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Cultivate a cool career: 52 brilliant ideas for reaching the top

Book Description

Whether you're fresh out of education or looking for a new direction in your existing career you need some new ideas to get you to the top. In Cultivate a cool career organisations expert Ken Langdon provides 52 brilliant ideas to put some zing into your career. With realistic and practical advice on everything from dealing delicately with the boss to proving your worth in a tight spot, via ideas on networking effectively and rubbing along with even the most useless of colleagues, Cultivate a cool career is your ticket to the MD's chair.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Introduction
  6. 1. Face it, you are you and they are them
    1. Here’s an idea for you…It is best for your boss to think that other people believe your good ideas are his. You, on the other hand, should ensure people know that your ideas and your boss’s good ideas are both yours.
    2. Defining idea…‘Success has many fathers,failure is an orphan.’
    3. Try another idea…If you do want to change, have a look at IDEA 14, Send an inside salesperson. It’s about selling yourself.
    4. Defining idea…‘Except in poker, bridge and similar play period activities: don’t con anybody. Not your spouse, not your children, not your employees, not your customers, not your stockholders, not your boss, not your associates, not your suppliers, not your regulatory authorities, not even your competitors.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I have started to look at my colleagues as the enemy in career terms. It is tending to make me avoid contact with them in less guarded situations like over lunch or a drink after work. Is this right?
  7. 2. Don’t bury them in advice
    1. Here’s an idea for you…When someone comes to you for help with a problem, try to create a ‘thinking partnership’ for them rather than an advice clinic. Limit yourself to asking only questions; make no proposals during the session, no matter how long it takes. Look for incisive questions like ‘If you could get over that hurdle, what would you do next?’ Keep listening as they work out the actions they are going to take.
    2. Try another idea…A lot of top people believe ‘listening’ to be a key career skill; see IDEA 25, Don’t talk so much.
    3. Defining idea…Action is only as good as the thinking behind it. Thinking is only as good as the way people treat each other. A leader’s job is to create an environment in which people can think for themselves and find the courage to put the best ideas into action.
    4. How did it go?Q    Look, I tried to cut down the amount of advice I gave to a team member recently and the meeting simply dried up. He explained that he was rather hoping that I would give him some advice. What should I have done?
  8. 3. Make good suggestions loudly
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Make a point of meeting the most senior person in your building. If you are not based at the company’s headquarters you should aim to meet her at least once a month. Take responsibility for this – do you know when you will next have an opportunity to meet senior people?
    2. Try another idea…A paper on organisational change can be a good idea. Have a look at IDEA 10, Don’t leave your job behind when you move on.
    3. Defining idea…‘Think about the 4 Cs, Continuous learning, Confidence in yourself, Care and attention to those you love and Communication – wherever you are, well-honed communication skills are highly important.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I think I wrote quite a good paper and that it communicated the suggestion well. How can I be sure?
  9. 4. Don’t come to me with your problems
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Think about the most difficult customer problem you have at the moment. Is it the right time to bring your boss in, or is it too early, or too late? Can you get nearer to the solution before you bring him or her in? Is it worth doing a SWOT analysis to see if you can come up with a solution?
    2. Defining idea…‘What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.’
    3. Try another idea…The business of getting from a good SWOT analysis to an equally good plan is more difficult than it appears in the first place. Try IDEA 23, Draw your own map.
    4. How did it go?Q    I used your method to find the answer to a problem I was struggling with, and came to a pretty natty conclusion. I should just have done it, but I thought I’d better get top cover and took it to my boss. She then escalated the problem up the hierarchy and something I know could have been easily dealt with became a big issue. Wouldn’t I have been better not to tell her anything and just gone ahead?
  10. 5. Watch out for holiday surprises
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Most people hate patent injustice in the workplace. It’s worth taking another look at any incentive schemes you have in place and ask yourself if it’s possible for someone to do everything wrong but still earn their bonuses and incentives. If it is, write something into the scheme to correct it. (Mind you, having said that, most of the people presiding over major collapses of big companies over the last few years seem to have looked after themselves pretty well.)
    2. Defining idea…‘You are going to get a big surprise with the next thing I do.’
    3. Try another idea…If you are negotiating an employment contract read IDEA 33, Fail rich.
    4. Try another idea…If you are looking for a slightly less dramatic way to fire someone, try IDEA 21, Ready, aim, fire.
    5. How did it go?Q    I have a situation where this idea could help very well. I want to buy a piece of equipment for my factory, but it’s not on the list of recommended products put out by the production controller. Worse still, the supplier isn’t on the list of recommended suppliers. I know when the controller is going on holiday and I think I will act then. I don’t think the production director could care less, but should I tell him first?
  11. 6. Do you want to ride in the Derby or pull a coal cart?
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Look at the risk of any plan or project you are proposing. Does it fit the risk profile of your division or organisation?
    2. Defining idea…‘Long range planning does not deal with future decisions. It deals with the futurity of present decisions.’
    3. Try another idea…If you are in the throes of planning a project look at IDEA 42, Nothing can go wrong, because nothing is planned.
    4. Defining idea…‘It is just as easy to make a profit today as it will be tomorrow. Actions taken which result in reducing short-term profit in the hope of increasing long-term profit are very seldom successful. Such actions are almost always the result of wishful thinking and almost always fail to achieve an overall optimum performance.’
