Bosses tell us what it takes to get promoted

Promotions aren’t given, they’re earned.

Gone are the days when promotions were the result of being able to progress along specific career paths; the impact of globalization, technology, and flatter organization structures, has changed the promotion paradigm. Today, for an employee to get promoted, she must be able to create and manage her own career path.

That said, here are some of the important things bosses tell us to get promoted.

1. Practice Self-Promotion

“Unless you’re a narcissist, self-promotion isn’t a natural behavior.”

– Meredith Levinson, CIO 

Our parents taught us that modesty is a virtue; just like job-hunting; if your boss doesn’t know how great you are, don’t expect to get ahead.

It’s important to be a “known quantity” for you to get the promotion you deserve (and earn!). For example, if you’ve had a major sales or project win, or was able to come up with an award-winning program, you should make sure your boss knows. This could be as simple as a text message, email or via casual conversation.

Basically, you should be selling yourself and make it known (with subtlety) that you’re eager for a promotion. If it makes sense, send monthly emails to your boss and keep her updated on your progress. Don’t forget to roll-up and share your accomplishments and accolades at the end of the year – right around review/raise time.

2. Bond with Me

Think of your boss as a border guard between countries.

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As an ally, he can effectively raise the gate for you to move upward to your next position, or, as an adversary, he can keep the gate down and block you from progression.

Clearly you want him as an ally.

Take advantage of all the opportunities you find or create to turn a boss into your biggest fan.

Professional settings can be used to seek counsel and imply your interest in getting a promotion. Performance appraisals can be used to talk with your boss about the possible roadblocks to promotion and how to overcome them. Think lunches, social gatherings, hallway conversations – anyway you can get quality facetime.

3. Take on more Responsibility

Bosses are always looking for eager members of their staff to step up.

Why?

To get more done.

Your boss has a boss too. Who wants results. And you’re asking to take on more responsibility? Giddyup.

A great way to do this? Simple. Ask the question “What can I do to help?”

“Acquire new knowledge continuously and stay on top of trends or developments in your field. If you’re seen as an expert in a particular subject, you’re more likely to be needed for new projects coming up.”

 – Alex Cavoulacos, The Muse

Asking for more responsibility (and not necessarily more work) is a good way to inform your boss that you are interested and have the desire to help the department and the company succeed. Through this, you’ll shine a spotlight on yourself. And your team.

4. Be a Team Player

Second only to your boss, the next group you need on your side when hunting for a promotion?

Your teammates.

You can be sure your boss is going to be talking to your team when considering a promotion. She’s going to ask questions like:

  • How do you get along with Tom?
  • Would you promote Tom if you were me?
  • How do you think Tom would work in this role?
  • What are some of Tom’s strengths and weaknesses?

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The best team players? They rock at their jobs AND lift the team to higher highs. Is that you?

5. Create Your Own Opportunities

Heck, why even wait for a promotion?

Do it yourself.

What this doesn’t mean is tromping into the HR office and demanding one. We’re pretty sure that’s a shortcut to an exit.

What it does mean is to figure out where your team or organization needs you most, and start doing that.

Not full time. Maybe not even during the workday. But a slow, methodical approach to doing what needs to be done.

No promotion this time around? No worries, you’re already paving the road to the role you want the next time your team is considering promoting its brightest.

Meeting minutes the write, er, right way

OK, the boss or head of your team or organization has just asked you to sit in and take notes or minutes for your next meeting.

Yikes!

Before you panic, take a deep breath.

As daunting as this sounds, doing the notes or minutes for a big (or small) meeting isn’t as hard as it seems.

Exhale slowly. We’ve got your back.

Start with why

In the words of Simon Sinek, let’s start with the “why” around meeting minutes or notes.

Meeting minutes form an important record for what was discussed and by whom in a meeting. In addition, they include what was decided upon and any tasks or action items that were captured or assigned.

Minutes are not a record of everything that was said in exact detail.

How do you know if they’re detailed enough?

A great test for the verbosity of your notes or minutes is to put yourself in the position of someone who never attended the meeting. From your minutes, could they get a sense for the conversations that happened, the decisions that were made and the action items that were assigned? Basically, you need to be descriptive enough to capture the gist of the meeting without wasting your time and effort going into detail.

Step 1 – Note Taking

Before your meeting, you should think about how you’re going to actually take notes.  These could be your working/rough notes from which you would generate more polished minutes, or they could literally be the minutes you intend to send out.

