In today’s episode we’ll answer a question from Abbie in North Carolina who writes:
I’ve been a high achiever most of my life, but I feel like my career has stagnated over the last few years. Most promotions in my company seem to happen from within, so what can I do to get on management’s radar and earn a promotion for myself?
Thanks for reaching out, Abbie!
To answer your question, I’ll start off with a brief anecdote.
A former boss of mine once said I was the best employee he’s ever had work for him. What’s my secret?
As many of you know, I joined a rotational engineering leadership program straight out of college. One of the teams that I worked for gets at least one new member of the leadership program every 6 months when another rotates out to a different team. Over the past decade alone they’ve had over two-dozen type-A, go-getter, young, and energetic engineers working for them. In that role where so many high-achievers worked before me, my boss accidentally shared one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
On one of my last days, before I transitioned to a role on a new team (as a part of the program), he nostalgically reflected to himself about all of his former team members and admitted that I was the best employee that he’s ever had work for him!
It didn’t dawn on me until later just how many people he’s mentored and guided over the years, and it was truly special for me to be his number 1. I beat the bar that was set by dozens before me, raised it to a new level, and now he compares every new employee to me.
So, How’d I do it?
There’s no single… secret method, but let’s break down what I did to rise to the top.
- Commit yourself 100%
- While you’re at the office, avoid Facebook. Don’t be seen sending selfies or Snapchats.
- Focus intently in the meetings you attend and understand others’ perspectives and needs while they have the floor. Much more happens in meetings besides the meeting objectives, and by observing your co-workers you can discover what motivates them, what they measure for project success, and you can use that knowledge to deliver A+ work every time.
- Observe leadership. Clearly, they’re doing what the company values and have been rewarded with the promotions that you seek. What do they value? What questions do they ask? What are they being measured on, and how can you volunteer and help them reach their goals?
- Get to know your team.
- This is common sense, yet no one seems to do it well. As Dale Carnegie mentioned in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, several key skills help you build strong relationships and gain favor with your peers:
- Be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Make them feel important
- Bring energy to the conversation and smile.
- Be a good listener. People enjoy talking about themselves and sharing about their lives
- Remember what they say, the names of their family members and the stories they tell.
- Call them by name. This is especially important for people you don’t see too often. It means a lot when they hear their name, and will trigger in their mind the need to remember you.
An example that comes to mind is one of my professional accomplishments that I most proud of. As a 25-year-old I joined a new team as a project manager. In that role, I didn’t have any direct reports, but I played a crucial role in execution strategy to ensure that we met our promised project timeline, budget, and other goals. I equate it to being conductor of an orchestra, and although many of my teammates had been working professionally as long as I’d BEEN ALIVE, I needed to immediately build credibility and trust from those individuals if was going to have ANY success balancing their day-to-day priorities, and basically telling them how to live their lives. Many of these teammates (now good friends of mine) had more work on their plates than time in the day to get it all done. Quickly getting to know my teammates and earning their trust was an ABSOLUTE MUST in order for me to be successful in that job and to receive the high marks that I did.
- One teammate, for example, was in a business function that lost several team members and couldn’t immediately hire backfills. Typical. Long story short, one individual was being asked to complete the work of several people and his time was severely limited.
- Realizing the bottleneck and potential consequences down the line, I made winning the favor of this person a pet project of mine. I stopped by his desk every few days to shoot the breeze and see how things were going. In the overextended and an absurdly-busy climate of our office…. This was unheard of and truly left an impact.
- Not sure where to start or what to talk about, I noticed a model motorcycle from one of the wars and several pictures of his family on his desk. Taking these clues, I soon learned more about his hobbies and took mental notes while he bragged on his two children.
- The next times I stopped by his desk I had cues about fun facts that he would find interesting. I asked about his family & followed up on how college applications were going. This is also especially easy after vacations or holidays, the end of the school year, football games, choir performances, ANYTHING. People love talking about their lives and interests. Remembering names and key events goes a LONG WAY toward building relationships.
- Rather than only listening to others to form your next comment and then waiting for your chance to speak, remember what others say to you. Before this was a habit for me, I leveraged the Daily List method that I described in the previous episode to write down and save important details. I would use this idea at the office, after first dates, or following phone calls catching up with distant contacts. Review your notes next time before you meet with somebody and you’ll win HUGE POINTS with them!
The moral of the story is to LISTEN to others and remember what they say. When they talk about what they did last weekend or hobbies they’re involved with, bring it up next time you talk with them. It’s SO SIMPLE, but seriously no one does it, and something quick and easy like that goes a long way to build strong relationships. All of a sudden that person goes HOT DAMN, I’m important enough to that person they actually remember the details about me. Last year when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People, NOTHING in that book was groundbreaking. Everything it describes is common sense, but NO ONE takes the time to actually pay attention to others, extend them courtesy, listen to what they have to say, or much else REMEMBER what they said. For those that DO make the extra effort, there is plenty of room at the top, and the rewards are well worth it.
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
- A mentor of mine taught me a method that helped me level-up my game in both 2016 and 2017. He encouraged me to list out all of the professional skills that I could think of. Independent of judging myself- list out professional traits that are important in the workplace. Spoiler alert- this was another excellent application of my daily lists creativity boosting method! The traits that I came up with in 2016 include: effective communication, presentation skills, emotional intelligence, product expertise, customer knowledge, ability to see challenges or hurdles before they happen, time management, sales, networking, leadership, work ethic, personal motivation, AND quality of questions one asks. Take a moment to Write each of these down in a list (or download the list from our show notes), and then score yourself on each 1 to 3. 1 being: needs improvement, 2- satisfactory enough for now, and 3 meaning that you exemplify or lead by example in this category.
- I also encourage you to reach out to a mentor or colleague to also rate your abilities. Recognize between your ratings and those from others which areas you have the most room to improve. Focus on those areas specifically and once again remove judging yourself from the equation. For each of the 1’s,,, write down a sentence or two what traits someone with a 3 rating would exemplify. What do others do that make them 3’s? Not what you could be doing, but what makes the best of the best, better than the rest?
- Now, develop a plan (maybe which books to read or people to mimic and learn from) to get you to that 3-level over the next 6 months. Create a goal for this month to get you started and (if you’re comfortable) bring in an accountability buddy to observe you from afar and track your progress. Re-iterate your evaluation process every 6 months or so and constantly be improving what you’re worst at. Before too long your WORST skill will be better than other’s BEST skills.
- Also, as a side note, in our interview preparation materials on WehnerEd.com we list “what is your greatest weakness” as a common interview question. Once you complete this process JUST ONCE, you now have a complete and impressive way to answer this question- both what you view as a weakness and WHAT YOU'RE DOING to improve yourself. Now that’s effective progress!
So far, we have covered 3 of the 12 successful habits that can help you excel in any career.
- Commit yourself 100%
- Get to know your team.
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
While that’s all the time we have in our short-form podcast episodes, these 3 and the remaining 9 methods are all thoroughly outlined with actionable steps to implement them in your own life – – – in our latest WehnerEd Power-Up PDF at WehnerEd.com/powerups.
For those that don’t have the budget for 1-on-1 personalized coaching, and can’t afford the time to read dozens of books written by the highest achievers, these quick-action guides will quickly and affordably give you the tools and knowledge you need
- To be a rock star in your current career
- To efficiently and confidently change careers into your dream job
- To easily navigate the overwhelming varieties of online education
- Or to simply prepare you for an upcoming interview
Our selection of guides grows weekly and can help you be your best while feeling happy and fulfilled.
Check them out today at WehnerEd.com/powerups