Grow the pie

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Many people believe that our careers are zero sum games, where in order to win someone else must lose. That creates hurtful competition among colleagues and coworkers; people who should be working together and helping each other. People adopt a scarcity mindset where in order to get something you want, someone else cannot get the same thing.

But there are other ways for multiple people to reach their goals simultaneously. Economists have a term called grow the pie (highly technical, I know…). If there is a pie and four people, and one person takes half the pie, that only leaves half of the pie for the three remaining people. But what about if the pie grew to be larger. Or there was a second pie. Now everyone can get more pie, perhaps even more than all four people could eat together and everyone is satisfied.

In economics, a Pareto Improvement is when an individual becomes better off without making anyone else worse.

Careers can be similar. You might think that there is only a certain amount of money to give out in raises and bonuses, but what if the company produced even more profits this year. Then there is more money for the pool of funds going towards employee compensation.

Or there might only be one Director position open for people to get promoted to. But what if the company grows. Then there are multiple direction position that need to get filled, likely with internal candidates since the company is doing so well.

Rather than thinking of careers with a scarcity mindset, it’s best to remember that win-win situations are possible. If you work with your coworkers, you can grow the pie. And all of you can reach your career goals.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in your career and how to develop it

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As your career starts out, the hard skills you learned in school will be very important. And if you excel as an individual contributor, you’ll get promoted to your first management position. From there on, your soft skills will become more important for future promotions than your hard skills. You’ll need to coach your direct reports, handle conflict within your team, and tactfully manage office politics. Building your interpersonal skills, and Emotional Intelligence, will help you excel as a manager up to Director, VP, and Executive.

Numerous studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a trait great leaders have in common. Research shows that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are better at managing their stress, negotiating, and leading people. Daniel Goleman, the man who made Emotional Intelligence famous, noted that the qualities traditionally associated with leadership, such as intelligence, determination, and strategic vision, are required for success but are insufficient. Great leaders also needed other qualities – the qualities that he found associated with emotional intelligence. And these EQ qualities became even more important as employees reached higher positions on the corporate ladder. As someone got closer to the C-Suite, they needed higher levels of EQ to make the company successful and to move higher in his/her career.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other’s emotions and to manage them accordingly to achieve a goal.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence has five components:

  • Self-awareness: knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals – and their impact on others
  • Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses
  • Motivation: being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement itself
  • Empathy: considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions
  • Social skill: managing relationships to move people in desired directions

As you can see, the first three components all deal with recognizing and managing your own emotions. You need to know the emotions you are feeling, how to control your emotions, and to understand why you want to achieve your goals. One important point is that EQ is not about being emotionless. Emotions are good and healthy. You should not allow your emotions to your control you, rather you should feel and manage your emotions productively. That is the core of Emotional Intelligence.

The last two EQ components are about how you relate to others. Do you understand others’ emotions and do you know how to help them be productive toward their goals and the company’s goals. You can see how these two components are so important for leadership at the office. Whether it is helping a direct report manage his emotions with your social skills or understanding your boss’s goals using empathy, you can improve your career by developing EQ.

So then we get to the question, how do you improve your Emotional Intelligence?

A great first step is to read Daniel Goleman’s book which made EQ popular. But that isn’t necessary. You can also get started at home with two techniques: The Mime Technique and the Shoe Store Technique.

The Mime Technique helps you develop self-awareness and empathy. It’s pretty simple but very powerful.

Turn on your TV (or Netflix for all of us Millenials) and mute the sound. Try to understand the context of the show or movie just from the characters’ body language. The first time you do this, it might be hard. But as you do this a few times, you’ll start to notice which facial expressions signal anger, sadness, happiness, and stress. This will help you develop empathy.

As you watch more shows without sounds or words, you’ll start to label the emotions more in your head. You’ll see the difference between someone who feels joy and someone who feels ecstatic, and all of the other varying degrees of happiness. You’ll see the difference between the levels of anger, sadness, stress, and every other emotion in between. This will help you develop self-awareness. As you notice the different emotions in other people (empathy) you’ll also recognize the emotion in yourself better (self-awareness). That will also help you develop self-regulation over time.

