Probe Three Areas to Accelerate Professional Development

Let’s be clear – you are in charge of your own personal development. Your organization may have systems or processes in place; however maximizing their effectiveness requires work by your manager, HR and yourself. The only cog in that wheel you have control over is yourself. That being said, here are some areas to probe in your organization to get the most out of your personally and professional experiences.

22684098_sIs a Performance Review Important?

Many organizations have performance reviews and honestly organizations struggle with doing them for a variety of reasons. The process is regulated to a once a year event and discussions that happen often are proven more effective. Managers find themselves ill-equipped to have candid or difficult discussions and then over rate their employees, giving them a false sense of accomplishment. With these hurdles, you may still wonder why would a performance review be helpful?

Remember, there were three cogs in the wheel – you are one of those spokes. There are steps you can take to help your manager be more comfortable with discussing your performance. Here are a few:

  • Ensure you have clear, measurable and attainable goals at the beginning of the year.
  • Schedule periodic discussions with your boss and share any roadblocks you are facing along the way.
  • Ask for help in a timely manner, not at the end of the year.
  • Conduct a self-evaluation and share it with your boss ahead of time.

Managers can get overwhelmed with writing performance reviews, especially if goals are not established clearly in advance. Help them overcome making something up by providing information that they can use. Remember, when you know where you stand with an organization, you can celebrate your wins and plan what to work on to be more successful.

Delink Performance and Development Discussions

The trend over the last ten years has been to delink performance and professional development discussions yet some organizations still do it. Why? In the manager’s eyes it saves time.

If you find that your manager wants to talk about your development during the performance discussion, ask if you can schedule a separate meeting otherwise the discussion will last about five minutes.

Let your manager know you would like to reflect on your performance review and put together a plan for development. This requires some preparation time for you to put your thoughts together on paper. When they say yes, schedule your appointment immediately.

To prepare for the meeting, review the requirements for your current job, think about what future goals might be set and decide where you want to head within the organization. As you work through the list, there may be some skills or experiences that would help you become more productive or valuable in your role. Discuss your developmental activities your manager during the development discussion. Many times the organization will sponsor your training or development, sometimes you may have to do things on your own.

If for some reason, your manager declines to have a professional development discussion – it is time to figure out what is stalling your career.

How Do I Get Promoted?

Promotions over the last decade have decreased. Why? Flatter organizational structures eliminated many layers with a company. Each layer represented an opportunity for a promotion. That being said, promotions still do happen.

Periodically management review their top performers during a succession planning discussion. You might wonder how you can get on that coveted list. The secret is really easy – be a stellar performer and be respected by the management team. If they see you as a go-to person who asks for challenging assignments and helps the company become more productive or grow, you are on your way to getting noticed.

Start with a conversation with you manager. Find out if they know anything about performance or succession planning discussions within the company. If they take part, they may share some information.

You won’t find out who is on the list, but they may share if you are being considered. Personally I believe that organizations should share with the employee that they are being discussed, however, there are many organizations that keep it a secret.

If you focus on these three areas within your organization, you will put yourself on the radar screen for advancement.

How to Infuse Success into Succession Planning

Succession planning is a strategic people objective in many organizations. It is the cornerstone of having the right people in the right jobs for the organization to meet its short and long-term goals.

Many organizations struggle with acquiring the right business, technical and leadership skills to drive performance and cultural results. The right complement of people is more difficult than buying a piece of equipment or software, yet senior leadership spends less time and investment dollars on this aspect of the business than making a capital decision.

Here’s the thing about succession planning. It does not have to be difficult or complicated. The power of the succession plan is in the discussion and execution of decisions made to develop or retain specific people in the organization. It does not require you to take action on every person in the organization. Scope is completely optional and is dependent on the risks associated with having the right people to meet business objectives.

Successful succession planning tasks senior leadership to be honest about employee potential – to have candid conversations, assess people accurately, work with each other across functional lines and commit to a solid platform or process for development.

Bottom line – it takes planning, focus, investment and execution – after all, it is a “human” capital project.

Organizations can establish metrics for succession planning. Once employees have been identified, the organization can determine:

  • Percentage or number of employees who are high potentials
  • Percentage or number employees who are key employees to retain
  • Goals for movement – promotion or development
  • Investment monies for development

The organization can measure the success of their planning and development process. Consider these areas:

  • Specific development plans were written down and communicated
  • Development plans were executed for each person
  • Specific development activities and the ROI in a particular development area
  • Planned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Unplanned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Turnover – how many left for a better opportunity
  • Employee removed from the succession planning candidate pool

Ideally, succession-planning metrics are established at the beginning of the year and evaluated at year-end. This approach provides opportunities to assess what metrics and outcomes require refinement and key topics for senior leadership team discussions.

