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How To...

November 20, 2017
This photo provided by Tesla shows the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled last Thursday. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation.—Tesla via AP
This photo provided by Tesla shows the new electric semitractor-trailer unveiled last Thursday. The move fits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s stated goal for the company of accelerating the shift to sustainable transportation.—Tesla via AP

If you’re the boss’s favourite, don’t flaunt it

Being the boss’s favourite can feel good, especially if you’re privy to information that others in your organisation don’t know. But there’s a downside to being the first to hear breaking news: If you share your insider information, even with good intentions, your co-workers won’t thank you. In fact, it’ll seem like you’re just flaunting your special status. So avoid the role of boss’s messenger, and don’t let your co-workers use you to ferry their requests or concerns to the top. Politely but firmly decline to speak to the boss on anyone’s behalf, and keep your peers’ off-the-record complaints to yourself. By being trustworthy, humble and discreet, you’ll prove yourself as a team player and ensure your reputation survives your time in the boss’s favour.

(Adapted from “Being the Boss’s Favourite Is Great, Until It’s Not,” by Liz Kislik.)

Avoid these four behaviours

When difficult conversations at work go wrong, they can rapidly devolve into unproductive arguments. Keep your discussion on track by minding the A-BCDs: Avoid Blame, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.

— Blame: Try not to make assumptions about what your colleague is thinking, and don’t make groundless accusations. Stick to facts.

— Contempt: Acknowledge when you’ve lashed out in exasperation, and do your best to avoid making judgments.

— Defensiveness: Take responsibility for your part in the conversation. Are you open to input, or do you interpret new ideas as criticism?

— Stonewalling: Commit to listening and contributing with an open mind, instead of avoiding an unpleasant topic or refusing to participate fully in the conversation.

(Adapted from “8 Ways to Get a Difficult Conversation Back on Track,” by Monique Valcour.)

Pay attention to your company’s trends

When we think about trends that affect our business, we often look to things happening outside our companies. But it’s just as important to pay attention to internal signals that may present opportunities or challenges right in front of you. Watch for signs related to people, process, products, and strategy: Have there been any new hires or departures of key employees in the company? Are there patterns in the types of requests you’re receiving from stakeholders? How might the introduction of a new product affect your line of business? Does a series of new products signal a change in direction? After reflecting on questions like these, consider the implications of the trends. Ask yourself, what might these changes mean for me and my department? The answers to these questions will help you identify where your own strategy and priorities may need to adapt.

(Adapted from the HBR Guide to Thinking Strategically.)

When pitching an idea, think like a salesperson

The next time you have to pitch an idea or project to get stakeholder buy-in, take a tip from your sales colleagues and learn as much as you can about your “customer.” Long before you make your proposal, gather information that will help you sell your idea. Have a conversation with the stakeholder you’re trying to win over and ask empathetic questions: What business problems do they need to solve? What do they need to accomplish? Do they have a personal goal, such as advancing in the organisation? Once you’ve figured out your customer’s motivations, you can tailor your proposal to suit their needs. As a great “salesperson,” you should take a genuine interest in the stakeholder’s problems. Your pitch should describe how your idea or service will solve them.

(Adapted from “How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson,” by Rebecca Knight.)

To be a consultant, start recruiting clients now

The vast majority of senior professionals don’t want to retire. They have interesting, fulfilling work that they’d like to continue — just not at the same frenetic pace. That’s why so many people, lured by the promise of flexible hours, higher rates and location independence, are intrigued by the idea of becoming a consultant or coach. If you’re interested in pursuing this secondary career, start recruiting clients now. Take on a few volunteer clients on the side, while you’re still employed, in exchange for testimonials and future referrals (assuming it’s a good experience). And use your existing network: Senior leaders you already know may become your first clients, so tell them about your upcoming retirement plans.

(Adapted from “How to Become a Coach or Consultant After Your Retire,” by Dorie Clark.)

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 20th, 2017