6 things you can do to be taken seriously at work
In my last blog I shared, with her permission, extracts from a coaching conversation with Rachel, a client who doesn’t feel that she’s always taken seriously enough at work. In comparing her own behaviour and attitude with those of Sally, a colleague just a couple of years older who has the credibility Rachel wants, she realised that she had a problem with boundaries, which meant that she was sometimes behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally at work. Having identified the issue Rachel was halfway to solving the problem: she practised thinking before she spoke, catching herself if she was about to be indiscreet about her private life and quickly got into a pattern of more professional behaviour at work. In later sessions we started to look what else Sally, and other senior women Rachel respected, did to earn the respect of their colleagues. Over a few sessions Rachel came up with this list of six things you can do to be taken more seriously at work (shared with her permission):
- Be professional. In other words turn up on time; do what you tell people you’re going to do; honour your commitments, under-promise and over-deliver.
- Keep developing your knowledge. ‘Not just the formal stuff, or doing the minimum you have to do for CPD (continuous professional development). Follow industry news, learn about the economy, find out what your clients are interested in. Understand what matters to them and make sure you can talk to them knowledgably.’
- Take yourself seriously and act like you should be taken seriously in turn. ‘Which isn’t to say that Sally doesn’t have a sense of humour,’ said Rachel, ‘she does, she’s a really good laugh. But she’s not out for a laugh at all costs’ ‘So she uses humour in the right way?’ ‘Yes, she’ll use it to get things moving or defuse difficult situations or even emphasise a point. But it’s never cruel or smutty or irrelevant.’
- Speak up in meetings, show that you have a good contribution to make. ‘She’ll challenge people, but in a really nice way. It doesn’t come across as point-scoring, she’s just getting them to think’.
- Don’t get emotional in public: no tears or tantrums. ‘I burst into tears once and everyone treated me weirdly for ages afterwards. At my last appraisal I was told I’m too emotional and need to get it under control. It’s not just me though, one of the guys in the office got really angry about something and threw his phone at the wall, smashed it to bits. Now people avoid him, they won’t ask him to do anything in case he loses his temper.’
What do you think of Rachel’s list? What would you add to it?
* All names have been changed. This story has been told with the permission of ‘Rachel’.
Alchemy A-Z of being in business: M is for management
A lot of people make a distinction between leadership and management. You’ll often hear that leadership is about setting the vision, the big picture stuff, inspiring and motivating people while management is about getting things done. I am not so sure that you can separate them so cleanly. Leadership isn’t always glamorous, management isn’t always drudgery. In fact the best managers are able to get things done by inspiring and motivating people; the best leaders of course deliver on what they have promised.
For me the distinction lies in the focus, leaders are looking further ahead; managers are closer to the action and make sure that things get done on time. If a leader is thinking strategically, managers tend to think operationally: how will we actually execute those grand plans?
I have read hundreds of management books and very few deal with getting things done well, on time and on budget so here are my 6 top tips for being a good manager.
- Understand the requirements. What is the purpose of the activity or project? What are the timescales and budget you’re working to? What sort of quality is expected? What are the consequences of it going wrong? What are the benefits of getting it right?
- Be clear in communicating all of the above to whoever is involved in the activity or project. As I said in my last post, set the overall context as well as the specific requirement so that the team understands where what they’re working on fits in. Make sure people know why they’re being asked to do something. If there isn’t a good reason think about whether you really do need them to do it.
- Get buy-in early on in the project. This is closely linked to item 2. If people don’t see the point of what they’re being asked to do, don’t understand it or think it’s a waste of time then guess what? It won’t get done. A good way to get buy-in is to involve people as early as you can, give them a reasonable say in how things will be done and get their advice on the best way of proceeding. It’s those at the sharp end who can quickly identify the flaws in the grand strategy and come up with ways of addressing them.
- Have a clear, shared plan. Identify everything that needs to be done, assign the appropriate people to perform the given tasks, make sure they have all of the tools and resources they need and set a clear, realistic deadline by when the given tasks are to be achieved. Everyone involved should come together at key project milestones to review progress, revisit the plan and make sure that everything is still on track. If not, the plan can and should be altered to bring everything back in line.
- Leave people to get on with it. Never, ever micro-manage BUT make sure you check in from time to time to make sure that everything is OK. Use open questions when you check in. ‘Is everything OK?’ will usually get a yes, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘What problems are you having?’ will usually lead to a useful discussion about the issues.
- Acknowledge achievement and celebrate success. Completing a project, winning a piece of business, hitting targets, finding the perfect person to fill a vacancy and other , perhaps everyday, business milestones are worthy of note. Take the time to thank everyone involved for a job well done and mark the occasion somehow – even making the coffee or bringing in a box of cakes can make the team feel that you appreciate them.
Managing people and getting things done can be tricky, especially if you’re new to it or have never been managed well yourself. It can be hepful to get a third-party view so why not try one of our free coaching sessions? Just click on the link below and we’ll be in touch.
Newly promoted and it’s all a bit weird? Here’s some help
The first time I got promoted I was clueless; I had a team of four and no management training whatsoever. My predecessor was widely held to have been a good manager so I decided that I would do exactly what she used to do.
One of her quirks was that at about 5pm she would go round the team, ask what they were working on and tell them they could go as soon as they had finished whatever it was they were doing. So at about 5 on my first day as supervisor I went over to the management accountant, asked what she was working on and told her she could go when she was ready. She looked at me with pure contempt, said very sarcastically, ‘Thanks Jackie, I will do’ and turned her back to me. A cold wind blew through the office, our relationship was never quite the same again and I was totally baffled as to what I had done wrong. The fact is that when you’re starting out in management people do often treat you differently and it’s very easy to make mistakes. If you’re interested in finding out what to do, read on.
Think about it from your colleagues’ point of view. It’s a big change for you; but it’s also a big change for everyone else. And while it’s a positive change for you (recognition, advancement, more money and so on) it may not be quite so good for everyone else. Nobody is sure how it will pan out so there are lots of unanswered questions. What sort of boss will you be? Will you change towards them? How will your relationship change (because it will, inevitably)? What will it mean for them? As well as the uncertainty, everyone will be experiencing different emotions. Some people will feel a sense of loss: one of the gang has moved on and that’s sad. Some people will be pleased for you and want to help in any way they can; others will be envious and do their best to undermine you. In addition to the individual responses the team as a whole may well be mourning the loss of a good boss and will take time to adjust to the idea of someone else being in charge (that was one of my problems in the example above).
As for you, start by looking at yourself. How has your behaviour changed towards your friends and colleagues? Maybe you’re being a bit distant and ‘off’, perhaps they think you’re throwing your weight around a bit too much. (I once asked everyone out for a drink to celebrate my payrise, a well-intentioned gesture but I cringe when I think how I must have come across). If your behaviour is unhelpful ask yourself why you’re acting like that and what you can do about it. Catch yourself if you’re not behaving in any way that helps the team to adjust to the new situation. Above all, don’t try too hard or, worse, try to be someone else (another of my mistakes): you have to develop your own leadership style.
At the heart of it all, as always, is communication – be clear about what you want from the team, and what your expectations are. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. A more experienced manager should be able to mentor you and provide some good advice and support; the team will also be able to help you through those difficult first few weeks if you let them. However this may well be a time whn you find it useful to work with someone outside your company. Why not start with a free coaching session us?