After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1992, I had the mistaken belief that if I performed well at work, that I would be constantly promoted to higher paying jobs. I found out that was a mistaken belief. I remember writing down this formula to reflect my frustration on having great performance but not even being considered for a promotional opportunity.
Great Performance <> Promotion.
What I came to realize was that each person is like a brand – Coke, Pepsi, Coach – and to have a successful career, you must manage your personal brand effectively. This is even more critical now as social media truly does provide global exposure to your personal brand. Your reputation is a critical part of your brand, so the question is this – how can you build an awesome reputation that will almost guarantee career success if you manage it correctly? I’ve been doing it for years, and here are my 5 keys to building a kick ass reputation that pays.
Deliver Exceptional Results
Let’s keep it real right from the start. Whatever you do for a living, you’ve got to be very good at it. Not average. Not so so. Not good. Very good. People don’t get paid for what they know; they get paid for the results they produce. If you’re not known for being one of the best at what you do, raise your game or do something else. Otherwise, you’ll remain a commodity, and in a market where there is a lot of competition for limited career enhancing opportunities, you’ll be passed over every time.
Build Relationships with Key Influencers and Decision Makers
When I was an inexperienced systems analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia (now Anthem BCBS), I jogged during lunch 3 times a week with key members of the data services team. Did I like to jog? No. But I recognized the data services team had the data and access to senior leaders that I needed to become very good as a systems analyst. And the best way to build friendships with them was to do what they liked to do – jog. There were two great byproducts of my running with the bulls at BCBS. I became close friends with Dwayne Stover and Dean Elliott, and I was the healthiest I’ve ever been. Fast forward 16 years later, and I remain very close friends with both guys. The fact is, with their investment in me, my career began to soar. So do what you have to do – ethically of course – to develop trust and respect with the key influencers and decision makers inside and outside of your organization.
Develop Keen Analytical Skills
In the April 2012 Harvard Business Review article Good Data Won’t Guarantee Good Decisions, less than 44% of employees say they know where to find the information they need to do their day-to-day job. Only 25% of all employees receive effective training in information analysis. The point I’m making is this – become a person known for “knowing the business”, and you will be golden. In fact, when I served as a national advisor for ASTD, the senior manager and creator of the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance Certification (CPLP) affectionately labeled me “data man”. My reputation with ASTD is so strong that I am a member of their expert faculty who teaches several ASTD certificate programs covering the topics of management, leadership, and consulting skills. Knowledge is power, and information is the currency of trade, so do whatever it takes to invest in developing your ability to analyze information to make informed, solution oriented decisions.
ReACT to Complaints
It’s natural to complain when things are not quite right. But complaining keeps you among the many. In order to have a kick ass reputation, you have to do something different and I’ll tell you what works for me. While others are busy complaining, I ReAct – I REspond by taking ACTion. Complaints are gifts in disguise. They are clear indicators of things broken, things gone awry, things that – if fixed – provides a great boost to your career. So when I hear people consistently complain about a gap or challenge they face, I try to create a solution. The more solution focused you are, the stronger your reputation becomes. Everyone has the ability of making someone happy, some by entering the room, others by leaving it. And when I leave the room, I’m leaving you smiling because I’m focused on helping you get what you want – a solution to a pain point you just spent 15 minutes telling me and others about in a conversation or a meeting.
Develop Others: Be a Coach and a Mentor
If you constantly focus on yourself, you’ll be considered arrogant and narcissistic. The solution to avoid these reputation killing labels is quite simple – invest in developing others. If I asked you how many people have you developed in the last 6 months, anything less than 6 means you’re too inward focused. Yeah yeah, I know – you’re already busy, life is hard, blah blah blah. If you can’t find time to help at least one person a month, you will not experience the significant benefits of the boomerang effect. The boomerang effect is simply the fact that if you help someone, eventually it will come back…sometimes 10 fold. People don’t forget those who help them, so if you want to be known for being a great guy or gal, make it a habit to coach, mentor, and develop at least one new person each month. You’ll feel great about doing it, and you’ll eventually reap great rewards as well.
Do these 5 things, and you’ll be very well equipped to accelerate your career as well as weather the challenges that you will inevitably experience during your career.
If you are a manager seeking to significantly improve your team’s performance or if you want more strategies for improving your individual level of success, email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.