4 Steps to Build Your Career Effectively

Tips on planning your future career

Successful executives are not just successful because they do a good job, but because they look to build their own career. This does not happen but by chance, but with forwarding planning. As such business executives can learn useful lessons from those engaged in politics.

This is not to say that those who have successful careers are Machiavellian by nature – manipulating or using others will only hurt you in the long run – but rather that they take the time to build authentic relationships, improve your work skills, and provide real value to others. Being successful at office politics does not mean that you have to compromise your integrity. The best politicians model good career development behaviors in that they:

  1. Set clear goals
  2. Reach out to supporters
  3. Build and exercise influence, and then
  4. Execute relentlessly to achieve their ambitions.

In short, you need to devise a campaign plan for your career.

You may be busy in your day-to-day work, however, if you ignore developing your career then this is at your own peril. By their very nature organizations are inherently political entities, and anyone who ignores those dynamics becomes subject to the vagaries of others. If you want to be successful you need to identify what you want to achieve and develop a plan for getting there.

Your Future Resume

This is a useful way of helping you identify what you need to achieve in order to realize your long-term goals. Determine where you want to be in the next 5 to 10 years. Be clear and specific. Now, for that position, rewrite your resume for those positions five or 10 years out. Ask yourself these types of questions:

  • What education will I have obtained?
  • What experience will I need to reach these positions and roles?
  • What committees and/or organizations will I have belonged to?
  • What will my interests be?
  • What am I doing my spare time?
  • Who will I have met and known who has helped me to reach this position?
  • Who will I need to know or meet who can help me develop the necessary skills contacts and relationships for my next position or role?

Answering these questions helps you to get some clarity around what the focal point is around which you need to focus your efforts. Look at the people who are good role models for what you are looking to achieve. This will allow you to gain a broader and more inclusive perspective on the longer-term strategies you need to develop, rather than just looking at the short-term tactics you might use.

STEP 1: Setting Key Goals

Key Steps in Developing Your Career Campaign Plan

  1. Identify your goal–what do you want to achieve and by when? Be specific. You can periodically update your plan – or create a new, rewritten résumé – to match your changing goals.
  2. Focusing on your end goal, write down the dates that you consider crucial. For example, these might include annual performance reviews, project completion dates, application deadlines or other target dates. Beginning with the end in mind work back from the end goal date to where you are today. This will help you identify what you need to do today is aligned with helping you achieve what you want in the longer term
  3. Take Stock of Yourself.Three simple steps you take include:
    • Identify the skills acquired by others who have reached your goal.In order to grow and develop you will need to change. You need to be clear on the skills capabilities, capacity, and experiences that you will need as well having the resilience and underlying attitude to help you succeed. This can be difficult to ascertain. So ask people, especially those who you aspire to be, about their experiences and how they moved up the ladder. Take what you can learn from them and see what you can apply that is most useful and relevant.
    • Determine what skills you can learn on your own. For the rest, figure out how long formal study will take.Build time into your schedule for the skills you want, cultivate. If you don’t make the time, to begin with then you will never have the time to grow how you need to and you become frustrated and disappointed.
    • Chart your skills development plan on your campaign calendar.Make it visible and plan it out. Print off monthly calendars for the duration of your planned career campaign so you can see what you have to do, by when, and how you are progressing.

STEP 2: Reach out to Supporters

Direct Power – know who you need to know

A lot of your success will come through your relationships with others. You need to ask yourself:

  • “Who are the people who have the greatest power and influence over where I want to go and what I want to do?”
  • “Who do I need to know and meet with and why?”
  • “What do I want them to feel, think and say about me? From this what do I want them to do?”
  • “How can I help them and be of use to them?” (it is a two-way street after all)

STEP 3: Build and Exercise Influence

Key People – Draw up a Power-Map

This is a simple tool that allows you to map out your key relationships (or lack of) with the key people you need to influence. Draw a map, with you at the center, and how you are linked to them (directly or indirectly), and who you need to go through to reach other people. Colour-code them: green for your allies, yellow for people you know slightly, and red for people you don’t know. From this, you can identify who and where you need to develop relationships, who needs to know you that doesn’t know you, and who knows you who can help you.

