Always be preparing for your Performance Review

You know that time of the year when you are responsible for coming up a with a list of everything you have done this past year to exceed expectations in your role and contribute to the success of the company? Instead of staring a blank piece of paper for hours on end, track it throughout the year.

I would keep a folder in my email called “Go You.” Anytime a client, team member, or peer would give me props or a meaningful thank you, I’d add that email to the folder. Anytime I would finish a big project; I’d shoot myself a note with some highlights and add that to the folder. If there was a qualitative or quantitative thing I did, yup, it went in the folder.

When it was time for my performance review, instead of staring at a blank sheet trying to remember the top three things I did in the last year, I had a whole folder to remind me. By preparing throughout the year with this “Go You,” folder, I was also more prepared to articulate the value that I contributed successfully negotiating raises and promotions.

And, one other side effect of having this folder. If you’re having one of those crummy days when you are feeling lost in your role, review these highlights to remind yourself of your value and accomplishments at work.

Your Elevator Pitch should be about the Value you Bring

“I’m new to town and looking for opportunities.”  Eek!  That opening line is bound to shut some new connections down before they even get to know you. 

“I have 20 years of experience designing viewbooks for private schools and want to grow my network in the private school community.” This elevator pitch is a stronger opening. This statement shows the value that you provide, the challenges you can help others solve, and your reason for launching into your elevator pitch. 

The goal with an elevator pitch is to share enough about yourself briefly that people will think about you.  They will think about you if they hear that someone is hiring.  They will think of you if someone is talking about a project they need to complete at work.  They will think of you if they are talking to someone who does something similar to you. 

If you’re at a networking event, it’s apparent that you have a reason to be there.  People won’t be shocked to learn that you are looking for new clients, trying to connect more with influencers, or adding to your tribe of people like you.  And, they are at the networking event for a reason too.  Don’t be shy about why you are there and also learn why others are there.

After you have shared a strong opening line, get ready to share more with be prepared to answer some of these questions:

1 – Why did you come to this event tonight?  Here is a great chance to offer some more personal details.  “I moved to Denver a few months ago.  I have a strong network in my old city and want to build a strong network here.”  Maybe you are looking to build your network because you have clients that use you for branding work and now they need help with Powerpoint Design (which you don’t do), so you need a group of referrals. 

2 – How do you find your clients?

3 – What’s your process for solving <XX> challenge?

4 – When have you been most proud of work you’ve done?

These are authentic conversations that will help you build a solid network of people that will refer work to you, collaborate with you on future projects, or may even hire you. 

Adding Value Every Day

If you would ever thank one of my favorite Creative Directors for his contributions, he would always reply, “Just adding value.” And it was true. Every big idea or quick insight was adding incredible value to the project and our clients. He certainly taught me the concept of adding value at every opportunity. That quip seemed like an off-handed casual comment, but it was one of the best lessons I learned.

I challenge you to think about every project or team you are on. Take a minute to write down all the ways you add value to that team. Celebrate those!!

Now, take another minute to write down what the team needs to perform at a higher level. Are some of those ideas you can take on?

Here are some ways to add value to teams/projects:
– Share your notes from team meetings. Call out the highlights and decisions at the top and the action items at the bottom. (Organization)
– Thank someone for their specific contributions. (Gratitude)
– Share an article or podcast that has relevant information your project or a challenge the team is facing. (Inspiration)
Refocus the conversation around the decision at hand. (Efficiency)

Five People You Need in Your Network

There are five types of people you should have in your network.  These are people who will teach, connect, and support you.  Take a look at your current network and see if you have at least three people of each type in your network.  If not, be intentional to round out your network. Also, remember strong networking is about both giving and benefiting (read this blog for more on that).

1 – Buyer/Client/Future Boss.  Whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or full-time employee.  Who are people that will contribute to your future income?  Is there someone rising the ranks at your current company – meet up with them, gain advice, add value to their current/future roles (through your network, experience, or skills).  Hitch your wagon to that star.  If you’re a freelancer, who is the hiring manager/freelance resource manager that is building out project teams at your dream agency? 

2 – Connectors.  Some people are magnets for awesome people.  Every time you talk to them, they say, “Do you know XXXX?  They are doing something that you would be interested in.”  These connectors know the growing businesses, the hiring managers, and thought leaders to follow.  Listen to them closely because their recommendations for a book, blog, or connection can be a catalyst in your career.  They are also great people to email and share an awesome project you just completed or share your goals for what’s next for you. 

