1. Never escalate problems up to your manager. Try to communicate up solutions, and ask your manager to help with strategy and communications.
Never communicate up a problem to your manager with no answer. For example, do not say this:
“The new search engine we just launched is unstable and the help desk is getting a ton of calls. What should we do ?”
This is better:
“Our team is working on the problem. We are talking directly to the users to identify the source of the problem. We may need your help to communicate with the manager of the help desk, but let us work on it and see if we can fix it quickly.”
This is also good:
(to your manager)…. At today’s staff meeting, everyone seemed concerned with the delays on the version 2 roll-out, I’d like to organize a small workgroup to get this on track. Sound OK? ….. What’s the best way to approach Karen and Tom?”
2. Place information on the wall of your cube or office that tracks performance
using unedited (raw) data.
This is a subtle but powerful way to communicate to your co-workers and management that you are serious about your projects and raw data is always seen as a credible measure of performance. So you are broadcasting your performance (to anyone that walks by) without looking self-serving.
For example, I had this hit count above my desk for several years:
3. When mistakes are made in your group, jump to the head of the line to take responsibility.
This does not make sense, does it? Things always go wrong. Look for an opportunity to take responsibility for something that goes wrong in your group, even if it is not directly your fault. Meet face to face with your manager and take full responsibility. Keep the communication to your manager short and don’t provide excuses.
Use words like this:
“I take responsibility for this screw-up”. “Total brain failure on my part”. “I should have seen this coming.” “I will fix it.”
or this is even better:
“Fingers are being pointed at the support team for this problem, but it’s really my fault, I should have anticipated this and communicated to the support team in advance.”
4. Cancel any project that has lost momentum or is going sideways.
Try to keep positive momentum on all your projects. But also be totally honest. Constantly self-evaluate your work. If you are not making progress, try to sidestep obstacles and consider a complete change in strategy. If you are leading a project that has lost momentum, have the courage to end it. Co-workers and managers will respect candor and personal responsibility. For example:
“Hey team, this is my project and it is going nowhere. My fault. Let’s end it now and move on to something better …..”
5. Use the “Power of Pretzels” to make friends and influence co-workers.
One of the best ways to get noticed in a large company is to surprise your co-workers with food. The best idea is to put out pretzels near your cube each afternoon and invite co-workers and managers to stop bypower of pretzels and have a quick pretzel break. Buy the big jar of Utz pretzels at Walmart for a couple bucks or the Rold Gold Rods. Don’t underestimate this one.
User feedback from February, 2002:
I do not remember how I stumbled on to your web site, but one item I gleaned
was the pretzel thing at work. I work in Quality Control for a
pharmaceutical co. where the stress level runs pretty high. So I thought I
would try the pretzel thing (Utz’s country store brand) and I have had
company directors and vp’s literally eating out of my hand. It is amazing
how many people come by, and all for a couple bucks a week.
6. Coach management to use or fix their personal computers.
The senior types in your organization may have weak computer skills. And they may be reluctant to call the Help Desk to get help. Find any way to be the personal help desk person to your boss or senior management. Doesn’t matter if it’s not your job, it creates an opportunity to bond with the senior people.
7. Actively re-direct credit and thanks to others.
When a project is done, send an e-mail to all involved (including all management above) announcing the project was completed successfully and particular thanks is owed to ______. This is a powerful strategy to get management to see you as a leader.
For example, a short voice mail to a manager saying this:
“Mary, just wanted to say what an outstanding job Jim did on the re-design project. He had the key idea on …..”
At the end of the year when everyone is doing performance reviews, think of people outside your immediate group that helped you on a project in the past year. Send that person’s manager and the manager one more level up, a note that recognizes the work of that employee. For example write this:
“Jim and Lori, At our staff meeting today we discussed our performance reviews for 2003. I asked my team for names of people outside our group that made big contributions to our projects. Jack Fleming was at the top of list for troubleshooting the server problem when we launched the new enhancements. That was huge. Just a quick note in recognition of Jack’s work in the past year, and we look forward to working with your team in 2004. -Mark “
8. Use face-to-face meetings or the phone to communicate bad news or to disarm people that are blocking your projects.
Never communicate negative opinions or bad news using e-mail, chat or voicemail. Pick up the phone or setup a face to face meeting.
If you receive an e-mail with negative opinions or if you are copied on an e-mail debate where negative opinions are shared, do not “reply to all” to continue the debate. Call the person directly and say
“Tom, I’m reading this good e-mail debate on the project, I wanted to call you directly to understand your view on this….”
You will be amazed at how quickly people calm down when you call them or meet with them face to face.
If you are not getting the collaboration you need on a project, call the key person and say:
“Hey Paul, I know you guys are very busy, but your group has all the talent on this project, we need your help to …..”
E-mail is an excellent channel to communicate positive news because it can be easily forwarded to others.
Just a quick note to say thanks for putting Mary on the search engine project, she found the cause of the error message and fixed it. Now all is fine.
Thanks again. Mark
9. Avoid long meetings by taking the initiative to organize short meetings and respond quickly to any e-mail and phone calls.
Nothing will sap your energy and productivity more than long conference calls or half day meetings. If you do not respond quickly to e-mail or phone calls, problems can grow and you will be invited to long meetings to discuss the problem. Try to be pro-active by quickly responding to all communications channels and take the initiative to organize the meetings so you can keep them short and productive.
10. Dress one level – up that of your co-workers
This is a subtle thing. You don’t want to look clearly more casual or less casual than your co-workers……..just better. Do it this way. Go to an upscale store like Nordstrom wearing the cloths you typically wear at work. Find a good salesperson and tell them this is what I wear every day. I want to look better. Not less casual, just better. Let them take it from there. It will cost you, but you will make it back in career advancement.