Navigating to the Next Level – At Your Company or at Another Company.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Most people at some point in their career have thought about what it will take to move up to the next level. For those people who work at companies with over 100 people, the company generally has developed a career path for you. However, if the company is a start-up company and grown rapidly, then this may not be the case. The reality for most people is they are working at a small to mid-size company which has not put thought into developing a career path for all of its employees. So, without a defined career path, how does a person navigate to the next level in their career?

Let’s make the assumption most people are interested in what would be involved with moving up to the next level in their career, and they believe they are ready to do so within the next 3-6 months. Some companies may have a policy in place defining how long a person needs to remain in their role before they can be considered for a promotion. So, it would be helpful to know this before you start down the path of inquiring about your next role and be disappointed to find out you will not be able to move into a new role for a period of time which may not suit you. However, knowing the “rules of engagement” when it comes to moving and navigating to the next level in your career will serve you well. Generally, you can find out if a company has a policy by asking your HR department if they have defined a policy on career advancement. As I noted earlier, most companies will not have this, so here is my advice on how to develop your own career path to the next level.

This may seem counterintuitive, but you need to first think about why you want to move to the next level. Is it because you have been in the role for more than 12-18 months and have plateaued in terms of your learning curve? Are you interested in moving to the next level to gain more responsibility or a pay raise? Or, are you thinking it is time to move to the next level simply because you see your peers in the company or at other companies making upward careers moves?

Most companies will offer an annual performance review, and this is the perfect time to talk to your boss about what your career path options within the company would be. If your company does not offer an annual review, you can ask your boss to provide you with one, or ask your HR department if they could assist you in this process. Prior to going through your performance review, think about and chronicle all of the things you have accomplished in your role in the past year, and be able to provide examples of how these accomplishments have contributed to helping the company. Next think about how you would be able to take on more responsibility in your role or explore opportunities to take either on-line classes or attend industry related events or go to networking sessions to learn more about how to become better and advance in your current role. Networking opportunities will provide you with a chance to talk to others who are in roles above you, and to learn what they did to move up to the next level. The majority of people you talk to will be very happy with sharing how they navigated their career advancements, and what you will quickly find is that there are multiple ways to do so.

As I have talked about in one of my articles about the importance of having a “mentor make sure before you begin your journey of seeking out your career path advancement, that you have a mentor who can also guide you through the process. Your mentor can either be someone within the company at a senior level, or someone outside of the company. Your mentor will be able to help you to think through and plot out a strategy for your career advancement discussion to have with your boss. They can also candidly let you know whether they think you are ready to navigate to the next career level, as you may not have the insight and experience required to know whether you are truly ready to navigate upwards.

Navigating to the next career level can be both exciting and nerve wracking simultaneously. Using the energy from being excited to explore moving up to the next level in your career takes practice, so keep this in mind as you are going through the process. Be sure to also leverage others advice as you are plotting your upward mobility strategy, as this is really a “team sport” exercise even though it may not appear to be one.

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.

 

 

 

 

People Have Secrets

By Kathleen E. Murphy

The tabloids are in business from what some may refer to as “fake news”, or perhaps the information is what would be considered either personal or secret information about the person or people they are writing about. Whether the information is actually real, and if it is supposed to be secretive information is not always known. However, people are fascinated with what would be considered personal information they normally would not be privy to. This same concept of what would be considered secretive information being conveyed in a business discussion is played out on a daily basis, but fortunately for the targets of this information being conveyed publicly, there are fewer channels for relaying this information.

When business colleagues are in the process of developing their relationships, there is what I will refer to as the “secret information dance”. Over time as they get to know one another, and are in situations which are highly stressful, at the end of the experience they typically will have a conversation about how they made it through the experience and how trying it was. They will often also interject information about themselves when they are feeling more vulnerable and sense or perceive a higher level of trust from the other person and the experience they mutually made it through. The information being shared is not typically revealed during regular business hours, and there is a high percentage that adult beverages may have been involved when the “secretive” information is conveyed.