Either way, there are a couple of different ways you could go here – handwritten or digital. Both offer a few advantages/disadvantages.

Handwritten notes are worry free – just grab a notepad and a couple of pens and you’re off! Depending on your writing efficacy, its easy to keep up with speakers in order to transfer the spoken word to paper. The big downside? You’ll probably be distributing everything digitally, so there’s the process of converting all that handwriting – yuck!

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One of the tools I’ve personally used for this before is a recording pen like Livescribe. The pen records meeting audio that syncs to your notes. Miss what was said? Just tap on your notes and the pen seeks to that point in the recording! Very slick.

Alternately, you can capture everything digitally right from the start. You can try a smartphone or tablet to do this, but a physical keyboard is probably what you want – you’re looking for maximum WPM and you’ll need an actual keyboard for that. Laptops are perfect!

There are a plethora of software tools to actually capture notes. Evernote, Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Trackmeet… the list is lengthy. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re comfortable using it in advance!

Once you’re in the meeting itself, you’ll probably want to capture who’s attending, when it started and stopped, the meeting purpose and the location.

As the meeting progresses, restrict yourself to capturing just enough detail to describe what happened. Bullet points can be handy for this.

Step 2 – Transforming Notes into Minutes

Once your meeting wraps up, you’ll want to get your meeting minutes out promptly! Why?

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The Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve tells us that people retain 33% of what was discussed in a meeting just one day later! So, not only do your notes serve as a record of what was said and done, they also serve as an important catalyst for stakeholders to recall everything.

If your meeting was informal, distributing your notes/minutes may be as simple as sending a link to the Google Doc you used or pushing them from Trackmeet into a Slack channel.

If your meeting involved a little more formality, there are some interesting formats you can use to codify your minutes, based on your personal or organizational preference.

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This minutes template organizes everything by topic –  a nice way to group content.

 

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This minutes template puts everything into categories.

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Trackmeet has a plethora of meeting/minute templates built in!

There is no “wrong” way to write minutes – choose a style and format that works for you and your organization. Just remember to get them out promptly!

Step 3 – Distribution

Once your minutes are ready, your next step is to distribute them to everyone who was there – and maybe a few more.

As part of this step, you may need to get approval from one or more meeting participants, who can also serve as reviewers to catch any errors or identify anything that was missed.

You’re done! Pour yourself a cup of tea – you’ve earned it!

 

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Looking for accountability and teachable moments in meetings? Record them

The world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, records pretty much every internal meeting.

What?

Yep. All meeting rooms include a fixed-mount audio and video recorder that staff can opt-in to use – and most do.

You might be wondering why an organization might do this? Isn’t this a pretty considerable overhead when all you want to do is meet?

Bridgewater execs see so much value in reviewing meetings and identifying teachable moments that they’ve oriented the entire firm around this concept. They call it “management principles training“.

Its one thing to record meetings; its another to build your business around them.

For those of us who want to dip our toe into recording meetings before considering recording every meeting, there are a few things to consider.

Can you?

We don’t all have the flexibility Bridgewater and firms like it have to record meetings as a general business practice. In fact, doing so may be illegal. As a general rule of thumb, meeting attendees need to be made aware of, and consent to, being recorded. Special rules apply to public meetings, or those involving emergency services or the police. Check your local laws if you’re not sure.

Make meeting attendees accountable

Once you’ve accommodated any concerns around consent, recording opens the door to some pretty compelling value-adds: accountability, coaching and knowledge retention.

Announcing that we were going to record the next Trackmeet status meeting brought with it a little energy from the team. The result? Everyone was on time, notebooks were out and our conversation was unusually lively.

A spike in attention because everyone knew that the meeting was being recorded? You bet.

Can this be sustained? Probably not – as time wears on, this approach becomes accepted practice and is absorbed as a norm. But, if you’re recurring meeting needs a jolt to arouse some attention, give this a try.

Coaching

Akin to what Bridgewater is doing via management principles training, recording the audio and/or video from your meeting can provide for invaluable teaching and coaching opportunities, using real-world examples taken directly from your business.

Ambitious?

Yep.

Should all organizations be doing this? Probably not.

But consider this – if you don’t have a culture that helps grow its staff and contribute to their personal and professional development, how does your business grow? Everything else being equal, why wouldn’t your staff walk down the street to a competitor that offers it? After all, personal and professional development is the #1 perk millenials are looking for at work.

