest or enjoyment: If you remember what is important to people and what they like, it gives you an opportunity to point them to great stuff that you run across like articles, movies, books, music, and events. Food also works! (Remember my exchange about the pizza place.) These can be pointers to business articles or resources that relate to their work, or something you think they will enjoy personally, like pointers to music, videos, recipes, photos, podcasts, and so on.
Photos: It’s amazing how much of a difference photos can make. A colleague of mine at an agency tried to get a response from a prospect for over a year. Finally he decided to attach a photo from a trip to Italy to one of his emails and he got a response within minutes, thanking him for sharing the photo and opening the door for a conversation. Use photos of things you’ve seen and done, yourself, your family. You always look at them when people send them to you, don’t you? It is a real personal touch. But make sure to either send a link or resize them. Don’t email 8 MB photos!
Video mail: Video mail is an excellent way to make a contact as well. And it comes across as a much bigger deal than it actually is! The trick is to think of it and do it. It is a personal and standout way to say hello to someone, and people remember it. Just search the Internet for ‘free video email.'”
“Weak connections are about keeping the connection fresh, not keeping all of the details of the relationship current. So they don’t take a lot of time. (I am here; you are there. I thought about you enough to acknowledge our connection.)”
“This authentic networking approach also works really well at networking events. Instead of just showing up, figure out ahead of time who is going to be there, do some research, and then set out to meet specific people for specific reasons that actually interest you.”
“The more specific you can be, the easier it is for people to help you. It seems counterintuitive, but the specifics are what help trigger people’s thoughts of where the connections are.”
“If you are not confident you can do the big job, you have two choices:
Spend time learning, getting experience, and checking all the boxes so that you will feel confident.
Be fearless and do it now.”
“You first need to get yourself there. Once you are there, learn really fast, do the job, and get more comfortable and confident as you go. Then leap again.”
“‘Everyone who is a CEO has been a CEO for the first time. At that time they had no experience as a CEO. Why are you any different? Trust yourself.'”
“Here are some ideas for building a steady pipeline of input for your imagination:
Establish a habit of talking to people before you get to the end of the process of what you are doing, or before you feel like you know all the answers. You are more likely to be open if you are not most of the way down the road already.
Start conversations assuming you know less than the other person. Even if you are certain that you know more, take some time to listen anyway.
Stop yourself from saying, ‘We tried that already’ or ‘We already thought of that’—that shuts off the flow. Instead, ask ‘In that case, how would you deal with this complication?’
Talk to people you don’t ordinarily talk to. Ask them what they think about—you’ll be surprised how many new ideas this will generate. Ford Motor Company got the idea for the assembly line from the livestock butchery industry.
Seek out excellence in other businesses and industries. Learn from people in other roles in other companies. Great ideas are rarely obvious. They come from being out in the world and being observant, curious, and open.
Specifically seek out people who think very differently from you—the ones who annoy you because they are always on a different page. Meet with them regularly to discuss your work, your plans, and your goals, and get their annoying feedback. It might trigger a new way of thinking or working that you would never have thought of.”
“As people step up to higher-level roles, there is an outright expectation that they will not just do the job as it stands today. They will understand where the business needs to go, and they will reinvent the job to get there.”
“To stand out as a leader, you need to imagine what is possible, set the right course, and then drive significant changes to get there.”
“You can’t get the job before you get the experience, but you can get the experience before you get the job.”
“Time spent in sales helps you make better business decisions and become a stronger business leader. Not every general manager has spent time in sales, so it’s not a must, but the ones who have certainly have a leg up for both winning the job and doing the job once they are in it.”
“Spending time with people at their jobs is critical. Find out what it is really like to work at that level. Here are some questions to ask them:
What do you think it takes to be good at this job?
What do you think is the hardest part?
What is the most challenging issue?
What corporate issue, rule, or program is most annoying to you?
What business drivers do you react to first?
What business drivers do you affect directly?
What is the biggest problem you have overcome?
How do you set goals for your team?
How do you find stars and identify low performers?
What do you seek to learn about the competition?
Where do you invest to add value or extra quality?
Where do you cut cost to drive efficiency?
How do you communicate with your organization?
What are the most important peer relationships?
What has worked well in leading a team of this size?
What has not worked?
What would you do differently if you had the chance?
What best practice have you discovered that you can share?
How does your organization deal with changes in course?
How do you process direct feedback from customers?
How do you interact with the sales force?
What does the CFO bug you about?
What are the things you would like to fix but can’t get to?
What elements of what you do drive revenue, cost, and profitability?