Indirect Influencewho are the people who although they lack formal power or authority are influential. For example, whose opinion does your boss value? Knowing this can help you to use the right messenger in persuading the key person with the power and formal authority.

Key Groups – think about which groups will help you connect with the people you want to meet—potential clients, higher-ups at your company, industry thought leaders—and eschew commitments that waste your time or yield minimal returns.

Here are some concrete steps for pinpointing who can help you in your career campaign:

  • Draw a power map, using circles that show who has the most influence over your career—and, in turn, the people who have the most influence over them.
  • Figure out what you can offer the influential people—expertise, assistance on a project, help with networking—and ways to cultivate unique knowledge or skills they’d find valuable.
  • Make a list of the groups you should join because they hold sway or will allow you to meet key contacts.

STEP 4: Executing

In putting your strategies and actions into practice with the people you need to target you know need to build and maintain a relationship with them. Establish quarterly progress goals for yourself.  Think about what you are doing that is relevant for them to spend 15 minutes with you.  Make sure you are highly visible, especially when meeting with prominent people – it will help to make you more interesting and attractive to others, this makes it easier to meet with them. Try and create an “echo” for your name – make sure everyone hears your name everywhere whether it be articles, blogs, social media, presentations, reports, conferences etc.  Key in doing this is to build the relationship first so that when you need their help later then they will be willing and know how to help you best.

Bring It All Together

Now you know what you are looking to do, with whom, how and by when – and with a clear outcome in mind – you need to bring it all together. Condense it into a clear plan with all the elements, the dates, and actions. Review it regularly and adapt it to you and/or your environment change.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.


What To Do When People Are Not Being Held Accountable

A recent survey quoted in an article in the Harvard Business Review Blog highlighted that the single most avoided responsibility was holding people accountable.  In the survey of more than 5,400 upper-level managers from the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific gathered since 2010, 46% are rated “too little” on the item, “Holds people accountable — firm when they don’t deliver.  This result is consistent at all levels of management, and across all countries.

Why Is This?

There are a number of contributory reasons that I see for this, these include:

Lack of a Suitable Role Model – if accountability is not being enforced from the top, then how can the organization expect managers and leaders below to do so.

Fear of Being Unpopular – holding people accountable is a confrontational role and one which many people shy away from.  As such, regardless of the fact that you are acting within your rights and quite properly, there is a personal price you pay in terms of being seen by others in a negative light.

Circle of Avoidance – I have seen many companies keep people on who are well beyond their “use by” date.  What often happens is that a decision is made to deal with the non-performing individual in a non-accountable way to avoid confrontation.  This provides a precedent and makes it easier to repeat the decision when the problem re-occurs.

Dealing with the Symptom Not the Root Cause – often managers will deal with the problem at a superficial level.  Not wanting to probe further or ask “why” means that the problem is not properly addressed and continues to raise its ugly head again and again. This can develop into acceptance of the on-going situation as people get “injured” to it.

Being Held Accountable Without Consequences – for me, this is a major contributory factor.  Often when people are held accountable there is a distinct lack of accompanying consequences that are properly enforced.  This means that the system of being held accountable lacks discipline and backbone, undermining the whole process.

The Ringelmann Effect – here the decrease in average individual performance with increases in group size. It was named after a German psychologist, Ringelmann who studied groups pulling on a rope. He found that the average force for two persons was 93% of average individual force; the average force for three persons 85% of average individual force, and the average force for eight persons was only 49% of the average individual force essence individuals exert less effort when their efforts are combined than when they are considered individually.  This masks the lack of effort, and often group dynamics can mean that the group would rather “carry” the non-performing individual than making them accountable.

So What Can We Do?

At its essence, this is about changing people’s behavior which in turn drives your organization’s culture.

