Life at the Top – is the view worth the effort?

 

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Climbing the proverbial career ladder is not something in which everyone is interested. Although if you have even a one competitive bone in your body, the thought has certainly crossed your mind.

Plotting and planning how to escalate the ladder is not always a straight-forward process. Arguably, it is one of the most difficult paths to navigate. In many business disciplines or certain industries, there are not any particular methods that guarantee how to get there.

I am not a fan of politics, but realize there is a fair amount of politics with which one has to contend in order to scale the rungs. Essentially, politics is a popularity contest. You need to figure out how to either become acquainted with, or deal with the people who are in influential roles.  It’s likely they will have a say in whether you will be able to ascend.

Having political ‘supporters’ is critical to successfully navigate in a corporation heavily laden with politics. Unfortunately, a company does not need to be large to have politics influence its culture, and how its employees rise or become stagnant.

When I ask CEOs and other top-level executives if their journey was worth it, a large percentage tell me the sacrifices they made personally were not. Not all executives had to sacrifice so much personally to get to where they are, but the percentage is over half.

However, there are certainly advantages at the top, but as we all know, money cannot buy happiness. Some executives told me they would trade their position or do things differently if they could get back to a simpler life and be, or feel, happy again.

And while we are on the subject . . . happiness is not something you can simply just want to have. You have to work at being happy. The first step is to determine what makes you happy. Prepare a mental list, and you just might realize that you already have everything you need to be happy. In fact, when I talk to CEOs what makes them happy, they often realize there are a few things they could alter to get back to feeling happy again.

Climbing the professional ladder can take years. Most people will need new skills. Many will likely switch departments or employers’ two or more times.  Why?  Because typically, when someone moves into a different role, they will acquire new skills and valuable experiences not always available when they remain at a specific position for more than a few years.

People will automatically see things differently in a new environment, be exposed to new people and new approaches to how to do any number of different things.

Change is not something with which everyone feels comfortable, but those who embrace and become comfortable with change are typically the ones who climb the career ladder over their peers who do not.

Slow and steady is a great concept for the majority of people in an organization, and thankfully, many people are satisfied with this style of how to operate. If everyone wanted to rise to the top there would be serious management issues to address.

Luckily, this typically is not the case. There are layers of management built into the organization at larger companies, in part to control or even prevent this from happening.

The next time you think about whether you are ready to climb the corporate ladder, decide how high you’d like to go. Then plot out how you will get there. You can do this by talking to others who are in roles above you, especially at your own company, but also at other firms, as there are generally more ways than one to get to where you want to be.

Talking to people can mean actually having a conversation with them in person, via an email or Skype, if distance is a challenge. Ask if they had help planning how they got to where they are, or if the process happened in an organic way.  That is often the case if a company routinely promotes employees based on having a well-defined process.

Unfortunately, most companies do not have a systematic, fair, and non-political promotion plan. If your company does not, take comfort knowing that you are in the majority of people who have to figure out how to climb to the top, if this is really what you want to do, and if the top, or even the next rung, is worth the effort.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

When People Get Quiet

 

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Call it one of the senses, and I’m not sure which one, but there is definitely a sense you get when something is not quite right. This same sense can be applied where you work and I have unfortunately been 100% accurate in predicting something is going on in the office, and usually it is related to either a promotion, a firing or the company being acquired. Some might call this ability having a mild sense of psychic power, but whatever you might call it, my general sense is everyone has this same ability, but might not know how to tap into it. Having this ability can be both helpful and stressful, as it serves almost as a barometer of the pressure being felt in the office. 

There is a saying “the calm before the storm”, and I have seen and felt this more times than I care to admit. Most of the time something good is about to happen, but people are not allowed to talk about what will be happening, so they tend to get quiet, or act more reserved than they normally are. Conversely, when something ominous is about to happen, this same sense of quiet tends to permeate throughout the office almost like a fog. Generally a few people in the office are setting this tone, and the ones who are may not be aware they are doing so. However, there are signs you can pick up on to determine if something different is about to happen, and here are a few of them. 

  • The people who have knowledge about something going to happen whether it is positive or negative will generally start to have less eye contact with you prior to the “event” happening. 
  • People “in-the-know” will have a slightly different demeanor than they typically do (e.g., if they are normally very talkative, they will become less so). 
  • When asked questions which might either be on target or are close to what might be going on, the person who knows what is happening will potentially get fidgety and exhibit signs of being nervous (e.g., their neck turns red, they may start to sweat slightly on their forehead), or they quickly change the subject.
  • The response to your questions which would normally be longer, will be short and almost abrupt. 

