How to make 2018 your best year ever.

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance in the New Year

“But I exceeded all my objectives. Why am I not rating ‘leading?’ ”

It’s a frustrating conversation no matter which side of the desk you’re on. The truth is, in most companies, meeting or exceeding your objectives is not enough to stand out. In a stack-ranked world, you’ve got to make a bigger strategic impact.

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance in the New Year

Whether you’re looking for ways to take your own performance to the next level, or to help a frustrated team member stand out, here are a few proven strategies to make  2018 your best year ever.

1. Know what matters most.

Have you ever noticed it’s not necessarily the times in your career that you worked the longest or hardest that got the most positive attention? Sure sometimes there’s a correlation, but chances are it’s more a matter of finding that sweet spot where your skills and talents matched a strategic business need and pointing all your energy in that direction. You’ve got at least 37 priorities on your plate, you can’t exceed expectations on all of them. Talk to your manager,  know what matters most, and be sure you nail that.

Ask:

“What’s the most important thing I (or my team) needs to accomplish to really impact the business this year?”

Or, I know everything on this scorecard is important, but if I had to fail at something, which of these metrics matters the least, and what do you want me to really blow out of the water?

Or even, “Imagine we’re sitting here this time next year, and you’re blown away by my (my team’s) performance… what would I (we) have accomplished?”

2. Fix something broken.

What’s not working that’s driving everyone crazy? What process could be made more efficient? What can you do to improve the customer experience (not just once) but systematically? How can you make work more efficient not just for you, but for your peers as well? Find something broken and fix it.

3. Build a clear cadence of communication.

Be the guy that makes everyone’s lives easier through a clear cadence of communication up, down and sideways. Treat everyone’s time as a precious resource. Hold meetings that people actually want to attend. Come buttoned up to one-on-ones with your manager, with a clear agenda (this tool will help).

4. Strengthen strategic peer relationships.

Great work never happens in a vacuum. Invest time in building strategic peer relationships where you truly understand, and help one another to achieve, your interdependent objectives. Nothing frustrates senior managers more than dysfunctional turf wars that distract people from doing the right thing for the business and for your customers. Your competition is not the department down the hall, it’s mediocrity.

5. Invest in your own development.

I once had a mentor who said, “Some people have 10 years of experience and other folks have 1 year of experience 10 times.”  Even if you’re not changing roles, be sure you’re constantly learning and growing. Have a clear development plan that stretches you and helps you contribute more to the business each year.

If you want to truly differentiate your contribution–go beyond what’s necessary for today, and work to make a broader impact for your customers, for the business, and for those around you.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for building a year of truly differentiated performance?

See Also our Fast Company Article: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Manager’s Careers

Four Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

I’m sure you ask your boss for feedback. And, I imagine you’re checking in with your direct reports regularly on how you’re doing. If you’re like many managers we work with, you may be less inclined to ask your peers for their perspective.

Why? Let’s face it, your peers are not always the friendliest source. In some companies, peers can feel more like “competitors” for resources, a position in the stack rank, or bonus funding. And it’s just possible peers in other departments are the folks most ticking you off: the finance guy who doesn’t see the value in funding your project; or the woman in IT who always has 10 reasons why what you want can’t be done.

Four Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

Your peers see how you act under stress and behind closed doors in ways you might not show your boss or your team. Like the time I regretfully let the F-bomb fly at a peer (#NotRecommendedWinningWellBehavior).

Are you seen as a team player? Do you share resources or just look out for your own team and objectives? How do you act when things don’t go your way? Chances are your peers have a pretty good sense of how you act when “no one is looking.” See also Eight Reasons Your Peers Rate You Low on Your 360 Assessment  

Here are four ways to get more helpful feedback from your peers.

  1. Make It About More Than You

    Like it or not, sometimes your peers may also see YOU as a competitor and question your motives for seeking out feedback. Your request for insight is more compelling when you ground it in a desire to improve the business or the customer experience.  “What do you think I could do differently to create an even better experience for our customers?” “I really care about our team effectiveness, what specifically do you think I could do to help our team collaborate better?” “This project is on such a tight deadline, what specifically can I do to make our work processes more efficient?”

