“When you learn how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”
~ Anonymous ~
Client Nathan Asks: I am completely frustrated. As the client development manager for my firm, I am expected to be the “idea person” when it comes to new business development and client relations. And I think I have a ton of good ideas at work. But whenever I get into a staff meeting, my ideas–even my participation in discussions–are almost totally ignored. I’m not a “rah rah” sort of person and maybe that’s what people are expecting. I’m pretty low key and I feel I’m presenting good ideas—it’s just that nobody’s hearing me.
Coach Joel Answers: It’s not unusual for people in almost any role to sometimes have difficulty getting attention, let alone get their ideas accepted and implemented. Here are three things I think you should do right now to improve your acceptance ratio:
- Build a support network
- Support the ideas of your colleagues
- Improve your presentation skills
1. Build a support network. The key to your success is to consult others and build support for big initiatives before you launch them. When you want to introduce a new strategy, schedule a series of one-on-ones with different people within the company—or even outside the company if that’s appropriate. Present your idea and ask for their thoughts, a critique of your plan, and listen. Incorporate what input you can, and you’ll stand a good chance of gaining their buy-in. Be selective about who you choose to hear your ideas. Pick thought leaders, people who have had success implementing their own ideas and whom you can trust to keep it confidential until you’re ready to go public.
2. Support the ideas of your colleagues. There are plenty of ways to increase your visibility in meetings, and one of the easiest ways is to say positive things about the work others are doing. While you’re planning your next big thing, begin to lay the groundwork for support by supporting others. If someone floats a new idea in staff meeting, find something to like about it and say so. You may even add a new piece to it, if that’s appropriate. It’s just simple psychology: people are more likely to support someone who they feel will support them. Pay a compliment after the fact as well: “That was a super idea for revamping the web page, Marcia. Let me know if I can help.”
3. Improve your personal presentation skills. It’s all about having executive presence. To do this, you’re going to have to move beyond your comfort zone. You’ve fallen into the trap of not speaking up because you’ve convinced yourself that nobody’s listening, or worse—that you don’t have any good ideas. Drop those thoughts and begin to practice communicating clearly and decisively. Do this before you bring anything to the table in a meeting. Use Power Point or other visuals to add some spark to your presentation. This will make you feel more confident because you’ll have the information you need right in front of you. And practice, practice, practice.
Right now you and your ideas are being seen in black and white. If you’ll start implementing these three strategies, it won’t be long before you’ll be showing off every idea in HD color.
Do you feel like the Invisible Man (or Woman?) Joel has helped hundreds of clients develop and implement plans for getting heard and getting their ideas accepted. Why not email him today?
Talkback: How do you gain acceptance for your ideas? Share your best strategies here.
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“You can have results or you can have excuses. However, you cannot have both. What’s it gonna be?”
~ Stephen Luke ~
Client Jill Asks: “I just don’t get it. I put in longer hours than anyone in my department. I come to every team meeting and propose at least one creative, new initiative. But I’m just not getting through to anyone. No one notices how hard I work, and no one seems particularly interested in my ideas. And I’m sure not getting any face time with C-level managers. I know I’m missing something here. What is it?”
Coach Joel Answers: You’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re a creative person, so it’s natural that you would focus on the creative part of your business—coming up with new ideas in your workplace, developing unique strategies for your company and your clients. But how are you presenting those? You keep trying to impress people with how creative you are. What you need to do is speak about your ideas in terms of results. Impress them with your outcomes, not your talents or your work ethic.
An article in the Harvard Business Review indicates that 69% of US employers judge their employees’ performance by what they accomplish rather than the hours on their time log. Many companies are removing the barriers of work time and place in order to retain top talent. Employees have the freedom to work when and how they want, as long as they are achieving their productivity goals. (Galinsky, November, 2012.) So let’s shift your focus from ideas to results. Here’s a four-point plan I recommend.
- Be results-driven. When you present a new idea to your boss or your team, state the idea in just a sentence or two. Then go immediately to results. How much revenue will your strategy generate? How will it reduce expenses or improve client services? Give them specific numbers.
- Give them a by-when. Tell them who’s going to do what and when it will be completed. Nothing can tarnish your shining reputation more than not finishing the job, even if you have to be satisfied with less-than-fabulous results. A runner would always rather finish the race, even if she comes in last, rather than drop out halfway through.
- Consistently exceed expectations. If you present an idea and you get the green light from your boss or upper management, go the second (and third) mile to do even better than you said you would. For example, if your boss would be happy with an 8% or 9% increase in client satisfaction numbers, but you know you can bring it in at 10%, promise 8% and then go for 10%. Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Act like a winner. Believe in your ideas and be confident when you present them. Don’t apologize. Act as if it’s already a done deal. Use confident language. Say “when,” not “if.” Avoid words like “maybe,” “possibly,” or “perhaps.” When you believe in yourself, your confidence will expand and you’ll find that others will begin to believe as well.
If you change your emphasis from ideas to results, I promise you’ll get a dramatically different result for yourself as well.
Talkback: Have you been successful at getting a new idea off the ground? How did you do it? Share your experience here.
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“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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