Sunday, April 28, 2013

What to Demonstrate to Your Company's Key Staff (And a Rare Public Class Announcement)

Last time we talked about who you want to talk to in order to affect the culture and introduce your ideas into consideration. There will be lots more on that later, because finding the right people is pretty critical in getting your ideas adopted. This time we want to talk about WHAT you say to them, and maybe a little on HOW you say it.

There are a few things you want to accomplish in your conversations that are not intuitive and how you are viewed has a big impact on your success with accomplishing them. Let’s talk about how you would like to be perceived in order be considered as a key employee by a typical employer.

You are serious about contributing the company’s success and are capable of doing so.
  • This means you are recognized as credible by those employees that matter (those outside of your regular circle that shape company culture and, of course, your peers and immediate superiors). They know that you are appropriately educated and trained, that you get good results, and that you make extra effort when needed. You don’t talk about doing work in order to “keep so-and-so off my back”, but instead talk about your reason for doing the work as achieving an objective or meeting a goal that is important to the company. Become aware of the goals and objectives that your tasks support. If you were a manager, and you needed help on something important, you would want someone that has demonstrated their ability to recognize important tasks and place their effort on them.
  • In order to make it clear that you are this person, you may want to talk SPARINGLY about your education, your training, and your experience in past jobs but remember this (important note here – EXPERTS are considered more credible if their education, training, and experience enable them to EXPLAIN what is right or wrong about a specific action. Experts that refer to their education, training, and experience in order to AVOID giving explanations are likely to be perceived as blowhards.)
  • It is also important that you share your track record of success, both at your current employer and prior, and that you do it sparingly. You must not be seen as a braggart because braggarts are generally suspected of exaggerating and exaggerating is a form of dishonesty that undermines your credibility. A good way to encourage others to help spread word of your successes independently is to ALWAYS give credit publicly for the accomplishments of others. If you do this, people will want to reciprocate by talking of yours. Do not, however, engage in false modesty or give credit where it is not due.

You are serious about work, and you also have a life outside doing things that are interesting and aligned with the values of the key employees at your company.
  • This means that you prioritize work highly in the way you live your life, and the things you do outside of work are like the things that the key people at your work do. This one worries some people in that they think that I am recommending that they change “who they are”. I would not recommend that you change anything about your character for anyone but yourself. Change is good if it is needed, and you are the judge of that. What I AM pointing out is that part of creating a connection with the key people in your organization is to demonstrate how you are LIKE them.
  • I’ll give you an example – many of the people with whom I work are charitable givers. That is, they give money or time to the community. I was not giving to any charities, so I found a couple that aligned with who I am and began to be involved. I found it enriching, made me feel good, and when I would bring it up at work (usually in a regular old “what did you do last weekend” talk) people saw me as the kind of person that they can respect – someone like them. Not because I faked it, but because I found a way to do it that was true to who I am.
  • As we get deeper into the study of persuasion and influence, we will talk about the work of Robert Cialdini. In his research, he found that people are persuaded more easily by people that the feel are like themselves. Find a few ways in which you are truly like those with whom you work, and demonstrate it. DON’T try to be someone you aren't – be who you are and show those parts of your character that are like theirs.

You can intake information, analyze it, and create and articulate courses of action that are organized, actionable, and likely to be effective.
  • This is a skill which we will cover off and on through this series of articles. Being able to get data (that is, research issues and ask questions) is really rare and knowing how to do it will set you apart. Being able to ask someone questions about a sensitive topic, getting the truth, and improving the relationship with them is the hallmark of an expert and we will walk through many techniques to do this. After you get the information, you need to be able to weigh it out and find a course of action.
  • This is a largely collaborative process and, again, being able to guide such discussions is very rare but we will learn how to do it and build teams and commitment at the same time. It is critical that we can collaborate with others without much ego and help them focus their individual expertise on effective collaborative outcomes.

You can operate with some ambiguity in your work.
  • Many times one has to work through trade-offs (when changing things means that some things improve and other things get worse) or solutions that improve the short term at the sake of the long term, or vice versa. Learning to recognize these instances and talk through the relative benefits and penalties is an important skill to elite team members.
  • For an example, many times in order to reduce rework that results from a poorly run process, I have found that we need to add a little planning work. The addition of planning in many cases reduces the OVERALL costs or time of the process but the PLANNING time is increased. The folks responsible for the planning think I am crazy – that I am just making things take longer and they are right from THEIR perspective. Overall, though, we reduce cost which is what we need to do from an OVERALL perspective. After we are sure that we have reduced overall cost by doing a little more planning, THEN we try to find ways to do the planning more efficiently so we can reduce the time it takes to do that.
  • By being able to recognize, articulate, and work through the ambiguities with all team members, you become increasingly valuable.

The topics above are four critical ways you can strive to be perceived if you want to start working on the culture of your organization. Study them to find ways you can begin living them at your work. Remember to always be yourself – don’t abandon the principles that are important to you in order to fit in. Emphasize and demonstrate the parts of you fit in with your organization’s elite team.

As for any skills that you may need to develop or refresh to assist, I am anticipating conducting a class this spring / summer again. The cost will be $199 total and will take 3 days. If you are interested, let me know. If there is enough interest, I will select dates that work around my existing private classes so that we can have a group class for any that are interested. As many of you long time readers know, I have been booked with private classes for the last two years so this “open to the public” class is a rare opportunity to be guided through these high-performance communication principles. Write to

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