“A competitive world has two possibilities. You can lose. Or, if you want to win, you can change.”
Lester C. Thurow
I’ve been speaking, training, and consulting in business for more than twenty years, and I’ve noticed that a lot of companies have a huge dilemma on their hands. In fact, two dilemmas. They’re wondering:
1) HOW THEY CAN IMPROVE EMPLOYEE LOYALTY when they can no longer promise security, and they’re wondering,
2) HOW SPECIALIZED SKILLS CAN BE DEVELOPED when training programs have been all but eliminated.
To say the least, it’s a new world out there — and if you’re a manager or an employee caught up in the middle of all that change, you’d better learn what you can do about it. As Peter Capelli notes in his book, “The New Deal At Work,” all the rules have changed. Here are just a few of them, and I’ll bet you’ve seen or experienced some of these.
Before: Your loyalty was valued.
Now: You are valued if you contribute more than you cost.
Before: Your employer took care of you and your career.
Now: Most of the responsibility for career development has been shifted to the employee.
Before: Compensation was shaped by where you fit into the corporate hierarchy.
Now: Compensation for a particular job is shaped by the market wage for that job outside the firm.
Before: Job security was enhanced by broadening your skills in response to the needs of your employer.
Now: Security is enhanced by keeping your skills on the cutting edge.
Before: People were simply told what to do by the “higher-ups.”
Now: Work is completed by teams that often change, which means interpersonal skills are more important than ever.
Of course, the list of changes goes on and on. But the important questions are:
1. HOW DOES A COMPANY BRING OUT THE BEST IN ITS EMPLOYEES IN THIS NEW AND UNCERTAIN ENVIRONMENT?
2. AND HOW DO YOU SURVIVE AND THRIVE IN THE NEW WORLD OF WORK?
Your company has got to know the ANSWER TO THE FIRST QUESTION — or they may not stay in business. That’s why I designed my program, “Staying Up In A Down World: 8 Keys To A Positive Work Environment.” It has so been transformational for so many organizations that I suggest you check out my outline of the program.
And you’ve got to know the ANSWER TO THE SECOND QUESTION because YOU CAN NO LONGER ALLOW YOUR PERFORMANCE TO SPEAK FOR ITSELF. That’s an antiquated and dangerous proposition. You’ve got to become your own best marketing machine, or as Tom Peters said, in “Fast Company, August 1993, you’ve got to be “The brand called ‘you’.”
Well what does that mean.? Forget the old resume approach. Everything you are and everything you do has to be a marketing brochure for “The brand called you.” Here are a few things you can do.
=> 1. Volunteer For Extra Projects.
You need to create versatility for your brand, and hanging in the background, or staying just below the radar screen won’t cut it anymore. It used to be good enough to simply stay out of trouble if you wanted to keep your job. Now you had better be out front making a visible contribution.
Peters says, “It’s a project-based world. If you are not spending at least 70% of your time on projects, you are living in the past.” So don’t wait to be noticed or called on. Grab some extra responsibility.
Volunteer to chair a team meeting or coordinate a special project. And look for ways your knowledge and skills can add value to the team. If you’re an avid reader, for example, offer to proofread documents.
=> 2. Invest In Your Own Education.
Years ago you could expect a company to give you all the training you would ever need to keep your job or move ahead. Unless you’re part of an exceptional company (and there are a few…and I can proudly claim many of them as clients), you can kiss those days goodbye.
You need to invest in your brain the same way a company invests in research and development. You need to anticipate future skill requirements and get the appropriate training. Take every class your organization makes available, even if you “heard it all before.” And if they don’t make quality training available — easily, frequently, and abundantly — go out and take some classes on your own nickel. Invest in yourself, your education, and your future.
In fact, a good third of the people who attend my Peak Performance Boot Camp do exactly that. They spend their own money to invest in their own future. Eileen Zierman did that, and later she told me: “I thought if I could spend lots of dollars on fishing trips, I could sprout my wings and learn more about relationships, myself, and work–and the money spent would be worth it. Well, I went, and I’m doing the work, and it’s working. What a blessing from God. Previously I was scared to death when someone mentioned goals. I ran the other direction. The fear is gone, and now I have them. I have been doing my affirmations since the Boot Camp, and they are working. I walk down the hallways reciting them quietly to myself. At home or in my car I say them loudly. I’m getting things done I have put off for many years. I feel good about myself. I’m excited about learning, and it feels WONDERFUL.”
In my dictionary, she’s a winner. And I hope the same thing can be said for you. You actively invest your time and your money in your own education.
And once you invest in your own education, don’t be shy about it. Be prepared to be noticed. Bring a summary of your achievements and extra educational experiences to your performance review.
=> 3. Become A Quick-Change Artist.
In other words, you’ve got to do more than simply “put up with” the changes in your organization or industry. And you’ve got to be more than “flexible” or “resilient.” That’s 20th century thinking — and this is the 21st century.
You’ve got to be willing to align yourself with rapidly changing organizational needs. You’ve got to be thinking of how you can add greater value to the customer and how things can be done better — rather than “the way we’ve always done it.”
You’ve also got to be willing to take some risks and wing it once in a while. Perfect information does not exist, so there will be times you’ll just have to go for it. As Price Pritchett says in “New Work Habits For A Radically Changing World,” you must “learn to fail fast, fix it and race on.”
=> 4. Give Generous Amounts Of Genuine Recognition.
Even though I’m talking about ways to market yourself in your organizational environment, and even though these strategies may result in more of the recognition light being flashed on you, don’t forget to give out recognition to others. Genuine recognition! It’s not a bribe. It’s simply a fact that when you notice others, they notice you.
There are thousands of things you could do — just be a bit creative about it so both you and the recognition are remembered. For example, don’t give a $20 bill as a gesture of gratitude to a fellow team member. The emotional buzz lasts about 15 seconds. Then the cash goes into a wallet and effectively disappears. Instead, give cash in two-dollar bills. That way your team members will remember your recognition every time they spend one of those two-dollar bills.
Or when it comes to team meetings, make a few positive statements about each of the team members, if your team is rather small. Or make a few comments about one or two different people at each team meeting. Just make sure your comments are sincere, factual, and relevant to that person’s job performance.
You’ve heard it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. And to some extent that’s true. But it’s also a world that’s often too busy to notice an individual and his/her contributions. You can no longer afford to fade into the background, or you will probably fade away.
Action: List three ways you are going to invest in your own education in the next six months. List three ways you’re going to use what you learn. And list three ways you’re going to let others know what you learned.