“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. ~
Jonathan is a valued member of his company – over the past few years, he has become a solid performer and a cheerleader for others his team. His colleagues know they can rely on him and his peers are always eager to have him on their next project. But Jonathan is feeling like the senior managers are never going to take notice of all his hard work. In our coaching sessions, Jonathan and I have worked on a plan to have him stand out and be noticed. Do you need a similar plan? Does this describe you?
You’ve put in your time, built your skillset, proven your value and become a solid, consistent and reliable member of the team. Your colleagues (and maybe your staff) look to you to for advice and leadership – in your group, your opinion matters. Now it’s time to take those next steps that will get you noticed by those above, and to learn how you can get ahead and succeed in your organization.
Consider the following three areas and build the skills you need to stand out and be seen:
1. Learn to Think Like Your Boss
Time spent with those senior to you is precious – learn to make the most of it by tailoring your message to align with their concerns. The information you convey to them in your minutes together should relevant to their interests and priorities whenever possible. Learn what matters to each senior person with which you interact – you will need to know specifically:
- what they consider important
- what initiatives they are currently championing, and
- how they are measuring value and success.
The more relevant you and your messages seem to each person in upper management, the more likely you are to gain their support.
2. Become a strong speaker and presenter
Some people loathe speaking in front of a group; some revel in the spotlight. Wherever you fall on the scale, you will need to build your presenting skills, really hone your speaking style, and put your misgivings aside.
Giving great presentations will, not surprisingly, lead to being asked to present more often, which puts you front and centre with upper management more often. When you’re seen, you gain credibility along with familiarity, and higher ups start to see you as more of a peer.
Consider seeking out classes or coaching to build up your speaking and presenting skills and prepare you to confidently put your best ideas forward. In the meantime, consider these top tips for a great presentation:
- Be concise – don’t ramble, and keep your speaking well within the time allotted. Limit the number of slides in your deck, and don’t jam them full of info. If you have to reduce the font below 30pt, it’s probably too much.
- Don’t Um – whenever you feel tempted to say ‘um’ or ‘ah’, try taking a small breath in to compose yourself and your thoughts. It might feel strange, but the audience probably won’t notice and it will improve the confidence and credibility of your message.
- Slow down and Make Eye Contact – resist the urge to speed through your presentation, as rushing implies discomfort, lack of experience and disbelief in the ideas being presented. Make eye contact with everyone in the room – not just the decision makers.
3. Align yourself with the Big Picture
Just like aligning with your bosses’ priorities, understanding how you fit within your company’s overall strategic picture is invaluable. When you fully grasp your organization’s values, goals and targets, you are better able to focus your energies on the areas that will really be noticed and rewarded by those above you. Demonstrating that you know what is important and that you are motivated to realizing the company’s strategy can make you seem more of “one of the team” with executives tasked with executing that overall strategy.
Want to hone your presence and presentation skills? Hire Joel Garfinkle to help you develop a step-by-step plan for standing out and getting noticed.
Talkback: What tips do you have for presenting and really connecting with your audience? Comment below and share your successes in getting noticed.
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“I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”
~ Jonas Salk ~
Client Leanne Asks: I’ve positioned myself well by creating a number of opportunities which can raise my visibility with my firms’ leaders. Now I’m stuck in the middle. I have to execute on all the new work, build and maintain my pipeline of new projects, and do my actual day job besides. My concern is that I don’t have the band-width or energy to do all these things at once. How do I optimize the time I spend on the high visibility items?
Coach Joel Answers: What got you here won’t get you there. Do the job you want, not the job you have. Here’s the way I see it: You put a lot of things out there that you could work on – projects that have high visibility and put you in the public eye as far as your superiors are concerned. You volunteered for a number of things, thinking only one or two would come through, but instead you ended up with three new assignments. Now what?
These are all projects that will help you in your career with the company because you are creating opportunities to interact with people in other departments and show them how talented and how great you are. Your new projects not only have visibility, they also add influence, impact and value to the firm.
Here’s what I would do: Create a three-column chart on your computer. Lay out all your responsibilities and ask yourself what HAS to get done. What do you need to be doing to continue your success at your current baseline level so you don’t throw up any red flags? You might have one third that has to get done on your current job, one third that relates to the job you want to have—that is your visibility stuff, and the last third is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less importance on. This will equate to more time and energy for the things that count. Think about ways you can eliminate work or delegate to someone else.
