Essential Qualities of Highly Promotable Employees

promotions, careers

One of the most common questions asked by an employee of his or her company is, “What can I do to get promoted?”

The thinking behind the question is obvious: The employee assumes there be some key initiative, some specific action, some high visibility project, or some critical role the employee should take on, and if they do, promotion is almost guaranteed.

And maybe, just maybe, that is occasionally true.

But there’s a much better approach. The key to advancing – whether professionally or personally – is not based solely on what you should do (although what you do is certainly important.) The key to advancing is based on what you should be.

Attitude informs action. Attitude informs behavior.

Attitude is the driving force behind every achievement, every accomplishment, every success, attitude, where performance and therefore advancement is concerned, is everything.

Here are some of the attitudes and perspectives that inform the actions of incredibly successful people – in all walks of life:

Are humble, not arrogant.

Arrogant people think they know everything; humble people are always learning. Humble people ask questions. Humble people ask for help.

Humble people automatically share credit because they instinctively realize that every effort, no matter how seemingly individual, is actually a team effort.

Humble people are willing to take on any job, no matter how menial, because they realize no job is beneath them, and in the process they prove that no job is above them.

Ultimately, success is not limited by how high you can stretch… but by how low you are willing to bend.

Are servants, not self-serving.

No one accomplishes anything worthwhile on his own. No one.

Great teammates make everyone around them better. Take an unselfish basketball player: He makes his teammates better by delivering pinpoint passes in space, by boxing out, by setting solid screens, by rotating on defense… all the things that don’t show up in the statistics but definitely improve the stats of his teammates.

Great leaders focus on providing the tools and training and culture to help their employees do their jobs better – and achieve their own goals.

Even great businesses serve their customers first; they know that by serving their customers they ultimately serve the interests of their business.

The employee only in it for himself will someday be by himself. The employee in it for others may not get all the limelight, but trust me, the right people definitely notice.

Are optimistic, not pessimistic.

Optimists add energy to a situation, or meeting, or business; pessimists suck energy away. Optimists try more things and take more (intelligent) risks simply because they focus on what can go right. Pessimists never get started because they’re too busy thinking of what might go wrong.

Optimists don’t feel they need to wait – to be promoted, or accepted, or selected, or “discovered” – they feel they can, if they work hard, accomplish almost anything.

Optimism is infectious.

Think execution, not just planning.

Planning is definitely important, but countless shelves are filled with strategies that were never implemented.

The best employees develop an idea, create a strategy, set up a basic operational plan… and then execute, adapt, execute, revise, execute, refine, and make incredible things happen based on what works in practice, not in theory.

Success starts with strategy — but ultimately ends with execution.

Employees who advance are certainly good at planning, but they’re awesome at execution.

Think forever, not today.

Real leadership isn’t situation or short-lived. Real leaders are able to consistently inspire, motivate, and make people feel better about themselves than they may even think they have a right to feel. Real leaders are the kind of people you follow not because you have to… but because you want to.

You’ll follow a real leader anywhere. And you’ll follow a real leader forever, because she has a knack for making you feel you aren’t actually following – wherever you’re going you feel like you’re going there together.

Creating that level of respect, that level of trust, and that type of bond takes time. Great employees consider not just the short-term but also the long-term – and then act accordingly.

And, in time, are placed in positions where they can truly influence the long-term success of their team, their unit, and their company.

Are volunteers, not draftees.

Sure, you have a manager, or a board, or some higher authority. They may often ask you to do things.

Still: The best employees are natural volunteers. They volunteer for extra tasks. They volunteer for responsibility before responsibility is delegated. They volunteer to train or mentor new employees. They offer to help people who need help – and even those who don’t.

Why is that important? Volunteering demonstrates leadership aptitude. Leaders are proactive, and proactive people don’t wait to be told what to do. They’re already doing it.