As you learn to see these emotions in other people, you’ll have a better sense of good times to talk about sensitive subjects with your coworkers or when to give coworkers some space. You’ll see when they are stressed about a deadline and when they are happy about an accomplishment. You’ll get much better at handling office politics when you see the body language and underlying emotions people project.

The Shoe Store Technique is also useful: you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, figuratively. When you talk to someone and recognize their emotions, whether it is happiness or something else, put yourself in that person’s shoes. Ask yourself: Why might they feel this way?

Try on a few pairs of shoes. There could be a number of reasons why someone is stressed: is his child sick, did her boss just reprimand her, did he get in a car accident last night? You won’t know the real reason why someone feels the way he does, but picturing yourself in several different scenarios that would cause that emotion can help you empathize with that person.

You’ll understand how he feels which helps you manage your own emotions while talking to him and you will feel his emotion so you can empathize and create a stronger social connection between the two of you.

This can help you build allies at work and to just be a nice considerate person.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills for advancing your career. Even early in your career you can start developing it now and see its powerful benefits.

Give these two techniques a try at work this week and let me know what emotions you see around your office.

“I’m freakin’ awesome!”

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Several years ago, I met with a Senior Vice President at one of the nation’s largest banks to get his career advice.

Of all the great pieces of advice he gave me, one has stuck out through the years. He said that when someone asks you how you’re doing, respond: “I’m freakin’ awesome!”

It’s certainly over the top which he was aware of, but he’s right. People like to work with people who are positive and excited. Sure sometimes you won’t be doing too well and you might want to just say, “I’m doing okay. What about you?”

But people want to be around people who are positive.

And sharing a positive attitude will help you keep a positive attitude when you get to the office.

Showing up to work excited and happy will help you produce better work which is a prerequisite for getting raises and promotions.

The person you need to know to get promoted

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You go into work on time everyday and do everything that is expected of you. You complete your assignments on time. You get along with your coworkers. You understand how your job fits into the company’s goals. Your boss and your coworkers know that you are crushing it.

But you can’t seem to get noticed for a raise or promotion. That can get frustrating for even the hardest working employee.

If you are doing your job well, the reason you aren’t getting noticed is likely because the right person hasn’t noticed what a great job you are doing. That person is your boss’s boss.

Your boss’s boss is the person who approves your performance reviews and raises. She’s also the person who picks your boss’s replace should he leave and hires others at your boss’s level across the company. If she doesn’t know who you are, you won’t get selected when those jobs open up.

She’s also one of the best mentors you can have. She has a better strategic vision of the company’s goals than your boss does and she has more access to the executives. Talking with her can get you thinking like a senior team member before you’re promoted into those positions, and if you’re already thinking like a senior team member then people will see your leadership potential early in your career.

Ideally your boss would make it clear to his boss that you’re doing a great job. And then your boss’s boss would realize what a great job you are doing, but that doesn’t always work out. Sometimes your boss isn’t a great communicator. Sometimes your boss’s boss doesn’t ask about the employees two levels below her. Sometimes your boss is threatened by your success and fears you might replace him.

Whatever the reason is, you can still get noticed by your boss’s boss.

Whether your boss’s boss knows you or not, a good way to talk to her is to ask for industry advice or ask about the company’s goals.

If your boss is a good communicator and supports your professional development, ask your boss to introduce you to his boss. If not, I’d suggest sending your boss’s boss an email requesting a short meeting to learn about her career path, the company’s goals, and general questions about how your industry operates. Checkout my article about how to ask for advice: How to ask your boss for help.

