“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door ”
~ Milton Berle ~
You’re good at your job – you have great reviews, get excellent results, and you’re well-liked. Maybe you’re fairly new to your career, or maybe you’ve spent years at the same job without a promotion. Either way, if you if you keep performing, your success will be rewarded…right?
Unfortunately, no. Talent and results alone will not see you succeed. That may seem like a harsh statement after all the hard work you’ve done, but time and again, studies have shown it to be true – good work alone is not enough. You will need to take control and guide your own career in order to attain the success you have worked so hard for.
So what are you going to do? You’ve already done everything in your job description to meet and exceed expectations, so what’s next? In the new art of getting ahead, you’ll need to expand your efforts, and manage the following.
First, take stock of your own true strengths and weaknesses, and then compare them to the perception of your skill level in your organization. Ask yourself:
- Would I consider someone with my perceived skill to be ready to take on the next level challenges at work?
- What are the gaps in my skills?
- Am I missing out on opportunities to showcase my talents?
- Considering my next desired move, what traits would I most like to highlight?
2. Increase your visibility
To get ahead, you have to get noticed. If your upbringing, culture or general personality means you’re someone who is uncomfortable with “tooting your own horn,” don’t despair. While you will have to graciously take credit for the work you’ve done, self-promotion is hardly the only tactic. Consider some of the following to help you make yourself more visible:
- Identify an advocate who can speak on your behalf – with a senior partner, manager or trusted advisor working to raise your profile, you won’t have to be so aggressive in self-promotion.
- Take on high-profile assignments – working on projects with a higher visibility will translate to higher visibility for you. Taking on those things your boss or executive deems important will help make sure that your added value is noticed.
- Leverage opportunities to interact with leaders – seize those chances to rub elbows at meetings, on projects or at volunteer functions with the influential people at your meetings. Engage them in conversation, ask questions and talk to them about your successes.
3. Exert your influence
Finally, leadership requires influence to be successful. People follow leaders they believe in. Influential leaders can build connections across business units, within their teams, and with management above. People – above and below – need to see that you can inspire action and positive change. This is critical and far more potent than any attempt to lead through authority, title or power. Consider your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of:
- Reputation – Consider your work history and where you’ll need to build more value to create a solid foundation.
- Skill set – Examine your areas of expertise. Consider the tools you’ll need to succeed.
- Executive presence – No matter what level you currently lead, when you have executive presence, people are attracted to you as a leader. There are always opportunities to practice that assured sense of self that draws people in.
- Likeability – Does your leadership motivate others? Practice positive, mindful direction – success comes when others inspired by your presence and want to do their best work on your team.
- Persuasion – It is a powerful tool to be able to sway others. Persuasive leaders know how to build consensus and see their point of view.
There’s no doubt that it takes a lot to get ahead. Beyond just hard work and solid results, you need the tools at hand to get noticed and attract others to your cause. Practicing these skills will put you in good stead to land that big project or promotion you’ve been seeking.
Talkback: What techniques have you used to change your perception or increase your visibility? Comment below and share your successes in getting ahead.
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“If you want to get across an idea, wrap it up in a person.”
~ Ralph Bunche ~
Being able to influence upwards allows your ideas to be heard and implemented. This directly enhances your value because you are the owner of that idea. Yet how do you break through the layers of bureaucracy to find advocates for your ideas? Diane McGarry, Xerox’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Success at a big company such as Xerox requires an understanding of the many layers of office politics as well as the confidence to put your best ideas forward. You have to know which people you need to get your ideas in front of in order to get those ideas advanced…”
Diane knows how to present her ideas in order to get them implemented. This is a skill you need to master if you want to be an influential leader in your company. Here are seven ways to sell your ideas through upward influence:
1. Know what’s important to your boss.
Have a clear picture of what is important for your boss. Keep that as a priority and make sure these priorities are met. It’s not about trying to meet your needs, but thinking about how your ideas are beneficial for your boss. Part of your role is to support your boss for his/her goals.
2. Get other stakeholders on board
To buy into your ideas the right stakeholders must be on board. This might require going upward and across the organization to build coalitions. If your stakeholders believe the ideas you are suggesting are what they want to support and invest in, this can influence a decision in your favor.