  2. Model it

    Want great feedback from your peers? Start by being a great feedback giver. Be the guy who your peers can count on to tell them the real deal. Be generous with your specific and timely praise, and develop trust so that they are interested in what else you have to say. It will be that much easier when you turn around and ask, “And how do you think I could be more impactful?”

  3. Get Specific

    “Do you have any feedback for me?” Is likely to be met with a generic “No, man, you’re doing great,” response. This might feel good, but is not all that useful. Instead try, “What is one behavior I could change that would make me more impactful on this project?” Or, “I’m really working on improving my communication skills, can you give me one suggestion to help me improve my communication with you?”

    Once they give you one idea, then you can always say, “Great! Thank you. What else?”  Or you can take it one step further and conduct a  DIY 360.

  4. Respond

    If they’re right, act on it. And if you think it’s B.S., ask a few more folks for their perspective. The best way to get more feedback is to accept it graciously. Even if you don’t agree, always say thank you.

    See also: How Do I get my peers to trust me?  

Your turn. What are your best tips for soliciting feedback from peers?

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Let’s face it, leadership is hard.

You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happens though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…

You’re not alone.

Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.

When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.

Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree–tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!

When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.

What I found surprised me.

I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.

Think about that for a moment–the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.

They do it together.

As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.

Connection #1: Your Team

Of course, you are there to serve your team.

But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.

Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.

You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.

Connection #2: A Community of Peers

Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem-solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.

In addition to mutual encouragement and problem-solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.

Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach

Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.

Recently, I saw an aspiring leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.

Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.

You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”

Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.

There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.

Your Turn

Remember, just like redwoods, great leaders get to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.

Where do you need to connect?

Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.

How to Nail Your Next Interview–Honing Your Story

Even if you’re the right candidate for the right job, if you don’t have your story together, the job’s going to the other guy.

In fact, I’ve sat through too many panel interviews over the years with my heart breaking because I knew the RIGHT guy was telling the WRONG story…or the RIGHT story in the wrong way.

And the “committee” chose the bozo instead.

It’s not just what you’ve done, but how you tell it that matters in a behavior-based interview. With a little preparation, you can avoid the common mistakes that prevent you from bringing all your Winning Well wisdom to the scene.

Common Mistakes in a Behavior Based Interview

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require candidates to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

Avoid These Interviewing Mistakes

  • Picking the wrong story. (Usually, the first one that comes to mind.)
  • Selecting a story with a bad ending (backing yourself into a corner, and wishing you told another story.)
  • Getting carried away in your story-telling, sharing too many details and going in circles.
  • Leaving out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forgetting to share the point of your story.
  • Sharing a story in which you did not have a central role (or in other words, sharing someone else’s success.)
  • Over-using the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led (remember to include the team.)
  • Continuing to use the same story with a different twist, leaving your interviewer to conclude you’ve only got one example of success.

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job.
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas. If you’re a spreadsheet guy or gal, go for it.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share.
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results.
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend.

But wait–don’t wait until you need a job. Start now.

Some of the best interviewers (and leaders I know) keep journals of their best stories along the way to use when they need them–in interviews, mentoring, heck, who knows, maybe even a keynote someday. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right.

How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You've Led a Team

Last week “John” shared his “No Diaper Genie!” frustration in the middle of our high-potential leadership development program.

Yeah, I get that I’m here… and the company is investing in me and all that. But my boss keeps saying, “You’re not ready to be promoted, you’ve never led a team. I can’t recommend you for that particular promotion now, give it time”

but the truth is, my job is 18 times more complex than any front-line supervisor. I’m neck-deep in a complex organizational structure doing really strategic work and making an impact. How do I get noticed?”

Flashback to about 20 years ago, when I looked at my boss, Mary Ann, and said almost EXACTLY those same words. I had a masters degree and most of a Ph.D., I was gung ho working really long hours, thinking strategically, and contributing in any way that I could.

And she said the words I found remarkably frustrating and stupid at the time…

Karin, “What’s for you won’t miss you. We’ve got a lot of old-fashioned ways of thinking and being around here… but you’re bigger than all that. Stay the course. Show up as the leader you think the guys three levels up should be.”

And so I did. And as it turns out, Mary Ann was right. It didn’t miss me.

Five Ways to Get Noticed As a Leader Before You’ve Led a Team

Be so good it’s hard to notice. Here are five ways to make a leadership impact before you have a team.

