Dr. Gary North is predicting a recession some time in the next 18 months. He writes occasionally on this topic, frequently advising his subscribers to position themselves strategically for it. Recently, he suggested writing a letter. He says to sit down and write “a list of unique services that you provide to your department,” a list he say that “the head of the department would not want to lose as a result of an order coming down from on high to fire people.”
This is not the kind of strategy that your peers are considering at this point. People like to think that they are immune. They aren’t, of course. When they figure out that they aren’t, you want to be ahead of the pack in the job search process.
It would be wise to sit down and make a list of unique services that you provide to your department that the head of the department would not want to lose as a result of an order coming down from on high that he has to fire one or more people within the department. That memo is going to come down within the first year of the recession. There may be more than one.
Here is what you put in that letter
One of the strategies I recommend is to turn in a one-page weekly report on what you have accomplished. Once a month, submit a one-page report on what you plan to accomplish over the next month. The more relevant that you can make these reports to your superior, the more addicted he will become to them. If nobody else is doing this in your department, then the very fact that you do it is going to distinguish you from your competitors. Most people will not volunteer to do something like this. It’s extra work. Don’t bog down your superior in details, but a one-page report is likely to be saved. He will file it somewhere. If it provides useful information that would otherwise not be available to him, he will tend to become dependent on a steady stream of these reports. He wants to know what’s going on. Of course, once you start, you can’t stop. So, make sure the report writing does not take a lot of your time.
For this to work, Dr. North says that you need to be systematic with this.
Another strategy is to make certain that you file a cover page for any longer report you are told to produce. You want to save the reader time. He does not want to read a long report. He just wants a quick summary. You can provide a longer report as a separate document. Then, if he reads your one-page summary, and he thinks he had better read the whole report, he can do so. But probably he won’t want to do this. You’re saving him time with the one-page summary. People want to save time.
You’ve got to be systematic about this. Find ways to distinguish yourself from everybody else in your department. When the recession hits, there will be employees on the chopping block. Companies are going to have to cut back on expenses. That is when the least productive members of every business team will be at risk.
Follow this. Alpha, one of the more astute members of his site, explains
Find the organizational metrics that he is evaluated on and / or his bonus is calculated from. Bullet list your accomplishments and how they affected the metrics and your in-process work and how the finished product should affect the metrics.
This is key to the task. If you don’t follow Alpha’s recommendation, then your weekly letter that you’re using to highlight your benefits will turn into a nuissance and can backfire. Avoid this. And instead, follow the contents of the letter outlined by North and Alpha. And since presentation is almost everything, you’d be wise to follow Alpha’s tips on color-coding your letter.
Research “visual presentation of data” for report format. If I remember correctly, the SAS institute had some great videos on this.
I had one report I used to have to present. The main metric had its own slide with a vertical bar composed of four colored parts:
BLUE = already accomplished
GREEN = projects funded and in-progress affecting the metric
YELLOW = projected progress toward metric from planned projects not yet funded
ORANGE = shortfall
In office, I used “light blue” (exact name) for blue. Green was the “more colors” box with hexagons– three to the left and one diagonally up/left from center– very bright green. People loved those bright colors.
Hint: in one job I had to calculate metrics of other departments on a dashboard. A few popped up red from being deficient. The manager said, “We can’t use red. It looks bad.” So just keep it yellow or maybe orange.
Important: The goal of visual presentation of data is to play on emotions– hit the limbic system of the brain. Logic and language play no part in this.
How can I proceed?
write down what I accomplish each day then compile that into a report at the end of the week.
This helps to clarify your purpose:
Who is the audience of your report? The boss.
What are the boss’ needs? Whatever he is evaluated, rewarded, and punished over.
From personal example: my personal accomplishments mean little to my boss. My accomplishments that contribute toward my boss meeting his goals mean everything to him. So I include only my accomplishments that mean something to him.
The accomplishments that are important to me which are not normally important to my boss are resume fodder. I work for the government. So anything resembling productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness that a business hiring manager would like to see mean nothing to my boss.
The stuff that is important to him would get him laughed to shame in the real world.
Some people don’t like the formality of letter writing. Some will ask, “Why not just tell him in person?” which is an excellent question. A letter can elicit a very formal response and even take the supervisor out of this persona of being a boss. So one of the subscribers, wdrobins, writes
Instead of doing weekly written reports, you might consider arranging a weekly face-to-face meeting with your supervisor. The additional communication benefits, such as reading body language, and being able to explain and answer questions is invaluable. This way, you will get to know your supervisor on a more personal level as well.
In my job, the dissemination of this type information occurs in two ways. First, our group meets twice per month to give project explanations and updates to our supervisor. Second, I have a weekly meeting with my supervisor. In this meeting, I discuss the details of my project work. We may also discuss life/personal stuff outside of work. I am free to ask him anything about job, company, or his personal life, and he can ask the same. This leads to a much better working relationship than would be possible by just communicating on paper.
Since I am sitting adjacent to my supervisor, I also just walk into his cubicle and informally update him on a project as the need arises. I also can send Email at anytime I desire. We also use a company wide software, called “Skype for Business,” which allows real time texting, phone calls, sharing each other’s computer screen, and so forth. I can see at a glance who in our group (or anywhere within the company) is available, in a meeting, out of the office, etc. I just click on the person’s name, and immediately send text to him or her. They can then immediately respond back. This is invaluable technology, especially when working off-site.
The formal report writing, which you refer to, is old time BS. Technology has replaced the need for this means of supervisor/employee communication protocols.
However, having said all that, if you work for a bucktooth ass hole in a backwards company in the back forty, which gives kudos for this approach to getting noticed by the supervisor, then by all means do it. But keep in mind, if everyone is doing this, his mailbox is going to be overloaded, and he’s not likely to read the reports anyway. So, I would suggest considering other means of communication.
Get creative! This is why business men make deals on the golf course, face-to-face, in an informal setting. Find a way to imitate this concept with your supervisor. Your career success is not going to be influenced by a piece of paper, no matter how well you put the charts together. It is ultimately going to be based on relationships.
Sounds good. But you must have built up some trust with your employer/boss/head of your department to trust that he will do good by your efforts listed in a letter, in an emal, or direct communication.