    5. How did it go?Q    When I go through the company’s process of investment appraisal, I fill in the forms, including the cost/benefit analysis. My proposal then goes off to the financial controllers, who eventually return it with a thing called ‘rate of return’ attached and their comments on my risk assessment. It’s difficult to find out what they actually do with my numbers or how the system works. Is it worth my going to the effort of trying to find out?
  12. 7. Lead with style
    1. Here’s an idea for you…At your next team meeting take the role of chairman absolutely seriously on at least one important topic. Do not make any proposals for possible actions yourself or appear to support any particular view. Let the team decide what to do, summarise their plan, and thank them for their hard work and good thinking.
    2. Defining idea…‘You can play your role hands off if it works, but the opposite of hands off management is scruff of the neck management.’
    3. Try another idea…It is not generally good practice to show that you could do every team member’s job better than them. We touch on this in IDEA 49, Make your team your wings and soar.
    4. Defining idea…‘It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I tend to run my team with a vigorous push style and I have fallen into the trap of displaying the fact that I could do the job better than them. I have, after all, actually done all the jobs below me. I know that one of my guys is about to do something less than perfectly. What do I do? Just let him get on with it?
  13. 8. Actions speak louder than decisions
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Pick a team member who has difficulty with the ‘do it now’ concept. He tends to agree to a decision made by you, himself or the team, and then finds loads of reasons why he can’t implement it. Sit him down and tell him the story of the painter. Now get him to take a decision he has been prevaricating over and put the actions into his diary. Phone him just before and just after he should have started to implement the decision.
    2. Defining idea…‘Men of action whose minds are too busy with the day’s work to see beyond it. They are essential men, we cannot do without them, and yet we must not allow all our vision to be bound by the limitations of men of action.’
    3. Try another idea…If you need to remind yourself about team strategy have a look at IDEA 18, Find out what you are supposed to be doing
    4. Defining idea…‘My choice in everything is to say nothing and go do it.’
    5. How did it go?Q    Right, I got this bloke into my room and we discussed the fact that at our monthly team meetings he has never done any of the actions in the long-term plan. He could only agree and we put some very specific dates in his diary. He did them. Within a week or two major problems occurred on his patch. When I asked what had happened, he replied that he was following my instructions and so was busy with a new project as the storm gathered. That’s why he had dropped the ball. How could I have avoided this?
  14. 9. Know what to say to whom
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Find out about your boss’s diary so you’ll know when she is going to be talking to a person you would like to meet. First, prepare. If you did get the opportunity, what would you say? So, you know what you would say; now engineer the opportunity to say it. The best way is simply to breeze in. ‘Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realise…’ ‘That’s all right,’ says your boss, ‘Come in and meet Lord so-and-so.’ She will probably add more in terms of a quick description of what you do for the organisation, and that is your moment. ‘As a matter of fact, Lord so-and-so, I’ve been thinking that we ought to have a brief word on…’ Brilliant: a new contact – put it in the address book.
    2. Try another idea…What goes around comes around in business. IDEA 26, What goes around comes around, talks about the importance of keeping comprehensive personal records
    3. Defining idea…‘There is no stronger way of building a career than “working the corridors”.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I made a new contact with the managing director of one of our key customers, went to see her and she loved an idea I put forward. She wants me to follow it through but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do my job and this project. Aren't I in danger of doing neither properly?
  15. 10. Don’t leave your job behind when you move on
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Use your influence and authority to get the best results possible without paying much attention to how things were done in the past. Most people just moan about the fact that ‘they’ve got it all wrong’, without attempting themselves to put it right. Again, the people who get to the top are the ones who take responsibility for their own actions.
    2. Defining idea…When Henry Lewis was the CEO of Marks & Spencer, he was asked why, out of all the management trainees that he joined with, he had made it right to the top said ‘You know, I really have no idea.’ After some thought he added, ‘But I have noticed that every job I have ever done has been abolished after I left it.’
    3. Try another idea…The annual appraisal might be the right occasion to abolish or create a job. Preparing well for this is a crucial part of cultivating your career. See IDEA 19, You are totally responsible for you.
    4. Defining idea…A President of RCA is reported to have answered the question ‘Why, when so many were called were you chosen?’ with the opposite of Henry Lewis’s remark. He also purported not to know but said, ‘I have noticed that no job I ever did existed before I got it.’
    5. How did it go?Q    Consultants or people from Human Resources are always thinking about the organisation and suggesting changes. How do I make my change work in the context of all of that?
  16. 11. How do I look?
    1. Here’s an idea for you…It is never a good idea in career terms to fail at anything, so don’t try and do too much. For example, try using a personal trainer just once a week or twice a month. That should spur you to some effort. It will eventually be embarrassing to tell them week after week that you haven’t been off the sofa since you last met.
    2. Try another idea…Incidentally if you’re inclined to tell a personal trainer lies about your exercise regime, try reading the Robert Townsend quote in IDEA 1, Face it, you are you and they are them.
    3. Defining idea…‘This is the Law of the Yukon, that only the Strong shall thrive; That surely the Weak shall perish, and only the Fit survive.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I started to enjoy getting fit when they put a gym into the basement. But the people who do it tend to be the strong silent types and I’ve lost touch with a valuable grapevine I used to be plugged into. How do I keep up with, or in with, the people I used to gossip with in the pub after work?