Successful employees earn their promotions by first working harder, just like successful businesses earn higher revenue by first delivering greater value, and like successful entrepreneurs earn bigger payoffs by first working hard, well before any potential return is in sight.

Draftees expect to be asked. Draftees expect to be compensated more before they will even consider doing more.

Volunteers just do it – and, in time, their careers flourish.

Are self-aware, not selfish.

Self-aware people understand themselves, and that awareness helps them understand the people around them. Self-aware people are more empathetic. They are more accepting of the weaknesses and failures of others because they know how it feels to fail.

They can lead with empathy, compassion, and kindness because they know how it feels to be treated with disregard, disdain, and scorn. They do everything they can to help others reach their goals, because they know how it feels to fall short.

Self-aware people solve for the team, the organization, and the customer – not just for themselves.

Every organization needs self-aware people in key roles. (What is a key role? Every role.)

Are adaptable, not rigid.

Things constantly change in high-growth companies. Inflexible people tend to grow uncomfortable with too much change and consciously – even unconsciously – try to slow things down.

Best practices are important. Methodology is important. Guidelines, procedures, policies… all can help a business run smoothly.

But anyone can follow guidelines and procedures. Great employees are willing, even eager, to change. Great employees respond to new circumstances and new challenges with excitement, not hesitation. Employees willing to adapt and adjust tend to advance more quickly because that is what every company – especially a high-growth company – desperately needs.

Otherwise growth will be a thing of the past, not the future.

Are teachers, not truant officers.

The best people like to teach. They don’t hoard knowledge; they spread it. They share what they know.

A truant officer’s job is to make sure people show up. A teacher’s job is to make sure people learn.

Besides, truant officers tend to give “advice”: Do this. Don’t do that. Go here. Don’t go there.

A teacher gives knowledge. A teacher helps other people gain experience, gain wisdom, gain insight, a teacher willingly and happily gives other people tools they can use.

In the process a teacher build teams. And a teacher advances, because a true team builder is a rare, precious gem.

-Darmesh Shah, Founder and CEO of HubSpot

What do you think? Any essential qualities that I missed that should be on the list?

7 Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy (And Working Really Hard)

Happy Face

It doesn’t matter what you build, invent or sell; your organization can’t move forward without people. CEOs, company founders and managers the world over know that keeping the teams beneath them moving forward together in harmony means the difference between winning and dying.

Prof. Leonard J. Glick, Professor of management and organizational development at Boston’s Northeastern University, teaches the art of motivating employees for a living. He let FORBES in on a few tips for entrepreneurs and managers looking to keep their people smiling and producing.

You’ve got to get employees to feel that they own the place, not just work there. “One of the principles of self-managed teams is to organize around a whole service or product,” Glick explained. In other words, make sure company personnel feel responsible for what the customer is buying.

One way to inspire that feeling is to have each member of a team become familiar with what other team members are doing, allowing them to bring their ideas for improvement to the table and have input in the whole process. If the roles are not too specialized, have your people rotate responsibilities from time to time. “It all contributes to a feeling of ‘it’s mine,’ and most people, when it’s theirs, don’t want to fail, don’t want to build poor quality and don’t want to dissatisfy the customer,” said Glick.

Trust Employees To Leave Their Comfort Zones

Few employees want to do one specific task over and over again until they quit or retire or die. Don’t be afraid to grant them new responsibilities—it will allow them to grow and become more confident in their abilities while making them feel more valuable to the organization.

Though managers might feel allowing their people to try new things presents a risk to productivity or places workers outside of their established place, it heads off other issues. “To me the bigger risk is having people get burnt out or bored,” explained Glick.

Keep Your Team Informed

Business leaders have a clearer perspective on the bigger picture than their employees do. It pays to tell those under you what’s going on. “Things that managers take for common knowledge about how things are going or what challenges are down the road or what new products are coming… they often don’t take the time to share that with their employees,” Glick said. Spreading the intel lets everyone in on the lay of theland and at the same time strengthens the feeling among workers that they are an important part of the organization.