There are varying degrees of what would be considered “secretive” or personal information, and these topics could be debated for days. Handfuls of books have been written and numerous seminars have been given which highlight the topics which would be considered “out of bounds” or not politically correct to discuss either in the office or outside of the office. However, there are still topics which I will place into a “grey area” (e.g., having been in numerous disastrous romantic relationships, you have heightened emotional issues you take medication for, your stance on the legalization of certain drugs, your opinion on age discrimination, body piercings or tattoos, having troubled kids at home, dealing with elderly parents and the stress it puts on you) to name a few. Talking and sharing with a professional colleague information about the subjects in the “grey areas”, or your opinion on subjects which are not considered politically correct can be highly revealing about who you are. Revealing more information about yourself may or may not strengthen the relationship you have with your colleague.  So how do you know when it is acceptable to share either personal or “secretive” information with a colleague, without having it compromise your professional position? This is a fair and highly charged question, and the real answer is that it depends on each situation.

If you have known your colleague for a short period of time (e.g., a few months), it would be wise and best to limit the amount of information you reveal about yourself privately in non-working conversations, or at least until perhaps they are the first one to do so. Applying your emotional intelligence skills during relationship building conversations will help to serve you well. In other words, you are going to have to rely upon your gut instincts to guide you about how much and when it will be the right time to reveal any of your “secrets”, if any of them at all. Some personal information should be kept private, and will not serve you well in revealing it to develop your professional relationships. There are exceptions to this of course. For example, if the information serves to bond you with the other due to having gone through the same or a similar experience,  could work in your favor.

Revealing the right type of secrets and at the right time about yourself with your colleagues can in fact serve you well to develop and bond you to them. The ability to develop strong bonds with your colleagues will serve you well at various times during your career, and arguably more so when you do not work with them on a daily basis. The best advice I can give you about whether or not to reveal secrets to your colleagues is to think about whether sharing this information will compromise your integrity with them, or have them look at you in a more positive light for coming across as being “more human”. Sometimes sharing “secrets” can help to achieve this for certain people who are perceived as being “cold” or less approachable, and which has hindered their ability to build a strong team because of a lack of trust from not revealing enough “secrets” or the right amount of private information about themselves.  What has your experience been with sharing what I will refer to as “secret” or more personal information about yourself with your colleagues?

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.

 

 

 

 

(5) Tips on How to Improve Communication – Either yours, or people you work with.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Almost on a daily basis I have people asking me for advice on how to improve upon either their communication skills, or how they can work with others to help improve the communication level between them, or a team they work with or manage. Since there are varying degrees of how well people communicate interpersonally, or with multiple types of people, there is typically a range of how well their information is being interpreted and whether their message is being conveyed clearly, or not. For some people, the ability to communicate well is a natural talent, but for most people, it is a skill they need to continuously work on to obtain a basic to an intermediate level of proficiency.

It is obvious when you come across someone who has mastered the art of communicating well, and you can appreciate how smoothly they are able to articulate their information to you. Conversely, we have all experienced having to communicate with others who lack basic communication skills, or who have room for improvement in this area. So, what can you do if you are challenged with your ability to communicate, or when you are dealing with people who are not at your same level of communication skills? Here are some tips you can consider putting into practice to help.