Once you meet with her, you can do some general check ins. You want to check in when you have something valuable to add to her life. Some good ways to keep in touch are:

  • Volunteering to work on a cross-departmental project. Your boss’s boss is likely involved in this type of project since it involves multiple teams that report to her.
  • Sending your boss’s boss a congratulatory email if she does something noteworthy, such a speaking at a conference or being recognized in a company wide memo.
  • Letting her know when your boss does a good job on a certain project. This both helps you keep in touch and keeps your boss happy.
  • Asking about the company’s strategic vision and how her department plays a role in reaching that vision.
  • If you see a news article that relates to her work, you can email the link to her saying, “Just in case you missed this, I thought you’d find this article helpful: [link]. No need to reply.”
  • If you happen to have a hobby in common or a similar life situation (like your kids playing in the same soccer league), you can talk about that when you see each other at the watercooler.
  • Asking to meet as a mentor once or twice a year, most likely with your boss also present. You can talk about what additional skills you should learn to help the company.

While you are doing this, keep in mind that you still report to someone else so you should ask the majority of your work related question to your boss. And you don’t want to undermine your boss by going straight to your boss’s boss when you have issues. Talk to your boss’s boss about interdepartmental questions, the company’s strategic goals, industry topics, and casual watercooler talk. These topics are appropriate for someone two levels above you without challenging the organizational hierarchy.

With all that being said, your boss’s boss can know you and like you, but if you aren’t doing good work, you still won’t get the promotion or raise. If you do good work but don’t know the right people, you won’t get promoted and will get frustrated that your work goes unnoticed. If your boss’s boss likes you as a person but you don’t do good work, then she won’t risk her career by promoting you. But if you do good work and your boss’s boss knows you do good work, then she will promote you when the time is right.

Master the basics by doing your job well, demonstrating leadership skills, and adding value to the company. Along the way, get to know the leaders two or three levels above you in the org chart. Then your boss’s boss will help you climb up the ladder.

The Peter Principle

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The Peter Principle is a management theory that says an employee will continue to get promoted until he is in a role where he is incompetent.

In other words, if Sam was a great Associate he gets promoted to Senior Associate. Since he was also a great Senior Associate, he becomes a Manager. Once again, he does a great job as a Manager so he gets promoted to Director. But he’s not a good Director so he never gets promoted again. That’s unfortunately because Sam is now doing a job he isn’t good at which is hurting the company.

As a result, the Peter Principle says that a company is made up of employees who are working in roles they are unfit to be in. That’s a pretty grim outlook.

But like all theories, it’s written on paper and we don’t live on paper. When we reach a role that is too difficult for us, we can learn from our mistakes, seek education, get mentors, and become competent in our new roles. Over time, we turn our failures into success, get promoted, and repeat the cycle again.

Getting the most out of emails at work

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Anyone with more than 30 years of work experience can tell you how email has changed business. Maybe your boss has told you how it’s changed work: You can get answers to questions much faster, reference old conversations with a quick search in your inbox, and even work remotely now because of it. But like all types of communication, you need to use it well to get the most out of it.

Use it well and your coworkers will know what a great job you do. Use it poorly and you risk everyone thinking you’re a fool. Sometimes it’s a fine line between the two and being on one side or the other can influence if you get the next promotion.

As email has taken over the world, some people have learned to use it well and others just get by. Unfortunately, the way people prefer to use email changes from company to company and office to office, but there are a few common principles for communicating well no matter where you work.

One of the keys to using email well is knowing when to use another form of communication. In today’s work environment, there is no shortage of ways to communicate: Email, instant messenger, phone calls, texts, and face to face communication. For sensitive topics, face to face (or video chat if you work remotely) is the best. Sometimes you need to see each other’s body language to get the full message across.

Phone calls are great for quick and urgent conversations. If you need a decision quickly from your boss, giving her a call is a great way to go. How many times have you had a meeting with someone in person, but when the phone rings the other person interrupts your conversation to answer it? It happens all the time. There’s something about a phone ringing that makes everyone think the call is urgent and important, and that’s why phone calls are great for quick questions.

Email is good for things that will need to be referenced later, aren’t time sensitive, and require some consideration by the recipient before replying.

