I work for an amazing woman who I consider one of my best managers. The fact she is only the second to be added to that list shows I don’t give this honor to anyone.
Not only is she an amazing technologist, she knows business. She knows how to listen, not just talk. And, she is pretty straightforward in her thinking. She also brings an approach to IT that I have not seen before. A good person to learn from.
Before our weekly staff meeting, she sent out an email message to the team with the subject line: Ten Keys to Avoid Layoffs. There was an attachment and a note saying “We should paste some of these in big font in several areas of the company”.
Our company has been going through troubled times. Layoffs continue to occur. While the list itself was not surprising, to get a list of ten things from your boss, it can be a bit unnerving. Except if you are in our department.
Our staff meeting started with us giving her grief over the list. You could tell she did it as a joke (and maybe a subtle message to a couple of people). People responded by apologizing for not responding to email timely (#5), offered to take on new responsibilities (#3), offered to work closer with HR and Finance (#8), and offered to show her how twitter worked (#9). The meeting degenerated from there.
I do agree with her though – some people in our company do need to become intimately familiar with this list. Definitely make our lives a hell of a lot easier these days.
Onto the list (my comments are in italics)…
Force yourself to focus with laser accuracy on your company’s success, not your own. In challenging times, the last thing your employer wants is to cater to you and your fears. They want you to be a selfless, highly collaborative team player who meets and exceeds your commitments. Your presence can’t be an energy drain or create work. (This is one that drives me crazy at work. Selfishness has landed people on the layoff list in the most recent ones. Making everything about you versus how it benefits the company is not a good idea.)
The most important skill to develop right now is finesse at navigating change. That means flexibility and open-mindedness. Accept whatever management throws your way. If they change direction (again), shuffle the product mix, add new goals, or refine strategy on the fly, say yes to all of it. Resisting change only makes life more difficult for management and for everyone.
Demonstrate your commitment to the overall success of your team and your company by taking on tasks that fall outside your job responsibilities. Pitch in on packing up the trade-show booth. Manage your own schedule/address book/travel plans. Offer to take notes and follow up after every meeting.
When straits are dire and headlines scary, the last thing your company needs is negative, gossipy employees who polarize colleagues into an us-vs.-them dynamic. Employers value passionate overachievers whose uplifting attitude contributes to a more energizing team culture. Whatever it takes, keep the negative mindset out of the office. This is your mantra: No complaining, no blaming! Dwell on what can be rather than what can’t. (A-fucking-men!)
Show up early, stay late. Everyone notices people who leave on the dot of 5 (or before) or take very long lunches or excessive coffee/smoking breaks. Don’t get a reputation for being one of those people who takes forever to respond to an e-mail, voicemail, or a simple question. Vigilantly follow up on all assigned action items. Management is increasingly scrutinizing your every move. (While I am a huge believer of doing your job in the time it takes, then go home – you have to make sure you are staying on top of things and producing results. If you aren’t, people will start paying attention to when you arrive and leave, how long your lunches are, etc. It’s all about perception during tough times.)
Don’t wait for someone else to solve your problems. Your manager needs to hear how the organization can trim costs, manage the supply chain better, find a new client, improve processes, motivate the workforce, and deliver the next big thing. Observe what your competitors are trying and testing, read everything relentlessly, and ask people how you can improve what you do.
You must be totally transparent as to what you’re working on and how it fits with management objectives. There can be no hiding, and no withholding information. If you don’t have enough on your plate, say it. Ask to take on more—or better yet, suggest projects you can spearhead that have killer ROI.
Human resources and finance are two departments that can have a significant impact on your career whether you realize it or not. They know a lot about you that can influence how you’re perceived. Respect those folks, socialize with them, ask for their advice, and make sure you carefully do a little self-promotion. When cuts need to be made, you won’t be an unknown quantity to them.(I have actually seen people get saved by other departments because their value is felt. Don’t be the one to continually piss people off. You will be perceived as difficult, and will find yourself permanently on the short-list for layoffs.)
Look at the Millennials and see how they work, how they make decisions, and what technology and tools they use. No time for “I don’t do Twitter or Facebook.” Acquaint yourself with social networks, mobile applications, and commerce platforms to remain relevant. Let them intimidate you and you give your boss reasons to replace you with someone younger and more in the game. Ask a family member to help, take a course, read a book … and dive in. (Kind of a “duh” if you are in IT)
Healthy people tend to have better outlooks and are easier to be around. They take good care of themselves, which in turn earns them the respect of others. Fit people often set high standards for themselves both at work and at play. And they just have more stamina, so they tend not to get tired when on deadline, and they don’t call in sick as much. They have incredible endurance when others are reaching for that 10th Coke or itching to make that next trip to Starbucks. They are also calmer and more productive. So get your sleep, eat well, exercise, stay hydrated, and avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. This is an investment that will pay dividends for you and your employer. And yes, your employer does notice. (As I am personally finding, they all notice. They all like seeing people who are motivated personally. For me, they have liked seeing someone who can stay active and physically fit even during stressful times. Don’t undervalue this one.)