  1. (5) W’s & 1 (H) – Ask the person to cover what in journalism school is referred to as the (5) W’s and (1) H. In other words, make sure they are conveying to you in their communication Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Typically, when one of these elements is left out, it leaves room for misinterpretation and elongates the process of getting the persons message across.
  2. Time Line – When you are communicating with someone or a group of people, it is important to make sure they are aware of whether the topic you are communicating about has a time line. Not all communications have a timeline associated them in terms of “next steps”, but when they do, and this is not articulated, this is often when the communication breaks down.
  3. Methods of Communicating – Simply because you like to communicate verbally, does not mean everyone does. Some people prefer to communicate in writing, or perhaps a combination of face-to-face and in writing too. The best advice I can give you is to ask what the person or groups preferred method(s) of communication is.
  4. Formal or Informal – Depending on who you are communicating with, what the topic is about, how well you know the person, or a myriad of other factors will contribute to whether it is best to communicate in a formal or informal style with the recipient(s). It is best to lean towards formally communicating with others, and then determine during the course of communication if the recipient(s) modifies the communication style to be less formal.
  5. Don’t Make Assumptions – If you are not clear about an aspect of the communication you are having interpersonally, or with a team, it is best to ask for clarification on the aspect of the communication which is not clear. You can do this with either the entire group, or with one to two people involved in the discussion who you can ask and determine if they interpreted the information the same way you did.

I realize practicing your communication skills may not be your idea of “fun”, but the stronger you become at honing this skill, the easier it will be for you to interact with your boss, colleagues and people you generally associate with. If you are wondering what communication level you are at, ask two or three people you know well, respect and are comfortable with receiving constructive feedback from. It is important you ask them to only give you constructive feedback, and to also share with you aspects of how you communicate well. If you work on the constructive feedback communication aspects, ask them if they would be willing to re-evaluate your progress in another month. This will give you plenty of time to practice and hone the communication skills you desire to have, and focus on the opportunities you will have when you are at a higher level of being able to converse with others.

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.

 

 

 

The Value of Staying in Touch

By Kathleen E. Murphy

A wise friend of mine recently told me he was impressed with my ability to keep in touch. In full disclosure, I had lost touch with this person for a number of years, but when we recently reconnected it felt like we picked back up on our last conversation from too many years ago to mention. Since re-establishing our connection, we have benefitted conversationally from the life and professional experience we have each gained, and he has been true to his word with helping me on a request based on an email exchange we had about a month ago. The original intent of reconnecting with my friend took an entirely different turn than I expected it to, but therein lies the beauty of staying in touch.

Due to fact I have a communications background, I might have an advantage over most people as it might be slightly easier for me to keep in touch with people. Perhaps this is because I genuinely like to communicate with them. However, I also think I am personally driven to remain in touch with people because of the value they bring to enriching my life via the connection I have with them.

A few years ago, I read a book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. As you might derive from the book title, Keith’s concept about the value of staying in touch with people is fulfilled by making sure he leverages every dining opportunity, or as many as he can to remain in touch with his network or people who are in his life. He also reaches out to new people and dines with them to develop a connection with them. I like Keith’s concept, and I try myself to practice his concept, but it does take a fair amount of effort to do so, but it is absolutely worth doing so.

Another way Keith keeps in touch is to maximize his travel time in his car to either leave voice mails for people he has not been in touch with in the last three to six months, or schedules time with them to catch up on the phone if distance prohibits them from connecting in person. With vast technological improvements in our ability and ease of being able to keep in touch through both voice, video, text and social media options, there really are not any good excuses about why everyone cannot increase their ability to remain in touch. Granted there are people out there who will come up with more excuses than I could even dream up about why they are not able to stay in touch, but I am not going to buy 99% of their reasons or excuses. Whether you like it or not, I stand firm on this thinking.

For those of you who know me well, you know I love analogies. My analogy of staying in touch is like keeping your body and mind healthy. You need to work at doing this every day, and the more you work on your ability to stay in touch, the easier it becomes to do so. Take for example my Dad who purchased his first iPhone a few years ago. He uses his phone as his primary communication tool to keep in touch with his children and seven grandkids (e.g., whom he texts, sends photos, emoji’s and links to on a daily basis), and everyone should be able to also do this. My Dad has also mastered the art of this technology method to stay in touch, and I guarantee you he is older than most of the people reading this article, so there is no excuse why other people cannot do the same. As a matter of fact, my Dad’s iPhone has significantly increased his ability to remain in touch with both our family, as well as his friends, and I know he would agree he would not be as connected to others without it.

