Get Your Next Promotion by Manbir Kaur, the latest book published by SAGE Publications India, sheds light on the elements that affect your promotion and guides you on the path of gaining control of your corporate career. Structured as a simple and crisp read, the book features engaging examples of real-life stories from leaders across the world. It also emphasises on developing a new awareness of the self and how to convert this new awareness into action in business.
An excerpt from Get Your Next Promotion by Manbir Kaur, published by SAGE Publications India.
Steve believes that there are three buckets of conversations that are critical to your success.
Steve says, ‘It may sound a little strange, but the first critical conversation is the one you have with yourself. It is about discovering what you are trying to accomplish. Are you doing what you think you should be doing? Are you self-motivated or self-aware, or in other words, true to yourself?’ He believes it is about choosing a field of work that is aligned with your personal goals. It is about your commitment to yourself. Another part of this conversation is about the culture that you are working in. You must ask yourself if the culture of the organization aligns with your own values. It will be difficult for you to contribute if the culture goes against your principles and you have to justify your actions or ignore the actions of those around you all the time.
Steve says, ‘The second critical conversation is the one you have when you come into a job. It is with your supervisor or the hiring manager— What are we doing? What problems are we going to solve together and what is my part in it? It is often that you will end up solving a problem that may not be exactly what your manager or you or anyone else initially thought.’
He shares his own personal experience on this at Lincoln Laboratory. They hired him to build a specific technological component, but it emerged in the discussions that they had not considered another critical aspect of that technology. Steve could not complete his job without the other part and the conversation resulted in expanding his scope.
Steve says, ‘The third conversation is the one that you initiate when you become the leader or the manager of a group. This conversation is with folks who are either working for you directly or the team that you are leading for a specific project. The purpose is to make sure that everybody knows what is really going on and what the team is trying to accomplish. I believe this to be critical for success in any kind of complicated project.’
When he was at MIT, there were different types of people from all over the world, with all sorts of diverse backgrounds, skill sets and interests. This very diverse and eclectic group of people came up with some very interesting ideas. Steve took lead in talking to the individual folks in a way that everybody understood the common objective and that helped move the projects forward. It was his skill with this type of conversations that led to his career growth at MIT.
Steve adds that for each of the critical conversations to be successful, you must have the ability to ‘listen’ and ‘understand’. He believes listening is critical to a successful conversation and it is the difference between talking at someone and talking with someone. He believes that one must also listen to the broader conversations that happen at the industry level, for example, publications, conferences and so on. Even if these things are not directed at you, they affect you, so you better be listening.
Steve says that another trick to having great conversations is to keep improving your skills by watching others who communicate well. He says, ‘It is about being aware of the folks around you and being observant. If you find it easy to have a conversation with someone, think about why it was easy. Is there something that you can learn from the experience?’
Steve believes a lot of it has to be about acknowledging upfront that it is going to be a difficult conversation. You must understand that each person in the conversation probably views the difficulty a little bit differently. It is important to let each one of the people talk about their perceptions. Unless there is a deliberate error, a great conversation will convert the difficult situation into a shared tragedy. And then it is a matter of ‘how do we work through it?’
It is important to create a ‘safety zone’ so that people do not hesitate to share the real issues. Sometimes people make a mistake or have a problem that they would rather not talk about in public because it can reflect badly on them. If you create the right environment that is safe, they will confide in you and things will become a whole lot easier. He remembers the first time he had a difficult conversation with a technician about a potential layoff action. Steve set the stage of the discussion such that the technician felt empowered to share his personal problems. They ended up working something out that allowed the technician to manage the problems at home and contribute effectively to the organization.
As companies become more diverse geographically, it becomes difficult to build a comfort level between people to facilitate great conversations. Organizations must find ways to make people meet in person. It goes a long way in building the comfort level and cementing the relationship. Once you have met the person, it is easy to continue the conversations later.
The organizations must facilitate video conferencing where meeting in person is difficult. Video helps to facilitate an additional level of human connection compared to talking to someone on the phone. After the connection is established, rapid communication such as texting, messaging and even social media tools like
Instagram and so on help a lot in facilitating conversations. For example, people might come across something they think you might be interested in and share that with you to start a conversation. Organizations must provide these tools and help people adopt these tools.
A culture that promotes conversations and empowers dialogue can help you blossom and grow to your potential. An important part is played by the top management of the organization in setting the right culture. Steve believes that the importance of the ‘tone at the top’ can never be overestimated. The leadership must have better conversations, to the point where just because you disagree does not mean you do not collaborate on getting things done.