The Weekly Reid: 3 tips to make your boss care about your projects

It’s hard to make progress if your boss doesn’t really care about what you’re working on. I get questions about this all the time.

My boss cares about everyone else’s work but mine. How do I change that?

How do I get my manager to focus on my projects even for half an hour a week?

I work my butt off on these initiatives and nobody seems to care. Can you help?

My boss refuses to pay attention to my project until the last minute. And then he blames me!

If you feel like this, from time to time, take solace in the truth that you’re not alone. We all face it at some point over the course of a career. But let’s start with some tough love. There are some realities we have to accept. If the projects you work on aren’t directly associated with generating revenue, if they aren’t part of a hot new product release, or in support of a big deal or partnership, it’s going to be tough to command sustained attention. That’s just part of the deal. But it doesn’t mean you CAN’T get your boss to care about your work. You just have to be more purposeful in how you go about things. I hope these three tips will help you.

Tip #1 - Start with your boss’s priorities and work backwards

This one is about tactical empathy. If you haven’t read my article on the subject, I suggest checking it out here. Too many people in the workplace focus only on themselves and not enough on others (I’m sure that’s universally true in life and in work). We tend to speak about our projects and initiatives using a context the reflects our personal priorities – why we think it’s important. We get fixated on our own self-interest – what WE want to accomplish. And then we wonder why we can’t get anyone else to care about it.

If you want your boss (or anyone else for that matter) to care about a project you’re working on, start with what THEY feel is important, and work backwards to show how your project can help them. This is the complete inverse to what we see most of the time. Endless PowerPoint slides and conference calls that seem completely disconnected from what any audience member actually cares about.

My advice is to start by identifying the key outcomes and initiatives your boss cares about. Then map those to the potential benefits of whatever project you’re working on. Use language and metrics that can connect your priorities to your manager’s priorities. Show how paying attention to your initiative will help your boss achieve her goals. It will make all the difference in the world.

Tip #2 - Speak in outcomes, not activities

Too many of us speak about business activities instead of business outcomes. We talk about events and documents and processes instead of how those things deliver value to the company. And then we wonder why nobody cares about our work.

I can’t tell you how many presentations I see that skip over desired business outcomes entirely. People just jump straight to whatever activity they want attention on and never get to the point of it all. The impact is that activities become so derivative, so disconnected from what matters most. It can be hard to take seriously if you’re a busy manager or executive.

A good rule of thumb is to start every discussion about a project with the desired business outcome. What corporate initiative or goal or metric is this project in service of? Why are we here discussing this activity in the first place? What meaningful outcome is it connected to? How are they connected? How does focusing on this activity get us closer to achieving our highest-level objectives? If you build this context into your presentations – into how you talk about your projects – you will get more attention from your boss.

Tip #3 - Bring options and intentions, not problems

Your boss is likely a very busy person. More than busy, your boss likely has a wide variety of competing priorities that span functions, groups, even departments. That’s a different kind of busy from just having a high volume of work on one thing. It’s harder to focus. It’s hard sometimes even to remember all the issues and projects from one day to the next.

If your manager is anything like me, they have an endless line of people outside their office presenting various problems and issues for resolution. A large percentage of those people bring problems without solutions, without options, without anything. They bring problems. And then they are frustrated when they can’t get enough attention on whatever issue they are facing. They get frustrated that their projects can’t make progress. They talk about their manager as a bottleneck. This is a very common mistake. I see it more than once a day.

My advice, when you face an issue, is to communicate the problem to your boss and present options for resolving it. Options, you’ve thought through ahead of time. And if options don’t make sense in your situation, clearly express your intention for resolving the issue and give your boss the opportunity to align or adjust. One of my favorite books on leadership deals with this topic – Turn that Ship Around – a great book I highly recommend. My point is, you can’t just drop problems on your boss and expect he or she will have the time or mental capacity to do your thinking for you.

To make progress on your projects and initiatives, you must be able to make people care about them - your boss in particular. Too many of us get stuck in a mode of thinking and working that lead us to cast blame on others for the lack of attention we get on our projects. Don’t point fingers. There are things you can do, in the way you speak and present and design your projects, that will help get them the attention and priority they deserve. I hope these tips were helpful to you and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

The Weekly Reid: Getting a New Boss? 4 Tips to Make a Great Impression

Most people view a new boss as a risky situation … as a negative thing. And they act in a manner that reflects this perspective. They get worried. They start thinking and acting defensively. I see it happen all the time.

Let me know if any of these thoughts sound familiar:

I still have so many changes to make. What’s my new boss going to think when she reviews the performance of my team?  

What about all the issues we haven’t gotten to yet? Is he going to think I’m incompetent for not addressing them? 

What are my peers going to say about me? About my team? Are they going to throw me under the bus? Should I beat them to the punch?

 Is he going to make changes? Is he going to bring in his own people? How can I convince him I’m not the problem here?

Thoughts like these can attack when you find out you’re getting a new boss. They can make you act defensively, erratically. They can make you say and do things that are counterproductive. They can bring out the worst in you. They can trick you into doing things that don’t reflect your true skill and professionalism. If you’re not careful, they can cause you to manifest the very thing you’re most afraid of.

Most people fall into a defensive shell when faced with the prospect of a new manager. That’s exactly the wrong perspective. You need to see it as an opportunity, and act accordingly. As soon as I find out I’m getting a new boss, that’s exactly what I do. I prepare to make the most of the situation. I prepare to differentiate myself in a positive way. Today I’m going to share four tips to do just that. I hope they are helpful to you.

1.  Be the most prepared

When a new boss starts, the first thing she will do is meet with her direct reports and begin a process of assessment. She’ll want to understand your team and its performance. You might be surprised just how unprepared most people are for this process. They spend so much time worrying and gossiping that they neglect to actually prepare. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead of fretting about what changes your new manager might make, focus on being as prepared as you possibly can be.

I’ve found it extremely valuable, when faced with a new boss, to prepare an executive briefing package. Something clear and concise that will help make the assessment process as easy as possible for my new manager. In my first meeting, I can present a package that provides everything she needs to understand my team, our projects and our performance. I try to be as objective as I can in assessing strengths and areas for improvement. There is no sense in trying to hide or sugar coat anything. In my experience, people who try to hide issues or overstate performance ultimately reveal their incompetence.

My advice for anyone getting a new boss, is to prepare a briefing package that can be presented at your first meeting. Be objective and honest. Show that you have integrity. Every team has problems. Your new boss will understand that. What she won’t understand, is why you’re lying to her or hiding critical business issues.

2.  Master your metrics

One of the most important things you want to communicate to your new manager, is that you understand your business. You want to demonstrate a mastery of your team, performance, KPIs, and business model. There is nothing more important than this. Every mature, competent leader has a firm grasp over his or her operation. Having been a new boss several times, I can tell you nothing shakes my confidence more than discovering an employee doesn’t have a handle on their own performance. I don’t panic when a new employee describes their problems and plans for fixing them. I embrace that. I only get nervous when I discover an employee is lying to me or has no idea how they are performing.