Your Employees Are Adults—Treat Them Like It

In any business there is going to be bad news. Whether it’s to do with the company as a whole or an individual within the organization, employees need to be dealt with in a straightforward and respectable manner. “They can handle it, usually,” said Glick. If you choose to keep your people in the dark about trying times or issues, the fallout could be a serious pain in the neck. “The rumors are typically worse than reality. In the absence of knowledge people make things up.”

You’re The Boss. You May Have To Act Like It Sometimes (but be consistent)

Though this issue is affected by an organization’s overall culture, there are going to be times when you have to make a decision as a leader, despite whatever efforts you may have made to put yourself on equal footing with your personnel. “Ideally they have an open relationship but not necessarily are peers,” Glick said of the manager-employee relationship. “I think the worst thing is to pretend you’re peer… it’s the inconsistency, I think, which is the bigger problem.”

Money Matters (But Not As Much As You Think)

Compensation packages are a big deal when employees are hired, but once a deal has been struck the source of motivation tends to shift. “The motivation comes from the things I’ve been talking about—the challenge of the work, the purpose of the work, the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to contribute,” Glick explained.

When it comes to finding a salary that will allow your employees to feel they’re being paid fairly, don’t bend over backwards to lowball them. If you do, they will eventually find out and not be happy. “If the salary were open, is it defensible?”

Perks Matter (But Not As Much As You Think)

Some companies (we’re looking at you Google GOOG +0.21%) have received attention for offering lavish perks to their personnel – massages, free gourmet lunches, ping pong tables, childcare facilities – but, like money, these things tend to be less powerful motivators for workers than in-job challenges and the feeling of being a valuable part of a quality team that will recognize their contribution. A manager needs to understand that though those perks are great and release burdens from employees’ shoulders, they are not a substitute for prime sources of professional inspiration.

“I don’t think people work harder, work better because of those things,” said Glick. “It may make it easier for them to come to work, I understand that.”

– Karsten Strauss

Eight Ways to Turn Sales Reps into Creative Thinkers

Creative ThinkingSuccess in sales depends on how well you differentiate yourself and your product. That requires creativity. Average salespeople may be a dime a dozen, but truly original, creative thinkers are harder to find. Customers want to work with a salesperson who can generate ideas to set them apart from and ahead of their competition. Use these sales management tips to boost your team’s creativity and your bottom line.
1. Encourage daily improvement. Ask your team to concentrate on improving just one selling skill each day. At the end of the day, allow salespeople to exchange ideas on what they did differently that day and what effect it had. Open the floor for suggestions on improving and expanding each idea.
2. Post a brainstorming board. Encourage your team to generate solutions to a specific problem. On a whiteboard, write a common sales theme or problem. To help solve your team’s actual selling problems, take suggestions and give them a chance to come up with the problem.
3. Hold an idea lottery. Each month, use a roll of numbered tickets to hold an idea lottery. Solicit original ideas from your team, and reward the contributor of each new idea with a ticket. At the end of the month, fill a bowl with pieces of paper with numbers corresponding to the ticket numbers. Share the contributed ideas with your team, then draw a number from the bowl. The salesperson whose ticket number matches the number drawn wins a prize. Good prizes include dinner for two at a nice restaurant, movie tickets (throw in money for popcorn and drinks) or a gift certificate.
4. Display personal creativity symbols. Each of your salespeople has a unique perspective. Encourage them to express their individuality by having them display items on their desks that represent their views of creativity in selling. A crystal ball, for example, might represent a view toward future sales, or a bottle of Heinz ketchup could symbolize a personal goal of generating 57 new selling ideas.
5. Brainstorm over burgers. Group brainstorming sessions allow your salespeople to bounce ideas off one another. Each week, have your salespeople meet for lunch in groups of four or five. Ask each person to read and share from an article, report, or book chapter on creativity and relate it to how it can help sales. When you can, invite an innovative businessperson to join you and provide an outside perspective.
6. Keep a bright ideas notebook. To make your team’s ideas pay off, you have to put them to use. Help ensure that those ideas don’t go to waste by encouraging your salespeople to record their ideas in a notebook. Each day, have your team write down three ideas for improving sales, and at the end of each month, collect the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.
7. Start a creative thinker’s hall of fame. If your team isn’t used to thinking creatively, you may need to provide an incentive to motivate a change in their thought patterns. Designate a wall in your department as a “Hall of Fame” for posting photos of salespeople whose ideas are implemented. Accompany each photo with a paragraph about the salesperson, the idea that was contributed and its impact on the company.
8. Consider how things can be done instead of how they can’t. Many of mankind’s greatest inventions were believed to be impossible until some innovator found a way to make them work. Ask your salespeople to think of three sales-related goals or tasks they think are impossible (such as getting an appointment with a tough prospect or setting a new sales record). Then have them think of three ways to accomplish each “impossible” task.
Progress doesn’t come from following the same old routines over and over – it’s a result of innovation and imagination. The sales team that wants to sell more effectively first needs to think more effectively, which means breaking out of rigid and traditional thought patterns. By taking proactive steps to manage the efforts of your sales team to think more creatively, you’re helping them take advantage of their highest potential.
– Michael Michalko

