There are no guarantees, of course. But many customers are following the general method that I'm going to explain. It worked for them, and it should work for you.
The plan is based on four great job-protection tips. I'll begin with the tips, and then I'll explain eight steps you can take to turn these general tips into specific job-protection actions.
Tip 1: Be visible.
"Here's the bulletproof truth," Stephen Viscusi writes in his book, Bulletproof Your Job, "if your superiors don't see you or know who you are, you're very easy to let go.
"Hard work alone won't cut it," FORTUNE quotes Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnerfeld. Unless you know that what you're doing is appreciated and noticed, he says, don't bother.
How do you become noticed? Here are some key steps that Viscusi suggests:
Talk to your boss. If you don't talk to your boss regularly, he warns, when layoffs come you'll just be a body in a chair with a bull's-eye on your back.
Publicize your accomplishments without bragging. Better yet, get someone else to publicize them for you.
Grow your circle of professional friends. Make a goal of having at least one friendly contact in every department in your company.
Volunteer to lead. Search for opportunities to lead and to expand your leadership skills and experience.
If you don't become visible, you have little chance of surviving a
layoff. "Out of sight, out of mind, and -- poof! -- you're gone,"
Tip 2: Update your skills.
"The employees who keep their jobs or get hired easily in a recession are the better trained, highly skilled and relatively inexpensive employees," says Kingsley Tagbo, in a recent column posted at it-career-coach.net.
"The employees who advance their skills through hard work and training without always asking for more money ... tend to stay employed even during recessions," he advised.
Viscusi agrees about the training. "I'm obsessed with learning a little more about what
I already know how to do, and with learning at least a little bit about
doing things I don't know at all. It's partly curiosity, but mostly
Tip 3: Increase your value. Be a money-maker.
If you can help to improve the bottom line, your job will be much more secure.
"You can help yourself by demonstrating your value in five ways," one of my customers, Dan Erler, recently wrote me about this issue. Erler is Director of Medical Consulting at Allied Global Services and a top recruiter. You can "help increase sales, help decrease costs, improve operational efficiencies, become a change agent, or become a rainmaker.
"If you impact your organization in one or more of these five ways, and make sure your contributions get noticed, you won't be first or second in line to be let go."
Tip 4: Control what you can...immediately.
This probably is the most important tip.
"The key to weathering a crisis like this is, first, to understand what you can control and what you can't," Bright said in FORTUNE magazine. Even when things are really tough, she says, you have more control than you think.
"It's important for your own survival to do what you can - as opposed to backing into a corner and waiting for the ax to fall."
You control Excel.
This is good news because the Instant Job Control method offers Excel
users a low-risk way to act on these four tips immediately. And it doesn't matter
whether you're an Excel beginner or an expert.
Introducing Instant Job Control
There's one small catch to Instant Job Control: It's designed for ordinary Excel users like Scott Papay, Bill Lalor, and Kathy Grant. It's not designed for Excel developers or professional programmers.
If you're an ordinary Excel user -- a nurse, an accountant, a sales professional, a recruiter, an engineer, an executive assistant, and so on -- that is, if you were hired for your professional knowledge but not necessarily for your Excel skills -- then the Instant Job Control method is for you.
But if you're an Excel programmer or developer, you might have a more difficult time. Here's why: Instant Job Control is designed to make your professional knowledge -- not necessarily your Excel knowledge -- more visible and useful to your employer. And it's designed to help you increase both your professional and Excel knowledge. So if all you can offer is your Excel knowledge, you'll need to work even harder.
An Overview of Instant Job Control
The process is simple:
You'll create an Excel dashboard report that makes it easier for your boss to understand your organization's performance. You'll be sure to add your name and contact information to the bottom of the report, giving you visibility. You'll suggest that your boss distribute the report to others, perhaps including her own boss. This should take less than a week.
Next, you'll create other reports for other managers, and suggest that they distribute those reports. Also, you'll help other Excel users in your company to create their own Excel dashboard reports.
Soon, many managers in your organization will be getting more useful information that's easier to read. And you'll be the person who's driving that effort.
By following this approach, you will have implemented all four of the tips above. And you'll have much greater control over your future employment.