Next time you find out you’re getting a new boss, start by mastering your key metrics. Prepare a dashboard or model or report that demonstrates you have a real command over your performance. The good and the bad. Your understanding and transparency is more important than the performance itself.

3.  Be helpful, not defensive

Most people act defensively when faced with the prospect of having a new manager. They get paranoid and act accordingly. Never do this. Your mindset, when you get a new boss, should be to be as helpful as possible. Your job is to help her be successful. If you are effective in doing that, your own success will take care of itself. No amount of politicking, sugar coating, or sucking up will save you if you haven’t done a good job. So, don’t bother trying. Just be helpful.

Part of being helpful to your new boss is being honest. Show her where the land mines are. Show him the skeletons in the closet. Help her be successful. Protect him from getting embarrassed. Imagine what it must be like to be in her shoes. A new team, a new company, high expectations. Be a trusted adviser and supporter to her, just as you would wish a new team member would be for you if roles were reversed.

4.  Don’t be political

One of the most common worries people have, when getting a new boss, is what their peers will say about them. We get paranoid. We imagine what our rivals will say. We worry about being thrown under the bus when we’re not in the room. I see this happen all the time. The fear of being painted in a negative light by others, makes people act that way themselves. They point fingers. They talk badly about their colleagues. They strike first before getting struck. Its ugly and it doesn’t work.

My advice is to rise above the politics. If you present yourself as a mature leader, with a command over your team and performance, you will distinguish yourself from others. You don’t need to play a political game if you are prepared and helpful.

Getting a new boss is a stressful thing. It carries uncertainty with it. You never know what you’re going to get. You can’t control it. Most people react defensively and politically and end up manifesting the very outcome they are most afraid of. My advice is to do the opposite. Prepare an executive briefing package. Master your metrics and business model. Focus on being helpful. And don’t get sucked into the backstabbing and politics. These tips have helped me navigate many new bosses and they’re exactly the way I wish new team members would behave if I was a new boss. I hope they’re helpful to you.

The Weekly Reid: My Tips to Avoid Getting Derailed by Short Term Frustrations

The more time you spend focused on your big wins, the faster they will come. The more time you spend executing on your mission, the faster you will accomplish it. It’s really that simple.

In my experience, the most productive people waste the least amount of time and energy on activities not directly related to their primary objectives. I realize that may sound like a truism to you, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Is there anyone at your workplace who always appears to be working hard but is completely unproductive? Someone who puts in long hours and always looks busy, but never actually gets anything done? I see these people all the time. To the casual observer, they appear to be doing all the right things. But on closer inspection, they are just highly inefficient. They waste time on nonessential activities. They chase non-critical problems. They react and obsess and spin in place. And when you add up all the hours they’ve “worked” in a given week, you see that they spent very little time focused on their mission. Their hard work was an illusion.

We are all victims of this behavior to a certain extent. None of us is perfectly productive. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of efficiency. For me, the biggest detractor to productivity has been my tendency to obsess over conflicts and issues that, with a dose of hindsight, were always going to end up resolving themselves. When I look back on these issues I could see just how much energy I burned for no reason. I could see just how much time I wasted, when I could have spent it pursuing my mission.

Over the years, as I’ve observed this tendency in myself, I’ve developed some strategies for overcoming it. I don’t have it all figured out – that’s for sure. But these tips do help me quarantine short term problems to stay focused on my primary mission. I hope they are helpful to you too.

1. Time Travel

I engage in time travel more than you might think. I’ve gotten quite good at it actually. Whenever I’m upset or worried about a conflict or issue, I force myself to travel forward in time so I can have the benefit of hindsight while I’m still in the present moment.

I very purposefully play out the likely sequence of events and place myself in the highest probability future states. Most of the time - like 90% of the time - it becomes clear that whatever issue I’m dealing with, will inevitably be a tiny blip when viewed from the perspective of my entire career. It just won’t be that big of a deal. Most of the time, it will resolve itself. Sometimes, it will end better than it started. Other times it will end badly but even then, it won’t be THAT bad.

My point is, we need to be able to apply the benefits of hindsight in the present state. And whatever tricks you need to pull on yourself to be able to do this, it will help. Next time someone pisses you off, or you take some heat from your boss, apply some perspective, travel ahead in time, see that it’s likely not going to be that big of a deal when considered in the context of your entire career, and get back to focusing on your wins.

2.  Play out the worst case, and get comfortable in it

One useful exercise I frequently use when I’m at risk of being derailed by worry or anger, is to play out the worst-case scenario. This is a pretty common practice in Stoicism that I find very helpful. Rather than obsess and stew over a conflict or issue for hours and hours, I take 10 minutes and visualize the absolute worst-case scenario. Maybe my boss will reprimand me. Maybe I won’t get the promotion I was hoping for. Maybe a senior executive will be disappointed in me. Whatever the worst-case scenario is, I play it out fully in my head. I confront it. I put myself in that reality. I prepare mentally for it. I accept it.

By spending 10 minutes placing myself in the worst-case scenario, I normally get quite comfortable with it. I get less afraid. I get more prepared. I plan for what I’ll do if it comes to pass. And then I let it go. I stop worrying about an uncertain future state because I’ve already placed myself in the worst possible outcome and felt comfortable with it. It’s a very useful exercise.

3. Add more positives

If I’ve gotten myself into trouble or into conflict, or otherwise done something that may ding my reputation, I immediately try to find a win. Rather than expend energy regretting what I’ve done, or worrying about how my career has been hurt, I try to get back in the win column quickly. Ultimately, the scorecard of your career will have many wins and losses. It’s inevitable. None of us are perfect. You can make quite a few mistakes and have an extremely successful career, if you accumulate enough wins to offset them. Some of the most successful executives I know have made huge blunders – but they have tons of wins too.

Rather than dwell on short term problems, that may or may not prove to be losses on your record, its far more productive to focus on pursuing your next big win. Next time you catch yourself worrying about a mistake or conflict or problem, stop yourself, reset, and start pursuing something positive.

The most productive and successful people I know are the ones who maximize energy spent on positive pursuits and wins. They don’t allow themselves to be derailed by conflicts or frustrations that are inherently short term in nature. They have the ability to quarantine their productive energy from time wasting behaviors. I was a victim of this for many years, even though I probably appeared quite calm on the outside. I hope these tips were helpful to you.

3 Tips to Reduce Pre-vacation Anxiety

I’m not proud to admit I get anxiety before I take time off from work. It feels like a sign of weakness. It’s definitely a sign I have not yet reached work life harmony. For me, the anxiety manifests mostly as a fear of missing important things. Big decisions, private conversations, strategy shaping moments. Also, a fear of forgetting to take care of something and having it explode when I’m not there to help. And if I’m brutally honest, a fear of being forgotten. There’s no sense in pretending the anxiety isn’t there, as silly as it may sound. It is there. The question is, how to manage it.

Here are three tips I’ve used over the years to control my pre-vacation anxiety. They help me de-stress before I leave and reduce the worry I often feel when I get back to work.

1. Prepare a pre-vacation briefing package

Many managers do not do this effectively. In fact, most managers don’t do it at all. Before you leave for vacation, you should prepare a briefing package for your manager and for key leaders on your team. If you’re just bailing with little or no preparation, and hoping things don’t die while you’re sunning yourself at the beach, you’re not being a responsible manager.

