Sell it like it is

You may be giving a lot of thought lately to the next step you’d like to take in your career. One that will result in greater responsibility, upward mobility, and increased salary and bonus opportunity.

Have you considered sales?

It’s a question I love to ask people in the process of developing a vision and plan for their careers. Some embrace the idea of sales while others immediately shoot it down. Why is that? I often find it’s because individuals have a preconceived notion of what sales involves and have dismissed it very early on.

Maybe you have dismissed sales as a next step because you believe it’s:

  • Many more instances of “no” than “yes”
  • An unending loop of PowerPoint decks and presentations
  • Travel intensive
  • Tied to weekly/monthly/quarterly sales goals you own and are accountable for hitting

Could there be some merit to these points? Absolutely. Depending on the role, sales can certainly involve all of the above.

But, there so many other facets to sales-like roles within organizations that actually can take a “none of the above” spin to them.

The key reason to consider a stint is sales is to prepare and position you for great opportunities down the road.

Sales teaches professionals to present ideas, position possibilities, motivate thinking, and negotiate outcomes. It teaches individuals to enlist others and get them onboard and turn a no into a yes.

Sales teaches professionals the valuable skill of influence. And, mastering the skill of influence is extremely important to your growth and career development no matter the role you’re in.

Let’s say you want to pitch your senior vice president on a great new product or service idea. Or, you want a promotion to the next level and have great ideas on a position the company could create that you’d be great for. Or, you want to get in front of the CEO of your company because you’d love her to be your mentor. To achieve these things and get attention, you need to influence others within your organization. You need to sell them on the possibilities and benefits.

If working directly with clients and pitching products and services doesn’t sound like a great direction to you, there are still other options. Perhaps you’d enjoy product or technical sales support, product marketing or management, or account/customer service support. Roles like these often involve learning how to position products and services and work with clients to positively influence their experience with the company.

Let’s say you see yourself owning your own business down the road. Mastering sales skills sooner than later will be a tremendously valuable and important skill for you to make your business a success.

If a role change isn’t a possibility for you at this time, here are a few other ideas on ways to learn and build your sales and influence skills:

  • Ask friends or family members who work in sales to teach you some techniques
  • Shadow sales team members within your company
  • Invest in a sales training course or two
  • Read a few books that focus on sales development
  • Follow blog posts and Twitter feeds from sales leaders

Whether it’s taking on a selling or sales support role or expanding your professional development to include sales training, you’re sure to acquire valuable techniques for presenting yourself and your ideas to influence buy-in.

Ultimately, building this skill set will put you on a great path for positions of greater responsibility and compensation.

Next week: Should Happens.

– Jackie Simon

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Ahead

Thank you note

  1. Always write thank you notes. Handwritten is best. Leadership is about demonstrating gratitude, kindness, and thoughtfulness to those around you. Whether one of your team members has gone over and above on a project or you received a raise or a special introduction to a key contact, show your appreciation for the extra steps someone else took for you by graciously thanking them.
  1. Get that difficult [email, phone call, conversation, meeting, decision, discussion] out of the way first thing in the morning. Why let it hang over your head all day (or week or month)?
  1. Act now; apologize later. There will be times that you’re called to make a big decision or take action without having key information available or the opportunity to work through known channels or procedures. Do the best you can with what you know and take action. Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, you’ll very likely navigate the unexpected successfully and learn a lot along the way.

That’s it, you ask? That’s it.

Next week, we’ll talk about the most important skill set you should develop for significant career (and compensation) advancement.

– Jackie Simon

Michigan-Based Training: Coaching Fundamentals for Leaders

Coaching Fundamentals for Leaders

Program Overview

This specialized leadership development program is designed to help your senior management team and new managers to learn the overlooked competency of coaching. Effective coaching by leaders and managers enables team members to master new skills, communicate more effectively, and create value for their organization. Additionally, by effectively coaching his/her team, the leader and manager frees up valuable time to focus on strategy, business development, and innovation.

Who Will Benefit 

The course is targeted to directors, managers, and supervisors. Of particular benefit:

  • Directors who have excelled as independent contributors but feel the need to get out of the details and lead effectively
  • Managers who have primarily focused on managing process or production
  • Managers who tend to carry the load for their team
  • High potential managers who have excelled as specialists

Benefits for the Leader

  • Take leadership effectiveness to the next level
  • Optimize strengths and natural leadership style
  • Acknowledge limitations and overcome issues limiting one’s effectiveness
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Enjoy an improved quality of work life

Benefits for the Organization

  • Enhanced organizational performance
  • Retention of high-potential talent
  • Improved relationships and productivity
  • Development of key team members
  • A path for continued growth and success

Dates: April 23, 2015May 28, 2015
Location: Troy, MI

For more information, please feel free to contact me at 248.971.0875 or


Is leading others right for you?