When you’re on the receiving side of emails, use inbox rules effectively. Two of the more effective tips are highlighting your boss’s emails in a different color and your boss’s boss’s emails in another color. That will allow you to pay extra attention to them. Your boss likely sends you emails for things that you directly need to work on so you will have an easier time tracking your projects and deadlines.

Your boss’s boss will likely include you on emails that are more long term in nature, such as emails for your department’s strategic priorities, interdepartmental projects, or industry news. This will give you a better sense of your company’s goals. As I’ve written before, understanding these goals can give you an advantage for building job security and determining your company’s financial health: Two things that will help you get promoted.

Also use inbox rules to file emails on particular subjects to certain folders. If you have projects working with a particular client, you might want to have all emails to and from that client go to an “ABC Project” folder. That will help you reference to those emails faster in the future and give you a quick way to track the communication on the project. It will also keep you less distracted since you will only look into those folders when you want to work on that project, which can increase your productivity. Just make sure you go through all the folders once a day, likely first thing in the morning or before you leave at night, and read through the emails. You don’t want to miss an important email from HR just because you’re automatically sending their emails to a “Company Social Events” folder.

As another tip, keep a folder in your inbox named “Feedback” where you store a record of your accomplishments, praise from coworkers, completed assignments, and feedback from your boss. When the time for your annual review comes around, you can refer back to this folder as a list of what you worked on during the year and how it turned out. (And if you’re interested in negotiating your salary down the road, keeping this record of feedback and what you’ve accomplished can be useful for making your case for a raise.)

If you use Outlook, checkout this link to learn how to setup inbox rules: Manage email messages by using rules. If you use Gmail, checkout this link: Create rules to filter your emails. If you use Hotmail, just kidding, no one uses Hotmail.

Sending a clear and action-oriented email is more difficult than being on the receiving end of an email.

Step one of writing a clear email is to know what you want as a result of the email. Do you want advice from the recipient? Are you only telling the recipient some information and don’t need a response? Are you trying to schedule a meeting? It’s a good idea to only have one objective from the email and to plan around that.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. What level of formality do you need when you talk to this person? Write your email in that level of formality. How will she feel about what you are writing? If it’s a sensitive subject, you might want to send an email to schedule a time to talk in person. If it’s not a sensitive subject then you can get straight to the point in the email. What follow up questions will the recipient have? Anticipate and answer as many of these questions as you can in the email.

Let’s go on to two example emails to demonstrate how to craft a great email. The first email is a weekly status check to a client on behalf of the entire team. It purely provides information to the client and does not need a reply.

To: [client] [The To line is for people who need to reply to the email or who the email is directly addressed to.]

CC: [team member 1], [team member 2], etc. [The CC line is for anyone who needs to know what’s going on but doesn’t need to take action on the email. In many business emails, that’s unfortunately too many people…]

Subject: Weekly status check-in [The client probably expects this email every week so keep the subject line short and consistent every week.]

Hi [client],

The weekly status report is below. [This is a regular, expected email so get straight to the point. The topic isn’t controversial or difficult to talk about so no need to gently ease into the subject.]

Thank you for your team’s help getting us the data this week. We have analyzed the dataset and started running regressions on it. There have been no issues running the regressions so far. [Talk about the first point, in this case what work was done this week and a thank you for the client’s assistance.]

Next week, we plan to have some of the analysis complete and can start making the final report for your team. We will let you know if we need assistance but we don’t plan on it at this time. [The previous paragraph talked about last week, whereas this paragraph talks about next week. Since it’s a separate train of thought, it goes in a different paragraph.]

No reply needed. [This takes the pressure off the client to think of a response. She can still reply with “Thanks for the update.” if she wants, but she doesn’t have to.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

Bear with me on the lack of specifics in the email. Each company sends status reports to their clients differently. But that email template should give you a guide for deciding who goes on the To line of an email, how to group your points into separate paragraphs, and how to let the reader know that you don’t need a reply.

The other email we will look at is for when you need advice on something from your boss.

To: [boss]

Subject: Question about forecasting inventory for the XYZ Project [Let your boss know that you have a question about a certain topic. This will let your boss know how important the email is based the XYZ Project’s priority. It also lets your boss know that she will need to spend a little more time on this email since you are asking a question instead of just providing information.]

