I was recently cleaning out an old, but full notebook and came across some scribbles I had made back in November. The Network for Executive Women had hosted an “Influencing Up” seminar with Tammy DeBoer, Senior Vice President, Food and Private Brands at Family Dollar and Cynthia Dautrich, Chief Procurement Officer at Kimberly-Clark Corporation who gave some valuable tips for getting a head. So if you’re not exactly at the top of the food chain at your organization, but you’re working your way up here are some great insights on how to get there. Ten demerits for me for not getting these gems posted sooner.
• understand your leaders: get to know their goals and objectives. You have your goal, but you need to understand your leaders goal in order to figure out how you can help them as you help yourself.
• communicate in a style that works for your leaders: take the time to understand their communication style. Some leaders like face-to-face meetings and still others like everything spelled out in an email. Some like detail and others like you to just topline the information. You need to understand how your boss wants to be communicated with.
• be respectful of their time: be concise with the message. Get to the point. They’re busy.
• practice your 45 second pitch: you don’t want to lose the sale because of a fumble. Think about what you’re going to say before you walk in the room
• socialize your idea before you meet: plants seeds, gain consensus before you meet. Send the idea over to give your boss time to read it and think about it beforehand.
• negotiate what you need to perform successfully: of course, you’re not asking for green jelly beans in your dressing room, but no one knows better than you what you need to perform. It could be specific goals and deadline. It could be a budget number to hit. Or it could be equipment and the proper workspace. It’s okay to talk this through with your leader.
• agree upon expectations of you: how can you be evaluated if you don’t set expectations. We all receive job descriptions, but the requirements don’t always correlate specifically to the expectations and the deliverables. When I start a new job, I like to agree to a 90-day plan. It’s give enough time to get up to speed and running and still accomplish things.
• know when and how to challenge your leaders: We often think we can’t challenge a leader, but one of the keys to moving up is the ability to know when and how to do so. If you present your arguments, not as arguments, but as well-thought out and rational opposition, most good leaders will appreciate your passion and the consideration you put in. It also is a trait of a thought leader.
• follow up on progress as performance counts: it’s fine to ask for a “how am I doing” check-in. It shows you care and want to be successful. Who wants to wait for the annual review to get feedback? We are all human beings and as such, need validation.
• have a passion for the subject matter: this is key to selling your ideas and yourself.
• request time to explore the idea further: if the reception was less than stellar or your boss had tons of questions, request a second meeting and the time to flesh things out more and to answer the questions
Then it’s a matter of being consistent and staying the course with everything Tammy and Cathy suggest and you’ll be well on your way to building trust and confidence with your superiors. And those are two important building blocks for climbing the corporate ladder.