The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make

(Ask your doctor) if leading others is right for you …

In your current position, you may have debated the merits of remaining an individual contributor versus taking on the role of people leadership. There are strong arguments either way, and I often find people are polarized on the issue. Through my conversations with professionals, here are a few “side effects” they have identified in why they’d prefer to not lead teams. They:

  • feel it may be a hassle
  • would no longer just be responsible for numero uno
  • believe they’ll lose work-life balance
  • would miss the opportunity to be an innovator in their role
  • couldn’t imagine not doing the fun work — creating, designing, dreaming, and developing

This sounds like a pretty solid list of reasons to me. For those who have the people leadership bug, here’s a short list of “symptoms” associated with overseeing a team:

  • Leading people means leadership
  • More money
  • More influence
  • Title
  • Greater responsibility
  • Clearer career path
  • Upward mobility

Another great list of reasons. So, when it comes to leading a team versus remaining an individual contributor, what’s the best prescription for career growth? In short, there’s really no right or wrong answer. There are, however, three key things I’d like you to consider:

  1. You don’t have to manage people to be a leader.
  2. You also don’t have to manage people for the greatest gains in compensation, influence, title, and career progression. It’s about creating or finding the right role.
  3. Your decision is only problematic if you’re denying yourself what you really want or you haven’t taken the time to truly explore and understand which direction will best fit you.

If you’ve viewed people leadership as a possibility but have shied away from it up until now, there are many ways you can ease into it (mentoring, pairing, leading meetings, leading teams without the direct reporting responsibility) to build your confidence before you take the plunge. There’s something to be said for having it happen organically.

And, if you’re curious about achieving greatness as an individual contributor, network internally and externally to learn how you can truly maximize your path.

Get really clear on how you envision your career evolving, then go for it!

Next up: 3 Surefire Strategies to Get Ahead

– Jackie Simon

Ten Things Your Boss is too Busy to Tell You

You’ve heard from your boss that you’re doing a great job – and that’s probably the truth. But, if your boss had a little more time to sit down with you and talk about the difference-making steps you could take that would get you to the next level, what might he or she say? Here’s a possible list:

1. You’re doing a great job, but you’re too focused on task-based activities. I’d like to see you bring people development and service/product strategy forward. I want to see that more than your ability to manage the day-to-day. What’s your plan?

2. I don’t see a clear succession plan for you. Who are you developing as your next leader/successor?

3.a. You’ve been in this role for 2 years. I’d hate to lose you, but it’s nearly time for you to leave this group for the next step in your leadership and career growth. Where would you like to head next?


3.b. You haven’t moved to the next role because I really need you in this job. I don’t plan to move you forward anytime soon…unless you bring the topic up.

4. Outside perspective is extremely useful to generate ideas and make changes. Stay open to external resources. Don’t get held back by tunnel vision. What external resources are you reading? What classes, presentations, or conferences do you want to attend? Come pitch me on the investment.

5. You haven’t taken a vacation in a while. Take a 3-day weekend at least every 6 weeks and wait no longer than 3 months for a 5-day break.

6. I know you think you can “fix” team member [insert name], but they aren’t the right fit. You should have had them on an exit plan a while ago.

7. There’s a big difference in the level of contributions of a manager compared to a director compared to that of a vice president. There’s a lot more that I need to see from you in the form of strategy and innovation to recommend that you receive a promotion. But, these are also areas that I won’t coach you in. The next step is yours to navigate.

8. Your team is comprised of the colleagues at your peer level. They are just as important to lead as the team you’re directly responsible for. I’m waiting for a leader to emerge among this group … your move.

9. Your salary increase will be 3-8%…until you pitch me for more.

10. At some point, I’ll be moving on. You could be my successor, but we won’t know until you make your interest known.

Could any of these discussion points apply to you? If so, take this week to think about how you plan to raise the topic for discussion with your boss.

Next week, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of remaining an individual contributor compared to leading and managing a team.

– Jackie Simon

Why the Difficult Employee Isn’t Being Fired


To start, this post isn’t about the common characteristics difficult employees share. This also isn’t a post about how to know whether or not you should fire an employee. What this post is about is why leaders don’t fire difficult employees even though they know they should. Donald Trump makes it look easy and swift. That’s not always the case.