The No. 1 Reason Business Ideas Fail and How You Can Avoid It

businessfailureresized600_1

I have a friend who has a steady stream of ideas — both great and hair-brained. A lot of times he comes up with viable new product ideas, but only occasionally stays the course required to bring the good ones to market. As a professional innovation consultant and brand developer, for me, this is like nails on a chalkboard.

Most recently, he brought me some samples for a chocolate eggnog he was developing. It was tasty, but the flavor profile needed tweaking and the packaging and marketing needed work. It had potential, if only he kept working on it. But the thought of having to continue in the development process was too daunting, or disappointing, or a combination of both, so he shelved the idea.

And that’s where a lot of inventors fail. They give up too soon.

There are four essential tenets of inventing and product development — especially once the rush of a great idea makes it from your imagination to paper or prototype.

1. Inventing is work that requires passion. Passion motivates us to persevere. Enthusiasm is essential to convince not only others of the worthiness of your ideas, but to convince yourself as well. You are going to have to do a lot of hard work before an idea reaches the point where a consumer realizes it’s exactly what they’ve been looking for.

Truly passionate inventors embrace the flaws in an idea, seeing them as pathways to workable solutions. Many aspiring entrepreneurs, however, are like my buddy, seeing criticism not as the starting point for revisions, but as red lights.

According to psychologist Martin Seligman, we can overcome pessimism by consciously developing our brain’s optimistic side using “self-talk” — a technique that involves actively disputing pessimistic assessments of our situation. This isn’t just a personal pep talk. It’s a rational and impartial way of looking at failure as temporary and fixable, which allows us to move on to new solutions.

2. Question everything. The moment you discover your idea is somehow not working can occur at any stage on the journey. Since I know this from experience, when a new idea pops into my head, I immediately start looking at all the negatives and potential challenges. I know if I uncover problems at the beginning and can solve them, there will be fewer obstacles along the path.

This habit can be frustrating to others who want me to just enjoy the idea, and not be so objective. But I can’t help it. I know that the myriad issues I have to tackle later will be lessened if I can eliminate other structural, marketing or packaging problems as soon as possible.

3. Trial and error is a good thing. There are times when you find you have to go one more round with an idea, create one more prototype, write one more description or marketing message and it just seems endless. You feel like the juices have stopped flowing. This is when you have to “act as if” and just sit down and do what needs to be done.

Going through the motions seems antithetical to creativity, but it’s really not. In fact, thinking — even seemingly “forced” thinking — does fire up our neurotransmitters, and what started out feeling forced may turn out to be your best work ever. Bottom line: push through the resistance.