Before I leave for vacation, I take a couple of hours and prepare a briefing document for my manager that outlines all the major issues I have ongoing, as well as a list of specific actions I need her to take on my behalf when I’m out of office. I try to be as detailed as I can since I really don’t want things to pop up and surprise her when I’m away. I also don’t want it to appear like I don’t have a handle on my business when something I didn’t prep her for becomes a problem while I’m sipping margaritas.

I also create shorter packages for the key leaders on my team. Priority items for them to focus on, clear expectations for progress that needs to be made while I’m away. By doing this, we can all be on the same page with what the objectives are for the period and how they will be able to make decisions in when I’m not present to weigh in. The last thing you want is for momentum to stall out because you’re on holiday. You goal, in preparing for your vacation, is to arm your team with enough direction and authority so they can push forward confidently without you.

My advice to managers is to spend a little more time preparing pre-vacation briefing packages for your boss and team members. It will ensure progress is made when you’re away and it will set your mind at ease so you can relax and enjoy your well-deserved holiday.

2.  Check in with your key stakeholders and influencers

Before I take off, I try to connect with the most important stakeholders and influencers in my work life. I’m talking about key people in the organization, peers, people you’d normally be meeting with but won’t be. I don’t think it’s enough to just switch on your out of office reply and hope for the best. I like to have a quick friendly conversation to let them know I’m taking off for a while. I have found these quick pre-vacation check-ins make things go a lot smoother when I’m out. Nobody panics when they have an issue and realize I’m not around to help. And we can get alignment on key issues that might occur during my time off. It helps.

My advice to managers is to make a quick list of the most important people in your work life, and give them a call before you take off on vacation. There is no downside to doing this and it can help maintain momentum and alignment on key issues while you’re away.

3. Take some perspective

This one probably should have come first. Clearly, I need this perspective as much as any of us by virtue of the fact I felt compelled to write this blog in the first place. I try to remind myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me. That, my career will be played out over many years and decades, and that a couple weeks off is a mere blip on that timeline. In the grand scheme, this vacation will have zero impact on my reputation or career trajectory. Its pure hubris to think that somehow me being away will send the department or company into a tail spin. I get quite embarrassed whenever I catch myself in this mode of thinking.

My advice to managers is to take some healthy perspective the next time you feel anxiety about taking vacation. Remind yourself that you are just not THAT important. The world, the company, your team will go on without you. At the scale of your career, this two-week period – any two-week period - is nothing. The energy you will take from unwinding will greatly outweigh any drawdown in productivity that could occur in your absence. Take your vacation, enjoy your time off, come back and start doing your best at work again.

Some of you, I suspect, will be able to relate very personally to the issues I’ve raised in this blog. Some of you may not. It’s certainly not something we should simply accept as a normal way of being. My hope is that by sharing some of my own anxieties and tips for managing them, you’ll be able to face your own pre-vacation angst. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section – if for nothing more than to let me know I’m not alone 😊

The Weekly Reid: Why I worked 20 hours straight and threw it all away

Can you work your butt off for hours and days and weeks and months and have the strength to throw it all away?

Can you look at your own work and have the courage to admit it’s not good enough?

If you can’t honestly answer “yes” to these questions, don’t beat yourself up too hard. It wasn’t long ago I couldn’t do it either. But it’s important. To be self-aware. To be able to look at yourself and your work objectively. It’s one of the top attributes I look for when I’m hiring.

To move fast, we need to be agile, we need to correct course quickly. We can’t afford to dwell on sunk efforts. We can’t afford to invest good money (or time) after bad.

I worked all weekend on a project I was sure was going to be a homerun. I had it all figured out. I stayed up late. I cancelled plans. It was sunny and warm outside and I stayed inside and worked. And then, 20 hours later, when the work was done, I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t anywhere near as good as I hoped it would be. It wasn’t up to my standard. There were holes in my logic all along. The right move was to throw it all in the garbage. To cut my losses.

But was it really?

Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I could salvage a piece of it. Maybe with a little more work I could turn it into something good.

Maybe not.

I caught myself in this line of thinking after about an hour. I wasn’t thinking right. I was upset about wasted time and effort and money. I was no longer making an optimal decision with the information at hand. I was emotional. I was grasping for anything that would mean I didn’t burn an entire weekend for nothing.

Put up your hand if you know the exquisite pain that comes from having to throw out something you’ve worked your ass off on. It hurts. But you have to do it. And I’m proud that I did.

Here are four mindset tricks I’ve adopted over the years, that make it easier to do this.

1.  Take pride in being objective

I’ve written extensively on the power of objectivity. It’s one of the most powerful qualities I look for in leaders. It’s something I’ve worked hard to develop in myself. Self-awareness and objectivity will keep you on the right path no matter where your emotions try to steer you. To be successful in the long term, you need to be able to see yourself and your work for what it really is, not for how you wish it would be. Just because you worked hard on something does not mean it is any good. In fact, many of the projects I’ve worked hardest on were total crap. Many of the projects that came out easy, were my best work.

My advice to managers and career-minded people is to force yourself to be objective. Pride yourself on self-awareness. Nurture this skill in yourself and your teams. Objectivity begets credibility. Credibility begets trust. And trust, brings new opportunities for growth and expansion.

2.  Focus on making an optimal decision right now

All you can do is make the best decision with the information you have at any given moment in time. This is my mindset whenever I’m making decisions. Am I confident that when I look back on this decision at some later time, that I’ve made the best decision possible with the information at hand? Am I using good judgement? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, it will give you the courage to make a tough call.

Even though, as the months and years pass, some of your decisions may prove to have been wrong, you can still be confident so long as you made a solid decision with the information you had. In my case, I’m very comfortable with my decision to invest an entire weekend on a project that landed in the garbage can. Based on what I knew at the time, my approach made a lot of sense. It just didn’t work out. Things happened that were impossible for me to foresee at the outset. And that’s ok. I made an optimal decision to start the project based on what I knew, and then I made an optimal decision to trash it when I discovered new information that changed the dynamics of the game.

My advice is to leaders is to focus only on making optimal decisions based on the information at hand. It’s rare we have perfect information to work from. And waiting for more information will slow you down and make you less competitive. Make good decisions and then make new good decisions when the information landscape changes. Then be satisfied with all the optimal decisions you’ve made.

3.  Never compromise your high standard

Every time I compromise my personal standard, I regret it. Every time I let something squeak through, or give something a pass when I know it deserves a fail, it comes back to haunt me. I can’t think of any time where I compromised my standards for quality, that ultimately helped me progress in my career.

It’s easy to be tempted to compromise your high standard. I nearly was today. I made several arguments (to myself) for why I should just go ahead and publish my crappy work. But ultimately, I couldn’t do it. It takes years to build a reputation and minutes to blow it all away.

My advice is to figure out what your standard is and hold to it. Hold your team to it. Don’t take short cuts. Do great work. And when your work isn’t as great as you thought it was going to be, fix it or do something else.