Hi [boss],

As you know, I am working on the financial analysis for the XYZ Project. I completed the statements of cash flow projection for the next 12 months earlier this week. That went smoothly. [Give a little context and status report even though she probably knows this information. It helps her get into the mindset to remember your project since she has so many other projects to manage.]

I moved on to forecasting the income statement, but I’m having trouble with it and would like your input. In particular, what document should we use to forecast inventory for the next 12 months? [Be very clear about what question you are asking. Also, you’re more likely to get a quick reply if you ask “Yes/No” questions, but if you need a detailed answer with a “who/what/when/where/how” question, plan for a longer wait time before getting a reply.]

Here are some solutions that might work:

  1. Brian has some reports from our inventory management software with industry averages. The reports are attached to this email. They are reliable reports but they are not specific to our company.
  2. The warehouse has the numbers for the past 12 months. I could use that to estimate future inventory but we will have a lot of guessing in our numbers.
  3. I can use the projections from the sales department. My concern is that it is based on sales quotas rather than inventory numbers which might be too optimistic.

[If you present a problem, also provide possible solutions with some positives and negatives about each choice. Don’t make your boss too much or he might think he’s doing too much of your job. And give your boss as much information as you can which is why this person is attaching the inventory reports to the email. It will allow his boss to see if those reports will work.]

Can you let me know which option you think is best? [This is a good action oriented question to end the email. The boss can simply reply with: “Use option 2”. You are taking the work off your boss so you will get an answer faster and more accurately.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

In a previous article, I wrote a sample email for setting up an in person conversation about a sensitive subject. Take a look at it through this link How to ask your boss for help without looking stupid.

Using email can be tricky, but learning to make your coworkers’ lives easier by writing good emails is well worth the time investment. Staying on top of your emails and getting quick, helpful replies from your coworkers will make you more productive. It will also make working with you more enjoyable for those receiving your emails.

Give these principles a try to increase your productivity at work.

You just need to ask

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Employees often get frustrated with their lack of autonomy. We have a great idea to help make your department more efficient. We want to work from home occasionally to save time commuting. We want to take on a few tasks from another department so you can learn more about the company as a whole. But you feel frustrated that you aren’t allowed to do those things.

Sometimes, getting the autonomy to try to things is just as easy as asking your boss a yes or no question.

Honest conversations are pretty easy to have. And when two people have built a trusting relationship with each other over time, they want to say yes to each other.

If you’ve done good work and helped your company become better, your boss will be much more likely to let you try new ideas. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as asking “can I try this new idea” to your boss, explaining why everyone will benefit from it, and getting a “yes” response.

Why Dressing Like Your Co-Workers Is Actually Hurting Your Career

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For anyone who’s worked in an office, you know that your wardrobe plays a part in how people react to you. The better you dress, the more senior you appear. Dressing appropriately for your job is part of developing your interpersonal skills for your career.

While I dress well, I’m no expert so I’ve asked Sunjeev Prasad of Street Gentlemen to write about dressing well for the workplace. He does 1-on-1 consulting for men looking to improve their style and physical appearance and get more confidence in their lives. And while this post focuses on men’s style, women can use the principles also to improve their confidence in the office. Sunjeev knows a thing or two about fashion so here are his words about using fashion to improve your career.

Welcome Sunjeev!

Looking for a competitive edge?

It might actually be easier than you think.

Positioning yourself as a well-informed leader, go-getter, and likeable guy can all be achieved through how you present yourself.

You’re probably wondering, “how the hell is this possible?!”

Let me explain.

Your image plays a key role in your career success.

Guys that don’t care about their work or climbing the corporate ladder often don’t put much effort into their appearance. They do just enough to “get by.”

These are the guys who buy their suits off the rack without giving it any thought.

This results in a wardrobe that fits poorly, looks cheap, and doesn’t command any respect or barely any attention from women during happy hour.