  17. 12. Please Sir, can I have some more?
    1. Here’s an idea for you…By using recruitment agencies, the internet and the HR department you should be able to work out the top and bottom ends of the sort of salary someone in your position gets. Now work out why you deserve to be in the top 25% of the band. When you have a good case, take it to your boss. If you are already in the top quartile, look for a promotion.
    2. Try another idea…If you are going for a very senior position you could try IDEA 33, Fail rich.
    3. Defining idea…‘The salary of the Chief Executive of the large corporation is not a market reward for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture from the person to him or her self.’
    4. How did it go?Q    Is it possible to get over the company policy that salaries are only reviewed once a year?
  18. 13. Go on, give them a shock
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Look for external sources of information that senior managers will find useful. Customers and competitors are very fertile ground. Spend a bit of time today looking at information about a competitor. If you are financially inclined, compare your competitor’s annual report with yours and look for major discrepancies. Now see if you can get your boss interested in going further into it.
    2. Defining idea…‘Study your subject well; observe carefully your customer requirements; strive mightily to fulfil that customer need and work hard and diligently at all times.’
    3. Try another idea…For more on this look at IDEA 4, Don’t come to me with your problems.
    4. Defining idea…‘War is 90% information.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I found a section in a technical paper that will have a very significant impact on my company. I wrote it up and circulated it widely. I have now been asked to carry out a project to examine the possible impact and to suggest what actions we should take. It’s a staff job. Should I be concerned that line managers might forget me if I do it?
  19. 14. Send an inside salesperson
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Keep application forms consistent and remember that different organisations are looking for different things. A young relative of mine was applying for her first job after university. Although she wasn’t certain that a career in journalism was right for her, she had decided to apply for a trainee job at a newspaper publisher. To the question, ‘What newspapers and periodicals do you regularly read?’ she had replied confidently, and honestly, ‘None.’ Check that the information you give doesn’t fly in the face of the type of post you are going for.
    2. and another idea…Once you have written your CV get as many people as possible to look it over for you. Take it to business managers who hire people into their teams and to someone who works in Human Resources. In the end the same document has to work for both.
    3. Try another idea…Your communication skills are a vital part of career cultivation. Have a look at IDEA 31, Make them agree, fast.
    4. Defining idea…‘Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.’
    5. How did it go?Q    Look, I’ve written a brilliant CV and presented it beautifully. Then along comes their application form and I have to handwrite it. My terrible handwriting has made my application form look as though it were written by a ten year old. Any tips?
  20. 15. Back the right horse
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Never ask Mr Bad for permission to go and see the decision maker. If he refuses (which he probably will), you’re then in an impossible situation. If you go behind his back, then you’re heading for a confrontation and the relationship will be ruined for good. No – do it first and beg forgiveness later.
    2. Try another idea…It can be a good career move to work for an ugly manager. Have a look at IDEA 41, Try working for a nineteenth-century mill owner.
    3. Defining idea…‘It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But…it is better to be good than to be ugly.’
    4. How did it go?Q.    I have a product manager who, by your definition, is ugly. She has told me that she will arrange for my career to end if I so much as think about going to see her boss. There are some circumstances where you simply can’t ignore a threat like this aren’t there?
  21. 16. Try working for a nineteenth-century mill owner
    1. Here’s an idea for you…When you work for a notoriously difficult boss you will frequently find yourself listening to people slagging them off. The easy thing to do is to throw in your lot with them and get it all off your chest. Your brilliant career, however, demands the opposite approach. Suggest that people misunderstand your boss and that he or she is a talented person with, deep down, a heart of gold. Senior managers will appreciate how you defend your boss, your peers will start to suspect that they might be missing something and everyone will respect your loyalty. Managers notice any disloyalty and will remember it if they ever come to thinking about inviting you to work for them.
    2. Try another idea…You are trying to become the friendly face in your boss’s office. Have a look at IDEA 24, Keep up the good work.
    3. Defining idea…‘To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everyone.’
    4. How did it go?Q.    I’ve got a boss just like that. The trouble is that slowly but surely I am becoming tarred with the same brush. Will people become wary of me and treat me as though I were he?
  22. 17. Encourage the musician in everyone
    1. Here’s an idea for you…If you can’t admit that you can’t do something, your people won’t either. Encourage them to talk about those parts of your strategy they are less confident of handling. Then you can help them, or rearrange the plan to take that task away from them. I have seen teams thrash out a good strategy, but plainly lack the skills to achieve it. I have even sat with senior managers who were brought in for the final presentation of the plan, and when the team has left the room they have turned to me and said ‘Great plan, Ken, but that lot can’t do it.’ It begs the question, ‘Why are you letting them try?’
    2. Try another idea…The importance of selling yourself high and wide is discussed in IDEA 9, Know what to say to whom.
    3. Defining idea…‘The function that distinguishes a manager above all others is his educational one. The one contribution he is uniquely expected to make is to give others vision and ability to perform. It is vision and more responsibility that, in the last analysis, define the manager.’
    4. Defining idea…‘Striking amongst the musicians is their total lack of self-importance. They play a piece and then discuss among themselves as to how it may be improved. They make suggestions for each other directly, not via the director. No actor would tolerate a fellow performer who ventured to comment on what he or she is doing – comment of that sort coming solely from the director, and even then it has to be carefully packaged and seasoned with plenty of love and appreciation.’
