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Posts Tagged ‘reputation’

Manage Your Professional Reputation – Get There First

Managers Don't Like SurprisesYou’ve heard countless times that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So when something not-so-positive happens – a customer is upset, you missed a deadline or made an error – don’t let your boss find out about it from someone else. Manage your professional reputation and get there first to create the first impression of what happened.

Managers don’t like surprises. If your manager is going to get a call about something that isn’t positive, let her know before the call comes in. You will create her perception of the situation, and perceptions are hard to change.  Don’t wait for the s*** to hit the fan. Get ahead of the problem by coming forward and giving your manager and other stakeholders a heads up.

Boss Phone CallIt could sound something like this, “I just had a tough conversation with John in IT. You may get a call.  Here’s what happened… I didn’t want you to be surprised.”

Or, “I told Brian at Intellitec that we’re raising our prices in the second quarter. He wasn’t happy. You may get a call.”

Or let’s say you’re going to work on a strained relationship. Tell your manager before you take action.  It could sound something like this, “I want to work on my relationship with Julie. Our relationship has been strained since we worked together on the software project last year. I’d like to approach her, tell her that I know our relationship is strained, and that I’d like a good working relationship with her. Then I’d like to ask if You Create the first Impressionshe’s willing to have lunch with me, talk about what’s happened, and see if we can start again in a more positive way.  What do you think of me doing that?  Would you approach the conversation differently? I don’t know how it’s going to go, so I wanted you to know what I’m planning to do, just in case it backfires and you get a call.”

Manage your professional reputation assertively by taking responsibility for mistakes, working on damaged relationships, and telling your manager before someone else does!

Download Sample Candor Questions

Want to Advance Your Career? How to Ask For More Responsibility At Work

Too many people sit at their desks doing their minimal best, while begrudging their boss, organization and current job, hoping that something better will come along. Or people do good work and think that someday someone will notice and they’ll get the role and recognition they deserve.

If you want to advance your career, you must know how to ask for more responsibility at work.Feeling Stuck at Work

You may be rolling your eyes thinking, “More? I can’t do more. I already work evenings and weekends. I sleep with my phone and haven’t taken a vacation in two years, and you want me to do more?!?!?” Actually I want you to stop sleeping with your phone and take a vacation. But that’s a post for a different day.

When I say do more, I don’t mean do anything anyone asks nor anything your organization needs. Offer to take on more work that is aligned with what you want to do AND is important to the leaders of your organization.

Before starting Candid Culture, I ran an operations unit for a career college. Four years into my tenure with the company, one of my peers left, and his role wasn’t refilled. I felt his department was important to our organization’s success, so I offered to run it, in addition to my already big job.

My new department was a change agent’s dream. I outlined a strategic plan and long and short term goals. I re-wrote job descriptions and org charts. But six months into taking on the department, I couldn’t get one change approved. I was confused and frustrated.

I had initially been hired to turn another department around, and I’d been very successful at getting changes approved. Yet this time, I could get nothing approved. After six months of banging my head against a wall, I finally ‘got it.’ The owners of the company didn’t see the department as valuable, thus they weren’t willing to invest in it.

I’m embarrassed at how long it took me to see this. When my colleague’s senior level job wasn’t refilled and there was no freeze in hiring, I should have known the department wasn’t seen as important.

If you want to know what’s important in your organization, look at where money is being spent. Who is getting resources?

When I say ask for more, I mean be strategic about what you ask for.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. Where in the organization are there opportunities to do that kind of work – that is important to the organization’s leaders?
  3. Who will support me in doing this work? Who won’t?

How to ask for more responsibility at work. Tell your boss and/or department leader:         

  •  I really enjoy working here. I enjoy the people, the work and our industry.
  • I’m committed to growing my career with this organization.
  • I’m interested in learning more about ________________________.
  • I’d love to run ___________________________.
  • I think we have some opportunities to make improvements in _____________________.
  • How could I get some exposure to ____________________.
  • A project is starting in ______________.  I’d love to be on the team.  What are your thoughts about that? Would you be comfortable supporting my participation? If yes, how can we make it happen? If not, what would you need from me in order to support it?

