Ann E W Stone says that she once read a book that changed the course of her career, and her life. She learnt that people make snap decisions on others based on ‘signals; and that it was within one’s power to manage those signals. The first part of her transformation was to understand the operating style she had; the second was to get some fundamentals right before she could achieve her career goals.
Her ‘25 skills that signal that you are to be taken seriously‘ have been modelled on what she has learnt on her way to fame and fortune and an appearance on the Larry King show.
1. How you walk into a room
Walk it like you own it. Head up, confident.
2. Your handshake
Put your hand out at a 45 degree angle and make it firm, not harsh.
3. How you are dressed
Ms Stone recommends that you dress for the position you aspire to. Dark colours and jackets imply power (green is a non-starter for a suit. Yellow, red and purple if you’re female. No open-toed shoes or coloured stockings).
4. What you read and talk about.
You need to demonstrate that you read the papers and have an opinion on ‘word events’. You have to assume that most people are not interested in your family affairs.
(I found this particularly difficult to embrace. Sarah Palin is more interesting as an ice-breaker than some family anecdote?)
5. Self-confidence and optimism
‘If you want ot get ahead in business, you have to be an optimistic person’, says Ms Stone. ‘People want positive leaders. People do not follow pessimists.’
6. What you put in writing
Ms Stone says you have to think before you write.
7. How you present new ideas
You need to lay claim to some ‘new ideas’.
8. Organisation skills
Ms Stone says she will always hire women re-entering the workforce after having raised young children, because their multi-tasking skills are so developed by this stage.
(This makes perfect sense).
9. Learning and motivation outside your job space
You need to demonstrate a yearning for knowledge. Get books, go to seminars, join a trade association.
10. How you handle yourself in the office
No crying, giggling. Learn from your mistakes but don’t take them personally. Don’t talk back to the coach.
(By this time, I was thinking of my rather stubborn, curious-about-the-world six year-old. And started giggling myself).
11. Verbal skills
You need to be able to speak in public or to groups.
(Another one for the blogging and Dale Carnegie fraternity).
Always use a spell-checker before you communincate in writing. ‘Spelling tells people how intelligent you are.’
14. Be courteous
Show good breeding.
(I thought of Trump and Alan Sugar for starters).
15. Business cards
You need to hae one, even if you don’t have a job.
16. Ability to delegate
Men are apparently much better at doing this than women.
17. Computer & Technical Skills
18. A support system both inside and outside the office
Don’t make enemies. Keep your own counsel. Unload only with your family
19. Be on time
This is a signal of respect.
(Totally, totally agree with this. Sadly, this is not a trait which works in Southern Europe. In fact, being late is often used as a show of ‘power’)
20. Market yourself and celebrate your sucesses
Ms Stone believes in self-promotion and advises that we should not ‘bury our accomplishments’.
(There was much nodding from the audience. And the blogging community, I suspect).
21. Show you love the competition
This was an interesting one. Ms Stone believes that many people shine on the adrenalin of beating the competition.
22. Make money one of your measures of success
Ms Stone had started her talk by saying that she managed to increase her salary five-fold in 11 months once she started applying her signalling skills in earnest.
It sounded particularly hollow as the markets went into freefall. I just know so many people who love what they do without thinking of how much money they are making from ‘selling their life’.
23. Think like management
I come from the other side of the equation. Management has to think like the factory floor to get things done. Or the people on the help desk, the front of house, the doers and the cleaners. Period.
24. Have clear goals
It helps knowing what you want in life. And work.
It’s aligning them to your company’s value system which is the key issue, I think.
25. Show you are a team player
Make the boss look good.
This is tougher than it seems. Especially if you are practicing 20 above.
As I left the hall, I couldn’t help feeling that Ms Stone does not spend much time advising start-ups or geeks. Perhaps it was her disapproval of open-toed sandals. Or making money one of the measure of success. Or maybe it was just a transatlantic approach which does not translate in its entirey across the pond. There was a seeming lack of awareness that there are ‘cultural differences’ that cannot be ignored when you are doing business in different parts of the world.
All I know is that not all of the above would work in the cauldrons of an office in Milan.. where ‘bella figura’ has its own code of behaviour.. or the earthier variations further south.
Still, in an age and medium obsessed with lists, there is some common-sense to be gleaned from Ms Stone’s thinking.
It would just be a much nicer world if we didn’t have to worry about ‘being taken seriously’ and just had the internal confidence that we are in the right place, at the right time, doing the job we are meant to be doing, to the best of our abilities. And having some fun in the process.