By Alan O’Rourke.
To succeed in your job you need to do less and market more.
I don't mean you need to change job and become a marketer. That’s crazy! Plus the hours are long and everyone thinks you would sell your granny (she keeps wondering back and people get arsy looking for refunds).
I want to tell you about Jennifer (names changed to protect the guilty) and what she did when she first started her job that has impressed and fascinated me for years since, influenced my next job and prompted this post.
I started working with a startup that to be honest was a little too old to be a startup. Things were going well and they decided to hire their first customer support person. A low cost, low risk junior person to see how the role works. Enter Jennifer.
Super smart, super organised and wonderfully social. Jennifer slotted comfortably into the company team. I liked her instantly but I had no idea how she was doing in the role. But that was about to change.
Within about a month or two, Jennifer did something interesting. She sent an email to everyone in the company highlighting the progress and achievements of everyone else in the company. A simple email with things like “The engineering team shipped this feature. Thanks to John and Laura”, “The sales team brought on a new market and exceeded target. Thanks to Ailish and Brendan”. Even “At last we got a new fridge and microwave for our lunch. Thanks Paula”. Everyone loved it. The management loved it. Everyone knew who was working on what. Everyone felt valued and thanked. In everyone's mind, the value of Jennifer just skyrocketed. It was a brilliant move. And just to be clear, I do not think this was a calculating move. Jennifer spotted a communication issue in and simply wanted to solve it.
Now let’s contrast this with me being called into my boss's office and getting chewed out of it. Ok it might have happened more than once. It was (nearly) always my fault. But it was never because I did a bad job, which was very frustrating. I would look around at people who appeared to be doing half as much and twice as well and it was not that they were working smarter. Something else was going on. And because of Jennifer it clicked. It was all about communication.
I would be one of those classic introvert types. I tend to under communicate. Sure I can stand up at a conference and deliver a prepared presentation. But the next day you will not find me as I will be in some corner, taking it easy, happily reading a book and recharging.
When it comes to a work environment I will thoughtfully deliver a clear report and immediately move on. But that is not enough. Especially in a work environment when there is so much noise for a manager from so many different directions.
I started to notice the team members that did well at work were the ones that would over communicate. You might sometimes refer to them as the ‘talkers’ while rolling your eyes, but dismissing them this way you might miss what actually works for them. You see a boss or manager would never be in any doubt what they were working on and what they achieved. And if the direction the team member was heading in was the wrong direction, the manager could address that early. However me, who would communicate (clearly mind) what I was working on just once at the start of a project and then deliver the results. Well, the manager was not going to remember that too clearly in the noise. And more than once I would be retasked to different projects because a boss would forget what I was working on, or how important it was. And when it comes to an annual review, there was no way in hell a manager was going to remember all that I was working on.
Luckily I was born with some degree of self awareness. Being able to see this problem in myself and others is partly what interested me in Marketing. I could see the problem, there needed to be a solution. A framework to follow. So to succeed in your job, you need to over communicate. But how? I approached it as a technical challenge.
Unfortunately I cannot remember the source but In studying how to be a better presenter I learned about a basic structure to use for a conference talk:
- Tell the audience what you are going to say.
- Say it.
- Tell them what you said.
Applying this to work:
- Tell your team what you are going to work on.
- Let them know you are working on it.
- Tell them what you worked on.
Almost every time I failed to follow this, it bit me in the ass.
My interest in this led me to a later job working with a HR Performance management Company. Their goal was to improve the performance, engagement and retention of teams and managers. Hint it's all about communication.
So to succeed in your job you need to set aside some dedicated time to communicate or market yourself. Because no matter how hard you work, if you do not tell anyone, no one will know. Or worse if you are working on the wrong thing you will not know until it is too late.
I am now a manager. VP of marketing at OnePage CRM and instead of making it easier I now have to market myself in two directions. I market down the goals of the team because the clearer they are on the goals, the easier it is for them to make the right decisions. And I market up and sideways to tell everyone what myself and the team are working on and what we have achieved. While I have just said you need to market yourself, I also think it is my role as a manager to market the team as well.
Also I have totally stole Jennifer's idea. I now send a semi regular email to the entire company to tell everyone what we (all departments, not just marketing) have achieved. (If you ever read this post ‘Jennifer’ thank you :)