HomeBreaking BambooBreaking Bamboo: How to stay ahead in the corporate game

Breaking Bamboo: How to stay ahead in the corporate game

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

  1. In my company, there’s definitely a positive tone in meetings that can seem over the top. How can I talk the talk without being insincere?

Start by recognizing why it is important to often have positive tones in company meetings. Building companies is hard work. Inventing something new, beating the competition, and working with others in a stressful environment are all challenges companies face every day. 

To weather these challenging (and sometimes depressing) times, I always encourage people to maintain a positive attitude and can-do spirit. This can help you weather the storms and recharge your energy for the challenges ahead. Since work (and life) is a series of roller coasters, it’s important to celebrate the wins and also talk optimistically about opportunities.

That being said, I don’t believe it is helpful to be pollyannaish or positive to the point of being delusional. That serves no purpose and can lead to groups losing sight of key risks and, even worse, a delusion that could infect the entire company.


The best way to counter this delusion is to use one of my favorite tools in business: the pre-mortem. It’s a tool I’ve used in which I imagine a best-laid plan failing and then work backwards to figure out how it could have gone wrong. So if you feel that people are being overly optimistic, pre-mortem everything so that your team doesn’t suffer from overconfidence.

2. What’s your advice on reading your boss to manage your career and stay a step ahead in the corporate game?

If I had to master only one thing about reading people, it would be to figure out when they’re lying. That’s more than enough in helping you on your path. It takes skill and practice, but the first order of business is to determine the natural state for your audience. Establish a baseline. How do they normally act when they say something you know is true? How do they change their body language when they lie? This comes with familiarity, but over time you conclude the same thing as your Friday night poker buddies. 

We all have tells, like they won’t look you in the eye, or they look down if they’re feeling a little guilty. Dilated pupils are another dead giveaway because lying taxes our brain, and heart, more than truth-telling. If someone tries not to break eye contact for more than seven seconds when you ask about your promotion or gives you chapter and verse on why the bonus pool is smaller this year, then that’s a sign of fibbing. 

Master the amateur hour giveaways like evading questions or inconsistent answers, then perhaps one day you’ll be able to discern Bernie Madoff from Bernie Sanders.

3. I disagree with the direction of the company which is struggling. Is it suicidal to bring up these differences I have? I want to help with solutions.

If you disagree with the direction of the company, I would start with preparing the requisite evidence. Since I was an engineer in school, I am a big fan of the scientific method. This means applying the following process:

  1. Recognize the problem that is plaguing the company,
  2. Collect data through observation and experiment to validate the problem (which shouldn’t be too hard given the company is struggling), and
  3. Formulate and test your hypotheses.

Assuming you now have identified the problem facing your company, come up with a plan of attack. Determine several solutions that are doable with varying degrees of resources and execution risk.

Once you have this solution plan, I would recommend respecting the chain of command. Present your plan to your immediate supervisor. If you are getting nowhere, and you still feel you have the right plan to save the company, go above your supervisor to their boss all the way to the CEO. 

At this point, you’re either staying on the deck of the Titanic or you will be thrown off the ship if your boss disagrees with your actions. Either way, you’re heading for an iceberg anyway so you have nothing to lose. The worst thing that could happen is you lose your job. The best thing is that you might actually be able to save your company!

About the Author

Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.

You can apply what he learned in your own career by reading his new book, The Way of the Wall Street Warrior. AsAmNews receives a small commission if you follow the link and purchase his book from Bookshop.org.

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