If you are working in an organization where accountability is weak then you have to bite the bullet and enforce it in a consistent and sustained fashion.  It will cause unrest, loss of popularity and even loss of staff – but if you don’t like that then you shouldn’t be in a leadership role.  You need to address the motivation for this, as well as ensuring that the relevant capabilities are in place.  We need to set the standards – establish, communicate them, and reinforce them by providing the necessary capabilities and tools so people can action the changes required.

Using Influence

The only way we can enable people to change their behaviors is to use our influence.  Influence is often thought of in a personal context, but there are other sources.  There are six sources of influence available to us, this shown below.

Source 1: Personal Motivation — work on connecting vital behaviors to intrinsic motives.

Source 2: Personal Ability — coach the specifics of each behavior through deliberate practice.

Source 3: Social Motivation — draw on the enormous power of social influence to both motivate and enable the target behaviors.

Source 4: Social Ability — people in a community will have to assist each other if they hope to succeed.

Source 5: Structural Motivation — attach appropriate reward structures to motivate people to pick up the vital behaviors.

Source 6: Structural Ability — ensure that systems, processes, reporting structures, visual cues and so forth support the vital behaviors.

Although organizations often look at trying to motivate people when influencing they tend to focus predominantly on sources 1 and 5 and developing the abilities to support the change are largely ignored or treated as a post-change aspect – rather than being integral to effecting the change successfully.

Overview of the Six Sources of Influence

So what do these influences mean if you are involved in creating a culture of accountability?  Let’s look at them in a little more detail.

1.  Make the Undesirable Desirable – if you can’t find a way to change a person’s intrinsic response to a behaviour—if you can’t make the right behaviors pleasurable and the wrong behaviors painful – you’ll have to make up for the motivational shortfall by relying on external incentives or possibly even punishments.

2.  Personal Ability– we often limit our success when we assume that any influence failure is exclusively a motivational problem.  This fundamental attribution error assumes that when people don’t change it is simply because they don’t want to change.  In doing this, we lose an enormous lever for change. Even when we realize people may lack the ability required to enact a vital behavior, we often underestimate the need to learn and actually practice that behavior.

3.  Harness Peer Pressure – when seeking influence tools that have an impact on profound and persistent problems, no resource is more powerful and accessible than the persuasion of the people who make up our social networks. The ridicule and praise, acceptance and rejection, approval and disapproval of our fellow beings can do more to assist or destroy our change efforts than almost any other source.

4.  Find Strength in Numbers – this is creating leverage and synergies by enabling different people, teams, departments and divisions to share their knowledge, insights, and experience in meeting dealing with, and achieving the necessary changes.

5.  Design Rewards & Demand Accountability – making use of extrinsic rewards can be complicated. Not every reward has its desired effect. Sometimes they can backfire and be counter-productive.  Accountability has to be clearly allocated and, to be effective, needs to be reinforced with consequences as appropriate.  Rewards need to focus on behaviors, not just results.  If rewards are mismanaged, they can be divisive and if accountability is not maintained then its absence can send out negative signals.

6. Change the Environment – this examines the nonhuman aspects, such as buildings, space, sound, sight etcetera can be brought to bear in an influence strategy.  For example, co-locating new teams, departments or key individuals; creating new corporate identities; how the environment can be used to highlight visible, timely and accurate information that supports their goals.

Utilizing a mix of these six sources of influence provides you with the opportunity to direct, engage and enable your staff to expect, for both themselves and others, accountability.

What will you do? What works for you?  Share your ideas, insights, and comments here!

Share the knowledge, share the wealth!


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

5 Steps for Effectively Delegating & Managing Work

A 5-step process by which to effectively delegate and manage delegated work.

DelegateDelegating effectively allows managers and leaders to free up time; ensure the work is down to the right person at the right level and on-time; helps to develop people and their capabilities, and allows the managers and leaders to focus on what is important – not just what is urgent.

Creating the Conditions & Capabilities for Delegation

For effective delegation you need to have:

  1. A culture which supports and allows delegation to occur
  2. The desire and the ability to delegate
  3. People with the necessary abilities and attitudes that you can delegate to.