4.  Take “learning” as a win

In the moment, when you’ve just “wasted” 20 hours working on a project that will never see the light of day, the value in learning a lesson is hard to swallow. But I do find, with enough time, I can point to the value in the hard lessons I’ve learned. If you can force yourself to step back, and view things with a wider perspective, you can take solace in learning from your fruitless efforts.

I will admit, if someone had told me to “take learning as a win” about three hours ago, I wouldn’t have responded as positively as I should have. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Most of my success (and ironically, most of what I write about) comes directly from my mistakes and lessons learned.

My advice is to search for the wins in admitting defeat and moving forward. They’re not always easy to find in the moment, but they are real and they will help you in the long run.

It takes great discipline and strength to be able to look at your own work, after hours and days of effort, and admit it isn’t good enough. The courage and objectivity to do this are qualities I look for in every candidate I hire. I may have wasted my weekend on a project that will never see the light, but my hope is by sharing my lesson, I’ll have created some value for you in the process.

The Weekly Reid: 3 Big Moments Most Managers FAIL to Capitalize on

Let me set a tiny bit more context before we jump into examples. Whether we want to admit it or not, career progression is a competitive game. Everything is relative. Everything is comparative. If you’re a manager – you get compared with other managers. If you’re a Director – you get compared with other Directors. The same holds true until you’re CEO and then you get compared with CEOs from other companies. This is a reality of corporate life. Your value is always measured in relative terms.

She’s one of our brightest executives

He’s been placed on a management fast track

She’s high potential employee

He’s a key manager we need to retain

The entire dialogue about careers in the workplace is comparative. And that makes sense. The higher you go in an organization, the fewer spots there are. Organizational structures, for the most part, are smaller at the top than they are at the bottom. This means we are all competing for advancement opportunities, whether we like it or not.

This doesn’t mean you need to turn into a blood thirsty shark at work tomorrow.  I’m not advocating for that. But it does help to take an accurate view of the playing field you’re on. It does help to appreciate the real dynamics at play so you can play your optimal game and maximize your chances of success.

I’m often surprised by the poor career choices I see managers make. Where they invest their time. Where they choose to focus. What upsets them. What opportunities they ignore completely. The good news is, with so many managers making suboptimal career decisions, you can find an edge. You can take advantage of the opportunities they pass up.

Here are three moments I see managers consistency fail to capitalize on. They don’t give them enough attention or energy. They mail it in when they should be leaning in. My advice, when you’re next faced with one of these, is to double your efforts, make it a priority, differentiate yourself from your peers. Your career will thank you.

1.  Your Presentation at Annual Kickoff

Most of us have some forum at the beginning of the year to present something. For some of us, it’s in front of the entire company. For others, it’s in front of a smaller team. Whatever your moment is, my advice is to quadruple your efforts to make it great.

Your annual meeting is one of the few times people will see presentations from a bunch of managers in a row. Whether we are conscious to it or not, we are rating, ranking and positioning managers in this moment.

Whose presentation was amazing?

Who was funny?

Who looked unprepared?

Who energized the audience?

Who has mad presentation skills?

Who seemed authentic?

Who was full of crap?

These are the questions racing through the minds of audience members during annual kickoff. Your boss, the CEO, other executives, your peers, your team members. It’s a huge moment.

It’s a huge moment, but also one that way too many managers squander. It never ceases to amaze me how weak most of the presentations are at annual kickoff. People just don’t try that hard. They aren’t polished or prepared. The tragedy is, many managers work tirelessly to build great plans and execute them all year, only to mail it in when presenting at the annual kickoff.

I never do this. For me, the presentation about what I’m going to do, or about what I have done, is equally as important as doing it in the first place. You’d be shocked at how much effort I will put into my presentation at a kickoff. It’s THE moment to distinguish yourself from everyone else. Even if your actual contributions were only on par with your peers, this is a moment where you can separate yourself from the pack. This is a moment where you can energize the company (or department) about your initiatives such that it will provide a tailwind for your efforts for the rest of the year.

My advice to managers is to triple or quadruple the amount of effort you expend preparing for your presentation at annual kickoff. Make it amazing. Focus on making a presentation that will set you apart from everyone else. Don’t just be good. Be amazing.

Now, you may say – I’m not a great public speaker, so what about me? – that’s fine. Be the person who has clearly put in the most effort. Have amazing materials, polished slides, great data, concise points. You don’t need to the best speaker to advance your career in a material way at your annual kickoff.

2.  Any time Your Team Members Present

One thing that might surprise you, is how much time I spend helping my team members prepare for their own presentations. Reviews with executives, team meetings, anything with an audience of significance. My job as a leader is to help my people maximize their potential and realize success. So that’s what I do. I never let a manager on my team present in front of a large group or senior leaders without helping them prepare. At first, this might sound to you like a control mechanism. Like I’m a micromanager. Like this is all about me. It’s not. The deal I make with managers on my team is that I will do everything in my power to make them successful, to make them look great. And that means getting personally invested in their big moments as well as mine.

I’m often shocked when I see people deliver poorly prepared or unpolished presentations in large groups while their manager looks on in horror. I would never allow this to happen. When my team members present, I want them to be the best. I want them to be confident and proud. I want them to know, no matter how the presentation goes, that we’ve worked on it together and I’ve got their backs. Even if it doesn’t go well - if they struggle in the moment, that we’ve done everything we could to make it great.

It should go without saying, your team members are a reflection on your management competency. Which is why I’m often shocked at how many managers leave their team members to fend for themselves when preparing for a big presentation. It’s possible they think it too controlling or micromanaging to review their team members’ presentations. I obviously disagree with that perspective. In my experience, the kindest thing you can do for your team members is to help them be great.

My advice to managers is to get more involved in helping your team members prepare for big presentations and meetings. Get in there. If they know you’re doing it because you genuinely want them to look good, they’ll appreciate it. And once they knock a few out of the park and separate themselves from their peers, they’ll embrace the process.

3. Your Quarterly Business Review (QBR)

This is another moment most managers don’t expend enough effort on. They take quarterly business reviews for granted. They view them as necessary evils – an event that gets in the way of what’s really important. This is a misguided perspective. How you present your progress and results is as important as the results themselves. I realize that sounds like quite a statement. Can that really be true? Is this one presentation every three months really as important as all the work expended the other 99 percent of the quarter? Yes.

Put yourself in your boss’s shoes. The QBR (or whatever the equivalent is at your company) is the one moment she gets to compare all the managers on her team. To see them perform on an equal playing field. In a matter of hours or days, she gets to see your management prowess on display, one after another. If you think she’s not evaluating, making judgement, mentally positioning you, you’re naïve. 

Of course, you need good results. If you’ve bombed the quarter, no QBR presentation in the world is going to save you. But if you’ve done reasonably well, this moment can differentiate you from everyone else. If your results are slightly below average, a great QBR presentation can make people believe in your potential. If your results are great, it can catapult you into consideration for promotion or expansion. The QBR presentation is your showcase opportunity, and you need to NAIL it.