3. Articulate a clear and defined goal.
Focus on why your idea is so important and should be considered. What is the desired end result? This may take a lot of preparation, but in the end your idea will be easier to sell if you provide realistic projections of the desired outcome.
4. Use facts and data.
How many dollars will be generated by your idea? How will it reduce costs or improve customer service? Facts like these are how you achieve buy-in to your ideas. Spend time researching and providing information based on data so it will have a greater chance of being accepted.
5. Be prepared to answer questions and respond to criticism.
Anticipate how others might question or challenge your proposal. Consider submitting a list of “frequently asked questions” with your idea. If you’re presenting in person, rehearse your sales pitch to fine tune your approach and build your confidence.
6. See yourself as the “owner” of your ideas.
See yourself as being self-employed, even if you work in a large company. Your mind-set should be similar to an entrepreneur who is the owner of his or her ideas. Be confident, and enthusiastic about your idea.
7. Don’t give up.
Don’t be discouraged if someone slams the door on your terrific idea. Maybe your timing wasn’t right or you didn’t consider some of the objections. Take stock in your approach and ask for feedback. If your idea has merit, its time will come. And so will yours.
Do you need help selling your ideas to your superiors? Joel’s executive coaching program provides an individualized action plan to help you reach your specific career goals. Click here to see how it works.
Talkback: Do you have great ideas but lack the confidence to pitch them to management? What are the stumbling blocks that keep you from gathering the courage to make a presentation?
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“Good managers have a bias for action.”
No one ever said it was easy being the boss. In addition to being the point person you are also the fall guy (or gal). People expect a lot from you and whether you are dealing with employees, clients or higher-ups’ they all tend to come from a place of take-take-take. Overall it can be an exhausting position to handle…but are certain factors wearing you out more than others?
While you may be a manager, you need to keep in mind that you are human too. Even if you are not consciously aware of them, hidden biases can affect your decision-making and leadership ability. This is why it is important to be aware of situations where your personal (sometimes even hidden) biases try to take over. Read on to learn how to discover your professional biases and more important, how to overcome them.
Lay Your Biases On The Table
Chances are you hired people onto you team because they shared similar ideals and fostered an attitude that matched your work place. This is common, people tend to gravitate toward people they can relate to; the tendency to act this way actually reinforces your natural biases. The same thing might happen when dealing with clients or higher-ups’, you want those people to get along with you and might not even realize that your compliance is causing you to adopt their own preferences.
The first step in uncovering your biases is to discover the emotion(s) behind them. Say for example, that you hate pitching new clients; your bias requires you to avoid the pitch process at all costs. Now, try to think back to when that “hate” first started. Perhaps in the past you were publicly embarrassed and ridiculed by a client who did not like your pitch.
If you can come to terms with those emotions (embarrassment, shame) that are connected to your prejudice, then you have a better chance of overcoming it. Just because you had a bad pitch experience in the past, does not mean that history is going to repeat itself. Strive to actively work on the professional biases that are holding you and business back.
Refresh Your Leadership Perspective
While you may be able to pinpoint how your biases are holding you back, it may be a little bit more difficult to see how they are holding your team members back too. Say for example, your distaste for gossip causes you to glaze over the office chatterbox. Just because you do not like the talkative attribute, does not mean that that employee does not have great qualities to offer. For example, your office’s social butterfly could be the perfect person to head up your social media accounts.
Flip the example; say as a talkative person, you never really connected with the shy person on your team. Without really noticing, you might pass pet projects onto people you know better because your shy co-worker never seems to come to mind. You can see here how personal biases can make you a bad boss. Just because you don’t like a quality about someone or you don’t necessarily connect to it, does not mean you should pass those people the short end of the stick.
Ask yourself, what are my natural leadership tendencies? What motivations drive those tendencies? What emotions are attached to them? With some introspective thought and exploration, your biases can come to light, and from there you can work on changing them.
It’s only natural to foster some personal biases, however you have the power to eliminate them for the better. Throughout this process, don’t undervalue the power of your team. Because of the distance, they might be able to spot those tendencies with greater ease than you can.
Share with your team that you’re trying to freshen up your leadership style. Ask them if they would be willing to share their thoughts on policies and procedures they think would benefit from being changed.
Understand that not everyone will be comfortable critiquing their boss so do your best to provide anonymity with blind feedback. By asking them what things they might like to see a change in, you could open yourself up to other biases and new opportunities for fair improvement.
