Key Questions on Employees’ Minds Right Now, Part II/II

Many hospitality students and professionals around the world recently participated in Aethos’ series of development webinars. These sessions offered attendees the opportunity to complete the 20|20 Skills™ assessment to gain a personal SWOT analysis to help them navigate these challenging times of occupational crisis and change. Interestingly, the attendees consistently voiced certain concerns and follow-up questions. We wanted, therefore, to address these issues publicly for the benefit of business owners, leaders, and HR professionals who are eager to understand the issues presently on the minds of the global workforce. First, we will consider some general topics (see part I here). In this follow-up piece, we will explore questions specific to two groups of team members: (a) those who have jobs and are likely telecommuting and (b) those who have been furloughed. Likewise, we urge leaders to contemplate these issues and questions and proactively address them in their own businesses.

For Those who are Telecommuting & Added Duties

Audience: Often my work is clearly appreciated by peers and customers but under-appreciated by my senior leaders. How can I fix this gap?

Aethos: There is no escaping company politics, which happen everywhere to some extent. However, we suggest you “flip the script” whereby you worry less about getting credit and actually spend more time proactively looking for ways to make others successful. This is the principle of “servant leadership,” and done consistently, it will increase your (a) rapport and alliances across teams, (b) working knowledge of the business and its supporting systems and resources, and (c) your reputation and visibility as a supportive business partner.

This effort should include reaching out to your direct supervisor and other senior stakeholders to ask how you can support them better or differently. These informal touchpoints also serve as opportunities to provide updates on the progress or outcomes of your key initiatives and goals. If you use these accomplishments as a springboard to explain how your approach, skills, or acquired knowledge can help them or the broader business in other ways, then your updates will be perceived as natural and logical versus as political and showing off.

Audience: How do I stop other team members from taking credit for my work? Aethos: This is a tricky issue with no easy answer for every situation – how best to address it depends on the nuances of a person’s circumstances and the “rules of the road” set by the company culture. Nonetheless, we have handled several coaching assignments that involved this challenge. Certain worker type profiles are more amicable, agreeable and conflict avoidant than others. Being helpful and cooperative with others is a positive characteristic in the workplace, but not when it is taken to the extreme. Everyone should feel empowered and comfortable standing up for oneself – it’s a critical skill related to confronting conflict balanced with emotional intelligence. Therefore, rather than see this as a frustration with a co-worker, we recommend you see this as a development opportunity. It might take a mentor or personal coach to learn and practice the social nuance of confronting others or standing up for yourself, but it is worth the effort to seek an appropriate resource to assist with this. One specific recommendation is Kim Scott’s excellent book, Radical Candor. Get a copy and really study it. It can be your introduction to the topic of having sensitive but important discussions with people.

For Those who are Furloughed

Audience: How can I be more visible and attractive to other hiring managers, owners, and investors who do not clearly understand my contributions prior to being furloughed? Aethos: What you describe involves a delicate balancing act.  On one hand, you want proper recognition for the value you deliver. But on the other hand, you must avoid coming off as someone who is merely showing off or jockeying for status.  Your company’s HR pros can be excellent resources for confidential guidance and advice on topics like these, but here are some options to consider. One good approach is to align yourself with an coach or a mentor in the organization. Beyond providing advice, direction and really just being there as a career sounding-board, this person can help you hone your own social savviness and help you to navigate company culture. This person will keep you motivated and also serve as an internal cheerleader. They will also, and this is the key, be someone that will be able to taut your praises to others in the organization in ways that don’t look egotistical or narcissistic. It’s not you telling others how great you are, it is your mentor/coach who is sharing, even bragging about your abilities and accomplishments. Another tactic is to approach a supervisor or leader and ask them for guidance on a specific issue. An issue that is outside of your day-to-day job scope, but something you have invested time in to go above and beyond. While asking them for their thoughts, you can also update them on what you have been doing, and how you have been trying to drive positive impact. This is a little bit of a “back-door” approach to telling people your contributions to the organization but it also plays off of your humility because you are asking them for feedback on ways you can up your game and contribute even more. Audience: What do I need now to reach the executive level at a competitive company within the next ten years? Aethos: First and foremost, you must touch base with people in your network and plan to continue to expand those connections. Think of the old adage, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”.  This is not a bulletproof plan but knowing people within organizations is invaluable when looking for introductions, interviewing and or applying for new roles and promotions. Indeed, this is the entire premise behind Linkedin. In any environment, but particularly now, it is imperative that you look to the big-picture. Now could be a great time to seek a professional certificate or advanced degree – a good time to round out your technical knowledge. Courses at community colleges or even online such as eCornell could help you to broaden your transferable skill sets. One thing that we hear all the time when companies are looking for executives is, “Find me a great leader; someone who is great at driving performance.” These skills come from what workplace psychologists call “contextual performance,” or the proverbial “X Factor.” New research indicates that this concept boils down to a few target variables. An easy way to remember these skills is with the acronym, CHAT. This stands for four specific areas of focus: Conscientious – stronger to attention to detail; Hospitality – having social savviness that comes with emotional intelligence; Adaptability – staying calm and cool in stressful situations; and Trainability – identifying better ways of doing things. Working on these abilities, in addition to a strong foundation of servant leadership, should position you well for advancement within your company, or elsewhere.