When I started my professional career, I thought I knew it all. After all, I just spent my entire life in school and had a college degree that made me ready for business. Right? Over the last 20+ years, I have come to realize that business experience has helped me more than any of the business classes I took.
The perception you create in the business world becomes part of your brand. These tips will help you with creating a positive professional brand that people want to work with.
- Always be prepared. When attending a meeting, always have something ready. Even if the person calling the meeting doesn’t provide an agenda (by the way, always have an agenda), determine what the meeting might be about and prepare for that. This applies to meetings with just one other person or meetings with a group. More times than not, I have been able to use at least something from what I prepared for a meeting. Too many times I attend meetings where the participants have prepared nothing for the meeting. When it is time to add value to the meeting, you don’t want to be the person who is not prepared with anything. When you come with your agenda, your worst case scenario is that you say, “I was prepared to discuss something else”, which is way better than, “I don’t have anything prepared”.
- Walk quickly. When walking from one place to another, walk fast. Over time it shows that you have energy and purpose. It is a good perception to add to your brand. It is also good exercise and saves time. Slow walkers who mosey from place-to-place don’t create a sense of action.
- Treat everyone like the CEO. This may sound ridiculous to some people. Everyone you work with is deserving of respect. Their title should mean nothing more than a description of their role. I am not talking about trusting everyone. You should trust everyone you work with until they give you a reason to not trust them. Even those who don’t respect you should be treated with respect. You will never know who you will need help from in the future. Often dismissed but are some of the most powerful people in an organization is administrative support staff. You should get to know them well and you should give them a chance to know you too.
- Carry a brief case. You may or may not have much to carry in your briefcase but the habit is practical. From time to time you will want to take things to and from the office. In your brief case you have ready access to writing tools, folders/papers, and your gadgets. A briefcase shows professionalism, also adding to your brand.
- Be prompt with email. Respond to email as quickly as possible. Create a system that works for you to keep up with email. Most email systems have features that can help you filter, prioritize, and label your email. It is not only efficient and less stressful to keep up with your email, it also demonstrates your responsiveness to the people you work with. This adds value to your organization. Keeping up on your email ensures that you don’t become an information bottleneck. One of my favorite bloggers wrote about how he keeps up with email. You can check it out here.
- Never miss a deadline. When accepting an assignment always confirm and agree on a deadline. If at any time you discover that you cannot meet the deadline, renegotiate as soon as you know. The earlier you have deadline discussions, the easier it is to adjust. If you don’t already have a system to avoid missing deadlines, get one.
- Dress for success. Dress slightly above the expected norm. Dressing like everyone else does not differentiate you from anyone else. Rather than dressing down to differentiate, dress up. This has to be easier for men than for women (probably because I am a guy). If the norm is business casual, add a tie to your dress shirt. If the norm is jeans and a polo shirt, wear khaki pants and a collared shirt.
- No fake answers. Don’t pretend to have an answer if you don’t have one. Pretending to have an answer or making one up is lying. Not only is it unethical to lie, your answer can become a complex web quickly. People can tell when you are making up an answer and it will hurt your credibility. A perfectly acceptable answer can be “I don’t know, but I will find out”. It can be hard to say that you don’t know because it can feel like you should know, but with reasonable people your credibility will improve by just being honest.
- Keep your desk clean. A desk can quickly get messy throughout the work day. Each day commit to cleaning it up and putting things where they belong. Make file folders, organize your books, and keep your desk clean. This organization habit transcends to other work habits and helps make sure assignments don’t slip through the cracks.
- Communicate with your boss. Stay in regular communication with your boss. The more you interact with your boss, the more you will know that you are meeting expectations. If you are a boss, you must interact with each person on your staff regularly. It may be scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings or quick 10-minutes conversations every day or both.
These 10 business tips will have a compounding effect on your career effectiveness. Just implementing a commitment to a few of these suggestions can have a tremendous positive impact on your brand. The more you add the more accountable and effective you will become.
What business tips have helped you be more accountable and effective?
When have you not followed a business principle and regretted it?