3 – Mentors & Mentees.  Hopefully you have met some great people in your career that are a few steps ahead of you.  Be a sponge around these people: learn from their mistakes, understand the risks they have taken, and get inspired to push yourself.  The best mentors love helping those who are coming up behind them and reliving their professional journey.  Which means, you should also be mentoring those coming up behind you.  Do you have mentees that you are sharing your experiences and sage advice with?

4 – High-Five/SOS Tribe.  This tribe gets you.  You may be in the same or similar roles, work for the same company.  These are people that you can call and say, “This crazy specific huge accomplishment just happened!” and it will feel like they have jumped through the phone to give you a high five.  They get what it means to get an SOW fully executed or have a crucial conversation with a client, and they are there to support you in a big way.  These may also be people that you call for advice on a problem or a new way of doing something.  “This client just called and ask for a project-based quote vs. an hourly quote.  Have you done that before?  How do you respond?”  This tribe is a great source of advice and knowledge.

5 – Diverse Thinkers.  Is everyone in your network like you or do you have some people that are completely different from you?  Currently, I’m working on a project with someone who is so far on the opposite spectrum of leadership theories.  We talked for 45 minutes yesterday about theories I’ve never seen in practice.  Sometimes it feels like we’re on different planets, but I always take something away from our conversations and know that those nuggets will make me a better leadership coach. 

High-five if you have a well rounded network.  Keep growing.  Keep learning.  And keep paying it forward.

Effective Communication while Networking

How can I help you? And how can you help me? Networking is a two-way street and having a great network should be a mutually beneficial relationship. It feels good to help others and it also feels good to receive support.

When articulating how you can help others and the help you need, it’s best to be specific. One of my favorite anecdotes goes like this.

If one of your friends has a baby, you may tell her, “Let me know how I can help. I will do anything.” But strangely, she never asks you to do anything.

However, if you were to say, “I would love to drop off dinner for you on Tuesday around 6 pm. How many people should I bring food for? Would be okay?” And she’ll often say, “Oh yes, thank you. That would be great.” Or “Thank you. Tuesday we already have dinner coming but next Thursday would be awesome.”

It’s easy to say “yes” when it’s a specific question. So, what does that look like for networking?

Potential ways you can help others:
– If they are job hunting, ask what they are looking for and offer to put them in touch with people you know at that company or in that industry. Or sharing a good networking group for them.
– If they are an entrepreneur, can you purchase a product/service from them or refer friends to them?
– If they are looking to expand their network, invite them to an upcoming networking event with you. It’s easier to show up knowing one person instead of going into an event full of strangers.

Potential ways you can ask for help:
– Asking for advice: “I’m search for a in . Would you have any advice for me to get my resume to the top of the pile?”
– Asking for a favor: “I see that you are connected to XXX at XXX. I recently applied for a job there, would you be willing to introduce me to them?”
Asking for support: “I’ve started my company. Social Media Engagement from follows, likes, and comments will help my content be seen by more people. Would you be willing to give me a follow and feedback on my posts?”

Improved Communications Skills should be a Goal that lasts your entire Career

One of my current clients has a goal to improve her communication skills. I hear this goal from almost every one of my clients in every stage of their career. It demonstrates self-awareness that even professionals at the top of their game want to be better communicators.

Being a better communicator can be broken down into multiple SMART goals throughout your career around presentation skills, active listening skills, emotional intelligence and more. Over the last six months, my client has increased her confidence contributing in meetings, tailors her emails to her different audiences, and even joined a group to improve her presentation skills.

As we talked each month, she was shocked to realize that even people she considers great communicators still have goals to improve their communication skills. Just knowing that almost every self-aware professional is working on their communication skills gave her the confidence to go outside her comfort zone and push herself.

The Reciprocity of Empathy will improve your Professional Development

Perception is Reality;” I was frustrated the first time I heard this quote. My manager was sitting down to talk to me about some negative feedback about my teamwork and attitude. It didn’t feel good because that negative feedback came from people that didn’t understand my intention. I have a strong work ethic, and I wanted what was best for the work. However, I sometimes forgot to consider other’s feelings and goals in my communications and comments with my peers. I wanted them to have empathy and understanding for me, but I wasn’t reciprocating.

