“This got me noticed by senior management,” says Misra, who is now vice president of consulting services at Getronics, an information and communication technology services company based in Amsterdam. “It also got me exposed to a completely different set of folks -- end-user testers -- which I would normally not have had a chance to work with at that point in my career. Right after this, I was asked to take on project management for the release of our next product suite.”
But there’s a big caveat, Misra adds. “If you volunteer to do something, you need to make sure it gets done. I have seen lots of folks volunteering for stuff but never actually completing it.”
4. Don’t Pass the Buck
Take on enough new projects and eventually one will blow up in your face. When it does, it’s better to take the hit than it is to point the finger, says Jack Ford, CEO of Charette, a distributor of wide-format imaging equipment.
“I’m looking for people who are not only willing to take on projects but also to take responsibility for them when things go badly,” Ford says. “In the IT world, if a project is not succeeding or isn’t on schedule, it’s easy to say it’s because operations or sales or outside suppliers aren’t cooperating. But it’s better to say, ‘I understand this project isn’t getting done, but here’s what we’re going to do to get back up to speed.’”
5. Be a Lone Voice in the Wilderness
Bosses promote leaders. An important aspect of leadership is having strong opinions and knowing how to express them, regardless of whose toes might get stepped on, says Mark Stevens, CEO of global marketing company MSCO and author of “Your Management Sucks: Why You Have to Declare War on Yourself and Your Business.”
“Many people fear if they express their true opinions they’ll be held back, but in most cases the converse is true,” Stevens says. “You won’t get ahead by soft-soaping and saying, ‘What a lovely pair of shoes you’re wearing.’ You inspire people to follow you by standing up for principle and going against the grain. Be willing to take the first bullets.”
“I actually like people to disagree with me,” Ford says. “It forces me to rethink what I believe we should do.” But no matter what the message is, it’s all in the delivery, Ford adds. “By saying things like, ‘I see what you’re saying, but what about this approach?’ you’re not directly criticizing a senior person, you’re just asking them to consider other options.”
6. Back Down Gracefully
You muster your courage, stand up in a meeting, and tactfully tell the boss his idea sucks. But they go ahead and do it anyway. Now what?
Pouting is not an option. Unless you’re willing to quit on the spot, you’ve got to deal with the ramifications of that decision -- and be prepared for the worst, if necessary.
“There are times when the company is following a path you think is deadly, and you may have to bet your job that they’re wrong and you’re right,” Chubb’s Drewry says. “But when the decision is made and it doesn’t go your way, you need to get onboard and figure out how to mitigate the risk from that decision as much as possible.”
7. Develop a Killer App
Few of us will ever build an OS that doesn’t crash or a Web service app that cuts admin costs by 50 percent. But if you can become the go-to guy or gal on a subject that’s vital to your firm’s future, then that’s the “killer app” that can carry you to success, MSCO’s Stevens says.