Sell Your Contribution To the Bottom Line

Be proactive without bragging

by Russ Westcott

Your mother probably told you not to go around bragging about what you did and how great you were. Mine certainly did.

But there is a difference between bragging and stating provable facts. It's my experience that more often than not, your boss doesn't realize the value your contribution makes to the bottom line. (Actually, I suspect, many don't have a clue.)

In coaching job seeking professionals in résumé preparation, I stress the use of achievement or accomplishment statements. These may take the format of: "As the (position held at the time), I led a (size and name of team) in addressing the (situation, deficiency, problem) that resulted in (achievement attained) at a net annual savings of ($)." The emphasis is on providing the potential employer with an example of what the job seeker can do for him or her.

What Mother Told You

For many job seekers this approach is alien and uncomfortable (mother told me not to brag). Furthermore, they would never think to make such statements to their present boss. Let me cite an experience I had:

In the early days of the women's movement, I was asked to give a talk to an all-female class at a local college. The subject was advertised as a talk about managing human resources (my job title at the time). The audience was mostly secretaries and administrative people from local corporations.

Partway into my talk I sensed the women were not at all interested. I stopped and polled the group and learned what they really wanted was advice to help them break through what has come to be called the "glass ceiling" of all-male management.

I tore up my notes and switched to their topic, introducing the concept of valuing their contribution to the bottom line, the one primary measure by which most bosses are directly or indirectly evaluated. We discussed how to value the steadily increasing experience they were getting, how to sell the boss on funding outside workshops and seminars that would enable them to come back with return-on-investment improvements, how to learn more about what the bosses do and help them be more effective, and how to sell opportunities to spread their wings in taking on new responsibilities, new projects and rotational assignments.

We also talked about how to explore coveted positions above the ceiling and work toward developing themselves to convince management it's time for a breakthrough. In short, they learned to abandon approaches, such as protests, threatening legal action, moaning, sabotaging, slowing down and crying. Instead, they learned about how to deal in factual, provable information that demonstrated their contributions to the bottom line.

The lively discussion went two hours past the allotted time until the janitor asked us to leave the school so he could go home.

The point is the average employee has available a valuable process for enhancing professional development. The steps I found most useful in transitioning to bigger and better jobs were:

1. Learn everything you can about your present assignment.

2. Do everything possible to be exemplary in your present assignment.

3. Document how to do your present job (it's amazing how infrequently procedures or work instructions exist).

4. Document the contributions you have made to the bottom line and how they contribute to the measures by which your boss is evaluated.

5. Investigate opportunities for additional growth and development. This may not be a promotional opportunity but an opportunity to learn another job, especially the requirements of the position.

6 Rethink your achievements, experience and knowledge in terms of one or more of the potential opportunities you are investigating. Document your findings.

7. Make it known to your supervisor that you have pretty much aced the existing job and would like to teach it to a replacement while you are understudying a new assignment. Based on the facts you have documented, make a case for why you should be given the opportunity to enhance your professional development and how doing this will benefit your organization--and your boss for having sponsored you.

8. Train your replacement and be ready to move onward, perhaps upward.

9. Do it all over again.

Incidentally, I once used a variation of the above steps in convincing a takeover organization that my work unit would be essential to the transition and, ultimately, to the reorganization. My work unit, including me, was the only unit to survive the takeover intact.

Yes, Mary or Marty, there are steps you can take to better yourself, perhaps even survive a layoff. You can be proactive without bragging. Works for me!

RUSSELL T. WESTCOTT is president of the Offerjost-Westcott Group, a division of R.T. Westcott & Associates, in Old Saybrook, CT, that specializes in providing work life planning, guidance and coaching. He co-edited the Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, the Certified Quality Manager Section Refresher Training Course and the Quality Improvement Handbook, all published by ASQ. Westcott is an ASQ Fellow, certified quality auditor, certified quality manager and conference speaker.

If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board on www.asqnet.org, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.

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