ED EVARTS is a leadership coach, team coach, strategist, podcast and author of Raise Your Visibility and Value: Uncover the Lost Art of Connecting on the Job and Drive Your Career: 9 High-Impact Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Success. Ed is also the host of the successful podcast, Be Brave @ Work: Stories About Courage in the Workplace. Ed works with senior leaders in large organizations to help them build their self-awareness on how others experience them so these leaders can manage their strengths and weaknesses more effectively. Visit Ed at www.excellius.com
In our fast-paced work environments, you find little time to polish your most valuable asset – yourself. In my new book, Drive Your Career: 9 High-Impact Ways to Take Responsibility for Your Own Success, I share nine recommendations for how you can ensure you are the driver of your career, not just a passenger. What are these ideas? Here is a quick overview.
You don’t need to be best friends with your boss and go out for margaritas every Friday night. Yet, as you work for your boss, you need to ensure that your bosses’ quick thoughts about you, when asked, are positive and demonstrate the value you bring to your organization and industry. While I am not a sociologist, 85% of my clients would tell you they could have a more positive relationship with their boss. Some folks have really bad relationships with their boss. That is not a good place to be. Here are three quick tips of things you can do to enhance your relationship with your boss.
No one on earth, and I mean no one, thinks more about you than you do. No one knows your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, secrets, desires, and (I’ll just say it) lies better than you do. Yet most of us do not spend quality time with ourselves thinking about ourselves.
This is why so many of us are passengers. We’ve never thought about taking the wheel and driving. Find an accountability partner who can work with you on creating a habit of thinking with the person who knows you best – you.
You spend so much time thinking about what you want to say that you do not listen well to what your colleague is telling you. Does this sound like you? If so, you need to practice the behavior of curiosity to ensure you know exactly how your colleague sees a situation.
Wouldn’t you rather go into a tough discussion knowing all of the facts and how your colleague feels about something before sharing your thoughts? If you do, you will come to better conclusions, faster.
Are you the type of person who puts all of your energy into why an idea you have is so great, that you spend no time putting yourself in the shoes of others, and identify concerns your colleagues might have about your idea? Most of us operate this way. And when we get tough questions about our wonderful idea, we are often times unprepared.
Life is like a bell curve – some colleagues will love our ideas, most colleagues will be okay with our idea, and some colleagues will hate our idea. You need to be prepared to navigate all three of these areas if you want to drive your career in the direction you want to go.
When I create leadership development plans with clients, the key activity most of my clients don’t think about is the activity of working with an internal colleague to help them achieve their goal. You probably think your colleagues are too busy to help you or don’t care enough about you to help.
Yet, your colleagues are often experiencing what you are experiencing and can provide you tremendous assistance in navigating challenges you are facing. Talk to your human resources department to see if there is a person in your organization who could be of help to you.
I have been playing poker with six friends for twenty-three years. Your workplace is a lot like a poker hand. Your workplace is as random as the cards you are dealt and when you are dealt a hand, you either find you have a great workplace or a troubled workplace. Regardless of the hand you have been dealt, you always have three options – fold, bluff, or take action.
Some of you may be in a workplace that is not allowing you to grow and drive your career. While you should try to be successful at work, at some point you may decide to move on. You might be like most of my clients, who bluff year after year. They pretend to like their boss, or like their place of employment, yet don’t. While bluffing may be a great idea for a day or two, it is a terrible long term strategy.
You should always try to make your place of work a better place in which to work by taking action. If, after taking action, your workplace and the opportunities that are being provided to you are not helping you driver your career, you can revisit folding and moving on. Regardless of your choice, the hand you have been dealt is the hand you have been dealt and your goal is to play it the best you can.
You might think that pausing slows you down. You might think that pausing will help your competitors get ahead of you. In reality, pausing to ensure you are communicating clearly, sharing information effectively, and handling crises well. In our fast-paced work environments, we equate speed with accomplishment.
Yet, I have seen organizations do and redo work because it was not done correctly the first time. In fact, I have seen this often. You can be a more effective leader and ensure your career is going in the right direction if you pause more often to ensure that what you need to do, is done the best it can be done, the first time.
If you are like most business leaders, you are very likely horrible at giving feedback. As I said earlier, I am not a sociologist, so I do not know why we avoid giving each other feedback that can help one another. Perhaps it is our cultural fear of conflict that we assume might arise. Regardless of the reason, if you want to be the driver of your career, you need to find ways to provide your boss, your peers, and your subordinates, recurring and meaningful feedback to help them be better at work.
Feedback typically comes in two fashions – in-the-moment and annually. In-the-moment feedback can be highly effective as the behavior in which you are giving feedback just happened. Annual feedback is a little different and should be more long-term focused. Regardless of the type of feedback you are providing, you are ahead of the game if you are giving it at all.
The number one skill that you are not using on a regular basis, and most leaders with whom you work, fail to use on a regular basis is demonstrating empathy. In order to drive your career, you need folks to know that you care about them first. As I said in the first bullet, you do not need to be best friends with your bosses and colleagues, but your bosses and colleagues need to know that you care about them.
The best way to show folks that you care is to be empathetic. Showing empathy is not always easy, yet here are some quick steps you can take to demonstrate empathy – notice a behavior in another person, get permission to chat about the behavior, be clear about what you are observing, offer to help your colleague in any way that you can, acknowledge that you understand how your colleague is feeling, and reiterate your offer to help. Practice these steps and observe how your role as a good colleague and leader grows exponentially.