  1. Master the art of the tough conversation.
    Be the guy that can give tough feedback to peers, project team members and even your boss in a way that makes them feel valued and grateful. People will then seek you out as a trusted advisor). Here’s a tool that can help INSPIRE feedback model for project managers For some additional inspiration, you can see part of my Managing the Art of the Tough Conversation keynote here.
  2. Rock your role.
    Yes, yes, you’ve heard this from me before (see related advice here).  But I can’t tell you how many people come to me each week frustrated that they’re not at the next level, and when I ask about their current performance they shrug that off because “they’re bored and ready for more.”  Not a chance. I would never promote you if you’re not showing up consistently as a high-performer, and neither should your boss.
  3. Be sure every meeting you attend is better because you were there.
    You can pull that off in a variety of ways: help keep the team on track by separating “Where are we going?” conversations “How will we get there?” discussions; help to clarify and summarize action items, “Who will do what by when and how will we know?” Invite softer spoken team members to offer their contributions.  See more ideas for running effective meetings here.
  4. Keep your boss informed of your strategic contribution.
    When done well, it’s not bragging. It’s useful– and when you’re adding more value, so are they. Here’s a free huddle planner to help you have more productive one-on-ones with your boss.
  5. Practice Two-level thinking.
    When faced with a difficult business problem or when you’re asked to do something that feels challenging think, “Why is this important to my boss’ boss?” If you can’t come up with a good answer, ask your immediate manager to help you think it through. Everyone wants to have team members who “get it” and want to make a more strategic impact on the business.

If you want to stand out as a leader, don’t wait until you have a formal title. Leading without authority is the best way to stand out “as a natural” and get noticed for what you bring to the scene.

How Do I Find a Great Mentor?

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to be their mentor, and when I asked what they were looking to accomplish–I was met with a blank stare. I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level.

But mentoring doesn’t work that way.

To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee.

Four Ways to Be a Better Mentee

Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.

  1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
    Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
  2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
    If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
  3. Offer to Help
    The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.
  4. Bring Conversation Starters
    The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come with a few “starter” questions.
  • What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
  • What are the things that excite and energize you about your work here? What are the things that drain or frustrate you? What have you done to reduce this frustration?
  • What are some of your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • What are the skills and behaviors you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
  • What skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • What do you know now that you wish you learned sooner?

The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep-trust– and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.

See also:

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

Speed Mentoring: Jump Starting Deeper Conversations

Three Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star

Yesterday “Doug,” a participant in one of our Winning Well workshops, asked, “Karin, if I were to walk into your office right now with the goal of convincing you I’m a rock star, what behaviors would get your attention?”

I’m always intrigued by what comes out of the other end of my microphone during spontaneous Q & A— the raw advice bubbling straight from my heart without the benefit of the backspace key.

So, here’s my answer to Doug, and for you if you’re looking to make a bigger impact.

How to Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star

 Of course, the table stakes are integrity—a reputation of doing what you say. I’m going to assume you’re there. On top of that my big three are…

  1. Are You Gung-Ho?
    Of course, I’d never tell an interview candidate “You’re just not gung ho,” but I can spot an all-in, positive spirit within the first few minutes of an interaction with another human being. “Gung ho” can take many forms: the quiet introvert who comes prepared with a spreadsheet of our biggest organizational challenges and his thoughts for fixing them; the passionate extrovert sharing stories of customer turn-around efforts she’s led; or the eager employee bringing new ideas for a special project.“Gung ho” means you’re as excited about this work as I am—and you’re ready to give this job everything you’ve got to be successful.
  2. Do You Offer Solutions?
    Let me be clear, “gung ho” is necessary but not sufficient to hit the Karin Hurt rock-star radar. There’s always a long line of people “gung ho” with ideas of what I could do to make things better. I want to know what you’re eager to do and how you’re planning to do it. True rock stars bring solutions—not just problems. They view constraints as creative challenges, not road blocks. They’re willing to try new approaches and are resilient and determined to overcome setbacks.
  3. Do You Have the Respect of Your Peers?
    Even if you’re gung-ho and full of creative solutions—if you’re driving your peers batty, something is amiss. And no—it’s not because you’re that much better than everybody else (and if you even hint that you believe that—I’m not buying your “I’m a rock star” sales pitch.) It’s impossible to Win Well in the long run without trust, collaboration, and sharing of best practices. I’d take a team of B+ performers who know how to truly collaborate over a few smart lone rangers every time.