Here are eight specific steps to follow:
Step 1. Decide the Content of Your First Report
Today, visit Plug-N-Play #1 (if you're new to Excel) or Plug-N-Play #2. These pages show thumbnails of their Excel dashboard reports. Click on the thumbnails to see full-sized versions of the reports.
Concentrate on the reports that have fewer charts and no tables, because those reports will take the least time to set up.
When you find a report you like, right-click the full-size image, choose Copy or Copy Image (depending on your browser), open a new workbook in Excel, and then press Ctrl+V to paste the image to your spreadsheet. Adjust your margins so that the image will print on one page, and then print your spreadsheet using a black and white printer. (There's no need to use color at this point.)
Initially, each figure on your printed page will have the name of a city. Scratch out the city name and write a title of the information you think your boss -- or his boss -- would find useful. Plan to show those measures as they change over time. You can include measures of currency, key ratios, numbers of people or products, rates or percentages...whatever information your managers will find most useful.
If possible, include at least one measure that relies on data that's not available from your data warehouse. This might involve performance benchmarks, economic data, measures of competitor performance, data from "silo" systems, and so on. This is because Excel dashboards can display this type of data easily, and you probably will want to demonstrate that power to your boss.
It would be best if you have immediate access to the data that
each of your figures requires, but that's not absolutely necessary for this
step. However, you should have a good idea about how to obtain the data you
Step 2. Accumulate Your Data
Also today, obtain copies of the data that each figure requires and copy this data to one or more spreadsheets for easy access. In some cases, you might need to key it into your spreadsheet from a printed report.
If you must, enter estimates of the data as a placeholder. Your
initial dashboard will only be a prototype, so estimates are okay at
Step 3. Set Up Your Dashboard Report
Also today, get a Plug-N-Play dashboard template. If you don't know a lot about Excel, Plug-N-Play #1 probably is your best choice. Otherwise, get Plug-N-Play #2 because it offers more power and faster updating. If you're on a very tight budget, one of the Plug-N-Play Samplers will be your best choice.
Now follow the instructions for setting up your dashboard report and choosing the color scheme you like best. Depending on the number of figures in your report, and on the time you have available, you might not finish your dashboard report until tomorrow.
When your preliminary dashboard report is done, print a copy of it in color,
if possible. Otherwise, print the report in black and white.
Step 4. Show Your First Dashboard to Your Boss
Tomorrow or the next day, schedule a short meeting with your boss to show him your new dashboard report. At the meeting, explain that you've found a way to take your company's Excel reports to another level, and you wanted to show him your preliminary report.
Emphasize that the report is only a prototype. Explain that if he wants to display different measures, you can add them easily if data is available. Also, of course, if you've estimated any data, be sure to tell him so, and tell him your plan for getting the actual data, or ask for his help in getting the data, if necessary.
Notice at this point that as you and your boss discuss the contents of the dashboard report, Excel isn't part of the discussion anymore. Instead, you're talking about business substance. You're talking about the information managers need, where the data will come from, and how managers will be able to use each figure to help them improve performance.
This conversation should help you in at least three ways. First, as
you discuss these ideas with your boss you'll probably learn a lot about
the information needs of your company. Second, you and your boss will be
collaborating in ways that you've probably not done before. And third,
you will learn the changes your dashboard report needs for it to delight your
boss, and, perhaps, your boss's boss.
Step 5. Answer Your Boss's Questions About Your Dashboards
Your boss probably will have some questions about your dashboard report. Here are a few that he might ask, and suggested answers:
If your boss asks questions you can't
answer, it's okay to be humble. You're showing him the best-looking
Excel report he's ever seen. You won't need to have all the answers
Step 6. Distribute Your First Report
Only three or four days have passed. You've made the changes your boss asked for, found good data for all the figures, double-checked your results, and created what is probably the best Excel report your company has ever seen. Now it's time to distribute that report.
Before you do so, be sure to add your name to the footer of the report in 7-point type. (This size is large enough to read, but small enough so that people will think you're being helpful by including your contact information, rather than bragging.) You might write something like, "Please contact Jane Doe, extension 1234, with questions about this report." Or, "For additional copies of this dashboard report, contact John Smith, John.Smith@OurCompany.com."
