This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

If you are looking to rise inside your organization, there are some proven pathways. For those of you who are ethical and/or don’t want to marry into management, we are looking at how you can prepare for a higher management position. Promotions will come to those who prepare.

Last week we talked about a simple approach to this preparation. In this series of articles we break this approach down into three steps:

•    Education
•    Communication
•    Contribution

Our last article we talked about how you can become a Subject Matter Expert without spending any money by using the corporate library and the public library to vault yourself ahead of your fellow workers and even ahead of your supervisor.

This week we will look at the principle of communication. No matter what the level of your knowledge, if you are unable to bring it to bear against threats or to take advantage of opportunities, it is the same as you not having any knowledge. That ability to bring out your knowledge is communication.

In the business world one communicates by body language, speaking, and writing. By making consistent improvements in each of these areas you will show your boss that you are ready to move ahead.

The subject of body language includes appearance, posture, gestures, and facial expressions. Humans are conditioned to translate these physical expressions into feelings. No matter what you say, if your body language does not agree with your words, your listeners will pick up on the disagreement. They will not have a good feeling about you.

These feelings are central to top management’s ability to guide their companies. This is why corporations spent huge amounts of money sending executives to meet face-to-face with clients, suppliers, investors, and government officials. For example, there is nothing like being able to gauge the handshake and look into the eyes of a CEO to get that gut feeling whether your company should enter this proposed joint venture.

Body language has its foundation in your confidence level. By studying your field your self-assurance should now be rock solid. Show it by standing up straight, giving a firm handshake, and looking your boss in the eye. Physical fitness is important also.

Dress better. I don’t mean you should go out and buy a $2000 power suit as some suggest. I once had a position as a military advisor and was required to wear a flight suit. I differentiated myself from my colleagues by shining my boots, keeping a nice haircut, and having my flight suits tailored.

You can do the same. Get new shoes and press your uniform. Do all the small things that others won’t. Believe me, you will be noticed by management. All these outward things are communication. Your message is: “I know what I am doing. I am comfortable and capable.” That is a huge message and your bosses want to receive it.

As we go up the ladder of communication, speaking is the next step. Sometimes you are just a voice on the phone, but most of the time, your important communications include a mixture of body language and talking. Pick up the little book Stand Like Lincoln, Speak Like Churchill to see how you can improve your speaking skills.

Start one on one to improve your verbal communication. Listen to yourself on a recorder. Get rid of the filler words such as “like”, “you know”, “uh…uh”. The reading and studying that you have done will add to your vocabulary.

Speak up in meetings. Use tact and present your case backed up by the knowledge that you have gained. Volunteer to give a presentation on a facet of knowledge that you have gleaned from the corporate library. Speak on safety, how to save money, or how to expedite work flow. Be ready, practice, and then deliver. Persuasive body language backed up with spoken knowledge gives you power.

The graduate course in corporate communication is writing. This is because your written piece will continue to communicate for you (or against you) for months, perhaps years. Your arguments might be sent all the way up to the CEO, and you want your writing to represent you well.  I had written a white paper on buying a certain type of equipment for our aircraft, only to see that paper on the director’s desk three years later. I thought that it had been trashed, but when we acquired another aircraft, the boss dug it out of a file and consulted it again during the decision of how to upgrade the new airplane.

You only learn to write by writing. Start with company email. Send out nothing that has spelling errors, grammar lapses, or too much verbiage. Someone in your department will be able to help you. Rarely do you have to dash off an email without the time to run it by your confidant.

Next, be sure that any memo you write is well thought out, clear, and concise. Take your time. Work on the piece. Get a reputation for being able to express yourself on paper.

Soon you will have an opportunity to write something persuasive. It may be a piece on why the company needs to purchase a new piece of equipment for your shop. You might be asked to write comments on a new training program. Whatever you write, it will give you a new standing with your supervisors. And being a lasting form of communication, it could filter up to the person who is able to promote you.

Communicate the confidence given by your new knowledge with the way you present yourself each day. Speak with tact and precision, reinforcing it with your body language. And use the power of the written word. By gaining the extra knowledge and communicating it to your organization in a valuable way, you place yourself in the path to promotion.

You only lack one thing. Contribution. We will examine that next week.

D. Alan Johnson

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