How to Get the Credit You Deserve

A couple of weeks ago I got an  e-mail from a former co-worker asking what shy employees could do to get the credit they deserve for the work they do. The past couple of weeks I’ve talked about

Which is all great, but shy people are shy. Which means marching into your bosses office with a year’s worth of accomplishments isn’t really in the cards. Not that I would suggest that you do that anyway.

Manage the Relationship

Relationships are funny things. They don’t just happen. At least, not usually. Some people seem to be able to walk into a crowded room of strangers and come out with a dozen new friends. They’re lots of fun to be around, for sure, but at least half of the world is not like that.

So what does this half of the world do? For us, relationships are a matter of trust built over time. The more time we spend with somebody, the more we trust them, the stronger the relationship.

Ideally you shouldn’t have to manage your relationship with your boss  by yourself. You and she would be managing your relationship together. By which I mean you would be getting half-an-hour of face-time with them, one-on-one, every week. If that’s already happening for you, that’s fantastic. Stop reading here.

If not, and the thought of asking your boss for a half-hour commitment once a week scare the bejesus out of you, then start smaller. Take that summary you’re getting from your weekly plan/do/review exercise, and e-mail it to her.

Write a Weekly E-mail

It doesn’t have to, and really shouldn’t be, a long detailed e-mail. Just enough detail that you can recall what you were talking about a year from now. Hit the highlights:

  • what did you get done last week, and
  • what are you going to focus on this week.

End of story. If you have more than a three or four sentence paragraph consider editing it down.

First and most important, it ensures you are working on the right thing. No point in putting in all that effort if your boss needs you to be working on something else. And didn’t realize you weren’t working on it. Imagine that going on for weeks or even months and then them finding out you weren’t working on what they thought you were . . . Oh, you don’t have to imagine it? Oh dear.

Secondly, it keeps you top of mind with your boss and all the things you’ve accomplished in the last year. Especially when it comes time for that all important performance review and bonus and raise (or even, as I was discussing with a family friend this weekend, departmental budget discussions)

Third, it made it easier for your boss to write your performance review. All they need do is pull up all e-mails from you titled “Weekly Status Update” and start remember all the wonderful things you accomplished. With enough specifics and details to justify the high rating you now deserve.

When You Become the Boss

Ideally this conversation would be taking place face-to-face, one-on-one with just you and the boss every week. In half-an-hour or less  you’d cover a lot of ground. But most bosses are very hard to convince that giving up a half-hour slot for every direct report they have every week to do a status update and maybe even some coaching and mentoring. What they don’t realize is that this is a viable alternative to spending their time  running around with their hair on fire.

The hair-on-fire-dealing-with-the-latest-emergency-and-oh-my-god-I-have-500-e-mails-in-my-in-box happens in part because they don`t manage their employees. They think they do, but they don’t deal with setting priorities, reviewing work, assigning work, coaching, mentoring, and giving feedback in a one-on-one situation with each of their direct-reports every week, they`re not. If they did that, their hair wouldn’t be on fire in the first place.

So we’ll help them as best we can by keeping communications open.

Manage Your Performance Review

If you want to communicate well with your boss you have to plan for it. It’s not enough to do your job well, unfortunately. Especially if you’re the “shy” type and your boss isn’t. What does help is to make regular communication with your boss part of your routine – and I know us introverted types have a routine. It’s often part of our base behaviour.

I once had a friend at GD who would sit down once a year for an afternoon in a comfy chair. Glass of fine scotch in hand, pen & paper in the other he would spend a couple of hours by himself reviewing his accomplishments for the last year. He figured out what he wanted to do in the next year. He would consider his career, his volunteer and recreational activities, relationships, and how happy he was with his life.

The Power of Review

He gave himself his own performance review, planned what to do next, and then went and did it. I’m not sure where he is now, but I’m sure he’s still on the fast track, or doing what he loves, or both.

The Plan Do Review cycle is one of those simple ideas with a lot of applications. Fighter pilots call it OODA (Observe – Orient – Decide – Act). David Allen of GTD fame models it as Capture – Organize – Review – Do.

Here’s the simple idea:  Use “Plan – Do – Review” to show your boss you know what you’re doing. Make her job of reviewing your performance easier. Admit it, some bosses don’t prepare for performance appraisals very well anyway.

Sometimes the only way it will happen is if we can make it easier for them. Is this “right”? Probably not, but do you want to leave your hands in the hope that somebody else is going to do the right thing? Your promotions, raises, and career depend on your boss knowing (and remembering, and documenting) what you’ve done for the last year. Don’t depend on them to follow your best self-interest. It might not happen unless you make it happen.

Plan – Do – Review In Action

You can apply the Plan – Do – Review trope to your hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. work. Try it, and with an honest effort you’ll find yourself looking for new contexts and situations you’ll want to apply it to.

If you’ve spent the last year creating a “brag” folder, listing your accomplishments, reviewing your own performance, and mitigating your own weaknesses, wouldn’t that make you look good on your appraisal anyway?

Get Better and Get Credit

I’ve borrowed much of this concept from “Rock Your Review” by Tanya Stevenson, a great book and a quick read from somebody’s who’s done what she describes, and done it very well. Here’s my take:

  • At the beginning of every work week, review your calendar, to-do list, and work assignments. Decide what the most important things you need to get done that week are, and plan how you’re going to get them done.
  • Do It

Use Review To Capture Too

  • At the end of the week, take some time to assess yourself against your plan. Did you do what you set out to do? What did you get done? What are you going to do about what was left un-done? What obstacles did you run into that you need help with? What suggestions would you like to make, and what did you learn? What do you plan to get done next week?
  • Write your accomplishments into a short e-mail to yourself, or capture it in some other way that’s appropriate to your work. At the end of the year you should have a nice fat folder brimming with 52 weeks of your accomplishments.

