Almost everyone in the business world should be familiar with the process of 360 Degree Feedback; which is feedback that comes from members of an employee's immediate work circle. But are you familiar with the term 360 Degree Management? Probably not so much.
I define 360 Degree Management as one's ability to utilize his or her business acumen and sense as a radar to detect the range, altitude, direction and speed of a potential problem or opportunity within ample time to avoid or capitalize on it.
Just to be clear, the 360 Degree Manager never points the finger at anyone other than himself or uses the excuse "I didn't know". To be effective in the business world, it's your responsibility to know and relying solely on the annual feedback of peers does not cut it. Three hundred and sixty degree management occurs on a daily basis and precedes all forms of feedback. To thrive in today's environment, employees need to successfully keep their eyes on many balls. So if we are to take a look at the radar screen of your CEO, we would see tens of tiny green blinking objects to represent areas like the following...
Range 5 Miles: Board of Directors, Employees, Shareholders, Customers, Direct Staff
Range 15 Miles: Products, Competitors, Sales, Markets, Finances, Objectives, Performance
Range 25 Miles: Systems, Processes, Vision, Strategy, Security, Legal, Corporate Culture
Indicators such as these have propelled Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, to excite the world by perfectly timing his drone announcement the day before Cyber Monday. It also fueled Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, to transform the free social-media company into a money making ad machine. To the contrary, Eddie Lampert, Sears CEO, did a very poor job dodging the torpedoes on his screen by managing the retailer like a hedge fund.
Assuming that you are not a savvy CEO and still a corporate rookie, let's further discuss the items that should be on your radar screen. Keep in mind that the following blinking lights are in addition to nailing the core responsibilities of your job.
1. Your Boss - This is the person who controls your fate, so it is important to be on his good side. Start by learning how to manage up and be sure not to confuse this with kissing up! Sound absurd? Just realize that there can be a very fine line between how your colleagues view the two. Also understand that employees aren't bred as yes men, they are turned that way.
Everything you do should be for the mutual benefit of you and your boss.
The ability to exceed your boss's expectations starts with knowing what his or her needs are. If your boss was never clear on the subject, then you have some really good talking points for your next one-to-one meeting. But realize that your boss doesn't have to spell everything out for you. Do your own investigating! You should already know the goals and objectives that were passed down from his boss. The more aligned you are to these goals, and your boss's progress on meeting them, the better off you will be.
Do not be reluctant to get to know your boss. This is not the person to shy away from. In order to be deemed as an asset, you will need to know your boss's style, as well as likes and dislikes. This will improve everything from gauging the level of communication to determining the feasibility of new projects. Look for ways to establish common ground with your boss wherever possible. When common ground cannot be met, remember to approach such subjects with sensitivity. After all, you are not in charge, your boss is.
In one position, I actually conducted critical and challenging conversations with my boss over lunch-time runs. He felt great about getting the much needed exercise, while I capitalized on his undivided attention for the hour. The fact that my conversations occurred while his body was producing endorphins served me better than the coworker who would ask to meet with him at 6:30pm on a Friday. I'm not saying that you need to start marathon training with your boss, but you should know when he or she is most alert and not under intense pressure.
It is a good practice to often ask yourself "what would my boss do in this situation?" Wearing his hat, may help you to stay one step ahead of the next bullet. Remember, good employees anticipate, so start by considering the next moves of your boss and performing in manner that is sure to please.
2. Coworkers & Internal Partners - (Please note that what some may refer to as internal customers, I call internal partners. In my mind, the word customer should only be used to define those who pay for your products.) In the corporate world, there is no such thing as a one person army. Teamwork is a must. Establishing good rapport with coworkers and internal partners may be a necessity, but your awareness needs to branch out much farther than that. You should have a good handle on the goals, objectives and challenges of your colleagues, as well as the projects they are working on.
Just because you have your ducks in a row for the moment, doesn't mean that somebody hasn't launched a wrench that's headed straight for your head. There may be a change in the works that will conflict with your current practices. For example, let's assume you were using key files from the Finance team to compile some of your business metrics. All is well until one day Finance stops providing you with such documents. After three requests for the information, you discover that as part of a cost reduction initiative, the Finance team did not renew the subscription with that software provider. They are very sorry, but the consultants were oblivious to the need for such documents and the department no longer has the capability to produce them. Your updated metrics are due in a few days and you are now up the creek without a paddle.
So whose fault was this yours for not knowing about the change or Finance's for not informing you? Remember what I said about pointing the finger.
Not only should you have known that Finance was looking to reduce costs and how the renewal of this software package was fair game, you should have been working on ways to support this effort. Had you known, you may have been able to provide the team with a list of things that your department or others no longer needed.
It takes a deeper level of engagement to proactively spot the potential threats and opportunities from coworkers or neighboring departments. For this reason, I am a huge fan of brown bag lunch meetings as an informal way to promote cross-departmental collaboration. In this forum, colleagues casually meet to present and discuss what's happening within their roles and organizations. This should occur on a quarterly basis and cover the next three to six month horizon. Meetings like this are a most effective way for all to keep a finger on the pulses of those who surround them.
It is also good practice to occasionally attend the staff meetings of the VPs of neighboring departments. Of course you will need to be invited, but attendance may be the best hour ever spent, as it could provide the awareness necessary to capitalize on a new opportunity and provide you with the microphone to directly inform a host of key people at once.