The work you take on does not need to be high level. Everyone in an organization does grunt work. Just be sure that whatever you offer to do is seen as integral to the future of the organization. You’re not likely to get what you don’t ask for.

Read chapter five of How to Say Anything to Anyone and manage your boss better.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone

Work Appropriate Halloween Costumes – Don’t Wear These

halloween no noComing to work in costume on Halloween?  Whatever you wear to work is likely to be captured by someone’s phone and shared . . . widely.

None of these are work appropriate Halloween costumes:

  • Your boss
  • Your boss’s spouse
  • An employee who is “regrettably” no longer with the organization
  • Whatever fit ten years ago

Sometimes people forget that work parties are still work and work appropriate Halloween costumes should be worn.

This reminds me of a participant I had in a public speaking class several years ago. While doing a presentation, in class, he told a story about being ten years old and playing outside in his neighborhood when he realized he needed to go to the bathroom. He raced home, but didn’t make it. He ended up going to the bathroom outside, next to his house. After that class, every time I saw the guy in the hallway at work, I had the image of him pooping next to his house and years later the image remains with me.

Telling that story was a bad call. It created ahalloween photo 2 long-lasting impression I doubt he wanted his co-workers to have.

Impressions are made more quickly than they are forgotten. Have fun on Halloween, just not too much fun. If you wouldn’t want to see a photo of you in costume hanging in your organization’s lobby or on your website, don’t wear it to work.

Give Feedback When You’re Not Upset

give feedbackWe’ve all received work from another person that wasn’t what we were expecting, hit reply, and told the other person what we thought. Then we dealt with the consequences.

A few tips for giving feedback to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t:

Don’t give feedback via email. Ever. You can’t manage your tone or see the person’s reaction.

Practice the 24-hour rule and the one week guideline. Wait until you’re not upset to give feedback, but don’t wait longer than a week.

It’s almost impossible to give feedback without putting the other person on the defensive. Becoming defensive when receiving feedback is normal and natural. It’s a way to protect ourselves when we feel attacked.

When people are defensive, it’s hard to listen and respond. The less defensive the other person becomes, the easier it is to communicate with that person. People will be less defensive if you give feedback when you’re calm and choose your words carefully.

Communicate in a way that the relationship needs versus what you need in the moment.

When we give feedback when we’re upset, we’re really communicating for us, not for the other person. I didn’t get what I want. I’m upset. And I’m going to tell you about it. Then the other person gets upset and now, in addition to you not getting what you wanted in the first place, you have to do damage control.

Communicating in a way the relationship needs means choosing the timing, words and method of communication that is likely to produce the result you want – the other person being able to hear you, while becoming minimally defensive, and taking action. Giving feedback when you’re upset, especially via email, will not produce the result you want. You’ll only damage your relationship.

Being a good communicator and maintaining good business relationships requires patience and self discipline. This is something I work on ALL the time. Last week I sent one of my vendors feedback via email, when I was upset, and spent two days trying to recover. I sent a minor email with critique, he felt attacked, and I damaged our relationship.

It doesn’t take much to raise someone’s defensiveness to the point that you have to do damage control.

Wait to give feedback until you’re not upset. Don’t send an email. Pick up the phone or walk to the person’s desk. Deliver the feedback in a way the other person can hear you.  Be ready for him to become defensive. It’s human to become defensive. You can’t eliminate defensiveness, but how you deliver feedback can greatly reduce it. And you’ll get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

Read How to Say Anything to Anyone and get the words to have even the toughest conversations.

Bad Grammar Limits Careers

Bad grammarA few weeks ago I received an email from a candidate for a job I recently filled. His grammar, in the email, wasn’t great. The job requires writing, so I asked for a writing sample. The writing sample I received was riddled with spelling and grammar errors.

