All organizations operating in complex environments are impacted by external and internal forces. Externally, your organization needs to raise capital in order to invest in its growth and generate revenue to cover its operating expenses with vendors and employees. In order for your organization to obtain capital or generate revenue, it needs to create value for investors and customers.
Organizations today are not like a family, regardless of what your well-intentioned CEO tells you. In functional families, “blood is thicker than water” and family always comes first. Whether you a mother, step-father, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, beloved or estranged, you are and will always be historically, legally or genetically a family member.
Conversely, in organizations, the organization always comes first. While business is on the upswing, your relationship with your employer will flourish. Moods are positive and opportunities are abundant. Hope springs eternal! Yet, it is the belief that good times are forever, or that relationships will supersede a tough decision that leaves most business professionals surprised, shocked, and hurt. When red ink starts to rise as financials tighten or competition heats up, reorganizations, restructurings, and reductions rule the day. Good performers are suddenly reminded that they are liabilities on a balance sheet and liabilities must be reduced in order to stabilize financials. “Family members” are suddenly and unceremoniously asked to pack-up their belongings and exit the building, escorted to the door by Harold from Security. In organizations, blood is not thicker than water – red ink is.
Allyn Gardner, the long-time career coach at Harvard Business School’s career program for MBA students has observed this phenomenon first hand. “They call people human capital for a reason,” Allyn mused. “Capital is an asset that you review periodically to determine how well it is performing to meet your objectives. Businesses tend to focus more on the capital-side and less on the human-side.”
Once you convince your boss that your membership and your attendance is work-related, you want to have your organization pay for your membership or registration fees. How do you start? You could write a memo similar to the example below, or use the key points from this example as talking points for a conversation.
I am interested in attending a professional development workshop being hosted by the Software Development Association (SDA). The workshop is on Tuesday, April 10, starting at 8:00 am and ending at 4:00 pm.
The SDA is a global organization dedicated to the professional development of business professionals in the software industry. As I continue to grow my career with our organization, I believe attending this event has the following advantages:
- I would like to use this opportunity to search for candidates for the open Legal Assistant role. There will be over 100 professionals in attendance at this workshop.
- I would like to recap best practices that I learn during the workshop and share them with you. Together we may identify a couple of best practices that we can implement here.
- I want to seek out a colleague who is familiar with the new invoicing platform to which we will be moving in three years. I anticipate this colleague can provide us some information and advice about his/her experiences.
During my absence, I plan to have Marc be the “point-person” for my team and any client issues. I am going to meet with my team two days before the workshop to plan for my absence, and meet with them the day after the workshop to ensure any issues that arose during my absence were immediately addressed.
I anticipate that attending this workshop, as well as any challenges I face managing my absence, will help me grow my capabilities as a leader at our organization. To that end, I am also requesting that you approve paying for the workshop which costs $499.00 (lunch and materials included).
I am excited about this opportunity and appreciate your support. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
An important mindset for you, your boss, and your organization is that your membership in an industry association is work-related. This is not an extracurricular activity. The benefits to you and your organization, as we reviewed in prior posts, are compelling and numerous.
Once you convince your boss that your membership and your attendance is work-related, you want to have your organization pay for your membership or registration fees. Ideally, your boss has budgeted money for industry memberships and meeting registrations. If not, help your boss become proactive by allocating dollars during the budget planning cycle for professional development and industry memberships. The fastest way to close a conversation regarding your organization paying your fees is that there is no money budgeted.
During my tenure as an author, speaker, and leadership coach, many of my colleagues are curious how I got my practice started. Many of you may not realize that I started my business from “square one.” I did not know I was going to be laid-off from Iron Mountain and I had zero plans to start an independent practice.
When I think back on how I got my practice started, I share the following thoughts with my colleagues:
- Ensure your significant-other supports your transition. One of the two things that will end your transition from corporate to consulting is your significant-other, looking at you across the breakfast table, telling you that he/she needs you to get a job.
- Have a strong financial foundation. The second thing that will end your transition is a financial crisis. Anyone transitioning from corporate to consulting needs to have a strong financial foundation for at least three to five years. You will need it!
- Be transparent about your wins and losses. Hiding how you are doing (or not doing) can be a very easy behavior. This only leads, however, to others believing you are achieving more than you are. Always be transparent with your significant-other regarding how you are doing, what is working, and what is not working.
- Create best-in-class materials. Great artifacts of your work will lead others to believe what you are doing is great. Second-class materials (generally created to save money in the short-term) will lead others to believe what you are doing is second-class.
- Always be optimistic and persistent. I started my practice during our most recent recession in 2008. It would have been easy for me to blame the economy and quit. Yet, because my wife supported me, we were financially sound, I was transparent with her, and I invested in best-in-class materials, I was able to make the turn.
You are more likely to be successful if you have a strong foundation and start with your house in order.