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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Building Your Brand in Inclement Weather

One of the truths of growing your career is that as you progress through the organization you become broad and shallow as opposed to the staff emphasis of being narrow and deep. By that I mean that when you are on staff you work on a small variety of tasks which you must know completely down to the last detail. As you progress in your career and take on broader responsibilities there simply isn't enough time to go into all the details of every task; that's why you have staff working for you and that's their job. The further you rise in an organization, the more you just touch the tops of your different responsibilities.

Your job then becomes fundamentally different; the organization starts paying you for judgement, trustworthiness, dependability and execution. Can they assign you to an area and almost completely walk away from it? If so, you've become a reliable manager.

It is in that area of dependability and execution that there's opportunity in times of bad weather. I know it sounds a little trite, but I've seen it happen many times over my career that the path to getting recognized goes through the snow.

On days when there are only a handful of people who can make it to work, you want to be among the handful. Staying home, if you can make it in at all, is a missed opportunity.

I know that sounds old school, but trust me it works. Managers have such a broad area of responsibility that they want to build a team around them with people who can handle things. Attendance is a huge part of that, and showing up in bad weather makes a statement. Two hours late is better than not at all; on time is sterling.

Being able to do this isn't just a matter of will power; it also involves preparation. I started my career in small communities where everyone either worked agriculture or worked by the hour in communities 30 - 90 miles away. Remember, this is pre-Internet and working meant being at work, and not working meant either dead livestock or not getting paid. In that culture, missing work was not an option and that rubbed off on me profoundly. In our marriage, my biggest fights with my wife didn't involve money, sex or how to raise kids; they started with, "Surely you're not going to work in this!"

So how do you become super-dependable no matter what mother nature brings? Here's some tips from small towns where people have to get to work:
  • Where you live - Most people have several addresses during their working life, so next time you change addresses keep your commute in mind. If all things are equal, avoid the place at the top of the winding hill with no guard rail. If you give yourself a flat commute you can almost ignore everything that follows below.
  • What you drive - Four wheel drives are best, front wheel drives are very good, and rear-wheel drive only if (like me) your commute is almost flat.
  • Good tires- Replace your tires in the fall if at all possible for good snow traction.
  • Emergency Kit - Keep jumper cables, a tow strap, kitty litter and a camp shovel. If you don't know what to with all that ask somebody with a long commute; they'll know.
  • Go Play in the Snow - One of the biggest causes of accidents, and missed work, are people who are afraid to drive in the snow. Next time everything ices over, go take your car to the nearest empty parking lot and practice sliding around until you're not afraid anymore.

Does this mean, from my HR post, that I expect anyone to come in when it's dangerous? Absolutely not! But if you're career is stuck and you can't seem to get noticed, be one of the super-dependable few who show up when nobody else does. Trust me, it works.

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