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Corporate Confidential – Book Notes

Corporate Confidential

Cynthia Shapiro

Skills and Talent Aren’t Necessarily What’s Most Important

  • Companies don’t want your smarts unless you’ve shown respect first.
  • Trust is based on the company’s perception of you.
  • The opinion the company holds of you may not be as favorable as you think.
  • Do you speak like an owner? With Passion? Or just showing up for a paycheck?
  • You must acquire a high level “ownership” mindset”.
  • Employees who are in alignment are the ones who gain recognition.
  • Success comes to those who navigate the changing landscape most effectively.
  • Don’t appear to be a potential liability or inconvenience to the company.


  • Create the right image.
  • Voicing negativity makes you look like a success risk. Remain optimistic. Keep concerns private and positive.
  • In the eyes of the company, you are your boss’s opinion of you.
  • A company will support those they believe will help them achieve success to further their goals and image.
  • Support your boss and let them know you are interested in helping them achieve their goals.
  • Volunteer to help with large projects and take on work that’s not getting done.
  • Ask to get new clarification on what’s most important for you to be working on and see if there are any skills you should learn to be a better team member.
  • Your number one job is to make your boss look good. The better chance you will be included in the inner circle and look to you as an ally and asset to the management team.
  • Learn how to partner with your key gatekeepers and gates will open, giving you access to the higher levels that bring increased freedom.
  • Alienating a key gatekeeper can lead to job loss. Respect them and pick your battles. Your boss should never be one of them.

Safe ways to show smarts

  • Only provide opinions when asked, never volunteer to mention problems, or what’s not working. Only provide positive solutions that could improve the bottom line.
    • As long as you are the employee do what the boss wants.
    • Make sure you always show respect and appreciation for the efforts that have gone before you.
  • Showing your smarts is not how you get ahead and noticed. Providing stellar support for you boss is!
  • Don’t engage and stop gossip whenever it reaches you.
  • Be careful with what you send in email.

Work Friendships

  • Those who steer clear of employee friendship cliques ten to stand out by appearing more dedicated, conscientious, and serious about their work.
  • If you’re in the wrong “camp” you could be mistaken for the enemy. Don’t fall into an “us” vs. “them” mentality.
  • Any information you share will affect the company’s perception of you. The company won’t separate the personal from professional, they’ll take it all in and judge accordingly.  
  • It’s all about managing the image your company has of you. All your company wants to see is a dedicated professional on top of it in all aspects of their life.  

Companies have very short memories

  • Changing now and consistently avoiding negative behaviors give you the best chance for completely changing your image, effectively wiping out your past transgressions.
  • It is completely possible to go from “mud” to fast-track star within a relatively short period of time.
  • You are not stuck forever, that is an illusion that can keep you from recovering and moving forward.
  • Have a desire to be an exceptional employee. Ask your manager for guidance and tips for improvement. Become a cheerleader for the company.
  • It is hard to change – that is why this type of transformation can be impressive to management. It won’t work without sincerity.


  • You have to prove it first, by working above your current level. Internally promotions are usually locked up and decided long before they are offered. If you don’t get it, renew your efforts, maintain a positive approach, and find out what is missing.
  • Use this experience as an opportunity to partner with them by asking for advice and feedback.

Performance Reviews

  • It doesn’t matter how you think you’re doing, what matters is how your boss thinks you’re doing.
  • For a perfect review actively manage your boss’s perceptions to match yours:
    • Set up regular meetings to find out what’s most important to her and how she likes things done. Good work has to be done to your boss’s standards and preferences.
    • Focus on expectations, priorities, and you boss’s preferences.
      • Discussing priorities helps ensure that you’re focusing on the things that are most important to your boss.
      • It also provides a forum for educating her on your workload and responsibilities.
      • Personal preference and the boss opinion of your performance are actually one in the same. Ask about preferences, don’t talk about performance!
  • Getting a top review score has very little to do with your actual work, and everything to do with managing your boss’s expectations and perceptions.
  • A reputation is not only something you should be actively crafting, it is your insurance policy for your career.

Inheriting a new boss

  • You need to fit into the new way of doing things. You will have to prove yourself again.
  • Taking the initiative up from will make you look like the most ideal and conscientious employee they ever had.
  • Setup a meeting on “procedures’ you should set up. Go in with outlines of your team’s current processes and procedures. Offer to help implement those changes with the group.
  • Withhold well-intentioned advice. Go out of your way to make the entrance easier, managers don’t forget things like that.  

