10 ways to shoot yourself in the workplace

An interesting talk on 10 ways to limit your career, from Nora Denzel who’s worked the corporate ladder at both IBM and HP - speaking at UC Davis in Dec 2008. It is a 1-hour session - and worth watching, but just in case you’re in a hurry - I transcribed the highlights (in terms of things you should be doing!)
  1. You have to control your own PR agent (yourself…) by being careful about what you say.  You need to to leave people with the impression that you want to move up, you’re career oriented, and you’re good at what you do.
  2. If you really want to move up - aim high, and articulate it early and often. Don’t shoot for middle management.  By articulating a lofty goal (vs no goal), people will help you to get there. You can always turn down a high-job if it’s too much… but if you dis-qualify yourself - you’ll never get the opportunity.
  3. Learn how to ask; or tell your boss what you want. Remember… your manager isn’t a mind-reader - and they often don’t have the time to think about who’s best for a position - but if you’ve asked for something of that nature - they’ll probably think of you first.  The best assignments don’t get posted to the job-boards…  Another tip is to ASK someone you respect if you can shadow them for a week to learn from their experiences.
  4. Lighten up and separate. If you can’t deal with something - but you have no control over it - then ignore it and move on to something else. You have to understand where to engage, or not - and ‘pick your battles’. Or in other words - “it’s just a job…”
  5. Kill Miss Congeniality; or in other words - nice girls finish last. Are you in it to be loved; or do you want to win?  (Sports analogy… be the quarter-back…)
  6. Learn to act.  What helps you if you’re inexperienced and moving up quickly is to learn how to act. Be confident (or just act as if you are…)
  7. Feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you’re heading up in the world - you’ll come across areas that push you outside of your comfort zone into areas you don’t understand. Get used to it - because if you’re not uncomfortable - you’re not learning - and if you’re the dumbest person in the room - you’re learning faster than you would be otherwise. Don’t fall back into your comfort zone.
  8. Embrace criticism. Don’t get defensive. Ask for it, and accept what you get. If you receive negative feedback and you don’t buy it, just take it, ask clarifying questions, say thank-you; then later think through it; and if you still need to respond - do so a day or so later.
  9. Leaders have attitudes that they make the rules. Rules exist for the ‘cattle’ to keep them in line - but the true leaders believe that they make the rules. If you don’t ask… you don’t get.
  10. Always remember what you’re judged on: RESULTS! No-one cares about the constraints you were put under (such as you were only given 4 out of the 6 people you said you needed). The only thing that matters is the results.