Here are the most common themes I’ve found around why leaders don’t fire their problem employees. The employee:

  • has been with the company for years;
  • is the only one in the company who knows how to do specific tasks. Firing the employee means there is a body of work no one else in the company knows exists or how to complete;
  • is deeply entrenched in systems, processes, or finances. The leader perceives letting the employee go is far too much of a risk or liability to the company;
  • has close relationships with key clients or team members. The leader is too focused on the potential disruption to the team or business;
  • is unapproachable, dramatic, or negative. Therefore, the idea of a termination meeting is quite unsettling to the leader (if the employee gets upset about constructive improvement feedback, how might they react when they learn they’re being fired?)
  • is likened to a unicorn. The leader honestly believes it will be next to impossible to hire someone else to replace the employee.

But, these reasons don’t come close to the number one reason leaders don’t fire their difficult employees. The number one reason actually has to do with the leader than the employee. The reason? The leader has never fired someone before. The leader’s lack of firing experience is the reason an employee stays and the team, business, and company are negatively affected in the meantime.

Essentially, the unknown for the leader, meaning the “how” to fire an employee is too scary to confront. As a result, the difficult employee stays with the company for weeks, months, and even years.

Removing a difficult team member from an organization is just one key area of responsibility for a leader to overcome in order to take the team and business to the next level. Until that’s done, the leader essentially agrees to hold themselves and the team back. At that point, it has nothing to do with the challenges the difficult employee brings to the business and everything to do with the leader’s reluctance to fire the employee.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to do the hard but right thing every single day.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to identify if you’re getting in your own way and the potential price you’re paying as a result.

– Jackie Simon

Is This Your First Time Asking for a Raise?

Are you preparing to ask for a salary increase? Asking for what you deserve and having a frank discussion about money may be outside your comfort zone, whether you’re early in your career or a seasoned industry veteran. Here is some advice to guide your preparation and discussion with your boss.

First, a list of “don’ts”:

  • Ask too soon. If you haven’t been with the company or in your role long enough, you may have yet to prove your value.
  • Put up your dukes in anticipation of a fight. A conversation about salary should be an open discussion, not one that involves tension or argument.
  • Start the conversation by complaining about your current salary.
  • Compare your salary to that of a peer and present that reasoning in your conversation with your boss.
  • Threaten to leave the company if you don’t receive an increase.
  • Act out or show visible frustration after the conversation.

Preparation is key. Take stock of your contributions and create a thorough, well-written report, even if it’s for your eyes only. Then, list reasons you feel a salary increase is in order. Do your homework by consulting mentors and confidants, practicing your discussion points, and researching the typical salary for your position using sites like,, and

Timing is everything. Be sure to approach the conversation with your boss at the right time. Is your company performing well against targets? Are you exceeding your targets? Did you just complete a successful project? Is client and colleague feedback about you at an all-time high? Look for “signals” that will help you build your case for a raise.

Promotion vs. Salary Increase

Here’s another key point to consider: when evaluating your business case for a raise, take stock of the degree to which you’ve taken on many stretch assignments, greater responsibilities, or a more senior role to that of your peers within your department. What you’ll want to analyze is whether your contributions have actually aligned over an extended period of time with a role of greater significance within the team. Are you already doing the work of the role above yours? Or, can you make a case for the value you’re providing and the recommendation to create a more senior role on the team?

If so, what you may want to propose to your boss is a promotion or change in title instead of only a salary increase. Promotions often equate to greater compensation increases than those of a regular raise.

More Than Money

Looking beyond the paycheck, here are a few other things you may also consider asking for:

Placement on a Key Project: If you’ve identified a project that will allow you to up your value and contributions within the company, ask to be part of the project team. Placement on key projects or taking on extra stretch assignments ultimately puts you in a position to be considered for more money or a promotion down the road.

Flex Time: This could consist of compressed work weeks, reduced work schedule, job sharing, or staggered start and end times.

Vacation Time: If you’re an asset to the company and you’ve been with the company a number of years and/or hold a higher-level position, asking for more vacation days is absolutely acceptable.

For more guidance on how to ask for a raise, here’s great advice from inspirational businesswomen.

Have you asked for more money or benefits? Tell me what worked for you! I’d love to know.

Next week, we’ll talk about a leadership topic that you may have put off too long: Firing that difficult employee.

– Jackie Simon

Top 10 Leader Faux Pas


We all need to brush up on our leadership etiquette. Here’s a quick list of key areas we all fall victim to from time to time.

Think of your actions over the past week as you read the list below and score yourself 5 points for each “Yes” and 0 points for each “No.”

  1. Arriving late.
  2. Checking your phone/laptop during meetings.
  3. Lacking an agenda.
  4. Failing to make direct eye contact.
  5. Neglecting to greet co-workers when you arrive at work.
  6. Taking calls on speakerphone when others are within hearing range.
  7. Walking ahead of team members instead of side-by-side.
  8. Embarrassing people publicly.
  9. Interrupting others.
  10. Forgetting to say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.”

Your Score:

How’d you do?