This was a big revelation for me: that reciprocity of empathy. Here are some thought starters to think of others and some self-reflection for you.

Others:

  • What are their big motivators/goals?
  • Do they understand how their work contributes to the bigger goals?
  • How do they feel about work currently/in the future?
  • What can they do to make the team/work/process better? Do they have ideas they want to share?

You:

  • Have you clearly articulated the bigger picture/big goals?
  • Have you shared their purpose beyond their tasks? Can you help them see how their actions are contributions to the big goals? Are you acknowledging and celebrating those contributions?
  • Are you using the appropriate tone and language when giving direction/sharing the plan?
  • Are you allowing for time and space in conversations and relationships for others to share ideas/suggestions?
  • Are you acting in ways that support the culture you want: high-performing, collaborative, efficient, autonomous, effective, fun?

Be sure you are aligning your actions to your aspirations. Empathy can be a significant factor in improving your professional reputation. How do you want people to describe your professional reputation? Are your actions supporting that reputation? What’s missing? What can you improve? We are all evolving to be better peers, managers, and leaders. Keep working at it!

Prioritize Your Purpose; Not Your Tasks

Since 2009, 24% of professionals spent some time working from home according to the US Department of Labor; thanks to our connectivity through smartphones and an increase in flexible work schedules.  This connectivity also has burnout on the rise. Sometimes your job can seem like a loop of mundane tasks.  To reduce the chance of burnout, prioritize your purpose, not your tasks.  Your role is critical to the success of your team’s or company’s goals.   When you focus on your contributions to the greater team and goals, it’s easier to be excited and motivated about the work on your plate.

Here are two examples of how changing your mindset and language can help. 

I am a copywriter.  I write multiple articles each week for clients.  >>> I craft messages for clients to connect with their audience to be informed, inspired, and motivated. 

I am a salesperson; I work to hit my sales goals and thresholds.  >>> I connect our clients with valuable services/products to help them reach their goals.  I get to brag about our awesome team/product and help our company grow. 

Take a minute to think about your role and contributions.  Shift your mindset to focus on your purpose and not your tasks. 

Equal Pay Day: Ask For It

I love helping clients ask for the raises they have earned. And I love even more when they get them! I helped clients successfully negotiate raises, promotions and additional benefits. Here’s one of my favorites.

A client worked for a company that gave a modest Cost of Living raise each year. We were preparing for her performance review, and she had the best year ever. We crafted a story which allowed her to articulate the value (both quantitative and qualitative) she contributed to the company that year. She was ready with what she wanted to ask for: a raise, a promotion, and additional responsibilities.

In her performance review, her manager sang her praises and thanked her for a great year. Then offered her a $1500 raise. She was prepared and replied, “Thank you, I love working here, but that raise is not in line with the value that I bring to our company.” After some back and forth, her manager said he was only authorized to give her a raise of $3000, and it was more than the raises others were getting. If she wanted more, he would have to talk to the boss. She said, “Great, and if there are any details I can share with you to present a strong case, I’ll give you what you need.”

A month later, this client earned a promotion and a pay increase of $20,000.

Know your worth! Track the contributions you are making to your company and be prepared to tell your story. Finally, don’t be timid. Keep pushing! If your company can’t give you the raise immediately, schedule a timeline and clear milestones/actions for you to earn that raise.

I would love to help you earn what you deserve! Let’s set up a coaching session to prepare you for that ask. Get it, girl!

Thank you Adam Grant, You Explained Why I Wander the Aisles of Target So Often

Last year, I took on a new freelance project and was out to lunch with my new colleagues.  Because this group travels quite a bit for work, we were discussing how/where we do our best work.  Both of my colleagues described a quiet room with few distractions where they could put their head down and work.  My answer was entirely different; I do my best work wandering the aisles of Target.

I often like to start things, walk away from them, think about them when I’m driving in my car, wandering the aisles of Target, or other free-thinking spaces, then come back to the assignment to edit and finish.  I couldn’t explain why this worked for me until I was recently reminded of Adam Grant’s book Originals and this excellent TEDTalk.  Procrastination is valuable.  Stepping away from a big idea or task can make it better.  He talks about it better than I ever will; so watch this video.  And if you only have a little time to procrastinate; start at 1:42.

The surprising habits of original thinkers | Adam Grant