Talkback: What career and leadership biases have you uncovered? Share your ideas below.
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“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
~ Michael Jordan ~
Robin Greene was smart and successful; she was often the go-to person on her team if someone needed advice and she was always open to giving it. So when an internal promotion opened up and Robin looked around her, it seemed that she was the only one really deserving of it. However, three days later, she overheard loud and chatty Bill boasting about how he’d just been promoted.
Frustrated, Robin questioned her boss, Isaac, about how this could’ve happened. His answer: Robin was really good at what she did but Bill understood how to increase visibility in the organization and build influence, which had ultimately landed him the promotion.
Isaac offered Robin some sound advice to help her increase her own visibility in the organization to give her a better chance at getting the promotion next time:
Don’t make your work look too easy. Isaac suggested that although she didn’t actually say it, Robin’s attitude had often been, “This is simple and anyone could do this.” Simple or not, Robin was sabotaging her own success by undervaluing her skills and strengths. Isaac urged Robin to first value her own skill sets and then market herself on how her unique skills helped her to stand out and be more visible among her peers.
Build influence up, down, and laterally. Robin’s work was commendable, but it wasn’t recognized or visible. Isaac told Robin how important it was to build positive relationships with those above her, those she supervised, cross-departmentally, and externally. “Influence is essential to getting ahead,” emphasized Isaac. Along with increasing visibility, the higher up you want to go in a company the more influence you need to have.
Hire a professional coach. If Robin wanted to advance fast, Isaac suggested she employ the services of an experienced executive coach who could help accelerate her development and save her from learning things the hard way. A career advancement coach would offer hands-on tools and teach her ways to increase visibility at work without self-promoting, build influence correctly, and also help with other key areas like developing executive presence.
Have you just missed a promotion? Have you wondered, “How can I increase my visibility in the organization in order to get ahead?” Do you want to learn the trade secrets of building influence?
For immediate answers and real results that work, invest in a comprehensive executive coaching program today.
Talkback: Are you a woman slipping under the radar while male employees get ahead of you? What steps are you taking in your organization, to increase your visibility? Share your story in the comments below!
“Leadership is no longer about your position. It’s now more about your passion for excellence and making a difference. You can lead without a title.”
~ Robin Sharma ~
A new manager, holding his first ever team meeting in a company that sold medical devices, assumed that an important matter had unanimously been agreed on when one team member called out, “Would this solution have pleased Mr. Hardy?”
Right away, other team members started jotting down notes and brainstorming more ideas.
The new manager later learned that Mr. Hardy had been part of the firm for over 25 years. He had never been a manager, and in fact saw budding youngsters with flashing MBAs get ahead of him. However, whenever a key decision had to be made on a new product or the company came up with a new initiative, he would ask, “Is this the best we can do? How can we create real change in someone’s life?”
Some mocked him, but there were those who listened. That question sparked innovation, leading to enhanced user interface design, better quality assurance, and universally designed products that took the medical device market by storm.
Over the years, it became somewhat customary for employees old and new to question whether their solution or idea was good enough to satisfy Mr. Hardy.
Here are three ways Mr. Hardy practiced leadership at his lower level position and showed others how to become powerful leaders:
- Striving for excellence. Although Mr. Hardy didn’t have the qualifications or skills to make it high up the ranks, what he did have was the ability to bring out the best in others who possessed those skills. He got highly skilled staff to constantly ask themselves if they could do something better.
- Giving a gentle reminder. With so many distractions in the workplace today, it can be easy to drift from the company’s mission. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of what role you play, and how you too can become a powerful leader—not only in your job, but in the way your work helps humanity at large. This can be motivating enough to keep you excelling at any level.
- Changing the company culture. The motivation that you get from your paycheck and perks can only take you so far. For your career to truly become a calling, you have to believe in what you do. Mr. Hardy helped instill an important ingredient his company was missing—passion. Collective passion was powerful enough to lead Mr. Hardy’s company to greatness.
You don’t need a title to be a powerful leader—all you need is courage. Good leaders can be found at any level of a company. Mr. Hardy’s need to drive corporate change for the good was so genuine that it was contagious.
Talkback: Have you done something extraordinary to stand out as a leader in your company? Have you practiced leadership regardless of your position? We’d love to hear your story.