Let me give you a window into how your competition might be thinking (by sharing my own mindset). When I am preparing for a QBR (or when I help my team members prepare) I am 100% committed to building what I believe will be the number one presentation my boss sees that week. I commit to spending more time preparing. I commit to polishing and practicing. No matter what happens, no matter what results I’m sharing, I make certain my presentation will be the best. Unlike the results, which have already happened, the quality of my QBR presentation is something that is fully under my control. And so, I nail it. I help managers on my team nail theirs. If you’re not doing the same, your competition is lapping you.

My advice to managers is to invest more energy in your QBRs. Commit to be the best. Presentation quality, slide design, data accuracy. Be compelling. Even if you think every other manager is just going to follow some standard template, go three steps further. Take unnatural efforts to be great in this moment.

I’m often confused by the moments managers choose to focus on (and ignore). In my experience, we spend too much time fixating on creating and executing our plans, and not nearly enough time preparing to tell people about them. I’d love to hear your experiences and perspective on the issue in the comments section.

The Weekly Reid: 4 Times When The Best Move is to Do Nothing

Most managers are action oriented. They see a problem and try to solve it. They meet a roadblock and they try to push through it. I believe you need to have more depth in your game than this. You need to know when taking no action is the best action to take.

Here are a handful of scenarios where doing nothing is usually the best approach.

1. Flaming Emails

The first instinct for many managers, when on the receiving end of a flame email or criticism, is to hit back. Many of us hit back twice as hard. We meet aggression with aggression. We stand up to the bully. We can’t stand the thought of losing. And so, we fight. There is certainly a school of thought that advocates for this level of aggression in business, I just haven’t found that it works over the long term.

Early in my career, if I received an A$$H#&E email from someone, I would instantaneously react. I would respond with at least as much aggression as was targeted at me. Usually a lot more. I reacted emotionally. I reacted quickly and without thinking. Even though it was often therapeutic to bite back, and even though I managed to “win” some battles along the way, my reputation in the long term took a hit. I became known as aggressive, immature … volatile even. It became painfully clear to me a few years in, when I got passed over for a leadership role because the executive team didn’t think I was ready yet. And then it happened again.

As I’ve matured in my career, I’ve learned to not react. To do nothing. I have built great self-control. I have learned to act with purpose. If you send me a flaming email, the chances of receiving an angry response back from me is almost zero. I will let it sit. I will let you sit and wait for me to respond. I’ll let you get impatient. I’ll let you wonder if I’ve even received it. I’ll let you contemplate what you’ve done. And as the hours pass and your emotions shift, you’ll start second guessing yourself. You’ll start wondering if you were inappropriate or unfair. You’ll wonder who I may have shared your email with, and what they may be thinking or doing. I’ll let you sit for a long time. And then, in a day or two or more, when your emotions have calmed and you’re questioning your approach, I’ll call you and very calmly address the issue, make my argument and you’ll apologize to me for being a dickhead.

Who is the leader in this scenario?

Who won this battle?

My advice to managers is to press pause every time you’re tempted to bite back at someone for an angry email or call. Just stop and do nothing. Let it simmer. And when you finally act, do so with purpose and poise. I’m not advocating that you roll over every time someone attacks you – far from it. I’m advocating to act strategically. It will do wonders for your reputation and relationships.

2. Low Priority Work

This is a very different example from the first one, but no less important. Many of us fall victim to the constant onslaught of emails, meetings, calls, minor issues. If you’re not careful, taking action on these can stagnate real progress. In my job, I could easily burn 40 hours a week responding to emails, attending second tier meetings, and answering the phone. I could spend 40 hours a week and make zero progress. I see other managers do this all the time. They just don’t seem to have enough hours in the week. They just can’t seem to move the ball forward on key initiatives.

This is another scenario where the optimal move, in my opinion, is to do nothing. I never answer emails as they come in. I only answer the phone if I know the caller and I have reason to believe the issue is a priority. I decline all non-essential meetings. I almost never schedule meetings for more than 30 minutes even when they are essential. My default response to incoming activity is to do nothing. To let it sit and simmer while I make progress on my big wins.

My observation is that many managers overvalue responsiveness as a management virtue. They respond and respond and respond and at the end of the year, have nothing to show for their work. And when they are being considered for a promotion or expansion, they struggle to show enough progress to support their case.

My advice to managers: When you see the emails flooding your inbox and the calls coming in and meetings piling up – do nothing. Focus on your wins, make progress.

3. Losing Small to Win Big

Managers need to keep their eyes on the prize. You need to know what your big goals are at all times. The decisions you make, on what to give attention and energy to, must be directed by your target wins. One of the biggest mistakes I see managers make is winning small only to lose big. This is true in relationships as well as projects and programs.

To be successful in the long game, you need to build a network of strong relationships. And those strong relationships can’t only be with people you like. The most successful leaders have productive relationships with people they don’t particularly care for. The only way this is possible is if you can keep from getting sucked into petty conflicts that turn into feuds and impasses. You might be surprised at how often I will intentionally lose an argument. You might be surprised at how often I’ll let something slide by that upsets me, that I know is wrong.

I lose small all the time. Some people will scratch their heads and wonder if I’ve gone soft or if I’m not paying attention. That’s not what’s happening. I choose to lose small in order to win big. I choose to accumulate goodwill by sacrificing for other leaders, so when something big comes up, I can cash in my chips.

My advice to managers is to look for more opportunities to lose small so you can win big later. Look for opportunities to turn the other cheek, to do nothing. My experience tells me this approach strengthens relationships, accumulates capital in your network, and strengthens your position when you ultimately do fight for an issue.

4. Unclear Risk vs. Reward

The last scenario I should mention is when you’re unable to approximate the risk/reward for a decision with a reasonable degree of confidence. This is a tricky one and should not be mistaken for tacit permission to punt every tricky call you need to make. The best managers need to be able to act with imperfect information – that is not up for debate. But even without perfect information, you should be able to assess the risk/reward dynamics of a situation before acting.

Is there a big win for me if I do this?

How big is the downside if I mess this up?

If this goes bad, am I comfortable with my decision based on the information I have?

My advice to managers is that if you can’t answer these simple risk/reward questions, it’s usually a good idea to do nothing. Wait. Pass. Take a breath. Like in investing, sometimes the smartest moves are the investments you didn’t make.

Sometimes it pays to take no action at all. This doesn’t come naturally to most managers. We are bred to execute with aggression. Most of us have realized some measure of success by being action-oriented. To do nothing, seems weak, indecisive. Don’t let yourself fall into this line of thinking. Your goal is to make the optimal move in every business scenario you encounter. And many times, in my experience, the optimal move is no movement at all. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.

The Weekly Reid: The one question you should ask yourself every day

“Where is the win?”

“Where is the win?”

“Where is the win?”

This is one of the most important career questions you can ask yourself.

It has endless applications. It never gets old or irrelevant. It is the secret to any measure of success I have enjoyed. It seems simple, but its immeasurably powerful in my opinion. So many of us get stuck in situations where a win is impossible or we aren’t clear what win we should be pursuing in the first place.

So many of us take on projects that are not winnable. So many of us focus our energy on time-consuming activities instead of concrete wins. Some of us used to win, but now we’ve taken on more, and we aren’t winning any longer. We traded winning in exchange for money or role expansion or title. It’s a bad trade every time.

