Guest comment: Bedside manner is key to long term success

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Executive coach Robin Linnecar on why even the best dealmaker's career will stall if colleagues aren't made to feel loved.

As a 21st century Tennyson might put it: "In the autumn, a banker's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of their year-end bonus". It might more constructively turn to thoughts of how to ingratiate oneself with one's colleagues.

Short term bonuses depend primarily upon financial performance. But there's more to a career than year end payouts. If you want to climb the slippery pole of promotion - and ultimately earn more money, you'll need to cultivate relationships with the people around you.

I can think of several bankers who are great at structuring deals and bringing transactions in, but whose careers are foundering due to an inability to make connections - both sideways in the firm and with their bosses. They may get big bonuses, but they don't get promoted or put into more managerial roles.

The sticking point tends to come at the transition points, ie. from vice president to director or director to managing director. To make the leap into the executive echelons of the bank, you'll typically go before a panel of senior employees. Your boss may be rooting for you, but if everyone else is saying, "We never see the guy," you're not going to make it through.

To get that promotion you'll need to show you're part of a team and not just a sole operator. How much effort do you put into getting to know the markets people even when a transaction isn't happening, for example? How much time do you spend coaching junior employees?

You may be confident of your ability to bring in business, but it's worth pausing to consider what team members and indirect colleagues think about you. Just because you're not aware of any concerns doesn't mean that there aren't any and that your boss isn't being made aware of them, especially around bonus season. How many of these boxes can you tick?

Are you accessible? Do you actively invite consultation with peers and indirect colleagues?

Do you genuinely listen to what people tell you and are you consistent in the way you respond to them?

Are you helping your junior colleagues to develop their skills? Are you coaching them and giving them constructive feedback?

Are you a good motivator?

Do you encourage your juniors to take the lead or are you stifling their creativity via micro-management?

Are your non-verbal messages appropriate? You know; showing you're listening by concentrating on your Blackberry; not turning up to meetings!

With promotion decisions being made in the months to come, it may be a little late to make an impact this year. But cultivating the right relationships over the next 12 months could make all the difference to your ability to move up a notch in 2007.

Robin Linnecar is a partner at Praesta, an executive coaching firm. He has coached bankers at Credit Suisse, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland, among others.

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