What elements of what you do, do other organizations depend upon?
What do you believe you should stop doing but are forced to continue?
What do you believe you should start doing but can’t get support for?”
“Use other people’s experience as if it were your own. You are not lying, because you say up front that someone else did this, but it gives you a chance to prove that you know what to do and would go in with a plan.”
“But for this to work, you really had to be listening and you really had to learn what happened and why things worked out the way they did. You have to own the learning and build it into your worldview. You need to articulate how you would do something similar so you can talk about it with as much detail and confidence as if you had actually done it yourself.”
“I did this (literally) for years. When I was in the staff meeting with my peers, after I made my contribution, I did not check out. I carefully watched the interaction of the general manager with all of my peers—with the manufacturing guy, with the finance guy—and with his peers from other organizations.
I tried to get underneath his questions and the issues and really feel what it would be like to be in his shoes. What seemed easy? What seemed hard? How would I make that decision? Why did he ask this question? Why didn’t he ask this other question? I would ask the other question and either help the whole team or learn why that was a stupid question. I made all the decisions that faced the GM before he did. I kept track of what happened when we agreed and when we didn’t. Sometimes I was right; sometimes I was wrong.
But I was learning to think like a general manager. By the time I started interviewing for general management positions, I had been practicing thinking like a general manager for several years.”
“Because her current job, as a first-level manager, was not providing her with second-level management experience, she volunteered to become the president of a nonprofit organization with two levels of management below her.
After about six months of doing that, she was able to change her interview to include not only her great strengths, skills, and results but also her specific second-level management experience and accomplishments. She could talk about leading the new organization from a position of experience. She got the job.”
“Executive presence has four elements:
How you feel
How you look
How you behave
Ease and grace”
“I have thought about this every time I was in a situation where I was not as comfortable or as confident as I would have liked to be about my role, my performance, my argument, or my task, and I can tell you, acting confident anyway makes a huge difference. Just going for it, full on, is always better than the moderated, apologetic version.”
“When you walk into a room, if you want to be seen as someone who is in charge, someone with presence, you need to look the part. I have seen executives who are very casual get away without this, but these were people whose confidence and other leadership behaviors are off the charts. If you want to stack the deck in your favor, pay attention to your appearance.”
“No matter how you may feel, you should never appear overwhelmed.”
” Deal with what is overwhelming privately.
Don’t cancel meetings at the last minute; don’t act rushed and impatient.
Don’t get upset or defensive when people do things that throw you off course. Just say, ‘Let me take that input and get back to you.’ Then go off privately and scream, get frustrated, rework or not. Go back calm and in control.”
“What you have done in the past is not what is going to make you successful in a new and bigger job. If you talk about it too much, you come across as not understanding the job you are interviewing for.”
“You need to show that you understand what it takes to work at the right level in the new job. This is why it is so vitally important to have mentors who can coach you, to meet and learn from people who have been in that job, and to get some experience at that level before you are in the job interview”
“If you talk about how you solve problems at a lower level in the organization, that won’t get you very far in your executive interview. Instead you need to be talking about how you will lead the people who solve those kinds of problems. “
“For example, if you talk about how you fixed problems in the channel and increased margins, that is great story for a director. But if you want to be viewed as a VP or C-level candidate, you’d better have a game-changing story. Your story needs to be more like how you will strategically reevaluate the overall channel because you feel like you have the wrong mix of partners and that is causing you to miss significant market opportunities.”
“If you want your seat at the table, you can’t stick out like a junior, awkward guest in the room with your potential peers. You need to fit in socially and be able to interact comfortably at their social level. This is a specific aspect of executive presence.”
“Here are some examples:
Boring: I have a lot of experience leading complex projects and programs. I always deliver on time.
Sticky: I am very competitive, always have been. So I make sure the goal is not only clearly defined, but looming large, to motivate the team to cross that finish line, because I am so driven to win. A great example of this is a funny story about when I was racing Italian motorcycles.…
Boring: I have led service organizations for technology companies for fifteen years. I have experience in software and hardware.
Sticky: I have an unusual combination of strengths. I am both highly analytical and hugely action oriented. I can analyze a lot of information quickly, but then I’m driven to act—not to get more data. This has always been true about me. An interesting example: In college, I created and ran a children’s marine science competition.…
Boring: I have exceeded quota for twenty-seven quarters in a row.