If you’re looking to convince your boss you’re a rock star, show up with confidence in your skills and the willingness to go the extra mile to make an impact, along with the humility to know what’s broken and how you can help. Be committed to achieving breakthrough results through collaborative relationships.

That’s Winning Well.

Before You Forget, Stop and Do This Immediately

Have you ever met a truly humble person– someone who’s entire life is a sacrificial commitment to a cause they deeply believe in? As I spoke with Sister Louise in Thailand about her 50-year commitment to helping women and children out of extreme poverty and danger, I was blown away by her selfless mission.

Although she’s Catholic, her focus is not about a conversion of her 95% Buddhist community–it’s about “saving (with a little “s”) lost sheep.”

She just wants to give as many women and children as possible a shot at an empowered life.

And she and her teams are transforming lives. She’s Winning more Well than I could ever hope to.

I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m so haunted by the story she shared when I asked her what was the most challenging part of her work.

She didn’t miss a beat. And her answer surprised me.

There Was This One Time

There was a woman who had come to us for help many times. We worked with her on skills like hairdressing and sewing, but she struggled. She would give up, quit, and then come back.

Several times we just gave her money to get her out of a jam. We didn’t give up.

And then one day after being gone for quite a while, she came back to us and she proudly showed me a stack of money she had earned.

Relieved, I said “Oh you must be so grateful for this blessing.”

And then she screamed at me, “THANKFUL? BLESSING?  I DID THIS ALL BY MYSELF!!!!”

Sister Louise looked at me with tears in her eyes, “Can you imagine? How could she not see all the people who had worked so hard to help her? To be grateful to those who didn’t give up?”

Sister Louise had no expectations that this sheep would believe in God, but held out hope for a little gratitude for the work of his “hands and feet” in the form of her volunteers.

And there she stood, arguably the most humble human I’ve ever met– dumbfounded by the lack of a simple expression of gratitude.

Everyone needs to hear that they are making a difference.

Who Do You Need to Thank?

When we’re working really hard, it’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking we did it all by ourselves.

I hear it all the time “I EARNED this promotion.” “I WORKED MY BUTT off to get here.”

I’ll admit. I’ve said those words.

But the truth is, none of us got here on our own– no matter how hard we worked.

There are managers and teachers and parents and peers who all helped in some way. There’s even the boss you hated, that finally convinced you that you weren’t as strong as you thought you were…and you worked harder to prove her wrong.

Who helped you today? Last week? Last quarter?

Who had an INSPIRE conversation that made an impact? Who helped become more confident? Who consistently takes the time to sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to?

What if you stopped right now and said thank you?

How to Have More Joy at Work

The other evening, I was sitting at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on next week’s keynote for the American Health Quality Association. They’d invited me to talk about “finding joy in your work,” a subject that’s at the core our entire Winning Well philosophy, but that I’m not usually invited to address head on. I kept feeling I was about 90% there when my son, Sebastian, walked in and plopped a crinkled sheet of notebook paper down my keyboard.

“Mom, here’s my story for the 5th-grade graduation speech contest. What do you think?”

I read the words he’d painstakingly written, full of the usual “I’d like to thank my parents and teachers.” I’m not sure if it was the look on my face or the fact that he knew it wasn’t his best work, that revealed my concern.

“It’s not that good, I know,” Seb winced.

Now here comes one of those awkward parenting moments. Perhaps you’ve been there. I know he can do better. I mean, this kid is a storyteller. In fact, he explains some of our concepts better than us.   But I also don’t want to be one of THOSE moms creating too much pressure, particularly around speaking.

But Seb and I have a deal. We tell one another the truth.

“Sebastian you are an amazing storyteller. This speech doesn’t just tap into that. You’ve got an important message to share– I imagine if you spend a little more time, you can find it. If you want to go with this speech you can, but if you want to take it to another level I think you’re not that far off.  Let me know if you want my help.”

And then, Sebastian curled up into a fetal position and said “I’m not changing it. It’s fine.”