If you’re taking this approach and you’re not happy with your dating life or your career situation pay very close attention to this post because you’re going to find out exactly how to turn things around.

Get familiar with your tailor:

You can find some very nice suits off-the-rack.

Don’t sell yourself short, they NEED to be altered to your body shape before they see the light of day. Doing so will highlight your best physical assets.

This has the ability to make you appear leaner, more muscular for the skinny guys, and taller if that’s what you’re looking for.

Of course before you even go to the tailor it always helps to know what your measurements are first.

This article outlines exactly how you can achieve that.

Mirror the boss:

Using his style as a source of inspiration would be wise for more than one reason, even if you don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Before you become a leader at work people need to picture you in that role.

That means that you look the part. When you look the part, you’re going to carry yourself as a leader in the workplace.

There’s actually an emerging branch of science called Embodied Cognition.

The main idea is that we don’t just use our minds to think but also our bodies.

It’s all about the way our clothes influence us —  how they feel against our skin, when we see ourselves in the mirror, and actually wearing certain items like a suit completely alter how we carry ourselves.

Break free from the pack:

Unless you’re ok with being an office drone don’t do what everyone else is doing.

If most guys in the office are typically wearing khakis, a light blue button-up shirt, and black dress shoes avoid dressing like them at all costs!

Your first step will be to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to stand out. When you stand out, there’s a chance that your buddies may crack a few jokes at your expense.

Deep down we all know they wish they looked as good as you.

Once they realize that you’re in serious consideration for the next raise or promotion they will come running to you in hopes of finding out how you did it.

Though all of your qualifications may be on even playing field, you’ve found your competitive edge by positioning yourself as a leader through your style.

Last Thoughts:

You’ve heard it a million times before — dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have.

So if your goal is to become an executive, partner, or upper management, it’s time to start dressing like you’re already there.

Remember, your colleagues need to picture you in that role before you’re even considered for it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Make sure you’re well-dressed for any occasion by downloading this FREE style guide.

It outlines the 16 Essential Items Every Man Needs To Build The Perfect Wardrobe.

Bio:

Sunjeev Prasad teaches men how to dress well and know what’s stylish so that they can carry themselves with confidence.

This mission came about after a fateful trip to the mall back in high school. He was the butt-end of jokes and took a huge blow to his confidence.

After promising to never feel that way again, he’s dedicated the last 10 years of his life to learn as much as he can about men’s style.

Today he works 1-on-1 with men to help them achieve their personal style and confidence related goals.

You can connect with Sunjeev at Street Gentlemen — personal image consulting.

Careers don’t go according to plan

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One thing I’ve learned from talking to successful executives and entrepreneurs is that things don’t go according to plan. You can plan your future, make smart decisions, and work hard, but life won’t turn out the way you expected.

One executive told me that when he started his career he was in the operations side of a large company. Over the years, he advanced up the ranks of that company to become a Vice President but eventually hit a ceiling. The company valued marketing more than operations and promoted employees from marketing to become executives.

Then he decided he’d go to a different company and joined their marketing division so he could get a shot at being an executive. Unfortunately, his new company valued operations more than marketing! Oops, that didn’t work out as planned…

After a few more years and using the opportunity to learn marketing, he moved companies again. Here he got his chance to become an executive and later became a Fortune 500 CEO.

Dealing with uncertainty is a key skill in managing your career. Things might not work out as planned, but you can still make progress in your career over time by learning from others, helping others, being patient, and taking calculated risks.

How to succeed in a new job

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You know the jitters of starting a new job. You feel a combination of excitement, nervousness, and stress in your stomach. It’s a rush of unknown possibilities: a new boss, a new company, a new role. There are so many unknowns but also so many possibilities for success.

You might be leaving a job you liked for greener pastures. Or you might be leaving a job you hated for something that you’ll enjoy more. You could be starting your first job out of school and hoping to build an extraordinary career.

No matter what situation you fall into, there are a few keys to succeeding at a new job.

One of your first priorities after starting a new job should be to learn the way your new team communicates.

