Photo Courtesy: Annie Spratt
I was recently having a conversation with a friend who is a rising star at one of the industry forward multicultural agencies. In a very short period of time, she ascended up the ranks and is starting to live the aspirational lifestyle she dreamed of. In a conversation with her boss, she was informed that she was finally approved for the raise that she fought for over a year ago in an annual performance review. However, she wasn't as excited as you might think for someone who just received a $10,000 salary bump. During the same conversation, her boss, who works across country in the West Coast office, asked her "what exactly is it you're working on?"
What otherwise would have been a moment of elation was transformed into an instance of dread. There is no more threatening position to be in, than to have your direct report not understand fully what your job function is. That's not to say they should be able to do your job, as that becomes problematic as well.
Unfortunately, this is a very representative case study of many mid to large size agencies. These realities are tough, but we've had a lot of experience with agencies and here are six best practices you can take to showcase your worth.
One of the most useful tools any organization has for growth is a performance review. Most employees don't know how their superiors feel about their work performance, or worst yet, assume the sentiment is much better than it is. The truth is, its human nature to avoid having to give bad news. Far too many managers won't share their displeasure until they're already decided to let the employee go. The pace of business is too fast to execute only annual performance reviews. While this might be the norm or standard at your agency, its important to ask for quarterly reviews during on-boarding with periodic, less formal check-ins especially in the case where those you report to are off-site.
Its important to be prepared with a list of questions you want to ask, especially if your supervisor is shy. What can you do to provide more value to the agency? Are there other opportunities I can take advantage of for my personal development? Most importantly, be sure to come with a list of goals in hand from the previous review so you can showcase your growth by surpassing your short-term goals and making considerable progress towards the long-term ones. Lastly, give some thought to your SMART Goals for your next performance review. While it's your supervisor's responsibility to manage you, its YOUR responsibility to make sure they manage you well.
While it's your supervisor's responsibility to manage you, its YOUR responsibility to make sure they manage you WELL.
Technology is changing so rapidly that agency's are devoting large amounts of resources to staying current, if not ahead of the curve. What this means is the way in which we conduct business changes. What was a challenge 6 months ago has been solved by the development of an app or software integration. Its important for you to document this evolution.
While it might be tempting to hide the fact that you've discovered a more efficient way through technology to do your job, unless you relay this to your superiors, it will look like you don't have enough work to do. Remember, perception is reality. In addition, you may be missing out on opportunities to showcase value. Your agency hired you to solve problems and help it grow, not to be a taskmaster. Be a team player and show what you've learned/ discovered by documenting your process and sharing with your boss. While it may mean you're likely to be saddled with more challenges to solve in the future, you'll be trusted and no one will question your worth.
For all the great things that the internet and technology have done for communication, one of the negatives is that it has fragmented it. You may have started a verbal conversation with your direct report, emailed them to follow up, then they text you a question and a response ended up in your team's Slack channel. Weeks or months later, you're in your inbox trying to reference information from the conversation and can't understand why you can't find it, and worse yet, neither can your boss. We no longer hold conversations exclusively in one forum, however this can be threatening to security at the firm.
Consider using one platform where you compile all important communication. Email works great for that because everyone has it and uses it daily but feel free to select the channel that works best for your environment. Then use it to reinforce any and all conversations you may have had on other channels like phone conversations, SMS, Slack, Social Media, Direct Message and AIM (if you're still using that...you need more help than this blog.)
Try Something like this: "Per our conversation via text earlier today I wanted to reiterate that we are confirmed." You'll sound like a broken record but you'll thank me later.
You might have noticed that I said my friend's boss works out of the West Coast office. Years ago, this wouldn't make sense. However, technology has afforded agencies to run leaner eliminating the need to duplicate roles in different geographies. Video conferences are now standard practice and employees are expected to collaborate virtually via project management software.
We're not turning back the clock and we'll be working more virtually and independently moving forward. Highbrid's #TeamGrassroots very rarely is together in one place, so we subscribe to a "morning huddle." At the start of every day, the members of our various team gets on a video conference call to "check-in" agenda set and encourage each other like a football huddle. If your team works remotely and is receptive to new ideas, consider running this one up the flagpole.
One other way to combat globalization is to consider using a company or team chat. This enables you to communicate throughout the course of the day in a manor that's not intrusive and affords for quick and efficient responses. The best part is, it documents all communication and can be referred back to later. The bottom line is you want to consider the culture at your organization and don't be afraid to speak up. Ask to inject resources that will afford for better accountability at all levels. That shows true leadership.
When Facebook first reached global saturation, agencies began using social media as a human resources tool. It was a way to gain more insight on candidates and in many cases, disqualify them. Every article you read about applying for jobs instructed people to "be careful" of what you post, as that drunken photo may come back to haunt you.
Today, the threat is different. In the age of Instagram, posting the perfect picture is the goal. While you might have traveled the world on our last vacation, no one knows you stayed with family or in a seedy AirBNB. You're only posting the good parts. While you want your that ex-boyfriend to think you're living your best life, it may actually be your boss who's getting that message instead. Believe it or not, that matters. If you're best life is better than theirs...expect them to begin asking questions and researching your salary.
Be careful about who follows you and the message your sending. Especially if you're a creative, the reason why you're likely at the agency is for your storytelling ability. What is the personal story you're weaving on social media about about how well you're living? Limit your exposure by protecting your accounts and even still you never know who is watching. Jealousy and envy are real, proceed with caution.
The only managers that don't appreciate team-member that over-communicate are bad ones. Sometimes disseminating bad news, asking for clarity or re-confirming can be uncomfortable, but at least you know exactly where you stand. Knowing your status with your supervisor is key to taking the necessary steps to improving your relationship and sentiment. Communication is a two-way street, while they may not be the best at doing so, its your responsibility to fill in the gaps and not assume they know what you're up to. It can be annoying, so consider making it fun and creative. Find ways that express your personality. Here are a few ideas:
The central theme here is communication. Like with any relationship its always key. If you're not doing it, they'll find someone else who will.