If you don’t have the capacity to record and coach, simply jot down those teachable moments and circle back to them offline. Your team will thank you for the feedback.

Knowledge Retention

Using something like Trackmeet, organizations can capture and retain some of the considerable knowledge that exists within its ranks.

Take for example the weekly management team meeting held at Latitude Geographics, a Trackmeet customer. In this meeting, each department executive includes a narrative that summarizes their week. During their allotted time, each executive gives a brief verbal summary and discussion ensues. This discussion, and the opportunities and concerns it raises, is invaluable to the team. So much so that meeting audio is recorded and distributed to everyone, ensuring all attendees can revisit important points and absent team members can remain fully in the loop.

Considering recording your meetings? Doing so can add considerable value with a small investment up front.

 

 

Why sales skills are important to your career, no matter what you do

The most influential business thought leaders on the planet are pretty much unanimous in their view: in their list of must-have skills, sales is right up there.

 

Understanding the sales process, and how to build long-term customer relationships, is incredibly important regardless of the industry or career you choose.

-Jeff Haden, Inc.

The ability to sell is the number one skill in business.

– Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad

Whether or not you are actually selling a product or service, you’ll probably need to sell an idea to your manager, showcase a new initiative to your colleagues or convince your superiors that you deserve a raise or a promotion. All of these involve sales skills.

– Miriam Salpeter, US News and World Report

 

Does this mean we should all run out and become sales people? No. There’s a special breed of person who enjoys and excels at carrying a bag – and they’re a minority.

But, realize it or not, you’re selling all the time.

Consider what you may have done today:

  • Negotiating with your spouse over who’s picking up the kids
  • Returning a defective clock radio to Costco
  • Getting an extension to the report you’re working on

Lets take a closer look at what you were actually doing.

You were…

  1. Responding to objections.
  2. Listening to understand.
  3. Conveying your position.
  4. Trying to determine a suitable outcome that bettered a mutual need.

Sounds like sales to me.

Anne-Mulcahy

Alright, alright, we’ve probably convinced you that a little sales goes a long way.

How do you incorporate some of these skills into your daily routine?

Think like a salesperson.

Differentiate

You’re up for a new position but know there are a number of candidates under consideration. How do you stick out? What makes you special?

If you’re a Boeing airplane salesperson you know exactly how your planes are different from those made by Airbus.

You’ve got to differentiate.

Understand what makes your skills unique and highlight them. Relate this directly to the job’s requirements. Bonus points if you know your competition, research them and can articulate your differences.

That’s what closers do.

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Map out conversations in advance

Good salespeople know their pitch backwards and forwards. Great salespeople know all the possible objections they could possibly encounter and have canned responses prepared for each.

If you’re entering into a discussion around an idea you’re proposing, take some time to think about all the possible concerns you might encounter, and develop a response to each. You don’t necessarily need to write each one down – simply internalize what you might say.

Nothing communicates confidence like preparedness.

Know your product

Ultimately, salespeople are conduits between one or more people who are really good at solving a specific problem (like doing home renovations or selling jets or accounting, for example) and people or organizations that have said problem and are looking for a solution in the form of a product or service.

Salespeople really, really know the problem their organization can solve. They are subject matter experts in that area.

You’re probably one too in your area of expertise.

To sell your new idea, get your team to consider a new approach or get a raise, you better know what your talking about. That means diving in and immersing yourself in the problem.

Read.

Experiment.

Speak with other experts.

Understand and become comfortable articulating the WHY of your point of view. Practice. Which brings us to…

Practice your pitch

Do sports stars hit the turf cold?

Do concert musicians jump into their set before warming up?

Nope.

The best athletes in the world don’t go on cold, so if you’re selling something, you’d better have some practice under your belt.

The higher the stakes, the more practice you should do.

Consider getting a friend involved. The best salespeople practice their pitch with a coach until its honed. You should too.

Listen. For pain.

Effective listening goes without saying. Prospects buy from people they like, and they tend to like people who listen and respect them.

When you’re selling yourself or your ideas, listen to understand. Couple this with seeking to uncover specific PAIN or needs, and you have a roadmap for positioning your perspective.

Let’s  say you’re looking to have a major project you’re leading approved – what points do you touch on?