Unless you are a project manager, you will probably not have the bandwidth to complete more than one or two noteworthy projects within a year. However, this should never prevent you from using your expertise to develop and share continuous improvement ideas with the team. Do not be the quiet one in your boss's staff meeting. Always state your concerns and innovative ways to better things. It is your willingness to engage that may spark the next big thing for you and the department.
To successfully manage projects that you are leading or partaking in, block at least 30 minutes each day to review all of your open actions. Almost everyone has an intense day job and this type of additional responsibility is almost always first to take a backseat. However, letting days or weeks go by without staying connected will lead to delays, missed commitments and blown opportunities. A quick and scheduled review each day keeps all open tasks on the radar and makes completing the job at hand part of your daily routine. Your boss or team leader should never need to hound or motivate you to meet deliverables or drive closure of a project. Instead, focus on being the one who provides updates and closes like clockwork.
Projects may not be a part of your core responsibility but they will afford you with the opportunity to grow your skills, engage with colleagues and put your stamp on things. Just make sure that your stamp doesn't spell "INCOMPETENCE".
Missing a deadline will count negatively against you. No matter how you look at it, the delay shows your inability to get things done. You either failed to manage your workload, other employees or actions necessary to fulfill a commitment. This type of performance will keep you stuck in the minor leagues, far from an all-star, for quite some time to come.
When Truman said that "the buck stops here," he was speaking to you. Do not procrastinate, stay on top of all milestones, drive accountability, communicate and never let one day go by without taking action. There is much more to learn about successfully managing projects, but for now, just keep your focus on never letting any of your commitments slip from your radar.
4. Skills - A great leader once told me "the only security that you have is your own skills and talents". I cannot begin to emphasize the importance of this statement. There are no guarantees in life and there are no certainties in the business world. At the end of the day we are only worth what we can bring to the table. Therefore, in order to thrive and stay current, we must continuously learn and develop ourselves throughout each stage or our careers.
I know many who graduated college and stated that they will never pick up another book. They may have been only somewhat serious at the time, but that statement couldn't be further from the truth. The learning never stops and only gets more intense as you go. College is a terrific precursor to help you prepare for the journey, but a two-year commitment in a major is far from becoming a subject matter expert in the business world.
As a rule of thumb, never let one quarter go by without learning or developing a new skill. In fact, you should have one year's worth of new skills flashing on your radar screen at all times. This could be anything from advanced communication and negotiation to learning a new software or reading a new business book. I have read at least one educational book per quarter for the past 15 years. Every book that I read was selected to help me gain a new perspective or grow in a particular way. The reason why I wrote Welcome to the Big Leagues and included a recommended reading list at the end was to help the generation 15 years behind me to do the same.
Never let your mind stay idle. Read a book, take a class, attend lectures and join a network that will help to grow your skills and enrich your career in a meaningful way. A degree or fancy title means nothing without the skills to lead or drive significant accomplishments.
5. Career Plan - When Jeanne Phares reviewed my book, she defined corporate America as a maze. I had never viewed it that way, but she is absolutely correct. My reference has always been a whirlpool. Meaning that you can only stay afloat or follow the status quo for so long before sinking or being stuck in a spiraling position that prevents any progress or form of career growth.
In many ways, my analogy is very similar to Jeanne's. If we do not create a career plan, we will surely be lost, overlooked or dizzied by the chaos that surrounds us. Just as we are responsible for growing our own skills, we must also ensure that those skills align to where we want to go in our careers. Everything you do should have a greater purpose. Projects, trainings, networks, books, seminars and any other allocation of your precious time should be aimed towards something bigger.
The good news is that there are right ways to prepare for almost every role in corporate America. So if you are currently in Procurement and have the grand aspiration to become a CEO, understand that most CEOs come from a background in Finance or Marketing. So do your research, acquire the necessary skills and contacts, and follow a plan that will help get you there.
Let's be honest though, reaching the senior executive level involves a lot of luck, but luck only occurs when preparation meets opportunity. If we are not continuously preparing ourselves we are essentially hurting ourselves. Do not become lost in the maze or allow yourself to drift into the abyss, map out a practical career plan today. Work with your boss or a seasoned veteran who may be in your ideal role to list effective short and long term steps necessary to gain the right experience.
The business world is full of great leaders who take pride in helping others to bring their careers to new heights. But don't expect such individuals to find you. Take the initiative to start engaging and realize that every little step you take in the right direction is a step with purpose. Best of luck to you!
"As a manager and mentor of recent college graduates throughout my whole career, I have finally found a guide book to recommend to those that want to succeed. Welcome to the Big Leagues gives straight-forward advice to new entrants to the maze that is corporate America. Passionate, practical and with a purpose!"
Jeanne Phares, VP, Group Controller, Macerich
A special thanks to the loyal followers of The Corporate Rookie blog and supporters of the Welcome to the Big Leagues book. It has been my aim to provide you with a fresh perspective on how to pursue greatness and thrive in both career and life. I hope that you appreciate the tips and become compelled to get engaged. There is a Forum on this website that was designed to allow members to share their experiences, ask questions and communicate with like-minded people who can help to up your game. Please help to spread the word.
— Carmine Del Sordi (@BigLeaguesBook) July 20, 2014
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