Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #9

The following is the 9th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

9. Dress at the top of your level.

People do judge you by how you look. For example, if you’re in a position or company where everyone wears jeans and t-shirts, you should dress a notch higher. If you’re a man, wear khakis and golf shirts, and if you’re a woman, wear slacks or a skirt with a tasteful top. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were meeting with your top client. What attire would be professional yet comfortable to accommodate a key client meeting? Additionally, no matter where you work, casual day does not mean shorts and flip-flops. If an executive sees you dressed like that, they’re going to view you as a “kid.” Even an iPod in your ear can make you look like a kid. When you’re on your way up (usually in the 25-40 age bracket), the last thing you want is to be called a kid.

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #7

The following is the 7th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

7. Get a mentor.
If your company has a mentoring program, take advantage of it. If you don’t have access to such a program, get a mentor on your own. Look through your network of people and find someone who is at or near the level you aspire to be. Invite the person out to lunch and talk business with them. Learn what they did to get where they are. When you feel enough rapport and comfort with the person, ask if he or she will mentor you. Most people are honored by the request and will say “yes.” If the person declines the request, don’t take it personally. Simply find someone else to learn from.

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #6

The following is the 6th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

6. Do what others won’t do.
In every department there are a few things that need to get done (or that are important to the boss), but no one wants to do them. Find out what those are…and then volunteer for the tasks. Yes, some people will call you a “kiss up,” but that’s okay. Ultimately, you have to please your boss and to some extent your peers and direct reports, not the nay-sayers who have little chance of reaching the top.

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #5

The following is the 5th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

5. Learn about business.

To make it in business you have to know about business. This includes reading about your industry as well as other industries to learn how different companies handle things. If you’re well read you can give examples from other industries and companies of what worked and what didn’t. Remember that in order to be promotable you have to be on top of your game at all times; being knowledgeable is one way to display your competence.


Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #4

The following is the 4th in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

4. Build social capital.

Building social capital across the board is critical to your upward mobility. Not only should you build social capital with people within your department, but you should also build it with people in other departments and in other companies who might be a resource for you. Social capital simply means building connections with people. Find out some personal information about others, such as their hobbies, their birthday, and their kids’ names…and then talk about those items occasionally to build rapport. Remember this: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. When you’re on your way up the ladder, you need to treat people like people and not like objects. Get to know your peers. You never know if one day a peer will be your boss, and even if they aren’t, they can make your work life very stressful.

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #3

The following is the third in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

3. Speak up.

During meetings, always weigh in on the topics discussed. Don’t leave a meeting without having an opinion about something or you will quickly get a reputation for being “wishy-washy” or not concerned with the company’s success. If you’re in a meeting and the discussion turns to something you’re unfamiliar with or is not part of your department’s duties, look engaged anyway. Always remember that the people above you are watching you, and everything you do – or don’t do – counts.

Are You Executive Level Material? Tip #2

The following is the second in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

2. Build your confidence.

Contrary to popular belief, confidence is not about self-esteem or self-worth. In fact, someone can have a low level of self-esteem and still become a high-level executive, as the person’s low self-esteem could be driving them to succeed. True confidence is simply the belief that you can do things well. If you doubt your ability to do things well, simply look back at your record of accomplishment. Use those past successes as a way to build your confidence so it’s apparent to others as well.

Are You Executive Level Material?

The following is the first in a series of 10 tips to help you become more promotable in your job.

Any successful executive will tell you that there’s a game in business. If you’re not willing to play the game, you can’t win at it. So while many people aspire to reach the executive level in their company, they won’t. In fact, most people don’t make it past the $80,000 per year income level simply because they don’t play the game.

Why won’t they play? “I hate business politics,” they say. But who said “business politics” had to be a negative thing? For example, if your boss does something commendable in the company, invents something new, or makes a great speech, it’s okay to congratulate him or her. That’s not being political or a “kiss up”; it’s called being gracious and having decorum – two things that will help you climb the corporate ladder.

Aside from your technical skills or job-specific abilities, other big components of the game include your comportment, how you look, how you speak, your attitude, and your daily habits.

1. Claim your space.

When you’re walking in the office, you need to look purposeful and centered. Scurrying, looking harried, or trying to blend into the background will make you appear as though you lack confidence. Instead, walk with your full height and claim the space around you. People need to view you as someone on a mission – a mission to the top.

Accused of Not Listening

Dear Jean,

I have been accused of not listening.  My employees, my husband and my children all think I don’t listen to them.  Granted, I’m pretty intense most of the time, and it is true that once in awhile I don’t completely understand what they’ve said.  I’m not even sure I want to do a great deal more listening.  I have made it this far to “senior management,” so why do I have to change?


You don’t have to change, unless you want a smoother, less complicated life and a long-term career.  Because you have the courage to write, I feel that you are ready to make some positive changes in your listening style (I didn’t say changes in your personality).

Unless you make it a priority to hear and fully understand people, you won’t be able to do it.  Make sure that you are in the frame of mind to listen.  If you are faking it, your nonverbal communication will give you away.  If you respond so quickly that you step on their last word, you will not have processed the whole meaning of what they have said.

To make sure they know you heard them, count to three before you respond.  Listen for the facts and the body language associated with the message, then paraphrase what they just told you to confirm that you understand what they are thinking, feeling and saying.

Employee Motivation

All people are motivated.  Yes, you heard me right.  All people are motivated.  They may not be motivated to do what you want them to do, but they are in fact motivated.

When I was new in management, I thought people would do what I wanted them to do because I said so.  Wrong.  I liked the word boss and I was thrilled to be one.  The only thing I knew about bossing was to boss everyone around.  There’s a word for my old management style – dictatorial.

My bull-in-a-china-closet style eventually forced me to read many books on the subject of management.  I learned that to manage others, I must learn first to manage myself well.  I learned that to be effective, I must set an example, and that people want to be led, not managed.

Many books have been written on management and leadership.  The book that comes to mind as having the most valuable information on management-building skills is The Greatest Management Principle, by Michael Lebouf.  Lebouf taught me what I consider the most important thing a manager must know to be successful.  To be a successful manager, you must know that if you want someone to perform any type of function, you must measure or at least acknowledge the results.

You must be saying, “That sounds way too much like baby-sitting.  No way, not me, I won’t do that.  I hired competent people and I expect them to perform without my involvement.”  If this is exactly how you feel, you will learn this lesson exactly as I did, through turnover.

From reading The Greatest Management Principle, I also figured out that it is a rip-off to ask an employee to perform a special assignment and then not recognize the contribution.  I used to think that a paycheck was the thanks my staff wanted and needed.  Wrong again.  People do want fair compensation, but beyond that, it’s recognition they want.  Some people want standing ovations and some want a verbal pat on the back.  Some people want very little attention drawn to them, so a sealed note would work just as well.  What we all have in common is that we want to feel important.  If you don’t make your employees feel important, they will go to work for someone who will.  Remember, people do things for their own reasons, not yours.