Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 53 – Promotions

Good Morning and welcome to a brand New Year. I hope this finds you well and already enjoying the many successes this year will bring. This month I would like to talk to you about promotions, and whether or not you are ready to take the next step up the corporate ladder. The start of the new year is always a good time to see if what you have been doing is still working as well as it could be, or whether or not some changes to the way your life turns out need to be made. Because the old adage is true, if you continue to do the same things in the same way, you will get the same results. And only you can decide if that is OK.

In this issue we will look at:

• Promotion: Handling additional responsibility
o Fear of the Unknown, Fear of Change, Fear of Failure, Fear of Success
• Do you think you don’t know enough yet?
o Do you think you lack knowledge to do the job that is on offer?
o Don’t over analyse.
• Are you over confident in your abilities?
o Do you see problems or solutions?
• Life skills are vital to your success
o Good Communication Skills
o Team Work
o How do you manage others?
• News from the office
• A Thought to ponder

Promotion: Handling additional responsibility
For some people the thought of promotion is an exciting prospect, for others, absolute dread. And there are many reasons why.

For example: You may not think you know enough, You don’t consider yourself to be a people person, and you can’t manage your own time let alone anyone else’s. You like your current job and moving up the corporate ladder will take you away from your core training into unknown territory. And the fear of making a fool of yourself will either see you turning the job down, taking the job and hating every minute of it, and a lack of desire to go into work. Or you resign to go and work somewhere else where you’re not expected to do anything other than what is on your job description.

All of which are valid points to consider. But we need to break them down a little further, and ask the obvious question of WHY?

Fear of the Unknown, Fear of Change, Fear of Failure, Fear of Success
If you are happy doing what you are doing, and do not see yourself doing anything different between now and the time you retire, and damned to the extra money, then promotion and more responsibility are probably not for you.

However, what usually goes hand in hand with those feelings, are those thoughts that say, “Who does he/she think he/she is? They’ve only been in the job five minutes and they’ve been asked to do more stuff/get paid more money. I’ve been here longer than they have and it’s not fair.” Now I did not say it was rational, but it does happen and it happens all the time.

So what can happen then, is the person who didn’t want the job, starts to resent the person who did! There will be a general undermining of the person, politicking, doing less than you should, and showing animosity to your supervisor(s) and/or your work colleagues. Your performance reviews start to show cracks and before you know it, you’re either out of a job or sidelined where you don’t disturb anyone.

And it usually comes down to fear. So the question has to be why do we let fear rule our lives? Fear and its cousin negativity are all around us. Every time we turn on the television, or listen to the radio we are bombarded with sensationalist news stories designed to make us think the world is full of murderers, terrorists and bush fires. Any positive thoughts you may have had are doused with hours of negativity. Add the many CSI, NCIS, SVU, and any other cop show that depicts the pits of humanity in all their gory detail, is it any wonder we can hardly drag ourselves out of bed in a morning. And what happens then? Well we listen to drive time radio on the way to work. And what are they talking about?

We may have been told by well meaning members of our families that we are not destined for great things. That we should be happy we’ve got a job, and don’t try and better yourself, after all your brother/sister is more than happy doing what they’re doing. Who do you think you are anyway? Is it any wonder that we blanche at the thought of taking on any additional responsibility. Or if we do, we worry so much we end up taking stress leave.

There will be other people reading this who will see these kinds of attitudes as a way of breaking through the stereotypical behaviour and achieve great things. I hope that’s you. But what happens if you don’t think you know enough yet?

Do you think you don’t know enough yet?
If a lack of supposed knowledge is holding you back from accepting a promotion, or you fail to apply for a job because you don’t think you know enough yet, then you should take a few minutes, calm down and stop hyperventilating. OK I was joking about the last two items on that list.

Do you think you lack knowledge to do the job that is on offer?
Every person will have a different set of reference points, and life skills they can bring to a position. If the position you are after is your first one straight out of university and all you have to show for your experience is a couple of weeks of practicum, I would probably say that you will not be chosen to undertake the work. However, you may have many years in a related field, especially if you have decided to change careers. So:
Have a good look at the selection criteria. Can you answer all the questions stated in the “Essential” section? What about most/all of the “Desirable” section? If you can, then you are well on the way to having the right kind of experience required for the position that is on offer.

A lack of belief in ourselves, especially when we have never undertaken a more senior role in an organisation can be the biggest stumbling block, however. Which again comes down to a feeling of fear. Whilst we may be seen by management to possess skills and abilities we perhaps cannot see in ourselves, it is usually still up to us to say “pick me, pick me”, and if we are afraid of change and/or making a fool of ourselves, then we are not likely to do that.

There are a couple of things that you can do. The first is that you can obtain more knowledge (if you need to).

Knowledge is simply information that has been put to use. So it is no good, just reading, you still have to apply what you have learnt in your workplace. However let me say that reading is a good start.

Keeping up to date with what is going on in the industry is vital. Whilst journals, books and newspapers are a good start, attending industry events is also important. It is also important to consider speaking at these kinds of events. You can become known as the person who has something of interest and value to pass on, and you will be in demand to speak about it. Be known as the person who dribbled on about how bad their last employer was and the shocking lack of decent biscuits and people will avoid you like the plague.