The question then becomes: what to do with this trove of productivity? You’ve captured what you want to communicate, how does the real communication happen?

Next Week

Telling your boss how great you are without feeling like an ass.

Who Are Your Best Employees?

I got an e-mail from a former colleague of mine, a wonderful if quiet lady who was instrumental in supporting a major bid I was the proposal manager on several years ago. She wrote to ask me some career questions:

Hi Bernie,

I have been reading your articles from your company pages on LinkedIn. Good articles by the way! I quite enjoyed them. I have a question that comes from your article on employees being treated “fairly”. By the way, I totally agree with the philosophy — each person has to be recognized for their contributions, or punished for messing up, in an appropriate manner. The “how” they are praised or punished has to be appropriate for each individual. What I still don’t see is how the person who harasses someone in an office gets the promotion while the person who was harassed got fired. I also wondered at how one person, who works hard all day and has excellent quality, doesn’t get recognized for their work while the person who is exceptional at politics (and doesn’t work all day, less output –with the same quality level) gets kudos for their work. Is this where the interpretation of “unfairness” comes in? This is also where the following question comes in.

Have you done any research on how managers might help people who are not outgoing, i.e., extroverts versus introverts? Another subject that comes to mind are those people who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. They are so different in how they are (or not) able to interact that they must be handled differently also. How do managers help build up confidence in these people? This question comes to mind because I read some statistics the other day about how 4-5 people out of 10 have physical disabilities whereas 7-8 out of 10 have mental (anxiety/panic, bipolar/schizophrenia and depression) disabilities. This was quite a surprise to me and yet we still don’t address it or recognize it as being a major part of our society and how we function.

I feel managers have a major part in recognizing these employees and should have strategies to help them. After all, extroverts may be the ones to come up with all the ideas but it’s the introverts who are able to carry through and get the work done.

X.

She’s absolutely right. It is the job of managers to get the best out of the people working for them. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Managers get the best out of their staff by recognizing those strengths and weaknesses and adjusting the work-load, training, and coaching to get that best.

The Effect of Poor Promotion Decisions

I see this often in my current consulting work. People have been promoted as a reward for doing good, or because they are good at convincing their boss they’ve done good. You might say their strength is managing the relationship.

This isn’t always what’s best for the company. Especially when the newly minted manager doesn’t realize that their rôle and the skills required have fundamentally shifted. At best they are only mildly effective.

At worst, they are actively holding back the company, wasting time and resources, demoralizing others, and blocking advancement to more deserving employees. Plus the job they used to do so well is being left un-done or done poorly.

Let me say this as clearly as I can: Managers Manage People.

Managers Manage People

They don’t manage departments, or projects, or work product, scope, quality, schedule, or cost. They manage people, and everything else is managed by proxy through those people. Once you’ve gone beyond the level of individual contributor, the tools and techniques will fundamentally change. You now lead the collaboration.

Collaboration, team-work, relationship building- they’re all especially important in intellectual, knowledge-based, and innovative workplaces. It’s only going to get more collaborative as the Chinese and other formerly third-world economies come on line. Everything eventually becomes commoditized and sub-contracted.

One of my clients is currently in India talking to his drafting department. Don’t think he isn’t trying to figure out other ways to reduce his costs, work internationally, and grow his business. They have a low-bid Chinese competitor working on the building next to theirs spurring him on every day. The Chinese product’s installation may suck right now, but their people will get better at it.

Once you’ve gone beyond the level of turning a wrench, running the cash register, or writing that report, you’re effectiveness depends on “using” your people most effectively.

Let the Facts Speak For Themselves

Recognize and develop the people that actually do the work, based on facts and measures. Don’t get suckered into favoring the ones that have the skill to build a relationship with you. You will lose credibility.

I’m not saying that staff shouldn’t have the ability to build relationships. Certainly it’s a strength and a skill. I’m saying they shouldn’t be promoted based solely on the strength of their relationship with you.

As managers we shouldn’t have to judge the people that work for us. The facts, presented fairly, will do that for us. That’s why properly performed performance reviews are not just an annual event. They’re a process. One that you need to pay attention to every day.

Managing Your Relationship With Your Boss

My first response to Lady X (sounds mysterious doesn’t it?) was:

. . . . there’s a podcast I’d like to recommend to you called “Career Tools”. It can be found at http://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/career-tools , and also on iTunes if you listen to podcast on your iPod or other technology. Of particular interest to you I think would be the “Professional Updates” episode: http://www.manager-tools.com/2008/11/boss-one-on-ones-professional-updates .

I’ll be writing more next week about how employees can help themselves, and about dealing with different behaviors and personalities most effectively.

In the meantime consider this:

How Should We Judge Managers?

Imagine you’re a manager. The CEO has decided your promotion and bonuses are now based on the fit and performance of the people you hired in the past. In other words, every year you will be evaluated by how well the people you hired into your company are doing, whether they still work for you directly or not.

You’re being evaluated on how well you pick and develop talent. How would that change how you whom you hire and how you lead them?

How to Fail Your Performance Review

Tanya Stevenson is a cool person who wrote an interesting book, that I’m just starting to read, called “Rock Your Review”. She also put together this funny video showing many things you can do that will ensure your performance review sucks.