The key issues you identified in speaking with stakeholders, right?

Their pain.

In their minds, these issues need to be addressed in order for approval. Show that these can be mitigated and you’ve made approval that much easier!

 

Meeting burn down agenda

We came across this technique chatting with a customer recently and wanted to share it  – the meeting burn down agenda (sometimes also referenced as a “burn up” agenda).

If you’re familiar with agile practices, it probably sounds familiar to the burndown chart. Allow us to digress for a brief moment…

Burn down chart

The burn down chart is used in agile projects to track work progress.

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The x axis shows time and the y axis represents work to be done. A project leader builds the burn down chart by estimating the amount of work, resources and time required to complete a bundle of tasks in order to draw a sloped line – shown above in blue. This represents the work schedule. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that do this including Excel, Google Sheets and online burndown generators.

As work begins, a new line can be plotted that represents the actual work completed, shown above with the red line. The slope and position of the red line provide actionable information regarding the project schedule. If the red line is below the blue line, the project is ahead of schedule. If the red line is above, the converse is true. In addition, a more steeply slope red line tells us the velocity of work being done.

Burn Down Agenda

The burn down agenda works in a similar fashion.

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Just like the burn down chart, the burn down agenda arranges time and agenda topics on the horizontal and vertical axis respectively. The sticky arrow shows the current time.

As the meeting progresses, the time arrow moves to the right and completed topics are moved into the corresponding time square.

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Just like the burn down chart, the slope of completed topics and their relationship to an imaginary line representing an optimum meeting schedule indicates if your meeting is on time.

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Interested in a software based approach that accomplishes the same thing? Take a look at Trackmeet.

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Using our free agenda planner, you can capture all of your agenda topics and view an overall time allocation. As your meeting progresses, you get a visual sense if your topics are on schedule. Take it for a spin here.

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Where can you use this approach?

The burn down agenda works quite well when you need to work through a number of topics, decisions or tasks that can be formulated in advance. Workshops, brainstorming sessions or planning meetings are perfect candidates for the burn down agenda.

 

 

90% of articles written about effective meetings are a waste of time. Here’s why.

Why does every article ever written about effective meetings focus on running them? Where are all the articles on being an effective meeting attendee? 

Let’s take a look at the numbers: a 10 person meeting has 1 meeting organizer and 9 attendees. Most of the articles we’ve ever read talk about planning and running an effective meeting from the organizer’s point of view. In reality, they should be written from the perspective of 90% of the people in the meeting.

The attendees.

Inc, HBR, Forbes, WSJ – all of these publications have been pontificating about meetings from the wrong perspective, for a long time. 

If we could get 90% of the people in meetings to adhere to a few best practices, what kind of effect do you think this might have on the sorry state of meetings in America? A big one.

We’re here to reconcile this massive oversight.

This is the most comprehensive treatise we’re aware of that speaks directly to what makes for an awesome meeting attendee. Print this out, email it to your team, post it outside the meeting room door – whatever it takes to get everyone onside.

Heck, reach out to us and we’d be happy to talk to your team. The point is this – you should be spending SIGNIFICANTLY more time training meeting attendees vs. meeting organizers. More leverage = more impact.

Here we go…

Roadmaps for meetings

The meeting organizer should determine the timing, purpose and expected outcome of meetings.

Nope.

This is a throwback to the time before we had phones, email and software that allowed for collaborative planning – the meeting organizer had a free pass to determine what meetings were all about. Unfortunately, company culture, organizational hierarchy and inertia have kept this largely intact.

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As an empowered meeting attendee, you should respectfully disagree.

Great meeting attendees get involved in formulating what gets done. They collaborate on the agenda (using something like Trackmeet), and actively — but supportively — question aspects of it in order to deliver the best meeting experience possible.

Just say no to meetings

That’s right, you shouldn’t be attending meetings.

Meetings that don’t have a purpose.

We see this a lot in matrixed organizations or in meetings that span departments or involve external participants – its all too easy to call a meeting with no stated purpose or agenda and where the organizer just wants to “get work done”.

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A great way to take the high road in cases like this is to defer to the team – you can politely refuse to attend, pointing out that its in everyone’s best interest to know what you’re trying to accomplish AND have a roadmap (agenda) for getting there.

Offer to capture tasks and notes

Lets face it, meeting organizers are pretty flustered – they’re probably juggling a few team demands, wrangling with technology, addressing a last minute addition to the agenda…

And that’s before the meeting even starts.