The most important career advice I give to clients and team members is to focus on winning. I tell people to seek out wins, to build a reputation of winning. Even if that means taking a step back, changing jobs, reducing responsibility. The most important thing you can do for your career is to build a reputation as a winner. You are better served being a winner on a small scale than being loser on a large scale. Winning is how you build the forward momentum you need to progress in your career. Winning also builds spiritual momentum and energy and confidence which beget even more winning.

One obvious question you must have is, “what exactly is a win?”

Here’s how I think about wins:

Is the reward I can expect for my activity commensurate with the effort I’m exerting?

Are the potential rewards disproportionately high relative to my efforts?

If I’m successful, will anyone know or care?

Does this effort advance me on the path to my larger purpose in life?

Do I find intrinsic fulfillment in doing this irrespective of any discrete reward at the end?

On the surface, this lecture on winning may sound self-evident. Simple even. If it were simple and self-evident, I wouldn’t have to remind myself and others about it nearly every day. I wouldn’t observe so much wasted energy in the workplace. Let’s look at some pragmatic examples of its application to get a little deeper into it.

To leave or to stay?

It’s very hard to leave a job, a boss, a company. Even when your current situation is bad, there is no guarantee the next opportunity will be better. The grass isn’t always greener. Many of us have learned that the hard way. In fact I wrote a blog last year that documents my own thought process when I left my last company. You can read it here.

Too many of us stay in unwinnable situations. In unwinnable jobs. With companies that can’t win. We get lost in the routine, comfortable in the environment, even numb to abuse. I stayed in a job, which by any objective measure was destructive, for four years when I knew after four months there was no reasonable expectation of a win. Believe me, I get it.

But then you wake up one day, as I did, and you’ve accomplished nothing. You’ve become a fragment of your former self, you’ve gone from being a winner to being a loser. You tricked yourself into believing you could win when you couldn’t.

My advice is to ask yourself every day or week or month, “Is this a winnable situation?” If I keep working hard in this job, is there a win in it for me? If you can’t answer “yes” with conviction, you need to find a new path, a new company, a new job.

Going backwards to go forwards

There are many situations where we find ourselves in unwinnable positions. Sometimes we’ve taken on more than we can reasonably expect to succeed at. Other times we’ve taken a job that, by its very nature, can’t result in a win. Sometimes we take on challenges that, even if we were to win in some way, nobody else would care.

Sometimes it makes sense to go backwards to move forwards. I see this a lot with inexperienced managers who get prematurely promoted to run large teams. They can go from being a recognized winner at a smaller scale to a clear loser on a larger scale. It can happen in an instant. When I observe this to be happening to me or to people I manage, I immediately try to find ways to help bring the person back to winning. It’s a tragedy to see a career stall out or falter for no reason other than we’ve placed a winner in an unwinnable situation.

My advice to leaders is to purposely place your top performers in positions that are designed to help them win. The best gift you can give a team member is the opportunity to consistently win. Winning begets winning. If you see someone who was a star, now struggling, pull them back into a winning situation, retool, recharge, and then start moving forward again. Keeping someone in a losing role when they could be winning at something else, is to do them a disservice. It may feel awkward to have this type of conversation with a team member, but in the long run they will thank you.

A path to prioritization

The larger your mandate, the more priorities you must juggle. Most days when I look at my list of things I could do, its daunting to say the least. In fact, if I tried to pursue my full list every day, I’d never win at anything.

When I look at my list in the morning, I do so through the lens of winning. I ask myself, and my team members, which of these tasks are most likely to lead us to a big win. Which of these tasks are going to propel us forward? Which of these activities presents the opportunity for a win that is disproportionate to the effort we would expend pursuing it? I let these activities take priority every time.

You may be asking yourself, well that sounds nice, but what about all the other stuff we have to do but aren’t winnable? My advice to is pursue big wins when you have maximum energy and pursue your table stakes activities when you don’t. I try to pursue wins first thing in the morning and early in the week. Later in the day or week I’ll catch up on the routine things that don’t present me or my team an opportunity for a win.

Outcomes vs. activities

The dialogue I have with my team is always about wins. I don’t speak in terms of activities. I try not to reward efforts that cannot be directly correlated to a win. To do so, would be to reward the exact behavior we want to avoid. I try to find examples of highly efficient wins – where disproportionately small efforts result in disproportionately large wins. I’m even happy recognizing failed efforts that were rooted in the pursuit of a disproportionately large outcome. It’s about building a winning mindset in your team culture.

My advice to managers is to focus on building a winning culture. Ask yourself and your team the question, “where is the win?”. I think you’ll like the answers you get back.

The Weekly Reid: Impostor Syndrome - 3 Strategies to Overcome it

The first time I recall the feeling of impostor syndrome was just a couple years into my career. I had a boss who was very talented, he knew everything about our company’s products. As part of my job I had to demo our product to investors and prospective customers after he did the main presentation and pitch. Because I’d done the demo so many times, I felt relatively confident doing it. But impostor syndrome reared its head every time during the question period.

As you’d expect the audience would have many questions about the company and the product after seeing the presentation and demo. And while I knew the answers to many of them, I could rarely summon the confidence to actually respond. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Even though I knew the answers, I also knew my boss could definitely answer them better than I could. He knew everything. No matter how well I answered, surely he could answer with more detail and finesse. So, I passed, and I passed, and I let him answer over and over again until one day he pulled me aside and asked me why I thought I should be in these meetings if I wasn’t going to add value in the question period. Ouch.

That was a defining moment in my career. I felt like an impostor. Like, why would anyone want to hear my perspective when they could just hear his instead? What if I got the questions wrong? What if everyone realized I was too inexperienced and underqualified to be in these high-profile meetings? My insecurities paralyzed me. Sadly, there wasn’t a short term happy ending to this story. I stopped getting invited to participate in as many customer and investor calls. I had let my fear of being discovered as an impostor manifest into the very thing I was afraid of. I learned a hard lesson.

Many years have passed since this sad tale and I’m happy to report I’ve most of the fears I once had. Through trial and failure and experience I learned a set of strategies and mindset queues that have been effective at calming and controlling the feelings of impostor syndrome that paralyzed me early in my career.

Here are three that I use to this day.

“Nobody Else Knows What They’re Doing Either”

This may sound a bit blunt, but I have found it to be a very helpful mantra. Many of us walk through our careers assuming (falsely) that everyone around us has it all figured out. They look so poised. They seem so sure of themselves. They speak with such confidence. It’s easy to trick yourself into believing you’re an impostor and everyone else is a well-qualified professional. It’s an aberration.

The truth: We are all neophytes. Most people at your company are as unsure of themselves as you are. And a good percentage of those who appear to be extremely confident are actually overconfident or not self-aware. My advice to people afflicted with impostor syndrome is to remind yourself that none of us has it figured out. Real confidence isn’t believing you know everything, its knowing enough to know you must be in a constant state of learning. If you approach your career with that mindset, and with the security of knowing most of the people around you are equally as unsure as you are, it will help you pull the trigger where I could not.