Finding the Joy

The next morning at 6 am, Seb crawled into my bed and says, “Mom go get your computer, we’ve got to workshop this.”  Yikes, “Workshop?” I guess he’s been hanging around too many professional speakers. But that’s what we did. We talked about what the audience needed most. We mined for stories. We debated deep or broad– (all relative for the three minutes he had to fill.)

“Okay. I’ll think about it some more at indoor recess. It’s raining.”

When I picked him up for school, he hadn’t even shut the car door before he shared the advice three of his favorite teachers had given when he asked for input. Good stuff. Then we went to the back porch to finish the “workshop.”‘ And Bam. He had it. His speech was FANTASTIC. This child who the evening before had been ready to give up, was literally running around our home dancing to the “Happy” station on Pandora.

Joy.

Joy in his work.

Bam. The missing element from my speech.

Yup. Joy is contagious.

I thought about the times I’ve had the most joy in my work. And when I’ve seen the most joy in others. There’s a lot of joy that can come from working really hard at something you care about, and honing your skills to build your capacity to accomplish it. Sure there’s joy in the outcome, but there’s also joy in perseverance and growth. Joy comes from working really hard until you get it right.

Joy comes from rocking your role.

When we’re feeling joyless, it’s easy to give up. But just past that, joy is lurking.

 

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in the New Year

It’s the time of year where many of us are talking about what we want to lose–a few pounds, some bad habits, a toxic relationship. Today, I’m inviting you to consider what you have to gain– investing in a few key actions to improve your credibility and enhance your reputation.

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in 2017

Focus on these behaviors, early and often to give your credibility a boost in the new year.

1. Admit a mistake.
No. not just a small one. I’m going to assume you do that every day. Is there a decision you regret? A strategic move that took the team down a rabbit hole? Or perhaps you let your personal stress bleed into your work, and were harsher in that meeting than necessary.

The truth is when you screw up, your team already knows. You’ll gain instantly credibility points by admitting it.

2. Stop doing something stupid.

I’ve yet to work with a company where folks couldn’t list the “stupid” things they are still doing for stupid reasons. Want credibility as a leader? Pick one of those things and figure out how to stop doing it. Your team will want to kiss you, and you’ll free up more time for them to work on their MITs (Most Important Things).

3. Take a stand.

I bet if I asked you to describe the leaders you most admire, or your favorite boss, we’d only be a few sentences in before you told me a story about them standing up for something that mattered.  Be that person. You know that thing you’re not saying because you’re too afraid? If it really matters, figure out a way to say it well.

4. Forgive a grudge.

I know. This is a hard one. But you know who you’ll gain the most credibility with if you can pull this off? Yourself. There’s huge value in knowing you’re the one that can take the high road and give someone a second chance.

5. Open a door.

The most credible leaders are ones who help people when they have nothing to gain. Building a reputation as a door-opener is a great way to catalyze credibility, not to mention karma.

6. Have a real conversation with your boss.

I was exchanging stories with an old boss the other day about times where we had found ourselves being the only ones having the tough conversations with our bosses. That audacity has served us both well over the years, and has helped me build the muscles I need to now be a successful consultant. There’s huge power and influence in being viewed as the person who will speak the ugly truth in a way people in power can hear it. Gain credibility by being the one who will own the ugly and work to make it better.

And guess what? If you do it well, your boss will start proactively coming to you asking for advice.

7. Rock your role.

Of course you can’t beat the credibility that comes from being ridiculously great at what you do. Show up every day with your A game. Give 10% more than is necessary to every task. Be constantly learning.

Credibility is built through small and consistent actions over time. Imagine the power of paying some extra deliberate attention to a few of these vital behaviors as you turbo-charge your career for the new year.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

If you Google you, do you like who shows up?

Do you feel like you’ve got a powerful message to share, but without the right positioning, find yourself talking to the metaphorical mute button?

Are you having trouble outgrowing an outdated reputation at work?

Or maybe you’re just looking to get a better seat at the table.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Winning Well Brand

If your brand could use a power boost, take a step back and give your brand a Winning Well refresh using these nine approaches.

Results

1- Rock your Role
If you’re not knocking your current job out of the park, start there–even if you’re looking for something else. There’s nothing better you can do to enhance your brand than having a long track record of success. 