Throw in the responsibility to capture meeting minutes and action items and our poor organizer is going to blow a gasket (or two).

Do them a huge favor and ask them if you can do all this housekeeping for them.

Tools like these help a ton here:

And… make sure to discuss this in advance. Why? Because you need to…

Get a sense for expectations around what you’re doing. Does she want a verbose accounting for what was said? Are you to infer what action items were discussed and who they’re assigned to? Is there a specific format she likes?

Arrive on time

This goes without saying, but for the benefit of completeness, we’ve thrown this in here.

What happens when you show up late?

You waste time – a lot of it.  (Use our calculator to figure out exactly how much.)

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To be exact, you waste everyone else’s time AND show a significant lack of respect. You should be called out for this IF the organizer is on her toes.

Actually follow up

Too many people readily agree to follow up on tasks assigned at meetings but never do.

You could rely on the meeting organizer to follow up with you, but you’re a sharp attendee right?

The fact is, demonstrating that you have a track record for taking the initiative to complete tasks with little or no prompting positions you as a trusted go-to for new and challenging efforts.

People who ban technology in meetings are solving the wrong problem

There are a chorus of voices in the business press, social media and on the book circuit that call for an outright ban on technology in meetings.

At first glance, this makes complete sense. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are distractions when it comes to the real purpose of meeting – getting work done.

Wrong.

Suffice it to say, people who point at technology and vilify it as the source of poor productivity in meetings have about as much credibility as the anti vaxxer crowd.

Distractions are everywhere

The fact is, the workplace has always had new and distracting technology. There’s absolutely nothing unique about the time we live in – every era that’s conducted business meetings has had something that pulls people’s attention away from the task at hand.

Get over it.

This fascinating graphic shows some of the technology that’s pervaded the modern office and brought “distraction” (some would call this productivity gain) to us all.

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Let’s take a peek at some of the distractions (ahem… tools) that have made their way into our meeting rooms over the years:

  • Ballpoint pen (Uh-oh, no end to doodling in meetings. No more running to the pencil sharpener)
  • Overhead Projector
  • Telephone
  • Whiteboards and dry erase markers
  • Computers
  • PDAs (remember those?)
  • Video conferencing

So, at quick glance, there appears to be no shortage of things to keep us occupied while the rest of the team does actual work.

My point? Smartphones and tablets are simply the latest in a long line of innovations we use in the office. The fact that people are making so much noise about them is simply because they’re new AND we haven’t quite figured out how to really assimilate them into our day-to-day work. (That’s up to the millenials, right?)

“The use of technology in a meeting is kinda like jaywalking – there’s a time and a place to do it”

– Jen Sullivan, Managing Director at Charles Schwab.

If technology isn’t to blame for poor attention, then what is?

Take a long, hard look in the mirror.

It’s you.

If you’re the meeting organizer and your attendees are distracted, you’ve probably done a shitty job at making sure everyone’s engaged. You failed long before the meeting ever started.

  • You didn’t engage with stakeholders to understand how best to get them involved, BEFORE the meeting
  • Zero collaboration on the agenda in advance
  • You didn’t call on the introverts or junior members of your team
  • You didn’t create a dynamic environment that people want to be part of
  • You didn’t set any ground rules or set expectations

On the other hand, if you’re an attendee who’s distracted, why are you even in the meeting in the first place? The fact is, you should have declined the meeting invitation OR had a pragmatic discussion with the meeting organizer around your involvement. And, if in fact you’re doing work in the middle of the meeting, you might as well be working from home.

The burden lies with the technology user

Getting back to the effective use of technology in meetings. Do phones, tablets or laptops belong?

There is no right answer.

Some meetings probably shouldn’t have any technology. Think brainstorming. Think discussions. Think strategic planning.

Some meetings are perfect for using technology. Think status meetings. Think project meetings. Think sales meetings. Board meetings.

We’ve spoken to teams that run successful meetings where smartphones and tablets are permitted and an overarching theme became clear: set clear expectations around their use.

“We’re all grown ups here – I trust my team to make good decisions around the use of devices in meetings” says Jen. “But, if we need undivided attention and complete focus, I’ll make that clear from the beginning” she adds. “Anyone can be called upon at any time.”

Here’s to the continued emergence of new tools that make our work lives easier. Whatever they might be.