Do you feel like you are not appreciated by your supervisors or co-workers?
Do you feel like you are being overlooked for promotions or special assignments?
Do you feel as though people are not noticing all the great work you do and not considering you for the next opportunity?
A friend of mine, who happens to be a CEO, once told me “If you don’t ask for what you want, why should I give it to you?”
In order for us to get what we want at work and in life, we must be willing to ask for it at the risk of being rejected.
It might sound like a simple thing to do, but the reality is we do not always do it.
At the beginning of my career, I used to think that if I worked hard, people would notice that and I would be promoted. As time went by, I learned that it was up to me to take control of my career and seek the opportunities I wanted. I had to be proactive not reactive.
I started asking for what I wanted.
Early in my career I was in charge of a small department of about 20 people and believed that I was ready for the next challenge; a bigger department with higher visibility . With my new paradigm shift of asking for what I wanted instead of waiting around for anyone to hand it to me, I approached my boss and told him my desire to lead a bigger department.
His response was that he did not believe I was ready for the job. My next question was obvious. Why?
I realized that I had not been doing a good job of letting him know what I had been doing in my department. At that moment I learned a very important lesson in my career. As a leader, we are the ambassadors for the people we are leading. It is up to us to ensure that the leadership above us knows all the great things the people below are doing. From that moment on, I worked on being a better ambassador.
It is not enough to ask for what you want; you must also ask how to get what you want.
After hearing what my boss had to say, I had to decide what to do next. Did I walk away defeated or did I do something to change his perception of my readiness for the job? I decided to change his perception. I said to him, “I understand that you don’t think I am ready. Would you be willing to sit down with me and give me your honest feedback on how I am performing at this time and what I need to do to be ready to take on the larger department?” He said yes, and we set up a meeting that same week.
The lesson learned here was that you must be willing to take a stand, put your ego aside, not take things personally and be objective about the feedback about to come your way.
I must confess, some of the feedback was hard for me to swallow. I did not agree 100% with what he said. Some of the things he thought I was not doing were due to him paying little attention to my team’s work and my direct contributions. However, I then had to take responsibility for my part. As a leader, I should have asked for his feedback as soon as he came on board in his new position and asked what he expected of me. I should have been an ambassador for my department. I should have been proactive, not reactive. I had to make another choice - should I allow his feedback to make me a more effective leader or a bitter person? After all, what was the worst that could happen if I took his recommendations? So I accepted his constructive criticism. I not only set out to meet his standards, but then I exceeded every goal he set for me.
As leaders, we always a choice on how we react to the challenges and obstacles that come our way. We can complain about it and think it isn’t fair, or we can take control and turn it into an opportunity.
After several months of putting into practice the feedback my boss provided me with, I was given the opportunity to lead a larger department with higher visibility. Additionally, my boss and I developed a trusting relationship. I was able to say things to him that my peers could not. He even began to ask me for feedback on his leadership abilities and how he could improve. He became my mentor, as well as my sponsor. After leading that large department, I became part of the executive team because of his recommendation. And most importantly, because of his feedback, I became a better leader.
Starting today, do not wait for others to tell you what to do with your career. Be proactive, not reactive. Ask yourself, what do I want? How can I get there? And then go for it. Ask for what you want. When we take control of our careers and our lives, we are developing and maintaining a mindset of success (Go HERE to read more about it)
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