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 #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.

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.

No Compromise on Religious Traditions

Dear Jean,

Here comes another religious holiday (not my religion), and all the little kiddies will be hunting eggs at my boss’s ranch.  If I refuse to take my child to the big shindig, I’m a spoilsport.  If I take her, I’m a hypocrite.  Please help me, Jean.  If you can come up with some compromise, I’ll be eternally grateful.


Based on the information you gave me, I don’t see any need for a compromise.  The party conflicts with your religious traditions, and that’s that!  You can explain that to your daughter in words she can understand.  Remind her of all the fun activities that coincide with her own traditions as a way to soften her charge that you’re a spoilsport.

I don’t see any reason that you should be embarrassed about not taking your child to the party.  Just send a nice handwritten note to your boss.  Something like this would work well:

Dear Boss,

Thank you for your kind invitation to the Easter egg hunt at your ranch.  Because the party conflicts with our family’s religious beliefs, we must decline.  We appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness.


Should I Invite Her?

Dear Jean,

My administrative assistant is a Jehovah’s Witness.  I am told she is not allowed by her religion to celebrate holidays or birthdays.  Should I invite her to attend birthday parties of her co-workers?


It is nice manners to give her the dignity of choice.  Mostly likely, she will graciously decline.  Because you don’t fully understand her religious loyalties, ask.  She will be delighted to tell you anything you want to know.  Please don’t assume.  You may end up not inviting her to a baby shower she really wanted to attend.

I learned about the traditions of Jehovah’s Witnesses firsthand from a most delightful person, a previous receptionist of mine.  It was I who almost didn’t have a baby shower for her.  Somehow I got the idea that Jehovah’s Witnesses just said “no” to parties of any kind.  Boy, was I wrong!  A good rule of thumb is, “When in doubt, ask.”  Halloween parties are a definite “no” and anniversaries are a definite “yes.”

Bad Breath Boss

Dear Jean,

My boss has really bad breath.  When he speaks to me, I almost gag.  What can I do to let him know of his problem?  He is a very defensive person.


I know only two options:  Get up your courage and tell him, or stay two arms’ lengths away.

I have a client who was the person with the bad breath.  His secretary kept a bunch of mints in her desk.  As he would be walking out of the office for a meeting, she would say, “Wait, here are a couple of mints.”  It wasn’t too long before he asked her if he had a breath problem.  She told him the truth, and he was thankful to hear it.  She probably saved him a couple of teeth too.  Her courage helped her boss detect early stages of gum disease.

Four Magic Words for the Interview

The four magic words are: “I want the job.”

If you’ve done all your research on the company and you like the person interviewing you and you know you want to work there, then you have to speak up and say so. Don’t end the interview by saying, “I think this would be a great place to work. Thanks for the wonderful interview.” That’s too weak. You have come right out and say, “Thank you for the interview. I want the job. What are the next steps?”

As you do so, leave the door open so you can follow up with them rather than them having to follow up with you. You could say, “I’ll follow up with you in a week.” Chances are that because they’re interviewing many people and are overwhelmed, they’ll tell you not to follow up – that they’ll take care of it. But follow up anyway. You’ll never know what’s happening on a job’s status unless you follow up with the person.

Punished for Honesty

Dear Jean,

I’m a salesperson for a large company.  I feel that my sales manager overlooks and doesn’t monitor people who over exaggerate their numbers just to reach their quotas.  I feel I am being punished because I am being honest.  What should I do?


It depends on your motives.  Are you concerned for the welfare of the company, or are you concerned that your bonuses won’t be as big as your co-workers’?  If you are truly concerned for the welfare of the company, blowing the whistle is certainly an option.  It does have its drawbacks; I’m sure you know what they are.

If you are concerned about your numbers and bonuses as they compare to your co-workers’, stop.  There is nothing you can do about someone else’s behavior on the job.  Don’t give much thought to telling anyone else at this point.  The boss will find out sooner or later, so just keep your mind on your job and be honest in reporting your quotas.