    5. How did it go?Q.    I had a big decision to make and I had just read this stupid idea. Do you know how long it takes to make a decision if everyone has a say?
  23. 18. Find out what you are supposed to be doing
    1. Here’s an idea for you…OK, now we have agreed what a strategy is, get yourself a good definition of the strategy of any staff departments that are important to you. The marketing department is a good place to start – after all, they are responsible for agreeing the top-level strategy of what you are going to sell and to whom.
    2. Try another idea…If you are happy that you know your organisation’s strategy and want to start to build your own, go to IDEA 23, Draw your own map.
    3. Defining idea…‘A strategy is no good unless people fundamentally believe in it.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I asked the marketing folk what the strategy is and, guess what, I couldn’t make head or tail of their reply. It included words like ‘paradigm’ and more ‘models’ than a Playboy shoot. Who’s got it wrong, them or me?
  24. 19. You are totally responsible for you
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Lots of managers like to broadcast the fact that they don’t really take the appraisal system seriously, that they have done no prep and that the whole thing will be over in twenty minutes. Encourage this thinking, agree that it’s a ritual and that only the salary review has any significance. And then go home and do the preparation assiduously.
    2. Try another idea…Some managers are genuinely hated round the organisation. There can be a huge benefit in including them among the people you want to go to work for. See IDEA 16, Try working for a nineteenth-century mill owner.
    3. Defining idea…‘Always take every opportunity offered to receive training. Give careful thought to your training needs before any appraisal interview.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I did the preparation thoroughly, went in and showed it. My boss said I was being too inflexible, that I had prejudged the result of the interview and that she had some ideas for me as well. How do I recover?
  25. 20. I’m from head office and I’m here to help
    1. Here’s an idea for you…The inverse of this idea is also brilliant. When you are in the line, always welcome opportunities to help staff people. Meet them in their consultation phase, be the visiting manager at a training course and attend their conferences to express the field manager’s view. It’s excellent networking and once again offers great insights.
    2. Try another idea…For more on networking try IDEA 26, What goes around comes around.
    3. Defining idea…‘One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer’s back,
    4. How did it go?Q    I’m in sales, and bonuses are a considerable part of my salary. Are you suggesting I give this up and take a job that, even if I go up a grade or two, will not give me as much money as I earn in the field?
  26. 21. Ready, aim, fire
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Sometimes the Human Resources rules cause a holdup. HR is, of course, quite right to protect the company’s position and make sure that you do nothing that would prejudice that. But if the delay is going to cause problems, argue strongly that the company should buy its way out of it. This is often a time to spend the organisation’s money lavishly.
    2. Defining idea…‘Never flinch – make up your own mind and do it.’
    3. Try another idea…For another occasion to spend the company’s money lavishly look at IDEA 27, Vain, who moi?
    4. Defining idea…‘Aim high and achieve this by moving upwards between well-regarded organisations every two years.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I finally bit the bullet and fired a guy, having put it off for about a year longer than I should. The problem is that while people knew he was not that good he was very likeable. Why has team morale gone south big time?
  27. 22. You’ve done what?
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Never try to reason with an angry person. Never go back with any aggression towards an angry person. Apologise. If you feel you have nothing to apologise for then at least say you are sorry that the person is upset. Try to find something to be sympathetic about; perhaps by saying that, yes, they have every right to be angry and that you would be angry in their place. Offer to meet them again later, or if you are on the phone offer to go and see them. Don’t try to look for a solution to the problem until the heat is out of the scene, perhaps not even that day.
    2. Try another idea…For more information on handling ‘ugly’ managers look at Idea 15, Back the right horse.
    3. Defining idea…‘Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I remembered this idea this morning when I went in to the marketing department and found that my lot had completely ruined an expensive carpet by not covering it up while they repainted the false ceiling. I apologised whole-heartedly, and eventually a very angry manager calmed down. ‘Right,’ I said ‘Let’s work out what we need to do to get this carpet as back to normal as we possibly can.’ Then, guess what? She kicked off again, bringing up an array of incidents that I remembered from some time back when there had been other glitches in the maintenance service?
  28. 23. Draw your own map
    1. Here’s an idea for you…It is a really good idea to check this analysis with a few people including, of course, your key customers. Don’t be frightened to show them your analysis. If there are bits they don’t like or don’t agree with, it’s better that you know now.
    2. Try another idea…You really need to know what your organisation’s strategy is before you embark on creating your own. IDEA 18, Find out what you’re supposed to be doing, will help with this.
    3. Defining idea…‘Strategies are intellectually simple; their execution is not.’
    4. How did it go?Q    OK, I’m doing this and two members of the team don’t agree with an important part of the plan where they needed to change what they do. Any thoughts on why this should be?
  29. 24. Keep up the good work
  30. 25. Don’t talk so much
  31. 26. What goes around comes around
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Make a regular plan for staying in contact with a wide range of people in your address book. I don’t mean a circular letter at Christmas; just a personal note asking how they are doing. This keeps your name alive, triggers thoughts and will give rise to all sorts of opportunities.
    2. Try another idea…A good source of opportunity in the non-exec area is the older members of the senior management team. Have a look at IDEA 32, Help the aged.