When I rejected the candidate, because of his bad grammar and spelling, some of my friends defended the candidate saying that spelling didn’t predict how successful someone would be and that poor writing is incredibly common in this country.

Their comments reminded me of the graduate level leadership class I taught a few years ago. Many of my master’s level students’ grammar was so poor, when I handed back my students’ first papers, I gave them a grammar lesson. Some class members were so offended and annoyed by this, they reported me to the dean, telling her that they did not pay $1500 for a grammar lesson. My stand remains the same.

I don’t care how great a leader you are. If you discredit yourself in every email you send by using bad grammar, your career will be limited.

Here are some common examples of bad grammar in both written and spoken communication:

  1. “A lot” is two words.
  2. Incentify is not a word. Incent is.
  3. Too means also. To does not.
  4. There is no B in supposedly.
  5. Your crazy aunt can only visit once a year without you wanting to change your address, and this does not mean that you’re a bad person.
  6. You accept advice. You advise others.
  7. There is no X in especially.
  8. You lose your marbles when you don’t get enough sleep.  Your jeans become loose when you stop eating Snickers bars.
  9. You accept advice, except when you think the other person isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
  10. Irregardless is not a word. Regardless is.
  11. “Where you at?” “Where are you,” will do.
  12. Please put your contact information on the bottom of your initial and reply emails. This is not a grammar thing, it would just be helpful.

Call me picky or old school. But I suspect that when you hear these errors made in conversation or see them in writing, you judge the other person. I know most hiring managers do. Hiring managers want to know employees can write reports and email clients without embarrassing the company.

You will be eliminated as a job candidate if your resume has typos. People will judge you when you use incorrect English. They won’t tell you they’re judging your bad grammar. They’ll do it quietly or talk about you when you’re not there.

I spoke at a conference a few weeks ago where an attendee asked how to tell an employee she was going to be fired because her writing was so poor. She maintained client files and wrote client correspondence. Clients’ names were often wrong, in her written notes, as was spelling and grammar. The typos and grammar errors were a deal breaker. And they may be in your job as well.

Have someone proofread a few of your emails and reports, and ask for feedback on your writing. Ask the coworkers you’re close to to tell you when you make grammar errors in meetings. Of course you want them to tell you privately, after the meeting.

I write a bi-monthly column for the Denver Business Journal. I’m grateful that my editor reads this blog and emails me the typos and errors I make. I am not exempt.

Clean up your bad grammar and your writing, and accelerate your career. I promise it will work.




Know Your Reputation and Advance Your Career

advance your careerUnfortunately you probably already know that people have a tendency to talk about you, not to you. It’s human nature. Sometimes it’s gossip. Other times senior leaders talk about your future with the organization. If you want to advance your career, you need to know what the people whose opinions you care about say about you when you’re not there.

Unfortunately most people get very little feedback at work. If today was the day of your performance appraisal and I asked how your boss and whoever else provides input on your review would rate you, you probably don’t know. This lack of knowledge prevents you from advancing your career.

Not knowing someone’s opinion doesn’t mean you’re not subject to it. Akin to getting a speeding ticket when you didn’t know you were speeding. The cop doesn’t care. He adds four points to your driving record, despite that you didn’t know the speed limit.

You may work for a manager who gives feedback. You may not. It doesn’t matter. There are people in your life who will tell you the truth (as they see it), if you ask.

I recommend assembling a core group of people who you count on to tell you the truth. These are the people who know you well and have your back. They can be friends, family members, past coworkers, customers, or managers.

You might wonder, “What can my mom or friends from high school or college tell me about how I behave at work?” The answer–a lot.

We don’t become different people when we arrive at work. We are who we are. If you’re often late, break commitments, or wear clothing that’s not your friend, you do those things at home and at work. Likewise, if you have great attention to detail, never break commitments, and always look great (in public), you friends and family know.

Identify a few people, personal and/or professional, who care about you and will tell you the truth.