Presumably, your company’s orientation talked about some of how the company communicates, but there will be certain idiosyncrasies for your team. Do they talk face-to-face? Do they prefer to talk over email? Do they have meetings to make every decision or does the boss delegate each decision or does each team member have the autonomy to decide? Take some time to observe how your team makes decisions, talks about projects, asks for help from each other, and how much they talk about non-work topics with each other.

One way to learn how the team communicates is to read emails more closely than usual. Take a look if the emails are more informational or if they are open ended questions for discussion. Also take note of which people are working on which types of projects. Sally talks a lot about the Acme account. Maybe she’s the point person for that account? Take note of it.

Then at your next one-on-one meeting with your boss, you can ask about the breakdown of projects. You can say something like:

I’ve noticed that there are 2 major projects going on now: the Acme account and the XYZ report. How is the work split between the team?

By keying into how the team communicates and how the work is split up, you can hit the ground running faster.

Another goal is to learn who the key decision makers are.

You’ll also want to understand the decision making hierarchy in the company. It might seem like your boss is the decision maker over your decision and her boss is her decision maker and so on up to the CEO, but that’s not always the case.

Some managers are very hands on and want to be involved with every decision. Others are more hands off and let their direct reports do most of the decision making. You’ll want to learn how much autonomy your boss gives your team and which decisions need approval from above. You’ll also want to learn the same dynamic for your boss and her boss. When does a decision need to go two level up?

Likewise, you’ll want to learn who makes which decisions. Who decides who gets hired and fired? Is it your boss, or your boss’s boss? How are promotions and raises determined? It might be your boss’s boss or maybe HR needs to get involved. Who decides company strategy and who is the person you talk to regularly who meets with those decision makers?

Learning all of these answers takes time. You might only learn who decides promotions after two or three years of seeing people move in, out, and around the organization, but if you keep you’re eyes open, you’ll learn it over time.

I previously wrote about how to learn what’s important to your company. It’s also important to learn what’s important to the other decision makers in your company, most likely your boss and your boss’s boss.

Learning this information will help you prioritize your work. If you know that your department is focusing on a new strategic area, you should work on those projects before other tasks. You’ll know which projects will benefit your company the most and help your department reaches its goals.

Finally, focus on getting quick wins and building momentum with your projects.

One of the ways to get your confidence at a new job is to get quick wins. That is taking on small and simple projects to get some momentum. Even though these won’t be difficult projects, you will show yourself that you can get work done, you will show your coworkers that you can get work done, and you will show that you are a team player who is earning your paycheck.

As you go on, you will get involved with larger and more difficulty projects. Over time they might become more strategic in nature where you also get to talk to people in other departments and other companies, but for now try to get simple projects completed to prove that you are a good worker.

Do everything that is asked of you especially since this is the only time when you won’t be overloaded with work. After you’ve worked at a company for two years, you’ll easily have a full schedule everyday, but when you get started you have more time to explore different areas of work. Take on projects in different areas of your department. As you continue, you will find a niche you can specialize in and be the lead person in that area.

Also, start slow and build momentum when you propose new ideas. You’ll want to make sure you understand the full situation before giving suggestions on new projects or new ways of conducting business. You don’t want to bring up a bold suggestion in a large meeting only to have your boss’s boss shut it down quickly because it’s infeasible. Perhaps the business already tried what you wanted to propose with disastrous results a year ago. You don’t want to bring up bad memory by suggesting it again.

Bring up the suggestion to one person during a casual conversation and get her feedback before you speak to the higher ups. She’ll be able to give you a warning if it’s something that didn’t work out before, and if she thinks it’s a good idea then share the idea with your team. As you learn the company dynamics and history, you can speak up in larger groups without running your ideas by other people first. Understand the full situation before proposing new ideas.

Starting a new job is stressful enough as it is. Take some time to prioritize learning how your team works, finding out who the decision makers are, and getting some small projects done before moving on to bigger tasks. After you learn this information and get your work done, you’ll be on your way to a successful career in your new role.

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