Three Pitfalls a New Manager Should Avoid

Congratulations, you have been promoted to a new manager role within your organization. With that new manager title comes some responsibilities to yourself, your staff and the organization. How you handle your transition into the new manager role will set the stage for how your direct reports, peers and boss evaluate your potential.

istock_000006404981xsmallThese three pitfalls new managers face are common. It may take a little maneuvering to avoid doing them because the company culture or the outgoing manager believes they are doing you a favor, when in reality they are not.

Making Assumptions on Expectations and Goals

It is very important to get clear goals when you first move into the new manager role. What you were told during the interview may not be what is really going on in the organization.

Develop your goals with your manager and get things in writing. Make sure the goals or outcomes have clear measurements and timelines associated with them. Inquire what resources you may need to be successful and engage your new boss in how to best go about it.

Avoid Getting an Initial Debrief on Your New Staff

Every new manager is faced with this well-intentioned helpfulness that frankly sets you up for more work and sometimes – poor decision-making.

It is not imperative that you know the history of every direct report with the previous manager because they had their own opinions and filters on performance and engagement.

Just think, how many times you have in the past had a manager you did not gel with and when someone came along and believed in you that things changed and you flourished. Give your new direct reports an opportunity to show you what they can do and not having them start in the hole.

You are being brought in to make a change or to bring a new perspective to a department. Demonstrate managerial courage and strength by making your first assessment independently.

Build Peer Relationships Early

As a new manager, you will be stretched in many directions. Some new managers forget to build peer relationships and alliances early in their new role. These advocates can make or break you. They will serve as a resource to understanding the organization’s culture and norms.

A word of caution about relationship building – avoid fueling any gossip or water cooler information. Listen and ask questions. Be curious about the new organization and use judgment on what you share.

By avoiding these three pitfalls that new managers face, you will set yourself up for a more successful integration. If you want more information on some of these pitfalls consider getting my eBook: The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding.


Is Your Career Progression on Track?

You probably have asked yourself that question, “Is your career progression on track?” several times over your lifetime.

Businesswoman climbing ladder.Perhaps early in your career, you made great traction and then things slowed down or you were a slow starter and are ready to figure how to ramp your career progression up. Either way, questioning your progress is natural and normal.

When evaluating your career progression, think about the pivotal points along the way – they may have been physical moves, marriage, children, illness, divorce, changing jobs or education.

If you were to draw out a map of your life, identify the major events that took place that affected your career progression by putting it on hold or propelling it beyond your expectations.

As you consider those life junctures, do you have an opportunity to recreate them if the impact of them was positive? If so, what are the risks and upsides to making those leaps? Are you willing to make those changes? Do you have the support of your family or support system to do it?

As we grow older, making changes and taking risks get harder unless you are someone who likes to live on the edge. We create lives that become more complicated because of financial or personal obligations.

Know that you can work your way to moving forward. Your career progression may not be at the pace you hoped for. It may take some planning. It may require you to take some risks or make some changes in the way you are approaching your work situation. All of this “stuff” that gets in the way can be resolved if you have the right attitude and determination to make it work.

Nail the Interview with Three Interviewing Techniques

Interviewing is not easy. In fact, interviewing can be quite stressful. You want the job, or at least you think you do. How to you prepare yourself so you can nail that interview? There are three interviewing techniques that will help you move ahead of the competition:

istock_000006916716xsmallDevelop Killer Interview Questions

No doubt, the normal questions asked – what are your benefits, what is the culture like, what is your management style are expected by the interviewer. In fact, those questions are so generic that you will get generic answers unless you drill down.

If you are like the majority of interviewers, you hesitate to ask direct and specific questions that may put your interviewer on the spot. Well here’s a little secret – if you can have them pause to think about how they might answer your killer question, you have their attention. Just be careful not to intimidate them or show too much of your ego as this interviewing technique can backfire quickly.

Answer Questions Holistically

When asked a question, the faster you connect and establish rapport with your interviewer the better. How you connect with them quicker is by communicating with them in their most preferred style of communication. Some people like logic; others prefer a step-by-step approach, knowing the big picture or intuitive approach. Whatever their preference, if you can hit their sweet spot for communication, you develop rapport.

The trick to this technique is to answer your question taking in account all four approaches and see how they respond to your answers. Once you know their preferred style, you can adjust your answers accordingly.

