“Why does my manager care if I go directly to his boss with an idea? Good ideas are good ideas, right?”
“Customers don’t need all that formality. They’re chill. Why can’t I just show up and give them an update?”
“When the CEO ran into me in the hallway and asked “What’s going on?” I told him. Now my manager is “coaching” me to be more strategic in what I choose to share.
“I can’t help it if I get fired up, it means I care!”
“WTF I’m killing myself here, and now my boss tells me I’m not ready for the next level until I have better ‘executive presence.’ ”
Great results are more than half the battle. But professionalism matters too. Every day, I hear from high-performers frustrated that their results do not seem to be enough for their boss. The tragedy is, it’s likely small stuff that’s distracting you both from what matters most.
Six Ways to Convince Your Manager You’re a Professional
Here are six easy(ish) ways to show up more professionally.
1. Get a Grip on Your Emotions
You’re fired up. You’re angry. You can’t believe Joe missed the deadline, or Cindy talked to a customer that way… again. YES! That means you care. YES! that means you know what must be done. But even if you see executives flying off the handle, it doesn’t mean you should too. Keep the passion, lose the drama. Take a step back to breathe and consider the most effective words and tone before communicating.
2. Focus on What Matters Most
When you try to do everything, it’s hard to do the most important things well. If you want to be taken more seriously, pick a few strategic priorities that will make the biggest impact and build a strong plan to execute elegantly on those things first. Be sure that you spend time every day working on those priorities.
3. Build Some White Space Into Your Calendar
When you over-book your calendar, you’re more likely to find yourself racing late into meetings, disheveled and under-prepared. Try leaving yourself a few minutes between appointments so you have time to gather your thoughts, connect with key stakeholders before the meeting starts, and consider how you can bring the most value to the table. A little white space will also help you resist the urge to multi-task with your phone under the table while “no one is looking.” (BTW–someone is always looking.)
4. Streamline Your Communication
Before speaking, consider your audience. When the CEO “casually” asks, “How’s it going?” be ready to tell her something substantial. When your boss asks for an update, don’t come in spewing all the details; bring a bulleted list of what you’ve done and what you need. Our free MIT huddle planner works well for this. Consider who you’re speaking to and how your communication can serve them well.
5. Develop Upwards Empathy
Before you write your boss off as a witch, consider the pressure she’s under and how you can help. Professionalism requires perspective.
6. Stop Talking Trash
You don’t have to convince me, I’m sure you’ve got some peers that would be better off being “promoted to customer.” AND, nobody likes a whiner. Take the high road at work when it comes to talking ABOUT folks. It’s not as fun, but much more classy.
Your turn. What’s your best advice for managers looking to show up more professionally?