But you can spend your life in the pursuit of more knowledge, so the next and most important thing is – Don’t over analyse.

What does your gut reaction tell you? If the prospect of applying for and getting the job makes you feel both anxious and excited, then it is important that you apply for the position. Why? Because you know it is an important step for your career and you know it will stretch you, but not to the point of breaking. Goals, dreams and aspirations are vitally important, unless you are excited about the prospect of getting up and going to work every morning, then the work that you do will be lack lustre at best. Given that we spend between one third to one half of every weekday “at work” or travelling to and from work, it is important that you enjoy what you do. So if you think it is time to move on and move up then don’t over analyse, just do it (to borrow a phrase).

Over Confidence in Your Abilities
The other side to this equation is a belief in ourselves that we are actually better than we are. We may have all the theory, and assume that we can simply walk into any job that we want and be able to do it. It’s also interesting to note that people who are over confident in themselves and their abilities will not believe I am talking about them.

So how do you discover if you are over-confident in yourself and your abilities? Well that’s quite a hard one to answer. First of all you have to be open minded enough to believe the responses and reports from senior management, performance reviews, lecturers and so on. But as I have already mentioned, people who are over confident – tend not to believe we could possibly be talking about them.

But it can be characterised by large leaps up the corporate ladder followed by swift changes in employer (because you are wasted in that job), followed by an equally swift departure when your current employer tells you to find something else – because you really are wasted in that job!

Do you see problems or solutions?
What characterises a person as ready for promotion is the ability to see solutions rather than problems. Do you see challenges as an opportunity to learn more, to challenge your way of thinking or do you duck and run at the first sign of discomfort?

As you move up the corporate ladder you will face challenges that you may not have come across before. Balancing budgets, workflow, people and time management. The higher up you go, the less likely you are to work directly in the area in which you trained. So the next question has to be, do you like what you are doing and don’t want to do anything else, no matter how much they are willing to pay you?

Life skills are vital to your success
So the final things I would like to discuss with you today are those life skills I mentioned earlier. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the job is a garbage collector or a manager of an IT department, there are some skills and abilities that are essential – no matter what the position. They are of course:

Good Communication Skills: We have spoken many times about what constitutes good communication skills so I won’t repeat them here. But I will say this. If you answer the phone as if the person on the other end is an intrusion on your otherwise busy day – guess what, you will lose more business with your huff and puff attitude than you will keep. Imagine a job as a sales rep and you can imagine what would happen if you snapped at the person on the phone or didn’t answer their questions properly. How fast do you think they would choose one of your competitor’s products? Remember – you are totally responsible for every thought that you have, every word that you speak and every action that you take. And the results that you get are in direct proportion to those three things. Would you still speak to your work colleagues in the way that you just have?

As you move up the corporate ladder, good communication skills are vital.
• Do not take your problems with you to work; they’re not your counsellors. No one wants to hear that you fell out with your boy/girl friend again.
• Do not talk about other people’s problems with a third party. You will lose more than just respect by doing that.
• Do not engage in idle chatter. You don’t need to know a person’s life history in order to work with them – besides which you are being paid to work, not chat.
• Communicate fairly. By that I mean – do not deal in favouritism or politics. Treat everyone with the same professional respect.

The other part of communicating effectively is teamwork. You did know that teamwork hinged on good communication skills didn’t you? Well let me put it this way – you do now.

If you want motivated workers, then motivate yourself first. If you handle your communications with respect, in a fair and just manner, then your staff turnover will be reduced. It will also be much lower than those people who are only nice to their employees/subordinates when they want something. Hint, people would tell you – but they’re afraid you’ll bite their heads off, or get fired.

The final point about communication and teamwork is this. Not everyone needs to be managed in the same way. Ken Blanchard said it better than I, in his book The One Minute Manager. But take a good look at the best supervisors in your company and you will notice that they manage those people closely who need to be prompted and prodded, whilst others will be given more of a free reign to decide what their day’s/projects look like.

We can all learn from those people around us. So if you think you are ready for more responsibility then show that you can handle it. Offer to take on additional things – this could be as simple as organising the next weekly meeting. Show some initiatives, and start to see solutions instead of problems and you will go far.

News from the Office

Press Release: Records Management Traineeships Aimed At Local Government Now A Reality!

Shirley R Cowcher, Director of Information Enterprises Australia Pty Ltd (IEA), a niche consulting, training and recruitment company which specialises in records and library management, announced today that the company had received approval from the Apprenticeship and Traineeship Support Network (ATSN) of the Department of Education and Training to employ up to five records management trainees and host them with local government clients.

IEA has been acutely aware for some time that there is a current skills shortage in the records management industry and with the ongoing demand for skilled personnel, the company has been endeavoring to establish a programme which will encourage people to gain skills in this field and at the same time assist many of their clients.

The ATSN approval for this new initiative will see IEA’s Learning and Development Team working together with local government clients and supporting government agencies to provide a 12 month programme in which successful applicants will complete a Certificate III in Business (Recordkeeping) and gain valuable hands on experience. 

“IEA is very eager to launch the traineeship and we hope to have our first trainee in place with a host client by April 2007. Initial planning is already underway with Central TAFE and IEA and we will soon be in a position to recruit potential trainees.” stated Ms Cowcher.

A Thought to Ponder
“When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder”
James H Boren