If you scored fewer than 10 points, I’d say you’re conscientious of your actions as a leader. Great job! Keep your self-awareness high by revisiting this list from time to time.

Did you score more than 10 points? Now is a great time to regroup, think about how you would like to be perceived as a leader, and start making some key changes so you’re bringing your best self to your team. Remember, being respected as a leader means treating your co-workers with the same respect.

Did you recently correct a leadership faux pas? If so, tell me about it!

Next week, we’ll address a topic on everyone’s mind: how to ask your boss for a raise.

– Jackie Simon

Your dream job is not posted on the Internet

If you’re starting to explore other opportunities, you may be in for a surprise out there. Your next job is likely not living in a job posting on CareerBuilder or Indeed. And it’s not in a holding pattern “until the economy turns around.” It’s probably already waiting for you, it’s just that your future boss hasn’t had the time to create it. (Hint: here’s where you come in.)

Your dream opportunity will likely surface as the result of bolstering your LinkedIn profile, poking holes in your network, making some new connections, and having many informal conversations.

Start researching companies online to explore lifestyle fit, corporate values, (and yes, even any current postings). Read articles to find out where a company is focusing efforts now, but also how you could help them get to the next level. Think about your talents, see what’s happening in your field, and figure out which companies may need someone just like you.

After all, don’t you have more power over your future than

– Jackie Simon

I’ll Be There For Youuuuu: Making the Move from Peer to Leader

Transitioning from peer to leader is one of the most challenging moves you’ll make in your career.


Here are some of the reasons:

From Your Colleagues’ Point of View:

  • They were accustomed to you as a friend, confidant, and advisor. Given your promotion, they are concerned about how that may play into your evaluation of them as your direct reports.
  • They enjoyed working with your previous boss and may miss that reporting relationship; or
  • Their previous boss may not have been a strong leader and now they’re concerned history may repeat itself with you (fair assessment or not).
  • They, too, may have had their eye on the promotion prize but didn’t receive it for any number of reasons.

From Your Point of View:

  • You feel as though your peer and friendship circle disappeared overnight. After all, how do you remain close friends with people you now lead?
  • You feel as though you were thrown into new territory without a frame of reference. You’re completely out of your comfort zone and feel like a fish out of water.
  • You wonder if you have what it takes (you do).
  • You’re nervous and scared to be at this new level with leaders you once looked up to.
  • You have major responsibilities now. Before you were responsible for just you. Now you must drive a team of people to meet important metrics including revenue, profit, customer satisfaction, production, and quality. And, you must answer to other leaders about your progress.
  • You’re presenting in meetings now, pitching your ideas, and advocating your recommendations to a group of leaders. Sometimes, you’re the only one who supports your ideas. Getting group buy-in is nerve wracking and scary.
  • You’re not sure the people who report to you will like you as much as they did their previous boss.
  • Maybe it’s even more obvious than that. Maybe you’ve received feedback that your direct reports don’t like you as much as their previous leader. While it’s a tough pill to swallow, it’s often the case in the early days of a new leader’s tenure.

If you’re a new leader and you recognize any of the scenarios above, take heart. It’s all part of the journey. It does get better. And easier.

Here’s what to do:

First, be aware of some typical derailing behaviors that many new leaders exhibit:

  • Overmanaging/micromanaging people on their team
  • Failing to delegate projects or tasks, resulting in untimely delivery
  • Failing to staff projects effectively, resulting in their own and team member burnout
  • Failure to build a team, thereby under appreciating and under acknowledging people on their team
  • Being defensive to others about their own and/or team members’ performance

Second, seek feedback from your boss, your new peers, and your team. Forming relationships among your new peer level will help you to move through the transition with more ease while building a new friend base you can speak openly with.

Leadership 360° Assessments are a great way to gather feedback about your leadership performance. They are a well‐known method for gathering feedback from members of an individual’s immediate work circle and measuring a manager’s style and effectiveness as a leader. The 360° method allows key associates to tell managers what they are doing right and what they can do even better. The Leadership Survey is both a powerful performance evaluation and a challenging development experience for leaders. [More on this feedback tool here.]

Third, give yourself time to build a powerful plan. Acclimate over a period of time to your new responsibilities and make observations about the team, work, and what needs to improve and change. At the 90-day mark, that’s generally when the going gets tough. Not only will you be expected to take things to the next level in your new job, but you’ll likely still be juggling some responsibilities from your previous role.

For even more advice on making a successful transition to leadership, take a look at a previous post.

How about you? How did you successfully manage the transition from peer to leader?

Next week, let’s take a look at the importance of etiquette in leadership. We’re all guilty of forgetting our manners from time to time. As leaders though, we must bring our best self to the table every day.

– Jackie Simon