THOSE OF YOU WHO AVIDLY follow the ClarkMorgan events calendar will have noticed that April is my turn for the public seminar tour. This is where I get to visit Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong (Beijing too, but that is hardly a visit as I live here) and spend a day working with wonderfully active and enthusiastic (normally) trainees and improving their skill sets in a particular area.
This time around things will be a little different. Rather than focusing on specific skills, we will be concentrating more on attitude and personal branding. April will be the month where a number of you (the more the better) will return to the office thinking ‘Right, this is my year to make things happen!’
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Confucius and his recommendations for a ‘harmonious society’. In general I am in favour of a peaceful life, but there comes a time when you either ‘get noticed’ or you get ‘left behind’. Confucius may have been a great man, but he didn’t live in a time where performance appraisals were carried out by a German line manager and passed to a Canadian departmental boss before finally reaching the desk of an American HR Director.
Standard Chinese advice for behaviour is to keep your head down, work diligently, but do not draw attention to yourself. This creates a situation in our staff members not unlike that of salmon racing up river. In nature, the swirling mass of identical salmon huddle together for safety as they know there are bears upstream just waiting to grab them. If they are unlucky enough to be plucked out of the water by a hairy paw, then it is just that….. bad luck.
However, if we replace the bear image with that of an HR manager (not so cuddly but far less likely to bite your head off) and the salmon become multinational staff desperately trying to blend in to the office decoration for fear of being noticed for the wrong reasons, then we see the dilemma facing both the appraisers and the appraised. When the bear reaches down and snaffles a fish, he doesn’t care which fish he gets. When HR are looking for suitable candidates for promotion, they don’t have the luxury of just pulling 5 randomly selected people out of a line. They must justify their decisions.
Chinese multinational staff are faced with an ever increasingly competitive job market. The iron rice bowl has been melted down and replaced with a disposable plastic one. Hiding in a crowd will only achieve what hiding is meant to achieve. Nobody will see you, and it will become harder and harder to justify your annual 10% pay rise request.
This brings us to the reason for this month’s blog. You have a choice. You can maintain an easy ‘reactive’ attitude to work and hope that the other people around you are so bad that you are promoted as the ‘least bad option’, or, you can think of ways to take control of your future, to become more proactive and to ‘make it happen.’
So, how can you develop a personal brand which appeals to those above you who are responsible for your development and rise up the corporate ladder?
This involves you trying to ‘see yourself through other people’s eyes’. and presenting an image (and support it with results) that will generate a positive view of us in the eyes of managers and peers alike?
This is not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it is as easy as the difference between the following two answers to a simple question.
‘How is your day going?’
1) Very busy!
2) Great, I am on top of everything!
Two things here. Firstly, rather than show that you are a hard worker, ‘very busy’ actually suggests you have too much work on and are struggling to handle it. Secondly, stating that you are ‘on top of everything’ (but please do make sure you actually are before using this phrase) projects the image of a person who is able to manage their workload. Who gets promoted first?……You decide.
Like all journeys, our search for promotion and self-improvement begins with a plan. Let us not forget the old adage that ‘if you fail to prepare then you prepare for failure’. It would also be wise to take a leaf out of the Chinese Government’s book and make that plan a 5 year one! Inject a number of short term goals en route to the final target ‘et voila’ we have the beginnings of a winning strategy.
– What do we want?
– How will we achieve it?
– Do we have the necessary skills and if not, how will we attain
– What resources are available to help us reach our goal?
These are just a few of the questions which we need to answer in order to plan successfully. Don’t forget that resources include the current management who you report to. Nothing gets you noticed more than actually asking the decision makers what their advice would be for your future development. On top of that, if you then show that you are following at least some of their advice, they will naturally become more engaged in the progress you make on your career path.
The idea of putting yourself in the rangefinder of more senior members of staff may well strike fear into your hearts. However, the aim is to get noticed ‘on your terms’. You are going to get attention because of your specific skills, personality and general demeanour. Whilst moving away from the herd may reduce the life expectancy of a deer on the Serengeti to roughly tea-time, for you, being noticed for all the right reasons can only result in a positive impact on your career.
In the April seminar I will be going through a total of seven separate areas for you to project a professional image. These topics will range from displaying confidence, to offering original solutions and from setting goals to controlling meetings. I’d love to share more with you right now, but then there would be no reason for you to come and see me next month! 🙂
Do excuse this rather blatant self-publicity, but ‘making things happen’ is a topic close to my heart. I see talent going to waste on an almost weekly basis due to a fear of standing out from the crowd. Let’s make a stand now. Time for you all to move ‘From reactive to Proactive!’