    3. Defining idea…‘The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I’ve been pretty systematic in communicating with my network, but don’t you find that making contact often goes the opposite way? When I contact old colleagues, for instance, the ones who come back to me are almost always the ones who are looking for help in their careers. One of them continues to pester me for a job a year after my note to him. Surely I can take him off the list?
  32. 27. Vain, who moi?
  33. 28. Everybody lives by selling something
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Your seniors will pay more attention to a customer who praises you than to anyone else. So make it happen. When something has gone well, and assuming you have a close relationship with your customer, get them to write a thank-you note to you, copied to the most senior person they know in your organisation, preferably at least your boss’s boss. Time this to coincide with another key event, your appraisal maybe, or your big request for more resources. But don’t overdo it or your boss will know that it is you setting it up.
    2. Defining idea…‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.’
    3. Try another idea…See if IDEA 30, Count your fingers gives some clues for dealing with this.
    4. Defining idea…‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I tried getting some of my software development team leaders to attend a meeting with the customer where the customer made a presentation about her needs and we spoke of our plans. The formal part went quite well; it was chatting over coffee afterwards that things went a bit awry. One of my people talked about a future development we are planning. The customer loved it and wants it now. It’s given us a problem and my boss didn’t like it. How do you guard against that?
  34. 29. Changing horses mid-career
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Even if you are staying put in your organisation have a long, hard think about change. What in your company really needs to be changed? Think deeply and don’t be held back by things that seem to be cast in stone – nothing is. Right, if the change is within your authority, just do it. If it’s not in your authority, but it wouldn’t be a suicidal risk, just do it anyway. If it’s too much of a risk to take on yourself, go to the person who could do it and persuade them to let you do it. Try not to give them the whole idea or they might pinch it.
    2. Try another idea…IDEA 41, You only need 20 per cent of them, you know, gives some guidance on getting change to stick in an organisation.
    3. Defining idea…‘Most ideas on management have been around for a very long time, and the skill of the manager consists in knowing them all and, rather as he might choose the appropriate golf club for a specific situation, choosing the particular ideas which are most appropriate for the position and time in which he finds himself.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I loved this idea and decided to have a go at a matter that has annoyed for many years – implementing IT. We have always felt forced to buy our IT services from the outsource company who took over our IT department some time ago. One of my managers has been saying that in one area particularly we could get a better service, and cheaper, if we did it ourselves. I told him to go ahead in a note that I copied to IT. Bloody hell, two days later I have the CEO’s office on the line telling me not to do it. Can you imagine how I feel about the idea now?
  35. 30. Count your fingers
    1. Here’s an idea for you…If the sales force is on a straight commission on sales then they won’t be fully motivated to get orders at list price. Make sure that any drop in profits caused by their discounting is reflected in their wallets. A 10 per cent discount on the sales price has little impact on the salesperson’s income but may have reduced bottom-line profit by more than 33 per cent. If it’s easy to administer, a lot of managers use the gross profit of a deal as the basis for sales bonuses, and this works quite well. The other possibility is to discount the sales bonus pro rata to the sales discount, so 90 per cent of list price will yield, say, only 50 per cent of the full sales bonus.
    2. Try another idea…If sales people still make your toes curl, see if IDEA 39, Two, four, six, eight, might help
    3. Defining idea…‘He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back – that’s an earthquake…A salesman is got to dream. It comes with the territory.’
    4. How did it go?Q    This is quite clever.
  36. 31. Make them agree fast
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Take an idea you are trying to persuade your boss or your team to accept. Write down the features of your solution and then turn them into a basis of decision. Some will be dead easy because they truly have merit when seen from the audience’s point of view. Some will be difficult, probably don’t pass the ‘so what’s in it for me test’ and should be discarded.
    2. Try another idea…The related topic of finally putting the boot in to a committee is discussed in IDEA 35, The multi-headed decision maker.
    3. Defining idea…‘A monologue is not a decision.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I tried this when I was attempting to persuade a workers’ committee to accept a change in their terms of employment. When I asked if they agreed that that was how they should see the decision, they said ‘no’ to just about everything. I just went on with the proposed solution but they never became entirely gruntled during the whole meeting. Assuming your stupid idea does work, what should I have done?
  37. 32. Help the aged
    1. Here’s an idea for you…It’s absolutely true that if you look for unlikely opportunities in your working life they are likely to happen. Whenever you are talking to or listening to senior people try to find an angle where you can help. Listen for a statement like, ‘we need to look into this’ or words to that effect. Do a bit of research on the topic in question and send it to them with an offer to find out more.
    2. Try another idea…To see more about the psychology of this look at IDEA 27, Vain, who moi?
    3. Try another idea…For more on inventing a new job see IDEA 10, Don’t leave your job behind when you move on.
    4. Defining idea…‘With full-span lives having become the norm, people may need to learn how to be aged as they once had to learn to be adult.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I went on a tour of our European offices with two directors, a man and a woman. I’m a first-line manager in a staff post and my job was to look after the admin, make sure they were in the right place at the right time and so on. I thought this an excellent opportunity. The female became very friendly and started to take my arm and introduce me to people as her ‘treasure’. Now we are back she still gets me to do things for her and people are beginning to notice. She hasn’t made a pass or anything but I still feel uncomfortable when she’s around. Should I tell someone?