Tell these folks you want to eliminate your blind spots. Ask them for specific feedback, and promise that no matter what they say and how hard it is to hear, you will say “thank you.” Then be sure to manage yourself.  It’s normal to become defensive when we get constructive feedback. But every time we become defensive, we train people it’s not safe to tell us the truth. If you want people to give you feedback, more than once, make it easy to tell you the truth.

You may be thinking that asking for feedback  is unrealistic. People won’t be honest. And you can’t take it.

The people who really care about you will be honest, and you can take it. You’ll be fine. In fact you’ll be better off than before you had the conversations. You might hear things that pleasantly surprise you. And the things you don’t like? Just because no one talked to you about them before you asked, doesn’t mean those behaviors didn’t impact you. Now you can do something about them.

Get out of the dark and into control. Discover your reputation and advance your career.

Be A Change Agent – Make It Easy to Tell You Yes

Change agentDespite what you may think, your manager has enough to do. So when you drop a problem at her door, she finds it annoying. Rather than just alerting your manager and the leaders in your organization to the things that need to be fixed, go one step further, and be a change agent by offering a solution yourself.

It’s fine to raise challenges. It’s better to raise challenges you’re willing to do something about. If you think two departments don’t talk to each other, bring them together. If you think a process is inefficient, propose a different way to get the work done. If you’re dissatisfied with software you’re using, offer to source three potential vendors and set up a demo. You’re doing the legwork and asking for a small investment of time.

When we ask for something at work, it often requires time, money, or both.  Thus when an employee asks for something, it’s easier for a manager to say no than it is to say yes. “No” requires no work and no financial outlay. A “yes” may require both.

You make it easy to say yes to your requests when you’re acting as a change agent:

  1. Propose a solution to a problem.
  2. Offer to do the work to solve the problem.
  3. Ask for small things that are easy to approve.

If you’re overwhelmed and want to hire an additional person, but your boss isn’t convinced you need the headcount, ask for a temp for a finite number of hours. It’s much easier for a manager to say yes to a small and known investment amount than to the long-term commitment of hiring someone new.  The point is to ask for something that is easy for your manager to approve.

The word “pilot” is your friend. If you want to make a major change, pilot a scaled down version of your proposed solution in one or two locations, rather than in your organization’s 10 locations. Again, asking for something small makes it more likely that you’ll be told yes.

The bottom line is to be part of the solution – as trite and overused as that phrase is. Don’t be the person who says, “That’s broken” without also saying, “and here’s how we can fix it.  Can I give it a try?”

Corporate Culture – I’m Not Invisible

I’ve always thought it was weird to sit next to someone on a plane and not say hello. I don’t mean a long chat, “Where are you going? Do you live there? What do you do for work,” merely a hello. Or to pass someone on the street or at the gym who pretends not to see me. It’s downright weird. And it’s even worse at work.

Passing someone in the hallway at work who you may or may not know and not saying hello can be off putting to many people. Admittedly, some people don’t care. But more do.

Many of the people you work with are affronted if you pass them in the hallway and don’t smile and/or say hello. They’ll never tell you they’re put off by the lack of social graces, they’ll just make decisions and assume they’re right. They’ll tell themselves, “We sit in multiple meetings together, and that guy doesn’t even know who I am.” Or, “I’ve walked past this woman every day for five years and it’s like she’s never seen me before.” Or, “Bob never says hello when he sees me in the hallway. I wonder why he doesn’t like me?”

Chances are you’re not thinking any of these things about the people you work with. You’re busy and focused on other things, and your mind is not on making small talk when you pass people in the hallway. But know that not saying hello can have an impact on the people around you and your corporate culture.

Start this simple practice: Smile and say hello to everyone you pass at work. Saying hello in the hallway won’t cost you anything or take any more time. And you never know the doors it might open. Maybe the person in accounts payable who’s been kicking back your expense reports will cut you a reimbursement check even when you fill out the wrong form. Or maybe IT will come to your desk first versus eighth when your laptop decides it’s taking a vacation day.