4. There is no magic answer. Just as there is no one perfect way to live your life, there isn’t just one way to solve a creative problem. My friend, for example, could have gone in several directions with the flavor profile of his eggnog and more than one might have worked.

There are multiple ways to tweak a product to make it better. The one you settle on depends a lot on your purpose, audience and expectations. That’s why I advise innovators to make a product as early and as quickly as possible in order to let people play with it and offer useful user feedback.

Remember: Criticism shouldn’t invalidate your ideas. It should serve to strengthen them. If you really love your idea, you’ll be willing to listen, learn and pivot when necessary.

21 Awesome Things to Say to Yourself

businessman-looking-in-mirror-bkt_12170  Self-talk works for some people but not for me. Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am awesome, I am awesome, I am awesome…” is a waste of time since a louder voice in my head is always shouting, “No you’re not! No you’re not!”

But I do like self-talk that results from something I’ve done. Because I’ve earned it, the doubting voice in my head goes silent.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. For the next seven days, put aside your standard to-do list and do what it takes to ensure you can say these things to yourself:

1. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Pick one thing other people aren’t willing to do. Pick something simple. Pick something small. Make the call no one will make. Help the person no one will help. Volunteer for the task everyone else avoids.  Instantly you will be a little different from the rest of the pack. But why stop? Keep going. Every day do one thing no one else is willing to do. After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month, you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible. You won’t be like anyone else.

You’ll be you.

2. “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought…” The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.) But nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as you think. Plus it’s exciting to overcome a fear. You’ll get that, “I can’t believe I jumped out of an airplane!” rush, a feeling you may not have experienced for a long time. (And you may find that feeling is addictive, but in a good way.)

3. “It’s totally my fault.” People make mistakes. So we blame them for our problems. But we are almost always to blame, too. Maybe we didn’t provide enough training. Maybe we didn’t foresee a potential problem. Maybe we asked too much, too soon. Maybe we did or did not do something we could or should have. Take responsibility instead: Not in a masochistic, “woe is me” way, but in an empowering way. Take responsibility and then focus on being smarter or better or faster or more creative next time.

4. “I finally got started!” You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas. Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something. Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure often stops me and may be what stops you, too. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Do something. Do anything. Just take one small step.

The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.

5. “You’re great.” No one receives enough praise. No one. Pick someone who did something well and tell them. Feel free to go back in time. Saying, “I was just thinking about how you handled that project last year” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then… and maybe a little more impact because you still remember what happened a year later.

Surprise praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient.

6. “I’ll show you, –hole.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me (or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m justified in feeling that way or not.) Whether I’m justified in feeling slighted or angry is not the point: I use rejection to fuel my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong and, more importantly, achieve what I want to achieve.  Call it manufactured anger. Call it artificial competition. Call it, shoot, childish and immature. I don’t care — it works for me. And it can work for you.

So don’t turn the other mental cheek. Get pissed off, even if your anger is unjustified and imaginary — in fact, especially if your anger is unjustified or angry — because that will help shake you out of your same thing different day rut.

7. “Can you help me?” Asking someone for help instantly recognizes their skills and values and conveys your respect and admiration. That’s reason enough to ask someone for help — the fact you will get the help you need is icing on the achievement cake.

8. “Can I help you?” Then flip it around. Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness so they hesitate. Yet we can all use help. But don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will automatically say, “No, I’m all right.” Be specific. Say, “I’ve got a few minutes, can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous.

And then actually help. You’ll make a real difference in someone’s life–and you’ll take a solid step towards creating a connection with that person.

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” Most of the time you should worry, at least a little, about what other people think… but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live. If you really want to start a business but you’re worried people might think you’re crazy, F ’em. If you really want to change careers but you’re afraid of what people might think, F ’em. If you really want to start working out but you’re afraid people at the gym will think you’re fat or out of shape, F ’em.  Pick one thing you haven’t tried simply because you’re worried about what other people think — and just go do it.