2- Mind the MIT (Most Important Thing)
Pick something extraordinary to accomplish and prioritize getting it right. If there are 27 metrics on your balanced scorecard, trust me, they are not all created equal. Pick one or two that matter most and be known as the guy or gal that cracked the code. 

3- Focus on the Game (Not the Score)
Don’t go around talking about metrics and stack ranks (even if you’re on top). Identify the key behaviors that will change the game, and focus yourself and your team on executing on those consistently. You build a brand by playing the game, not by measurement and commentary. 

Relationships

4- People before Projects
Of course projects are important (see above) but results without relationships leave people burned out, frustrated, and unlikely to give you their best effort. Take the time to establish genuine connection with the people you work with. Yes, you have time, because it will save you time downstream, not to mention building a reputation that will attract “A players” to want to work with you the next time, which of course, makes everything easier.

5- Prioritize Peers
Most managers understand the importance of supporting their team and making their boss look good. But to build a brand that lasts– have your peers backs (see 8 reasons your peers rate you low on your 360 feedback assessment) and go out of your way to make their lives easier. Trust me. I wish I learned this one sooner. Your boss may want you at the top of the stack rank, but your bosses boss wants a team of people working together to accomplish the bigger picture. A high tide rises all boats. Do what you can to be helpful.

Confidence

6- Take a Stand
When I first started writing my blog, the folks at Verizon got a little twitchy. And, I had no intention of leaving my day job at that point. I just wanted to help spread the word that you can get results without losing your soul, and yes, you can blend the bottom line with the human spirit. I loved my work at Verizon (and received the highest performance reviews during this time) AND I had something larger to say. I thank God every day that I had the courage to speak up and was open to next steps.

7. Expand your Expertise 
If you want to build your brand, get very, very good at something important. When everyone tells you, “You’re the best!”–that’s a great sign… keep learning and work harder. AND work on broadening your knowledge. I started at becoming the best HR expect I could be… and then made a career out of leading teams where I was not the expert in the field. I learned so much. It pays to be a “utility player” with deep knowledge in at least one arena.

Humility

8- Channel Challengers
One of the best ways to improve your brand is to know what people are saying behind your back. Ask for feedback. Say thank you. Work to improve. If you want to be the best possible version of you, surround yourself with people you respect who will tell you the truth.

9- Own the Ugly
Here’s a secret. When you screw up… your team already knows. If you want to foster respect and build a trusted Winning Well brand, admit your mistakes and make it right.

There are no shortcuts to a Winning Well brand. It’s showing up consistently day after day oriented in confident humility with a laser focus on results AND relationships.

5 Ways to Tame a Bad Boss

“Greg” called to share his news, “You know that situation with my boss is going a lot better! I decided to go on the offense and just keep him over-informed. He loves it. Now he stays off my back and I can do my work.”

Bingo. Another “bad boss” tamed.

5 Ways to Tame a Bad Boss

Sure I’ve met some loony tunes over the years. But I’m convinced that almost every bad boss situation can be made at least a little bit better with some proactive work on your part.

Sure he should know better, he’s the boss right? Perhaps. But do you want to be right, or happier at work?

We’ve got a lot more techniques in Winning Well and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, but here are a few to get you started. 

  1. Get Your Asks Together
    If you need additional resources, tools, or want to attend training that will make you a better leader, you need to articulate a solid argument. Come with data, not emotion. The P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. approach is a proven methodology that will help.
  2. Communicate Frequently In Bulleted Summaries
    Like “Greg” it might feel like overkill on your end, and if it is, your boss will tell you. But I’ve NEVER minded my team keeping me informed in easy to digest ways. Find a coding system that works for you both (e.g. FYI UPDATE ________ (project name) in the email heading.)
  3. Follow the “No Blindside” Rule
    If you’ve got bad news, be sure your boss hears it from you. Use the Winning Well D.A.R.N. method  of bad news giving.
  4. Ask How You Can Make Their Job Easer
    It’s likely your boss is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand. Ask how you can be most helpful. Of course be prepared with a good answer when she turns the table and asks how she can best help you.
  5. Let It Go
    I know, easier than it sounds. But harboring resentment never does a relationship any good. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Forgive as needed and try again.