The fastest way to get ahead in the business world is to rub shoulders with the big bosses. I remember a person who did not meet the physical criteria to do so. Therefore, his strategy was that he always showed up to work early and did the work of his supervisor. First, he used the complementing technique to get in good standing with his supervisor. Next, he took on additional tasks outside his job description. Finally, he received the promotion he desired a few short weeks after just using the aforementioned techniques. After witnessing the chain of events that led to his promotion, I came to the conclusion that “it’s not what you know but it’s whom you know” that can take you up in every level of the corporate ladder.
Mercer (1994) shares that there are many employees who are intelligent and well educated but not all of them in the corporate arena are able to move ahead very quickly like the others in divisions or high-level positions. Two different types of employees in the corporate world were thus identified and defined. Those that could not move ahead quickly to higher positions were referred to as “under-achievers”, and those that move on to high-level management positions were called the “high achievers” (Mercer, 1994: 2).
Perhaps there are reasons why the under-achievers were labeled as such and the high-achievers as such. Based on my observations and readings, a person who wants to get promoted should at least put all of his abilities to work. Educational level and intelligence is not enough. In the business world, interpersonal relations frequently come into play. Therefore, one should first have the ability to strike up good interpersonal relationships and make a good impression on practically anyone, to make it to the top (Mercer, 1994: 4).
Most references on management and corporate leadership lay emphasis on being a people person. This is because each person is surrounded by people and each person works with people all the time. For Mercer, he notes that those he termed the high achievers, first excel at the ability to quickly make a great impression on practically anyone (Mercer, 1994: 5). Such people are able to quickly develop rapport and a sense of camaraderie. They are always ready to help people feel comfortable with them, and especially make a very good impression on the people who can make or break their careers. Not only that, the same is true even for other people with whom they interact with throughout their workday as these may witnesses to give good reports and recommendations later on (Mercer, 1994: 5).
In order to build a good impression and develop good interpersonal relationships, one must first have genuine interest in other person than in himself or herself (Carnegie, 1981: 54).
Carnegie (1981) states that people are basically not interested in the other person but are only interested in themselves and satisfying their individual wants “morning, noon, and after dinner” (Carnegie, 1981: 54). Therefore, if I would attempt to impress my colleague so that he would be interested in me, I am likely to fail. For this reason I have got to have genuine interest in others first without expecting them to be interested in me. This may be done by treating the person the way he or she wants to be treated (Mercer, 1994: 15). Consequently says Alfred Adler (quoted in Carnegie, 1981: 55), “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
To maintain the good impression and relationship elicited from others, a person may then move on to proving his worth by coming to work on time, being “results-focused”, reflecting the professional appearance and style of his supervisor and peers, listening attentively to conversations, paying at least three sincere compliments a day, acting like team players, assuming responsibility for work, purposely getting attention from people who can offer good work opportunities, and displaying poise under pressure (Mercer, 1994: 15-50; 89-106). Continuing these over time may eventually lead to significant promotion results.
Maxwell (1988) refers to this practice and phenomenon as “the law of influence” (Maxwell, 1988: 11-20). An extremely influential icon that has made a huge impact in world history was used to illustrate the law of influence. This is the person of Princess Diana, a young and very glamorous princess from England “who circulated in the highest society” (Maxwell, 1988: 11). Diana became the most talked-about person in the whole world in 1981 when she married the crown prince of England, Prince Charles. Since that day, people were intrigued by the new princess who was a commoner and was once a kindergarten teacher. At first she was totally shy and overwhelmed by all the attention she had gained. But after a while, she had adjusted to her new role. “She started traveling and representing the royal family around the world at various functions… [and] …made it her goal to serve others” (Maxwell, 1988: 12). During the process, she built many important relationships with politicians, organizers or humanitarian causes, entertainers, and also heads of states (Maxwell, 1988: 12). Diana started by building beneficial relationships around her by simply being a supporter, and then moving on to being a spokesperson and ultimately catalyst for fund-raising projects, and as time went by, “her influence increased, and so did her ability to make things happen” and even in death she still continued to influence others (Maxwell, 1988: 12-13).
The point in this text is that everything starts with rubbing shoulders with others and building interpersonal relationships first as a means to impress and show what you can do to move up and be noticed for a particular position in management. When this is done, people who have witnessed your skills can help you move up the corporate ladder and put you in the position you desire.