Dealing with confrontations

  • As soon as you defend yourself, you’ve lost the battle
  • What management will remember is who handled the situation well and who didn’t.
  • Detached objectification is the art of separating the situation into a detached entity allowing you to listen in neutrally without emotional involvement, judgement, or defense.
  • Listen as objectively as possible, resist the temptation to defend yourself.
  • Learning this trick will help you defuse volatile situations quickly and easily and is almost guaranteed to make you look like a star in front of the company.
  • By refusing to react, defend, or get emotional yourself, you are stopping the escalation. The one that stops the escalation has the upper hand. You will be seen as the leader if you are the escalator.

Making MIstakes

  • Mistakes are actually a good sign, it shows you are learning, trying new things, and actively pushing the envelope.
  • What they care about is how to deal with mistakes responsibly, take ownership, show that you’ve learned, and won’t do it again.
  • Don’t pass the buck. Anything that happens while you are in charge is your responsibility. It will make you seem like a leader if you take responsibility for it as your own.


  • The more conservative your appearance, the more the company will tend to regard you as a solid thinker and dependable employee.
  • Your dress should always be conservative. If you can, it should match as closely as possible the style of those at the top.
  • You should only have books on your desk that reinforce your image.

Become Indispensable

  • The regular employees are the workhorses and aren’t invested in. They fail to inspire special treatment so they don’t receive it. They work hard but are invisible. They are routinely overloaded and undercompensated. They are easily replaceable b/c they don’t seem critical to the company’s success.
  • THe company doesn’t feel compelled to support their job goals or career aspirations. As long as you are one of the invisible employees, working harder won’t accomplish anything.
  • Unless you learn the secrets of showcasing yourself as indispensable you are doing nothing better than spinning your wheels.
  • There is fierce loyalty in companies, but it’s now given much more carefully, sparingly, and secretly than it used to be. It’s no longer automatic.
  • If they see you as 100% loyal, putting their interest first and protecting what they value, they will then return in kind – not before.
  • You have to earn loyalty. You have to act like an owner.
  • Without open commitment to the company you will only be an employee, you will be an outsider from those who work at the levels to which you aspire.
  • If you want loyalty, you give loyalty. That’s the way it works.

Loyalty and Ownership

  • In the minds of upper management, employees are in two groups:
    • Those who work for the company
    • Those who ARE the company
  • Nothing inspires loyalty like a company cheerleader
  • Companies love employees with passion; it is those employees they want at the top. You have to find things to be passionate about (like Trends!)
  • A supportive and enthusiastic cheerleader for the company will gain attention faster and more effectively than any other method.
  • No company will get rid of their #1 cheerleader. Companies really do listen to, and care about, the issues of some employees more than others.
  • Be enthusiastic, energetic, and positive. Have a can do approach, never complain, and know how to pick your battles.

Narrow vs. Wide Focus

  • A narrow focus produces narrow results only valuable for your little corner.
  • The most successful employees are not those who focus solely on their own work. They maintain a broader focus, keeping tasks in line with what’s most important to the company and its future.
  • Producing through the lens of the bigger picture will make your work seem larger than life, while work produced with a narrow focus is usually dismissed as “typical”
  • Looking ahead and being aware of the big picture can make you look like a visionary leader, just they type of person those at the top want working at higher levels of the company.
  • A broader focus is where the true power lies when it comes to your career, not the laser beam.
  • Take time to follow economic industry and business news – it will help you make future oriented decision and changes. It is easy and impressive.

Future Proof Yourself

  • Companies are moving so fast they actually outgrow their employees
  • Continually learning and keeping your eye on the future will ensure that you don’t get left behind. This is a skill all great leaders possess. They are out in front os they can turn in the right direction at the right time.
  • This is what companies look for in a leader: a visionary who spends more time looking ahead than he does looking down.

To move up, you must appear underwhelmed

  • You have to appear to have outgrown your current responsibilities and are ready for higher levels. There is only one way to do this – high level organization.
  • Organize your day for maximum productivity and visibility. Visibility is key.
  • Take on additional work in strategic areas.
  • Life at the top is much more stressful and requires even more multitasking than life as an employee. By proving you’re up to the challenge of taking on more work now, you prove that you’ll be able to handle even more later.
  • You should always respond to any request with positive energy and a smile.
  • Volunteering is a sign you have grown beyond your current position. It conveys a spirit of service that makes you appear trustworthy and in alignment with the values and needs of the company.