  38. 33. Fail rich
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Some time back I chanced on the only way to make money out of a share in your own unlisted company. I once owned about 10 per cent of a company whose managing director assured us would be listed in three years, so making us very rich. I worked there for five years and he was still saying the same thing. By then I didn’t believe him and decided to leave and go out on my own. To my amazement the two people who were in line to succeed me (you didn’t think that one mortal could fill my chair, did you?) fell over themselves to buy my shares. They, of course, thought they were soon going to be worth a fortune, because the managing director had told them so. As far as I’m aware I was the only person to sell the shares for a reasonable sum of money. So, that’s how to do it.
    2. Try another idea…If you want help in presenting the case IDEA 31, Make them agree fast, tells how to put pressure on without being tacky.
    3. Defining idea…‘The sin of hubris is inevitably and inexorably followed by Nemesis.’
    4. Defining idea…‘Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I’ve been offered shares in a small business as a tempter to join them. Their exit strategy is to sell the company to a big company within five years. It’s right to give some value to that as part of the proposition isn’t it?
  39. 34. I’m alright, it’s the others
  40. 35. The multi-headed decision maker
    1. Here’s an idea for you…What can you do in non-interview situations where you have to persuade a number of people to make a decision in your favour? Try the cup of coffee close. If it feels good and the vibrations are positive, offer to leave the group on its own for ten minutes. ‘Look it must be difficult for you to make a decision while I’m here, I’ll go and have a cup of coffee while you have a chat. I’ll pop back in a few minutes.’ Either they are going to agree to your suggestion, a buying signal, tell you it’s not necessary for you to go, another buying signal, or they are going to say that it is not necessary for you to return and that they will get back to you in due course, probably a warning signal.
    2. Try another idea…We look at a process for being persuasive in IDEA 31, Make them agree fast.
    3. Defining idea…‘A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I went for an interview for a senior job in local government and ended up facing two politicians, one from each of the two main parties. These guys clearly hated each other? How should I have dealt with that?
  41. 36. Two heads are better than one
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Identify a member of your team who is basically good at producing short-term results. Explain to her that you are going to develop that skill by delegating an increasing amount of today’s targets to her. Do it and free up your time to develop a long-term strategy, particularly a long-term career strategy.
    2. Try another idea…Now you have the time, IDEA 9, Know what to say to whom, gives some thoughts as to how to use it careerwise.
    3. Try another idea…The reason for being pleased is in IDEA 2, Don’t bury them in advice.
    4. Defining idea…In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
    5. How did it go?Q    I’ve been doing this delegating the short-term stuff for a few months. What’s now happened is that my deputy has made a huge mistake that threatens one of our major annual objectives. What’s the use of this idea if I have to indulge in hands-on crisis management for the next couple of months?
  42. 37. A triple-whammy career boost
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Right, thinking caps on. Look closely at what your customer is trying to achieve. Look at what their competitors are doing. Study their trade press. Talk to other people in your organisation who provide similar products and services to their customers. Use the internet. From that research, come up with an innovative idea to take to the customer.
    2. Try another idea…There’s a related financial idea in IDEA 52, It’s done what to profits?
    3. Defining idea…‘Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.’
    4. How did it go?Q    OK, I came up with something and the customer likes it. They are, as you predicted, clever clogs, selling it high and wide in their organisation. How do I let their top people know that it was my idea?
  43. 38. Check what it’s all about
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Have a look at your diary and your to-do list. Can you fit all your activities into these bullet points? If you can, you are probably carrying out your role as your boss would expect. If you can’t, you may have lost control and be in fire-fighting mode. Think about how to get back on top of things. On the other hand, you may be a genius, in which case you make your own rules and operate outside the norm.
    2. Try another idea…IDEA 36, Two heads are better than one, can help the persistent fire-fighter.
    3. Defining idea…‘A manager’s job should be based on a task to be performed in order to meet the company’s objectives…the manager should be directed and controlled by the objectives of performance rather than by his boss.’
    4. How did it go?Q    It’s all very well for you and Drucker to pontificate, but my boss does control me. She is obsessed by the management accounts and has a go at me when I vary from budget. The fact is the system is up the creek and I have to spend hours and hours correcting charges attributed to me wrongly, errors in the timing of income and expenditure and so on. Can you think of a way out of that?
  44. 39. Two, four, six, eight…
    1. Here’s an idea for you…This is going to sound a bit cheesy…but the next time you have a meeting ask at the start for everyone to talk for a moment about something they are proud of achieving since the last meeting. It starts the meeting off much more positively than the normal way, where the leading item is the biggest problem. Now suggest to your boss that they do the same. Honest, just try it.
    2. Try another idea…IDEA 11, How do I look?, has got more on the impression you make on people.
    3. Defining idea…‘Always show enthusiasm; never be intense.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I have worked hard on this with my team. We now, for example, do start each meeting by asking everyone to talk about something they’re proud of. What can I do about the one person in my team who never smiles, goes about his work in a totally analytical way and doesn’t show his appreciation of his people? He believes it to be insincere to thank someone just for carrying out their function.