Don’t Fake it til You Make it - Learn it While You Earn it

With every year of experience I gain, the questions I ask in meetings get more basic. I vividly recall being too afraid to ask questions early in my career for fear I would out myself as an impostor. Specifically, questions that might reveal a lack of basic understanding. I would rather not know the answer than risk looking stupid. The irony was, as time passed, those basic questions, which would have been ok to ask a couple months into the job, became legitimately embarrassing to ask a year into the job. Again, I manifested the very thing I was so fearful of.

Fast forward almost 20 years and I will very confidently ask the most basic, neophyte questions you can imagine. I probably say, “I don’t understand” more than anyone I know. I have reached a point where I have zero fear of people thinking I’m not smart or qualified. My only fear at this point, is that I will make mistakes from acting without understanding. So, I ask. I always ask. I ask “dumb” questions”. You should too. Expertise is a perishable resource in the fast-paced workplace we operate in. It’s also renewable. But only if you are confident enough to ask questions and to make learning and understanding a priority over posing and posturing.

Develop and Trust Core Principles

The world is changing so quickly. Technologies change, corporate dynamics change, product offerings shift, industries move. Even if you know something today, there is no guarantee it will be valid tomorrow. In fact, getting locked into a rigid mindset or process is very dangerous to your career. In the current career climate, the winners are the agile and creative thinkers, not the dogmatic so-called experts. Being aware of this reality places a premium on learning how to think about problems and discounts the value of knowing any given answer in a moment in time.

My career has been buoyed by developing a set of principles, a model for evaluating problems, building programs and communicating with people around me. I have found these basic principles will hold true even as everything in my environment is in flux. Having these well tested principles gives me confidence even when I am a complete newbie in the field or problem area I’m immersed in. I may not know anything about an industry or a product or a competitor, but I do know about to think about a problem. I do know how to model a solution. I do know how to execute a program and communicate with a team. When you pair these core principles with a commitment to continuous learning, you have a powerful arsenal that applies to just about any business situation.

My advice is to start building your core models and principles. They will be a great comfort to you. Once you have them in place, you’ll feel much more confident and much less like an impostor.

Many of us have walk through our careers assuming (incorrectly) that everyone else knows what they’re doing. We fear at any minute, we’ll be outed as a fraud. We expend energy and emotion worrying about what might happen if we are faced with a challenge we don’t understand. We fear what will happen if we are embarrassed by a mistake we should be able to foresee. And so, we avoid new challenges, we operate too conservatively and we miss out on valuable opportunities for growth.

I help coaching clients understand and manage impostor syndrome all the time. If you think you’re the only one dealing with this problem, you’re wrong. Many highly successful executives have done battle with it. For those of you this resonates with, I hope these strategies were helpful.

The Weekly Reid: 2 Success Traps to Avoid at all Costs

There is a school of thought that you should myopically focus on your personal strengths and steer clear of your weaknesses. The idea holds that by doubling down on your strengths and wasting less time dealing with your weaknesses, your path to success accelerates. While I see merit in some of the points behind this philosophy, it has always seemed overly fatalistic to me. As though your path and destiny are inevitable. I don’t see evidence of this in my own life and career. I attribute much of my personal success to acute self-awareness and a constant cycle of reflection and improvement. I’ve played out this cycle over several decades to shore up my weaknesses and build the best possible version of myself.  

Last week I had the chance to sit down with an old friend and fellow coach – a person I admire and respect greatly. We chatted about this very topic and it got me thinking about the success traps I’ve done battle with over the years and my quest to overcome them. Today I’m going to share the two traps I’ve struggled with most. I’d love to hear about the traps that plague you, so we can start working to remedy them together.

1. The Future State Fallacy

Once my divorce is finalized I’ll start working on my business again.

Just as soon as my travel schedule lightens up I’ll get back to writing.

Once I lose 15 pounds I’ll go back to the gym (love this one … lol).

Once things die down a bit, I’ll start doing more regular 1 on 1s with my team members.

If we can just close out this quarter strongly, I’ll start focusing more on my family.

Sound familiar to you?

This mindset – what I call the future state fallacy – is a killer for me. It’s safe to say, my career, my relationships, and my health have suffered greatly because I fall victim to this demon over and over again. Just as soon as I figure out how to solve this one, I can start focusing on being successful (See what I did there?  J ).

Unlike some of the things I write about, where I have struggled with a problem and overcome it, this one is different. I’m still plagued by the future state fallacy. I catch myself in this line of thinking almost every day. “Once I do that, then I can start this.” It’s a trap. And if you’re not careful, it can prevent you from tackling the activities and projects and problems that will most profoundly impact on your life and career.

I have not overcome this one yet. But I can tell you, from years of experimentation and self-reflection, that it is helpful to actively look for the demon and acknowledge its existence. When I see myself heading down this path, I call it out and put a stop to it immediately. That seems to help. The other thing I do is make a weekly list of the biggest, scariest things I need to take on – and I try to act on them right away. Instead of looking for reasons why it makes more sense to wait until some future state to change my behavior, I look for reasons why I should start immediately.

I’d be lying if I told you this is a foolproof method, or that I’ve overcome the challenge. I haven’t, but this mindset does help. If you’re interested in reading more about my views on this subject, check out my recent blog:

Hard Conversations: Why You Need to Have More of Them

I’d love to hear from any of you who have also struggled with the future state fallacy. Share your thoughts and stories in the comments or send me an email so we can learn from each other.

2. Pursuit of the Clean Inbox

Early in your career, when you get one call and only ten emails a day, the pursuit of a clean inbox is possible. But when you get ten calls and two hundred emails a day, this pursuit becomes a trap. The pursuit of the clean inbox is a demon I’ve faced and mostly conquered. And I can tell you it has had an extremely positive impact on my productivity and career success.

Too many of us let our natural desire for order trick us into prioritizing a clean inbox over real productivity and progress towards our most important goals. We get lost in a quest to stay current and in control, and lose sight of our real purpose. It’s easy to do. I did it for years.

Do any of these sound like you?

Answer the phone every time it rings.

Read every email as it comes in.

Check voice mails as soon as they come in.

Never leave work with unread messages.

Constantly cleanup and file inbox items.

On the surface, these behaviors masquerade as virtues. We tell ourselves we’re responsive. We’re on top of things. We feel good because life appears to be in balance. But in my experience, these behaviors are traps. They trick you into favoring responsiveness and order over real productivity. They create the illusion of progress.

The most successful people I know are myopically focused on specific goals, game changing initiatives, big wins. They embrace a certain degree of chaos around them so they can doggedly pursue the activities that will have the biggest impact on their mission and on their success.

There was a time when I struggled mightily with the pursuit of the clean inbox and other time wasting activities. They artificially constrained my success for many years. To overcome it, I adopted a new mindset and a specific set of behaviors designed to keep me focused on high impact pursuits. For example, I start every morning by identifying the big wins I am pursuing and then close each day by writing down the big wins I have achieved. It’s become a habit with many benefits. It keeps me focused on high impact work and it creates positive momentum as I actively make note of my wins on a daily basis. I do the same thing for the team’s I manage. I have found that a focus on wins, with purposeful behaviors to support it, goes a long way to getting you off the pursuit of order and onto the pursuit of progress.