  • Learn who is auditory or visual learner and present to them in that style (or whiteboard and talk at the same time to reach through to both styles). Is a good way to make your gatekeeper feel supported.
  • Knowing the difference will help you craft your work for maximum impact.
  • Essential Skills That Are Rewarded
    • Flexibility –  (learn as many systems, protocols, and skills) – wear multiple hats and switch gears at the drop of one
    • Sales skills – connect with people, inspire confidence, and exude charisma
    • Public Speaking – raise your value to new heights – beyond those of a regular employee
    • High level goal achievement – set big goals and achieve them
      • Brian Tracy System
        • Write down 5 big goals
        • Pick one that will make the biggest difference in your life
        • Write it in past tense and identify the critical steps it takes to get there
        • Write out twenty things you could do right now to make it happen


  • Learn to be a good leader and manager now
  • Focus on work output, developing your team, and generating productivity in your department
  • Expectations may not be clear, so make sure what success in that position looks like
  • Being a manager is a lot less fun and a lot more stress
  • It’s easier to move up than down
  • Stress is high – 75% of all your thoughts, actions, and life will be for or about the company. Decisions are more difficult, they can affect someone’s job and livelihood
  • Make sure you are realistic and ready before you go for it
  • Too many climb the ladder for the sake of height, rather than finding what they love.


  • Stop “proving” and start providing
  • Provide service – service-mindset will prevent others from competing with you or working against you. It will create a loyal team.
  • Offer yourself in service to all, you will put everyone at ease, the more effortless and successful their path
  • Find out what your new boss would like to see you doing and working on
  • It will help you determine the most important areas for you and your team to focus on for maximum impact
  • Make sure you check in to make sure you are providing the highest level of service possible
  • Build key alliances and be of service to get objective achieved – focus on the big picture!
  • Meet each person on the team and ask how you can best be of service to them and help them improve their systems, workload, and achieve personal career goals. Find out what their frustrations are and how you can remove them.


  • A real leader doesn’t decide by himself how things should be done and then dole out the orders. He concentrates on the ultimate goal and allows his team to find their own best way to achieving it while providing support along the way.
  • Don’t hold on too tight, trust and rely on others. No one expects you to do it all
  • Don’t be a know it all, ask questions and know where to get the information that you need
  • You are the coordinator of resources, not the resource. You are the captain inspiring the entire team to high achievement. This is easier, has the best results, and exceed expectations. It is the very definition of leadership.
  • Persistence, Clear Expectations, and Support (how to build a high performing team)
  • Concentrate on what you expect the finished product to be, allow them to do it however they feel is best.
  • You will make employees loyal if you stand up for them. Let them know you will protect them and support them no matter what.
  • Always give your employees public credit for their ideas and work, not destroys a team spirit more quickly than having a boss take credit for a team’s hard work.
  • It is impossible to be friends with your employees and develop them into members of a high powered team at the same time
  • To be truly effective you need to help your employees uncover the answers they already have.
  • An employee carrying out their own idea will move heaven and earth to make is successful.
  • Ask questions and get the employee to come up with their own answer.
  • If you allow people to be free they will have nothing to rebel against and they will be able to achieve at their highest potential
  • You are not on a pedestal, you are the foundation. You are the platform.
  • Your employees don’t work for you, you work for them. You are not in power, you are in service.
  • Being a manager is hard work and requires learning more about people skills than you ever knew existed.
  • Learning how to be a charismatic leader, and helping others reach their highest potential, can be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done.

Yearly Perf Reviews are not for giving feedback

  • Development should happen every day, not once a year
  • Feedback should be casual, specific, and often. It should be both positive and corrective.
  • Developmental feedback should be a regular event. Your employees should always know where they stand with you, what you need to work on, what your expectations are, and what you are happy with.
  • Small steps build high performance, not big ones. Perf is not the time to make a big corrective move. It’s the time to reward, and document improvements and a job well done.
  • Praise in public, correct in private
  • Disciplining employees is easy if you know the secret formula: clear expectations and consequences

Winning is Everything

  • Put all the tools at your disposal to work for you.
  • You deserve the highest recognition for your efforts, not the brick wall of hidden agendas that stops us in our tracks.
  • You have something of value to contribute. You must learn to act in a way that makes others listen to you; that allows your employer to see your value and talents.
  • The higher you rise, the more positive change you can effect within your organization and corporate America as a whole. Changes that bring the winner’s circle closer for all of us.
  • The company will become a reflection of you as you move higher.
  • Treasure where you started, don’t forget where you came from. Never forget the principles and character that got you to where you are – they are still your foundation and your best protection.