  45. 40. Be a dedicated follower of fashion
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Try this little experiment. When you are sitting with a team of managers talk gibberish for a while. Use good Harvard Business School words and lots of jargon, but don’t let it make sense:
    2. Try another idea…Remind yourself about listening in IDEA 25, Don’t talk so much.
    3. Defining idea…‘We must distinguish between a man of polite learning and a mere scholar; the first is a gentleman and what a gentleman should be; the last is a mere bookcase, a bundle of letters, a head stuffed with the jargon of languages, a man that understands everybody but is understood by nobody.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I did it. I read out that paragraph and no one demurred in any way. What’s going on?
  46. 41. You only need 20 per cent of them, you know
    1. Here’s an idea for you…When you break up into work groups or task forces, either in the planning or implementation phase of the project, seed the agents of change in among the laggards. This is vital because if you don’t take charge of the groupings, the agents of change will work together and you will lose their contribution to converting the non-believers.
    2. Try another idea…If you want to see how a team sets up a strategy quickly try IDEA 23, Draw your own map.
    3. Defining idea…‘Most of the change we think we see in life Is due to truths being in and out of favour.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I’ve been asked to consider managing a project to redefine how we assess risk. I have checked that more than 20 per cent of the people involved believe it’s important we do this. But as I look at the profile of the agents of change they are all the most junior people. Almost all of the senior people think it’s a waste of time. Does this make a difference?
  47. 42. Nothing can go wrong, because nothing is planned
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Find something difficult that needs to be done, some major change that the organisation needs to make. Perhaps your boss hasn’t thought of it or has thought it too tough, but he or she would be happy to take the credit for it. Offer to manage it, and deliver.
    2. Try another idea…Cross-functional teams are by definition made of very different types of people. Try IDEA 7, Lead with style.
    3. Defining idea…‘At one time people were expected to simply get on with their job and not worry about the “whole” picture. These days people have to understand the whole of the business to ensure that they can work in a cross matrix way and are able to move swiftly across the business to areas of greatest need.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I worked out a plan to change something very important in our organisation, went through the resource requirement and went to my boss for a decision. She was very enthusiastic about the promised results, but wouldn’t give me all the resources I need. How do I get out of the situation where I’ve got a commitment that I know I can’t achieve with the resources allowed?
  48. 43. It’s a bargain!
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Ring up an internal department who supplies you with a service and complain about their prices. You are, after all their customer. If they say that the price is company policy, go higher up their organisation. Eventually you will get to someone who can vary prices. It may be tricky to steer such a change through the management accounting systems, but where there’s a will there’s a way.
    2. Try another idea…With your career and wide-thinking preparation in mind, go to IDEA 12, Please Sir, can I have some more?
    3. Defining idea…‘Nothing is illegal if one hundred well-placed businesspeople decide to do it.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I tried going to our IT people and complaining about how much they charged for our stock control system. They stonewalled all my efforts and swore that I couldn’t get a cheaper deal from anyone else. On a whim, I got one of my people to price out how much it would cost to buy the software and do it ourselves. Guess what, it’s cheaper that way by miles. Is it a good career move to call their bluff, or would the ensuing brouhaha be more trouble than it’s worth?
  49. 44. Get your own way with a consultant
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Is there a tricky issue where you’re finding it hard to get your own way? Could an outside consultant help? If so, make sure the case for bringing in a consultant is well made.
    2. Try another idea…In thinking about consultants it is worth reminding ourselves of IDEA 28, Everybody lives by selling something.
    3. Defining idea…‘Here’s the rule for bargains: “Do other men for they would do you.” That’s the true business concept.’
    4. How did it go?Q    Right, I got a bloke in to look at an organisational problem I wanted to resolve. It meant some blood on the walls so I wanted cover and strength from an outsider. I hinted broadly at him that he should not go near my boss. So he went straight to my boss’s boss on his first day. Why didn’t you warn me this could happen?
  50. 45. It’s how you tell ’em
    1. Here’s an idea for you…It is a very good, though simple, idea to announce exactly what you want the group to decide at the start of a presentation. The audience then knows where you are going to take them. Some people avoid this as you do run the risk that someone in the audience will tell you that you won’t be able to get there but logically it is better to know this at the start of the presentation than at the end. Who knows, if you know what the audience’s objections are, you may be able to use the presentation itself to overcome them.
    2. Try another idea…It might be a good moment for all of us to brush up on complaint handling. See IDEA 22, You’ve done what?
    3. Defining idea…‘Presentations are about them, the audience, rather than you, the speaker.’
    4. How did it go?Q    You bastard. I was impressed with this idea and opened a presentation to the board on a good idea that I had had, by telling them what I wanted them to do. The chairman went mad. ‘We rejected that idea ages ago. Under no circumstances do I want more time and work spent on studying it. We have thought about it and decided against it.’ Then everyone joined in and I have done myself no good at all. I'm done for now, aren't I?
  51. 46. Of course it’s risky
    1. Here’s an idea for you…If you’ve gone through this simple analysis system, think about presenting the results to management. But remember that the name of the career game is risk management. Don’t present the case you believe, instead present the case that shows the risks to be a bit higher than you actually think. Underpromise and overdeliver is the mantra of the ambitious.
    2. Try another idea…In IDEA 52, It’s done what to the profits?, you’ll see how a very small change in costs and benefits has a much higher than expected impact on the bottom line.
