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A Simple Strategy to Boost Your Career

By: Stefanie Smith
Last updated 11/29/2011

Do you want to get promoted, energize your job, or get a raise? 

Your best tactic isn’t glamorous and it doesn’t require any major training. But it will heighten your boss’s appreciation of you today and establish your track record through future upswings and downturns.

Enough suspense. Here it is: Writing a biweekly or monthly “executive briefing”—or if you prefer, “executive update,” can not only protect your job, but enhance your status.

Perhaps you’re thinking “I already work really hard, with too little appreciation. Are you really telling me to add one more task to my already full plate? Yes, I am.

There are five substantial benefits for you:
1. Gain more respect. If you don’t give yourself credit, no one else will, either. Other people can only appreciate you fully if they fully understand what you contribute. You are more likely to be promoted and recognized if management keeps your achievements top of mind throughout the year.

2. Increase the value you bring to the table. Increasing your value is the best way to increase your compensation. Organizing your thoughts and questions demonstrates respect for your boss’s time. Your status reports enable your boss to remain fully and efficiently apprised of your work, redirect or facilitate your initiatives, respond with advice, add resources, or approve spending, all in a concentrated time period.  Providing a framework facilitates feedback and action. Your boss will more readily make a phone call or send an e-mail to troubleshoot a request that may be stuck in limbo. She is also likely to say “thank you” or “good job” more often and more genuinely.

3. Maintain a current documented record of the results of your work. When your boss reads about your work continually, she is more likely to provide real-time feedback, rather than spring surprises on you at the end of the program. You can react to these discussions with agility to stay aligned with her expectations and perceptions of your performance.  When the time comes for your formal review, four reports backing up your achievements strengthen your professional presentation with dignity, rather than defensiveness. You’ll also have a terrific head start for updating your résumé.

4. Focus your time to get the most bang for your buck. One client told me, “After you convinced me to write status reports, I began keeping myself more on track with actions and results. Now, I sometimes start a task, then realize it isn’t really meaningful enough to put on my status report. I’m motivated to do something more critical and so I try to delegate the other task to my staff or an outside resource.”

5. Increase your motivation, pride, and confidence. It’s easy to lose sight of our accomplishments amidst the day-to-day noise and challenges in our lives. Your status reports transport you from that for an hour or two, allowing you to stop and say, “Hey, I did all this and I did it well!”

Still in doubt? Here’s a true story:
“Linda” is an extremely dedicated and talented executive assistant to the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. While reviewing the scope of her work, I asked if the CEO was duly impressed with her ability to manage so many projects across budgets, reports, event planning, and working with regulators. Her priceless response: “My boss knows what I do—he just doesn’t know all I do.”

Sound familiar?

Based on our initial discussions, Linda realized she wasn’t aware of all she did either. Her role had expanded over decades, but over 24 years, neither her title nor her position description had ever changed.

I asked how she kept the CEO updated on the breadth of activities she oversaw.  She initially informed me, in a somewhat patronizing manner “He is a very busy man and doesn’t have time for details.”

She listened attentively about the value of status reports, but remained skeptical and apprehensive. But after she logged few weeks of notes, we defined six broad categories of her work and created an outline. She then submitted the first status report ever—after 24 years on the executive floor.

The CEO’s response?  A special trip to her office to say, “This is a lot of work, and we should schedule time to review.” Linda proudly told me that simple statement was the greatest recognition she’d ever received. That’s when she came to understand why even if she executed everything to perfection, her boss still benefited from knowing about her accomplishments.

Using her status reports as a basis, we developed an accurate and comprehensive job description. We then began the formal HR process to upgrade her position. After the review, she received a new title— “Director of Administration and Budget” —with a professional level designation. Beyond the salary increase, her promotion entitles her to training, stock options, and other benefits which she had deserved for years. Furthermore, she is now in a position to train others to assume some of her functions so she can concentrate on delivering her highest value to the CEO, shareholders, and her department.  Everyone is better off.
 
What will your status report look like?
Keep the process as fast and easy as possible. Your report should be a bullet point list of key accomplishments and questions sent via e-mail. The entire document should be no more than one or two pages.

Facilitate reading and response through format and structure.
—Organize the content according to topics or priorities.
—Highlight the difference between statements, questions, and requests.

Cater to your audience. Ask your boss for direction regarding:
—Timing—biweekly or monthly.
—Review and discussion—“Live” discussion is best, but regardless, arrange a way to collect comments and directions.

How do I start?
The first report may take you awhile to compose. You’ll probably experience some resistance; you may worry that you won’t be able to write something compelling enough. However, you’ll become more adept and efficient as you add to your upcoming status reports over time. You’ll have a template to follow. You’ll learn to summarize in bullet points, rather than paragraphs. Knowing the main categories in advance expedites and facilitates both writing and reading status reports. There is no need to come up with creative formats or presentations each time. 

When do I start?
Whenever you’re ready to gain the recognition and respect you deserve. (How about today?).

Copyright © 2011 Stratex Corporation. All rights reserved.

About the Author(s)

Stefanie Smith leads Stratex (www.stratexcoaching.com), an executive consulting and coaching firm that provides customized group workshops and private coaching programs to guide executives and their teams to reach the next performance level. This article is excerpted from her book: The Power of Professional Presence: Get Their Attention and Keep It!