This month as part of my Happiness Project, I’m focusing on improving my work life.
I have outlined 10 behaviors for workplace domination. I am holding myself accountable by tracking specific actions against each of these in a daily journal. After 1 week, I already feel like I am upping my corporate game. As work is serious business, I’m going to go deep on each area and split this across 2 posts.
Here are my first 5 strategies for success at work:
1. Mentally and physically prepare. Who is kidding who here? I don’t bolt out of bed and dance around my bedroom in the morning overcome by the excitement of going to my corporate job each day. I have a high stress position and I’d rather be on a beach in the Bahamas or playing tennis in Palm Springs than going into the cubicle battlefield. (and I totally get that vacations cost money)
Not to mention, some/many of the people I work with are not exactly in the running for Mr. or Ms. Congeniality. I have to put on the full armor of God every day to be victorious in my workplace and be an ambassador for the Lord. I’ve developed a new morning routine that consists of 5 minutes of meditation, prayer, simple stretches and then listening to the Bible or an inspirational message on my drive into work. Also, I’m taking my vitamins and eating right. I can’t expect amazing output without amazing input. Garbage in, garbage out.
2. Dress for success. In the modern workplace, business casual has sunken to new lows. It is easy to fall into a trap of dressing for comfort instead of dressing like the future CEO.
I have a closet full of beautiful business clothes but have fallen into a rut of jeans, long wrap-around sweaters that could double as bathrobes and comfortable mom shoes. Just like I want to tell people who wear pajama pants to the grocery store I need to also tell myself, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”
I am officially stepping it up with dresses, jackets, beautiful blouses, slacks and skirts. Important people look important. To add to my pulled together look I’m flat ironing my new fierce hairdo versus letting it run wild and curly. I’m also spending an extra few minutes improving my make-up techniques (Pinterest is great for age-appropriate tips and tricks). Claire Underwood is not my character role model, but she is my new style icon. Note to self: buy some bigger specs, go even blonder as summer approaches, lose 20 pounds.
3. At the beginning of each week, write down 3-5 strategic goals. The most successful person I know does this.
It is easy to have your schedule slip away from you with meetings, hallway randomizations and emails. My theory is that I am not being paid to answer emails, I’m being paid to deliver business value.
I set goals that move my business forward each week and track progress against them daily. This helps me prioritize and connect dots while I’m in meetings or answering those pesky emails. I am not saying don’t answer them, I’m saying learn how to answer the right ones first. Anything that furthers my strategic goals should be top of mind and top of the priority list.
4. Embrace my inner executive. This is my version of fake it until you make it. It is important to show up as a confident, knowledgeable person with a clear and insightful point of view. Again, the company is paying for my expertise and capability. I may not know everything, but I can show up daily as a valuable contributor who is learning and growing. Some of the ways I demonstrate these qualities include: speaking up in meetings, asking strategic questions, not being afraid to disagree or offer an opposing argument and showing that I have a bold and strategic vision for our work.
My workplace mantra: “I am in tune with what is going on in the industry and the marketplace. I have valuable experience that I share willingly and warmly. I am in a senior role and I have not only earned a seat at the table, I own the table.”
5. Manage up and out. My boss and my skip-level boss are nowhere near me 99% of the time. Yet these two people decide my fate at the company. They need to be my biggest fans and I am the only one who can equip them with the data (results) that compel them to join and stay in my fan club.
To create raving fans, I need to know and understand what my bosses and other key stakeholders value and expect out of my role and then find ways to blow their expectations out of the water.
If you are not getting to where you think you should be in your career, maybe it is because you are focusing too much energy on clearing the bar and not enough on inventing a new one. Meeting expectations is never enough. I need to demonstrate how my contributions and results are better than my leaders could have done themselves. I know as a boss, how wonderful it is to have an employee bring me a piece of work that is much better than I could have done and that requires no re-work. I talk up and reward those who I can trust to deliver these types of results.
Once I’ve exceeded the target, I look for opportunities to market these accomplishments with my leadership and make it simple for them to market them on my behalf. I have yet to meet a boss who doesn’t want to share amazing results up the food chain. It makes them look good. It is easy to focus on activity versus achievement, always prioritize that which drives a specific and exceptional outcome versus that which just takes up time.