    3. Defining idea…Citizens, citizens, the first thing to aquire is money. Cash before conscience.’
    4. How did it go?Q    Following one of your big ideas, I felt myself very lucky when the managing director asked me to manage a project affecting almost everyone in the company. You referred me to this idea, and I did the risk analysis. According to your rules I need all the benefits up to square 9, in other words there is a high risk that this project is financially not worth doing. Should I tell her?
  52. 47. Be successful whatever your gender
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Career women also agree on another hugely logical suggestion. They say that childcare problems are probably more stressful and difficult to manage than the jobs themselves. Why don’t more employers set up first-class facilities for the children of employees? If a mother knows that her babies are being well looked after, that medical care is available at the workplace and that she will not be dragged off if, for any reason, a child is sent home from school that day, she is likely to perform her job better. Look at your organisation in this regard and see if it is not a good career step to put up a paper with this in mind. (Particularly if one of the senior recipients of this paper is a woman.)
    2. Defining idea…‘Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.’
    3. Try another idea…IDEA 3, Make good suggestions loudly, might be helpful at this point.
    4. Defining idea…‘It is not the glass ceiling that holds women back from rising high, it is the children hanging on to their hems.’
    5. How did it go?Q    How can I lie about the fact that I’ve got kids? It’s bound to come out when I have started in the new job and then what?
  53. 48. Make me an offer
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Try thinking up some minor points where giving in will make little or no difference to you. Then you can give them away. But remember to give concessions really reluctantly even in this case.
    2. Try another idea…I am assuming that you are timing the whole negotiation properly. Check out IDEA 48, Please, Sir, can I have some more?
    3. Defining idea…‘Only the paranoid survive.’
    4. How did it go?Q    I was in a negotiation and trying to do what you suggest, keep my first offer to myself until as late as possible. What do you do if the other side keeps asking for your offer, and appears to be getting waxy?
  54. 49. Make your team your wings and soar
    1. Here’s an idea for you…But what do you do with your low performers? This is a tough one, particularly if it is impossible or undesirable to fire them. The answer is also tough. Ignore them. Give them a strictly limited amount of your time. At best they will get the message and move on. At worst they will move on criticising you for being unhelpful. You will have covered yourself against this in advance by explaining what you are doing to your boss. And if he or she is spending too much time with their no-hopers they could be very grateful for your help.
    2. Defining idea…‘Always hire people better than you.’
    3. Try another idea…HR will have a set process for firing people. But there is a career implication too; check it out in IDEA 21, Ready, aim, fire.
    4. Defining idea…‘If, in order to succeed in an enterprise, I were obliged to choose between fifty deer commanded by a lion and fifty lions commanded by a deer, I should consider myself more certain of success with the first group than the second.’
    5. How did it go?Q    I have two problem performers. I have tried to cut down the amount of time I spend with them but their demands continue. They chase me down corridors and phone me at night. I can’t fire them so what do I do?
  55. 50. Well read
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Get a copy of your annual report and the annual report of your main competitor. Do some financial analysis of the two companies and see who is in the better state and why. If you cannot do this, go and see a friendly financial controller and ask them to help you, and give you some advice about how to improve your financial awareness.
    2. Try another idea…If you want to check you know enough about your organisation’s strategy you could try IDEA 18, Find out what you’re supposed to be doing.
    3. Defining idea…‘Looking back on my own career I think the one thing that perhaps helped me was the breadth of my reading about the oil industry and overall economic matters, in addition, of course, to being up to speed in the depth of knowledge to do the job of the moment.
    4. How did it go?Q    I went to see our financial controller and she referred me to an excellent book by your good self on finance (Smart Things to Know about Business Finance, by Ken Langdon and Alan Bonham, Capstone) and it brought me back up to speed. Trouble is, how do you maintain the knowledge when you don’t have to use it very often?
  56. 51. Life’s a balance
    1. Here’s an idea for you…Produce a vision for yourself by writing down a description of the best six months of your life that you could ever have. Include where you would live, what holidays you would take, who would be there and so on. Really dream and then go back to the activity matrix and plan to achieve that vision.
    2. Try another idea…Read IDEA 8, Actions speak louder than decisions, to help to translate the vision into reality.
    3. Defining idea…‘I did check my e-mails between holes but that depends on how important you think golf is. That’s the nub of it really. If you regard golf as more important than work, you will put your entire effort into the game even when just hanging around waiting for the duffers ahead to get on with it. You get to be club captain but miss out on the chief executive’s job.’
    4. How did it go?Q    One of my resolutions is to spend more time with my daughter who lives half an hour away. How can I make that happen without seeming to coerce her?
  57. 52. It’s done what to profits?
    1. Here’s an idea for you…
    2. Here’s an idea for you…Avoid unnecessary repetition in your CV. Do not repeat things. Say them only once. Do not say them twice. Or three times. Once is enough. (Now can you see how irritating repetition is?)
    3. Defining idea…‘Men are liars. We’ll lie about lying if we have to. I’m an algebra liar. I figure two good lies make a positive.’
    4. Defining idea…‘If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.’
    5. Defining idea…‘Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.’
    6. How did it go?Q    I recently read a book called Sin to Win. Are you telling me sinning is back in the doghouse?
    7. How did it go?   Trying to brighten things up with inappropriate use of colours, photographs, logos or fancy paper – this rarely puts you at the top of the pile.
  58. The End