You can distribute your report in at least three ways. You can print it. You can distribute it in a pdf file. And you can copy the report as an image and paste it to the body of an email message. To copy the image, first select the dashboard report in your worksheet, then...
If your email format is set up as anything other than plain text, you probably will be able to paste the image of your report to the body of your email message.
Also, there's a good chance that your boss will like the report so much that she'll want to distribute it herself. You might suggest that idea.
To give you some idea about the potential size of your distribution list, many of my customers in small companies or divisions distribute at least ten printed copies each month. I know of several who distribute hundreds of copies as a pdf file. And I know of one senior manager who distributes 4,000 copies each month as a pdf file.
You also could prepare weekly reports, of course.
Step 7. Expand Your Influence
Nearly a week has passed, and many people have seen your report. The more widely it's distributed, the more likely it will be that other managers will want their own dashboard reports, and will ask you to help them.
Also, with your report in hand, you could approach managers of other departments and offer to set up a similar report for them.
When you create dashboards for other departments, it could be the best opportunity you'll ever have to learn about those departments' key information needs. Because you don't work for those departments, the managers won't expect you to know much about their needs. So it's okay if you ask "stupid" questions like, "Why is that measure important?" "How is it calculated?" "Where does the data come from?" And so on.
Creating dashboards for other departments is a huge opportunity to
expand your knowledge and influence. Be sure to take full advantage of
it. And be sure to take notes.
Step 8. Take a Leadership Role
Eventually, several of your co-workers or their managers will ask you to show them how to create Excel dashboard reports for themselves. If they don't, be sure to volunteer to teach them.
At first, this might seem like a risky step. Your knowledge about Excel dashboard reporting has brought you a lot of attention in a short time. By helping others to learn what you know about dashboards, it might seem that you're sacrificing a strong position in your company.
Realistically, however, they're going to learn about Excel dashboards anyway. And it's likely that some of your co-workers know more about Excel than you do. Eventually, they'll probably produce better-looking and more powerful dashboards than you can. So you're not going to hold onto your unique Excel knowledge in any case.
And besides, you probably don't what to be known in your company only as an Excel geek. Instead, you probably want to be known as a knowledgeable, creative professional who also can do great things with Excel.
Therefore, turn your new knowledge about Excel dashboards into a new opportunity to lead. Tell your co-workers where you learned about Excel dashboards and urge them to buy a copy for themselves. (If you give them copies of what you've purchased, they'll know you're violating my copyright, and that will hurt your reputation over the long run.) Show them how to set up their dashboards, and offer them any advice you can.
Finally, you can formalize your leadership role by starting "Brown Bag Friday" training sessions in your company.
To do so, schedule a conference room for every Friday during the lunch hour, then invite Excel users to bring their lunch and share what they know about dashboards, benchmarking, other Excel topics, and so on. Be sure that one or two people are prepared each week to talk about an Excel topic that they know well. If auditors or consultants are on site, you might also see if one of them could offer unique insights about using Excel.
People will learn a lot in that informal setting; your reports will improve; and your organization's performance could improve as a result.
And you'll get the credit.
When you first read the tips at the beginning of this article, the advice probably seemed difficult to follow.
You probably had questions like...What should you talk about with your boss? Which of your many accomplishments are worthy of publicity? How can you publicize your accomplishments without bragging? How do you make influential friends in your organization? What excuse can you find to lead? What skills should you update? How do you become a change agent? And so on.
Read that first section again. Notice how easy it will be to follow this good advice when you use the Instant Job Control method.
Notice that there's nothing underhanded or manipulative about Instant Job Control. By following these eight steps you actually become the type of person that most managers will work very hard to keep around. And, if the worst does come, you gain outstanding knowledge, experience, and stunning report samples that will enhance your resume and impress other employers.
Also notice that following the Instant Job Control method is risk-free. In the unlikely event that your boss hates your Excel dashboard report, he won't fire you for creating one. And other managers probably will like your results. So you'll still be able to expand your influence, learn more about your company, and find opportunities to lead. Just make sure that you also keep up with your normal workload.
For this method to work, you must be the first person in your office to use it. So you need to get started before someone else beats you to it.