If you encounter any of these behaviors occurring with the people who “know something”, try not to pressure them into telling you anything, as they generally are not in a position to do so. However, depending on how well you know them, and what type of relationship you have developed with them in the office, they may give you slight hints about what is going on, and whether it is a positive or negative scenario. People who are in management roles, and who may not have years of experience yet with change management occurring, will be much more transparent and easy to read than those with years of management experience. Of course this is a generalization, but more often than not, newer managers will have a more difficult time not wearing their emotions outwardly. This is not a bad thing, and it is part of what you learn how to deal with and do a better job of not revealing from an emotional or body language perspective. 

Being able to read what is going on and tapping into your intuitive senses allows you to  prepare you for what is inevitably going to happen. I’m not talking about a self fulfilling prophesy, but instead thinking through what your options might be when you have a sense something is happening which might impact you in a good or negative way. It is always far better to be aware than caught off guard when something in the office happens, as being too emotional in most office settings is not generally considered a good thing. Having the ability to control your emotions, and I am not talking about acting like a robot, but instead being composed on the outside even though you might me a hot mess on the inside. Most managers and upper level executives become quite good at masking their inward emotions, but being able to read the emotional cues they are giving off will serve you well in future situations when you will need to be composed and thinking clearly in any situation. 

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

Own your confidence – (10) ways to do so

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Possessing confidence can be one of the most satisfying feelings, especially when your confidence is derived from something you are proud of or enjoy doing. Demonstrating confidence to others comes in a variety of delivery methods such as how you present yourself physically, how you speak, walk and treat others. People who are confident tend to have a certain allure about them which you know they have, but which is sometimes difficult to describe. You just know they have it. The funny thing about confidence is that it is a fluid type of feeling, as it can come and go. However, when you are able to sustain your confidence, you are in a position of owning it, and it becomes more difficult to lose.

Too often I have seen people with confidence let others chip away at their confidence, and this is generally when the person is in the process of building up their confidence. If I were to think of an analogy for confidence, I would compare it to a foundation. Like a foundation, confidence can be built up and be a really strong foundation, or it can be a weakly built one and easily eroded. So, how do you know whether you have built a strong confidence foundation, or one made of a weak substance such as dust? This depends, as when we are in the process of building up our foundation of confidence, sometimes it is built using strong substances like boulders, and sometimes it is not. Why does this happen? It happens as we are testing our ability to own something, and when we are in the process of experimenting with our confidence building strategies.

Speaking of strategies, do you have strategies to own building up your confidence? You may not have taken time to ponder this, but it is essential to have some go to strategies to work towards building up and maintaining your confidence. Here are (10) ideas to consider to help you build up your confidence foundation.

  1. Write down 1-3 three things you are proud of having accomplished. These do not have to be monumental accomplishments, and they can be divided into both professional as well as personal accomplishments.
  2. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, how would your rate your accomplishments?
  3. Is it possible to continue to build upon the accomplishments you have achieved? If so, think about how you can do this, and by committing to putting it in writing, it is more likely to happen.
  4. Now, write down 3-5 things you want to accomplish professionally or personally in the next year, or sooner.
  5. Plot out in a few sentences how you are going to be able to accomplish the things you want to do in a few sentences. This does not have to be an exercise in crafting a novel, and only you need to see this information.
  6. Ask 5-10 of your colleagues or friends to write down 5 or more words which describe who you are. Tell them you will reciprocate doing this for them.
  7. Once you have your list of words from your friends, use this information to gain potentially new insight into how others view you. Part of this exercise is to demonstrate to you that other people may see you in a much stronger position professionally than you do, given their choice of words to describe you.
  8. Commit to doing 1-2 random acts of kindness for other people every day. These small gestures will indirectly help to build up your confidence as you will feel more satisfied by doing something nice for others, and the feeling will be cumulative and help to further strengthen the confidence foundation you are building.
  9. Make sure every day you have an opportunity to work on doing the things that make you feel confident. Each time you do this, it is equivalent to further building up the strength of your confidence foundation, which you absolutely want to fully own.
  10. I know you have heard the expression “fake it until you make it”. There is something interesting about this expression, and part of it has to do with acting confident, even when you may not feel this way in whatever situation you need to be more confident in (e.g., giving a presentation, going after your dream job, planning an event, doing research work). If you have not already tried applying this concept, give it a try. It becomes easy to master with practice, and before you know it, you will not feel like you are faking it anymore.

Not all of the suggestions above might be applicable to you, but there should be a few of them which can help to put you on a trajectory towards owning it, and I can’t wait for you to get there, but make sure you take time to enjoy the journey along the way.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.