If you find yourself falling into this trap, here’s another blog on the subject you might want to check out.

Why Multi-tasking is a Trap and How to Break Out of It

I hope that was helpful for you. It was certainly therapeutic for me. It’s easy to blame external factors for your problems. We all do it. But I have found it to be much more productive to focus on the internal demons that are limiting my success. More than anything, I have found that an honest acknowledgement of weakness, some healthy self-awareness, and a constant pursuit of improvement have been the biggest contributors to success in my life. I’d love to hear about your experiences so we can move towards success together.

Weekly Reid - Your Survey Results and Some Helpful Resources

This week I’ll cover 4 data points that really jumped out at me. In the weeks to come, we'll get way deeper into this and I'll keep sharing the most fascinating results I've found. I don't know about you, but I find it super compelling to see how other people thing. There are some common themes in the data points I've covered this week and I’ve tried to include some helpful content related to them.

Question: What is your primary career goal?

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A couple data points really jumped out at me for this one. The first is that so many of you want to be recognized as an expert in your field. That is a great goal and I’ve definitely found my career trajectory has improved in direct proportion to my reputation as an expert. The second interesting one was how many of you wanted to reach the C-level. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given you’re so invested in improving your careers (and you read this blog :) ) I’ll keep focusing on these subjects and in the meantime, I highly recommend checking out this new video. 

4 Keys to Move from Director to VP Level

Question:  What have been the biggest hurdles to reaching your career goals thus far?

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  Two data points jumped out at me from the responses to this question. 32% of you felt your unwillingness or inability to self-promote was the biggest hurdle to reaching your career goals thus far. And, 26% of you felt office politics was the biggest hurdle. I can completely understand these perspectives and I’m going to keep publishing more content to help you overcome these challenges. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out these two blogs for helpful tips:

How to Work Well with Incompetent Co-workers

5 Things You Can Do Tomorrow to Get Your Career on the Fast Track

Question:  Which of the following is most responsible for your career success so far?

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Many of these responses were not surprising, but I can really see myself in the 23% of you who pointed to "perseverance through hard times" as being largely responsible for your success thus far. The further I go in my career, the more I think perserverance is the number one differentiator between those who ultimately succeed and those who don't. Check out my latest video for my advice on how to bounce back in tough times.

Video – How to Bounce Back from a Career Setback

Question:  What new skill do you think would be most helpful in your future success?

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An overwhelming number of you (43%) pointed to “improved ability to promote myself at work” as the key skill to achieving future success. That is by far the most popular question I get asked by my employees and coaching clients. It’s a critical skill we all need to focus on more. I recently filmed a video on building up your professional brand which I think will be helpful. I’ll also look to publish a blog in the next few weeks with practical tips on how to create more visibility at work.

Video: How to Build Your Professional Brand

I hope this was helpful for you. There is a ton more data to share with you and many more resources to help you navigate the opportunities and challenges in front of you. 

Weekly Reid - Setting Career Goals for 2018

This year I’m focusing on three professional goals. But before I launch into them, I think it’s important to share my methodology with you. I should warn that the goal setting purists may get offended by my approach. Unlike typical business goals, which are meant to be results oriented, I purposefully do not focus on outcomes in my annual goal setting. For me, the process is much more important than the outcome. I want to create new behaviors and habits that I think will lead me to positive outcomes, and then let the results take care of themselves.

The challenge with outcome-based goals, in my experience, is that they tend to be quite binary. You either lost 15 pounds or you didn’t.  So what if you worked out every day and ate well but only lost 13 pounds? Is that a failure? What was actually the most important thing, the outcome or the new lifestyle you adopted? Outcome-based goals can lead you to discount the amazing value that can come from adopting the right behaviors even if you fall a bit short of the desired outcome. To be honest, the older I get the less I care about outcomes and the more I care about habits. This applies to my professional life too.

Back to my professional goals. I have three categories for these: Learning goals, Leadership goals, and Coaching goals. For my career, this makes sense. First and foremost, I am a manager, so these categories are a good fit for me. If you’re an individual contributor or a hybrid contributor-manager, you might select slightly different categories.

Within each category I typically have one goal with a few behavioral commitments tied to it. This way I have something to shoot for AND a set of behaviors to ensure I stay on the right path.

Here are my professional goals for 2018:

Learning Goal:

Operational Mastery

Someday I would like to be a CEO. I have wanted that for a while now and most of my learning goals tend to be centered on the areas I think I’m missing to be successful at that level. When I look at the best CEOs I’ve ever worked for, they all had an amazing command over the financial and operational engineering of a company. I don’t have this yet. Most of my career has been spent working in the Sales, Marketing and Product areas of companies so I’ve got a gap to fill on the operational side if I want to reach my full potential as a leader. This year, my learning plan is going to focus primarily on the pursuit of mastery in financial and operational disciplines. I’m excited to dive in and improve in these areas.

My Commitments:

Read one book per quarter on corporate finance and operations.

Take one online course per quarter on corporate finance and operations.

Find a coach or mentor and commit to one session per month to develop my skills.

Find one opportunity or project this year at my company to expand my operational experience.

Leadership Goal:

Quiet Leadership

As I wrote about in a recent blog, I am very focused on speaking less and listening more. I have noticed, in myself and in leaders around me, a bad habit of leading by directing vs. leading by inspiring collaboration. I want to change this in myself.

I think you can get by for a while as a leader just by giving clear and precise direction and holding people accountable to execution. But at a certain point, you reach a limit. The best leaders in the world facilitate greatness in others. That is leadership at scale.

This year, I’m going to focus on leading by inspiring others to collaborate and to be creative. To do that, I’m going to talk way less. I’m going to wait longer before sharing my opinions. I’m going to find new ways to make people feel more comfortable to be creative. This hasn’t always been my strong suit. When I’m rushed or impatient I have a tendency of dominate and direct. I’ll just jump to my answer instead of facilitating real collaboration. I’m excited to develop in this way.


Start all project discussions and brainstorming by polling the room for ideas before sharing my own.

Start all new project meetings with a basic statement of the objective but no direction on tactics.

Make my team more comfortable by lowering the consequences of having a “bad idea”.

Host a coaching session with leaders on my team to create similar behaviors in them.

Coaching Goal:

Unleash the Introverts

I am an introvert. I always have been. There are unique challenges to being an introverted leader but it’s not impossible by any means. Many great leaders are introverts. Over the years I have developed a mindset and a collection of tools that help me succeed as a leader even though I struggle in some areas extroverts find easy. When I look around me, I see a lot of introverts who struggle with the same things I have had to overcome. My goal in 2018 is to share those methods and models with this group to help inspire a new generation of leaders.


Write one blog per quarter focused on leadership tools for introverts.

Hold one coaching session per quarter with the future introvert leaders I see on my team.

Create specific opportunities for the introverts around me to push their boundaries.

I love goal setting. I always feel great right after I do it. I realize the goals as I’ve presented them today aren’t as measurable as you might normally see, but it’s the behavioral change I’m after. I’m excited to pursue these new habits and committments with all of my energy and enthusiasm this year. I hope you’ve found my perspective to be valuable and I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on goal setting and what you’re shooting for in 2018.