The Job Interview Questions Hiring Managers Must Ask

There is one job interview question recruiters and hiring managers must ask. And the answer should be a deal breaker.

The most important job interview question for any role and level, in every organization: Tell me about a time you received negative feedback.

This is NOT the same question as tell me about a weakness. Or tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. Those are also important job interview questions to ask. But they’re not the most important question.

Let’s assume everyone you interview is age sixteen and older. Unless your candidates live in a cave, never speaking to anyone, it’s not possible to arrive at age 16 without having received negative feedback. The feedback can come from a friend, teacher, or parent. It doesn’t need to be work related.

The point of the question is to discover whether the candidate is open to feedback. People who are not open to feedback are extraordinarily difficult to work with. They aren’t coachable. Any type of feedback they receive will result in resistance and defensiveness.

Employees who aren’t open to feedback won’t change or improve their behavior, regardless of how effective a manager is. Instead of listening to feedback and taking corrective action, employees who are not open to feedback will tell managers why they are wrong.

Everyone you interview has received negative feedback at some point. The question is whether or not candidates were open enough to listen to the feedback. People who aren’t open to feedback won’t be able to answer your question.

If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask a follow-up question. Your job as the interviewer is to give candidates every possible opportunity to be successful. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, ask the interview question in two different ways, until you’re certain the candidate can’t or won’t answer the question.

If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask what their reputation is at their current job or was at a previous job. Candidates probably won’t be able to answer this question either. Most people don’t know their reputation at work.

Even if a candidate doesn’t know with certainty his reputation at work, the answer he provides will give you a sense of how self aware he is. People who are self aware are more open to feedback and are easier to coach and manage than people who are not self aware.

I really do eliminate candidates who demonstrate that they aren’t open to feedback –whether I’m hiring for Candid Culture or for one of my clients. I don’t care how credentialed or experienced the candidate is.

Not getting feedback at work? It’s your mom’s fault

Last week I had lunch with a client. When I returned from the lunch I saw a friend who told me I had something stuck in my teeth.  I was embarrassed and wondered why my client hadn’t told me.

It’s quite possible he hadn’t noticed.  In fact, knowing this guy and how much work I’ve done with his firm on being candid, it’s probable he hadn’t noticed. But we all know people who notice and say nothing. We could walk around all day with toilet paper on our shoe, lipstick on our teeth, or our fly down, and the people around us won’t tell us.

If you read my blog weekly, you already know that people have been trained not to tell you the truth.

getting feedback

But I think there is more preventing people from telling us the truth. Complete this sentence:  “If you have nothing nice to say, _________________________________. Who told you that?  Your mother!!!

getting feedback







I do think there’s something to this. We’re raised to believe that it isn’t nice to say something to another person that isn’t positive.  And in the past, when we did speak up, it’s likely the other person got defensive.  So it’s no wonder that we don’t readily give people bad news.

Here are five tips for getting feedback from the people around you:

  1. Establish a core team of people who will always tell you the truth. These can be friends, coworkers, clients, vendors, you boss, etc.
  2. Give people permission to be honest with you.  “Let’s make a deal. I always want you to tell me the truth. If I have something stuck in my teeth, or I’m inappropriately dressed for a meeting, or I’m doing something that damages my reputation, I want you to tell me.”
  3. Make it easy to tell you the truth. “I promise no matter what you tell me and how hard it is to hear, I will say thank you. I won’t get defensive. And if I do, I’ll apologize and try to do better next time.”
  4. Offer to do the same for them. “And if you want me to do the same thing for you, I’m happy to do it.”
  5. Periodically check in with people and ask for feedback.  “A few months ago I asked you to tell me anything I said, did, or wore that got in the way of my success.  Is there anything you’ve seen that you want to tell me?”

Every time you ask for feedback and take it graciously, you train the person to give you more feedback. On the contrary, every time you get defensive, you make it hard for people to give you feedback, making it likely they won’t do it again.

If you don’t want to walk around looking silly all day, make it safe to tell you the truth.

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