If you lack any one of these it makes delegation difficult.  As such be clear as to where you are on these factors and what you need to do to address them if necessary.  Yet even if these conditions are in place many managers and leaders find it difficult to delegate.  Common reasons for this include:

  • Short-term thinking – it would be quicker to do it myself
  • Perfectionist thinking – I can do it better myself
  • Requires an investment in training/mentoring of others – I don’t have anyone I can trust to delegate it to
  • I don’t know how to delegate

The key to enabling others to delegate is to understand what delegation entails.   I define delegation as:

A task, for which a nominated individual(s) is given specific responsibility, to complete in part or full, by a given time to produce an expected outcome or result, and for which you will receive feedback on.

The 5 Step Delegation Process

  1. Identify the Task – be clear on what the actual task is that you are asking someone to complete.  In doing this put a clear frame around it – what does it include and what does it exclude.  Providing a clear description and understanding of this is critical.
  2. Nominate the Individual(s) – Identify the person(s) who will be involved in the completion of the task.  Be clear as to why you want them to do it (is it for personal development reasons, part of what they need to be able to do to gain promotion etcetera?), and make sure they understand this.

    Delegation Process
    The 5-Step Delegation Process
  3. Define the Responsibility – when discussing it with the nominee(s) ask them to summarize what they have understood that you want them to do – this will quickly highlight any discrepancies or misunderstandings before they can become problematic.  Check that they are prepared for this responsibility and are committed to completing it within the scope and timeframes that you have determined.  You also need them to be clear on your expectations as regards their completing this task and the associated results and outcomes.
  4. Completion – do you want them to complete the task in full, or only in part, before they report back to you on progress made.  If it is an area in which they have little experience, or you have a low level of trust in their ability to do so, then get them to complete the first part before reporting back to you.  This gives you a checkpoint to ascertain how they are progressing, what further guidance is necessary, and if they can be left to their own devices to complete the task.
  5. Review – establish regular times for reviewing their progress.  If you are uncertain of their capabilities then you may have multiple review points during the work on the task, or you may ask them to report back once it has been completed if you have high confidence in them.  Reviews should be short and you must ensure that the responsibility for the work stays with the nominee(s), otherwise you will find the work delegated back to you!

By breaking the delegation process into these 5 simple steps it makes it easier for you to delegate, for those delegated to understand what they need to do and what is expected of them, and for the work to be done in a controlled manner which allows people to grow and develop without being micro-managed.  Use this with your people and see how much time and effort you free up for yourself, and how your people work more effectively.

We look further at delegation in the following article, How To Manage Those Delegated To.


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

5 Ways to Make Better Decisions Faster

How to make decisions at speed 

Speed to market is increasingly important when you need to respond to business, competitive or market changes.  Making a poor decision, implementing a decision poorly or taking too long can cost you money and time, and create stress and frustration.

Here are five steps for deciding at speed:

  1. Make decisions faster. Often this is about making a choice to decide.  Do you need more information, or are you using this as an excuse to procrastinate?
  2. Sequence your decisions. Make them in the right order.  Stat with those with the most expensive and time-consuming dependencies first. You don’t drive to the airport to catch a flight until you have decided where and when you are going to fly.
  3. Only make decisions once. If you continually revisit decisions then you will create confusion and frustration. As Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and CEO for twenty-two years, said: “I spend much less time and energy worrying about “making the right decision” and much more time and energy ensuring that any decision I make turns out right’.
  4. Don’t ask everyone to help you decide. You only want to include those whose involvement will improve the decision or who have input that will make it more likely you won’t get vetoed later.
  5. Triage decisions. Some decisions don’t matter. Some decisions are so unimportant that they are trumped by speed. And a few decisions are worth focusing on.

Use these guidelines to help you improve your speed to market.  Don’t try to do everything at once in speeding up your decisions, build up and include that which you are comfortable with. As you become comfortable going faster so your decisions will speed up. Share this with your peers, teams, and colleagues and work on these five steps together!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.