Maybe I will do it tomorrow. ‘It’ could be anything. Tomorrow I will set my goals. Tomorrow I will earn a big promotion. Tomorrow I will write the next great novel. Some of us keep wishing and some of us allow frustration to build up. Still, we take no action, except maybe a complaint or two, or maybe three. We have all heard that good things come to those who wait. However, I will tack on that great things will come to those who earn it and take action.
I have had many career conversations with individuals who complained that his or her manager had rarely, if ever, had a career development conversation with him or her. The complaints include comments that his or her manager has performance-based conversations that help with the present, but lack the long-term discussion to push them further in their careers. I have seen consistent focus group feedback and anonymous survey feedback reiterating the same thing.
I have had to provide some tough feedback to people by asking them, “When was the last time you read your performance appraisal?” A very large percentage of people I ask have answered that it was the day it was administered. People have a silver tray of feedback on their lap that they think they can memorize after a thirty to sixty-minute discussion. They are wrong. People need to reinforce constructive feedback that will make them better. They should not wait for the next performance review that will take place six months to a year from the last one. People should take hold of that feedback and take action immediately. Grab the feedback head on and start to implement the actions needed to make you stronger. Be impatiently patient to make yourself better.
If the complaints are accurate and you are really not getting career advice or long-term direction, you have the right to understand and ask for it. You need to know exactly what it takes to get promoted or get to the next level, or even what it takes to maintain great performance results. The conversation does not have to be contentious or even demanding. A simple request of, “Can you help me to better understand what it takes…” can go a long way.
Everyone should do their homework to at least know the minimum requirements and expectations for their current role and what is needed to get to the next level. My company used to have minimum requirements to get promoted to certain officer positions, including taking certain courses and submitting at least one original, formal, creative idea annually to make the business better. I would be amazed any time I had a conversation with a colleague who said he or she could not come up with a fresh idea or find the time to take the training courses.
The irony may be that the driving force for me early in my career was my inability to take accountability. I was driven to cover my bases for all the minimum requirements to ensure that never happened to me. I refused to allow any decision-maker to make an easy decision to count me out of the running for an officer promotion simply because I had not met the check-box requirements. That would make it too easy for others. Remember, I was in the habit of blaming others.
I was learning that if I was going to blame someone for not promoting me or giving me the next great role, I wanted to force the conversation to be more meaningful than, “Sorry, you missed the minimum requirements.” The drive to meet the requirements forced me to be impatiently patient because I was going to meet all of my annual requirements in January (if the cycle started at the beginning of the year), as soon as I saw it in my inbox, or as soon as physically possible to complete.
My concerns for missing small details or requirements, or gaining a reputation as a procrastinator, were not part of my personality. My fear of missing a deadline or not completing my workload actually enhanced the perception of me in the eyes of many leaders. I was gaining a reputation for getting things done quickly. I was also becoming known for reading the details that may have been glossed over by others. I was building a positive reputation based on my emerging skill set.
Although others were still getting promoted around me, it was not because I wasn’t meeting my goals. It was the many other components that had been reiterated many times over. My inability or slow adaptation to change how I got the job done was holding me back (e.g., relationship building, cynicism). The positive momentum change in how I was viewed in getting things done quickly was a good sign of future advancements.
I would eventually find my way to meeting many of my professional goals, but it was not within my personal, unwritten timeframes. I was beginning to be more driven and more specific in establishing these goals. I would set a certain age at which I wanted to achieve a title or position. There were designated times when I wanted to expand my role. I was often close, but I was not always within my personal deadlines. I was all right with that because my impatience was driving me to take the better road to eventually get to the position or goal I wanted.
In fact, there were at least two times in my career where I was in the right place at the wrong time. I was given expanded responsibilities at a time when I was not fully prepared for the positions. In both cases, I was asked to step back to a lesser role or change my position completely. I also learned that getting exactly what you want at the wrong time can have devastating impacts professionally. I learned from both scenarios to set clear goals, but be prepared for when I get there.
The lessons of not only knowing what I wanted but also when I wanted to get there, proved valuable. My impatience made me do more homework and research to set aggressive, but more realistic, goals. I knew myself better than anyone else and I began writing out a game plan to help me achieve my goals. Doing things on the fly and just pushing to get someplace fast happened far too many times early in my career, to my detriment. I had the drive to get there quickly, but I lacked the specificity of where I was heading. This held me back. I needed to know where I wanted to go and be impatiently patient to get there—with a plan.
Finally, if you are fortunate enough to take on a new role, you need to be impatiently patient in learning the business. You can never passively wait to meet the learning curve within a given timeframe in a new position. First, you need to understand the business is moving quickly and can’t wait around for you. Second, if you are effective in attacking the transition, you can accelerate your ascent to gaining technical knowledge. Your patient efforts to impatiently learn the business as quickly as possible will assist you in gaining credibility with the people you are working with as you gain insights on the integration between different faces of the business, technology, culture, and styles. Take advantage of a learning curve if there is one, but learn as quickly as possible by using the people and resources around you to absorb everything.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only) purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com