Positive Self-confidence

It shows up in the way you speak, the way you hold yourself and body language. Interviewers are looking for someone with positive self-confidence – not the cocky ego that rears its ugly head with some people. This is the killer of many interviews. If you lack self-confidence, it will overcast your interview.

How do you develop self-confidence? The more competent you become at mastering interviewing techniques, the more confident you will become when you are in an important interview. It takes practice.

While there are many more interviewing techniques, the ones I have discussed come up over and over with clients I work with. Figure out which one is causing you the most angst and make some progress on improving your delivery. You might be surprised at how quickly you see positive results.

Making an Impression at Work

Sometimes people just get it right. A friend’s son shared his story about making an impression on the CEO, CFO and Chairman of the Board of his company. He did not try to WOW them with a pre-planned encounter; he was himself – in the moment – showing his true personality and asking questions as if they were his peers.

Kudos to the executives who welcomed and cultivated a professional relationship with someone unpicked from a slate of high potential candidates and saw potential in the unobvious.

Here’s the story about making an impression at work – there are many lessons to glean. No doubt, the self-confidence this man exudes will take him very far.

So I’m standing out front of my office building taking a couple hits off my vape and checking my Instagram, when the CEO, CFO, and Chairman of the Board come strolling out. These are white collar men who have never heard the term casual Friday, in suits I can coolly appraise around $2k and shoes meticulously shined to a mirror sheen. The Chairman (whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but am impressed by his record of many years as the CEO of our music company) takes a look at me and remarks, “That’s the coolest looking guy I’ve ever seen hanging out in front of our building”.

Now my first reaction is to blush a bit and fumble my words, because I am not sure if they’re making fun of me or not. The CEO and CFO introduce me and I am promptly invited out to lunch at the cafe down the block with three of the wealthiest and most successful men I’ll probably ever meet.

I did most of the talking, though I’m wisely tight lipped about most of my past, what seems to impress them the most is the admission that I am a high school dropout who never finished community college. While these three
gentlemen hold master’s degrees in accounting and business, they are extremely eager to hear my opinion of the organization, both as an hourly wage employee and as a newcomer to Los Angeles, taking my first tip toeing steps towards discovering my own identity as a Jewish person.

“Where is the representation for culture?” is my number one question to everyone I work with. I code pages and event forms every day for the silver spoon crowd – lawyers, real estate investors, and film producers. These people are fourth generation and up of affluent Angelino society. They had valet park their Mercedes for the networking meeting – I took the bus. My question to these community leaders was this – within the Jewish community, am I simply not Jewish enough? If we are supposed to bind together as Jews in the face of adversity, does classism still exist within our own institution?

Apparently these are important questions to ask, as I now have an official meeting with them after the holidays and an invitation to join the young adults’ leadership development program. A cool guy dressed all in black who’s not afraid to ask a trio of millionaires why our organization overlooks artists and musicians seems like exactly the kind of person who needs to be in a community leadership role here in Los Angeles.

How to Find out About Your Career Progression

You may have joined a new organization or you have been in a job for a while and you are curious about what kind of career progression your company offers you. How do you find out about it?

There are a number of people in your organization that can help you answer that question and who those people are will depend on the size of your organization or company. The larger the company, the more specialized the roles in the human resources department and that will decide who you should be approaching.

Who Knows About Career Progression?

The Human Resources department keeps information about career progression especially in large companies because it is a central point of contact. They conduct the research about positions and how salaries tie to the different levels within an organization. Here is a list of Human Resources people who may have knowledge about career progression:

HR Generalist – often the person who supports the business group or function. They have general information about career progression especially if they support functions across different divisions.  This is a good person to talk to first. Bounce off questions that you have about how to advance yourself in the organization. If they need more detail about your specific situation, they will consult with the specialists in their department or refer you directly to them.

Compensation Specialists map out the functional pathways of career progression within organizations so that can benchmark those jobs for compensation purposes.  This is good place to see how a functional organization’s career progression is mapped out to help you plan on different roles to consider for development. Absent having this information, an organizational chart would be helpful.

Organization Development Specialists help lead the succession planning efforts in organizations. Succession planning is the process where leaders identify and slot people for future promotional opportunities and create definitive development plans to aid in propelling their career progression.

Other Career Progression Sources

Let’s not forget that talking to your manager or the head of your department is also a great resource. They have may have come up the ranks and will offer personal insight into what kinds of skills or assignments will be beneficial as you move up the career ladder.

Finally, if there are people in the organization who have a role you aspire to, then do some research to see how they progressed either inside or outside the organization. Check to see if they have a LinkedIn profile – that may give you a good starting point. Once you have some specific questions outlined, ask for a meeting and find out their story. Most people love to talk about their career progression with others.