Remaining in touch has never been easier to do, so stop procrastinating and start reaching out to people you have lost touch with, have not spoken to in a while (you can define what this means), or take a more strategic approach and make a list of people you want to reconnect with and begin re-establishing a connection with them this week. Given all the “ugly news” happening lately, you can play a part in turning your communication outreaches into positive experiences which you and the recipient will both benefit from. As Nike says, “Just Do It”.

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.

 

 

 

 

Behind the scenes of a business deal – From a CEO’s perspective.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) hold the proverbial keys to the kingdom of success of a company in numerous ways. However, their company is only as strong and successful as the management team they are working with, and whether this team is fully invested in supporting their CEO. One large mistake CEO’s have been known to make is to not take the time to meet with and have a conversation with each of their management executives to find out the driving forces and motivational reasons behind why they work for them, and the company. Excluding a descent salary, there need to be other factors behind what will allow the CEO to have a high retention rate on their team. Having a high retention rate will be critical to the CEO and the Board of Directors in numerous scenarios, one of them being when the company is doing a “big deal”, and this can be a sales deal, a partner deal or perhaps ultimately selling the company.

Besides having a strong valuation on paper and revenue numbers which are attractive from an investment perspective, one of the key elements to why one company would be interested in another is what I will refer to as the “story telling” ability. Often the CEO or COO is responsible for being able to articulate and verbally paint a picture about why their company is so desirable and why their value proposition sets them apart from their competition. There is clearly an art to storytelling, and if a CEO or the person in charge of telling the “story” is not practiced and strong at doing this, their company runs the risk of being overlooked, or worse, dismissed from moving onto the next phase of where they desire to be.

When a company is jockeying for position to be sold, it is critical the CEO sheds their “selfishness cape/coat”, and thinks and takes into account how many other people contributed to getting them to the place they are. No one person is ever 100% responsible for the success or demise of a company, but the success of a company is largely dependent on having one or two people on the executive management team who can guide the CEO, particularly when they are in situations they have limited to no experience in.

The skill elements required from those who provide guidance to the CEO are numerous, but at the top of the list is being a good listener. Possessing a high emotional intelligence level, being strategic, having the ability to see the “big picture”, knowing how to guide the CEO and company via transitions and understanding the tangible and intangible aspects of the business and its valuation are also essential skills. Fully having mastered the art of hiring, motivating and managing human capital while also having mastered the science of business operations skills are critical too.

It is also imperative for the person guiding the CEO to know how to grow a small company into a mid to large size company, have the ability to wear many “hats” within the organization as required and appreciate and acknowledge the hard work and skills required by others to perform well in their roles. Additionally, it is critical to know how to motivate both the CEO and the rest of the company members – especially when they are working exceptionally hard or in phases of growth which are difficult. Helping the CEO to keep their eye on the “end game” or ultimately what would be the best outcome for both the CEO and the rest of the management team and company is also essential to the demise or success of the company.

So, when a deal of any kind is about to transpire, it is critical for the CEO to remember who helped them to get to the point they are at, especially since the people who do so are like their second family. If the CEO does not think their employees are like their second family, then they need to do some serious sole searching, as the people who work for them are not working for them simply because they like to work there. They are working either to support the CEO, the product or because of the company value proposition and mission, or some form of a combination of these.

Taking care of your “family” is always the right thing to do, so make sure this is fully understood, embraced and put into practice by the CEO. Having your “work family” to support you in times of need are critical, and having them there to celebrate with you in times of when you can be celebrating is the best feeling ever. No amount of money will ever make celebrating alone worthwhile or meaningful. Ultimately you want your employees to be well taken care of, and only the CEO has the final say of making this a reality. Don’t make the mistake of being greedy, as it will never provide you with satisfaction, and you will likely need key members of your “work family team” to help you in the future. As the old saying goes, “don’t ever burn your bridges”, especially over money matters.

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.