It’s your life. Live it. F ’em.

10. “They’re no different than me.” Incredibly successful people don’t necessarily succeed because they’re smarter or more talented or somehow genetically gifted. The only thing that makes them different from you is the fact they have done what you haven’t done… yet. Find someone successful to talk to; you’ll come away realizing what they have done, you can do too.

You’ll realize you can be them — or, more importantly, you can be better than them.

11. “I’m really sorry.” We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we need to apologize for: Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive. Pick someone you need to apologize to — the more time that’s passed between the day it happened and today, the better. But don’t follow up your apology with a disclaimer like, “But I was really upset…” or, “I thought you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the tiniest amount of blame back on the other person.

Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. Then you’ll both be in a better place.

12. “I’m the king of the world!” Maybe Leo was on to something. According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing — standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips — will dramatically increase your confidence. Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound freaky, but it works.

13. “Yes.” You’re busy. Your plate is full. There are plenty of reasons to sit tight, safe, keep things as they are. But that also means tomorrow will be just like today. So say yes to something different. Say yes to something scary. Say yes to the opportunity you’re most afraid of. When you say yes, you’re really saying, “I trust myself.”

Trust yourself.

14. “No.” Still, you can’t do everything. You can’t help everyone. You may want to but you can’t. Sometimes you just need to say no: to a favor, to a request, to a family member. Sometimes you really need to be able to focus on what is important to you. Say no at least once this week — the harder it is to say, the better.

And don’t worry if you feel selfish: When your heart is in the right place, what you accomplish by spending more time on your goals will eventually benefit other people, too.

15. “You’re fired.” Maybe there’s an employee you really need to let go but haven’t. Or maybe there’s a customer, or a vendor, or even just a friend. Sometimes the best addition starts with subtraction. Pick someone who is dragging you down or holding you back and let them go.

16. “It’s not perfect… and that’s okay.” Yeah, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Yeah, perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it fly. Your customers or your boss will tell you what needs to be improved — which means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter.

You can’t find out until you let go. You can’t really accomplish anything until you let go.

17. “That’s not my job… but who cares?” Job descriptions are fine until they get in the way of getting things done. No matter what your role or what you’ve accomplished, you’re never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do a little grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task too unskilled or boring.

The next time you see something that needs to be done, do it.

18. “Maybe I should do it that way.” Sure, we’re all individuals. (Okay, I’m not.) We should always set our own courses and follow our own paths. But sometimes the best thing to do is copy what made someone else successful. Pick someone who has accomplished what you would like to accomplish, and follow that path.

One time, don’t try to reinvent a perfectly good wheel.

19. “Jeez, that was stupid. We should do it again!” Sometimes the dumbest things result in our fondest memories: The time you and two employees stayed up all night loading trucks and listening to every Zeppelin album in order; the time you and another employee drove all night so you could arrive at the customer’s warehouse first thing the next morning to sort defective product; the time you and a crew stayed in the plant all weekend during a snowstorm, sleeping on cots and eating vending machine food and cranking out product… All those happened years ago but the memories are surprisingly vivid.

Do something seemingly stupid or outrageous or crazy, the harder the better. You probably won’t love it while it’s happening, but the result will be doing something cool and creating a memory that will always make you smile.

20. “Hi, Mom! Hi Dad!” Your parents love you. They want the best for you. They will always be there for you.

They won’t be around forever. Call them.

21. Nothing. Self talk is awesome, but sometimes, at the end of a day when you’ve worked incredibly hard and kicked serious ass and still made time for friends and family and done everything possible to make sure all the important pieces of your world are in place and taken care of……look in the mirror, smile, and just nod at the person looking back.

Sometimes the best way to end a great day is with a silent acknowledgement of achievement and fulfillment. -Inc Magazine