Sticky: I’m kind of obsessive about maximizing success in any situation, and I have an unusually strong sense of empathy. Customers love me because it’s always clear that I am creating and fighting for exactly what they need. As a result, I’ve never missed a quarter. There was this one time when a customer really wanted to buy from me, but I could sense she had a conflict that had nothing to do with the business. I was amazed at what I learned.…”
“There are critical stories that you must prepare to support your executive-level discussions. They are stories that
Convey why you are good at what you do
Describe game-changing initiatives
Get the scope right”
“If there is any secret weapon in your quest to be the one who wins the job, it’s to start doing the job before you are in it—not just similar tasks at this level, but the actual job.
Do your first month on the job before you get to the interview. Learn everything you can about the company, the people, the competition, the customers, and the market. Go into your interview with your deliverables:
An assessment of the current state
Challenges and opportunities
A desired outcome description of the organization’s future state
A straw-man list of strategic priorities
Key initiatives to fill the gap
A list of problems to be solved
A list of key communications necessary to support the work”
“You need to find out who, specifically, the decision maker listens to.”
“You can start with Human Resources. Sometimes HR is in the inner circle, sometimes they are not, but they usually have a pretty good idea of who is. Simply ask people, ‘Who does she go to for input? Who does she listen to?’ It’s remarkable that for something that seems so mysterious and untouchable, you can start to form a pretty accurate picture if you just ask!”
“I understand this job is coming open. I’m really interested in it. I know your team will be connected with this person. Would you mind sharing what you think is most important for this role?”
“If you get a meeting, great! Ask insightful questions, listen, offer suggestions about how you will do the job, and close by saying that you plan to apply for the job. By doing this, you will make your intentions known, and if you succeeded at making a good impression, when the decision maker asks his circle, ‘Who should I be considering for this job?’ you’ve got a shot. If your name is mentioned, they might say, ‘Yes, I know that person; you should consider him.’ If you made a really good impression, they may inject you into the process proactively.”
“It’s important to step back and really think about what you want—not just your next job or your next house or your next trip. If you fast-forward twenty years and then look back, what will make you feel good about how you spent those twenty years? Real success is personal. It’s not what anyone else wants for or expects from you.”
“Many people feel unhappy because they try to optimize everything at once, and the resulting failure to do so feels bad. In reality, having a desired outcome defined is not magically going to eliminate the need for a paycheck or give you double the time to do what you want to do in work and life. But it does let you make decisions and tradeoffs on purpose.”
“I’m sorry, but balance just doesn’t work. Particularly if you are ambitious. You are going to work very hard and focus on your career at the expense of the rest of your life from time to time.
However, building your career and letting your life go to hell does not work either. The trick is, if you want to do better at either work or life, you need to get better at both.
If this seems impossible, just think about it this way. If your work is making you miserable, you won’t be good to your family, and if your family is making you miserable, you won’t be as good at your work. The only way out of this is to force yourself to get incrementally better at both.”
“The path to success is not to make sure you know everything. Sure, you need accurate, deep knowledge about the key factors that drive your business. But you will never get to the point where you know the answer to every question. The fear of not knowing every detail about everything is one of the big hazards that gets you stuck, as we discussed in earlier chapters. The path to success is to retain your composure, make the best comment or decision you can with the data you have at the time, and rely on smart people around you to fill in as many gaps as possible.”
“One of the best ways to manage yourself in this situation is to get people focused on the desired outcome. When people are asking, ‘What should we do next?’ or customers or media are asking, ‘What is your specific plan to solve this supply chain/architecture/product issue?’ (and you have no idea what they are even talking about), you can say ‘Help me understand your motivation for asking that question. What is the business outcome you are most concerned about?’ Then you can make a comment on the business outcome. You have taken the conversation to a smart and useful place, and you have successfully bluffed. Then you can take the question back to your team later.”
“Is there room for nice people at the top? Can you be a tough enough, business-minded executive and still be decent and kind to people?
Yes, you can. I learned this from a mentor I have had in my life since I was nineteen years old! He is an amazingly powerful businessman and a wonderful human being. He showed me it can be done. I have used his example as my model for the type of executive I wanted to be throughout my whole career.
As long as you demand rigorous accountability to the business and measure and manage performance accordingly, you can be nice to people.
Kind to people; hard on results.”
“Along these lines, I often get asked whether you can or should be friends with a boss or employee.
Yes, you can be friends, as long as the friendship does not keep you from being tough on accountability and results in the business.
If you are the kind of person who can keep those separate, friends at work are fine. But if you end up holding your friends less accountable, or not imposing consequences because they are friends, and this makes you uncomfortable, then don’t make friends with employees.”