And here’s the way to approach the delegation piece of it. Present it as a training process—you’re not only moving ahead in the company, you’re training someone else to follow in your footsteps and learn important pieces of your job, so nothing will be left undone when you move to the next level.
In order to keep moving up the ladder as you want to do, you must do three things simultaneously:
- You must understand what your superiors need and want, not just from you but for the future of the company. And you must understand where you fit into that plan.
- You must empower your subordinates. That’s where the training piece we talked about comes into play.
- You must build relationships with your peers. You’re all on the same team, and when you help other people win, you win too.
If you can do those three things, you’ll increase your visibility and reach the next level sooner than you think.
Are you stuck between the job you have and the job you want? Implement our three-part model this week to determine how you can create more high visibility assignments that will move you to the next level.
Talkback: Have you successfully moved to a higher level of your organization? What did you do to increase your visibility with your superiors? Share your experience here.
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“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.”
~ Margaret Cho ~
Rosie has been with her company for a little less than a year. Last month she had a very positive performance review with Jake, her immediate boss. During the review, Rosie told Jake that she felt she could handle a bigger workload, and Jake seemed to agree, but nothing happened.
Yesterday Rosie found out that Jan, a co-worker with the same job title she has, was promoted—and it’s been only a year since her last promotion. Rosie knows Jan earned it, but now she’s wondering how to ask for a similar opportunity to prove herself. Rosie wonders if she should have been more aggressive in her review with Jake and in following up afterward. Of course Jan’s promotion is unrelated to Rosie’s performance, but now Rosie wants to ask for larger-scale projects and more important work without seeming like she’s jealous or resentful of Jan.
If, like Rosie, you’re feeling stifled at work and would like to take on more responsibility and get promoted, Step One is to share your aspirations openly and specifically with your boss. Don’t be shy. Ask your boss exactly what you need to do to get promoted. The more clarity you have on the specific steps you should take, the easier it will be for you to take action and achieve your goals. Over the next three to six months, schedule time every two to four weeks to discuss your progress.
Here are some of the questions Rosie asked Jake:
- How does the promotion process work?
- What do I need to be doing over the next three to six months to get promoted?
- What kind of data or information can I provide you to document my progress?
- What larger-scale projects can I own right now?
- Do I need to increase my visibility with other decision-makers to improve my chances for promotion?
When it comes to visibility with other company leaders, especially C-level managers, Jake had some specific suggestions for Rosie. In addition to taking on larger scale projects, Jake suggested Rosie look for projects outside her own specific area, particularly projects that were being neglected or that no one wanted to do. Completing an “orphaned” project successfully is a great way to gain visibility. Jake also suggested that Rosie look for one or more advocates, either inside or outside the company who would be willing to speak up on her behalf. An advocate can easily raise your profile with your boss’s boss and other high level executives by publicizing your successes.
Rosie took Jake’s advice and developed her game plan. She volunteered to head up the company’s web site revamp—a project that had been languishing for a year for lack of leadership. She completed it successfully in less than three months, and both Jake and her recently recruited advocate made sure everyone—including the company president—knew what she had done. It was no surprise that Rosie got that coveted promotion at her next performance review.
If you’ve been passed over for a promotion, or even if you’d just like to take on more challenges where you are, now is the time to act. Develop a list of five actions you could take immediately to improve your visibility. Then schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss them.
Talkback: Have you successfully improved your visibility in your company? How did you do it? Share your experience here.
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“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
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“Successful people turn everyone who can help them into sometime mentors.”
~ John Crosby ~
Virginia is hoping to be promoted soon. She approached me to find out what she can do to increase her chances of getting the position she desires.
As I told Virginia, there is one thing you can do that is so important, you are practically shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t do it.
Studies have shown that a mentoring relationship with an influential individual can increase your chances of being promoted by more than 80 percent. So if you don’t have a mentor, it’s time to get one now.
A mentor can help you understand the culture and inner workings of the organization. He or she can work with you to create career plans, improve areas of weakness, provide honest feedback and introduce you to other supportive people.
Katherine Klein, a Wharton management professor, says that mentoring is “a sounding board and a place where it’s safe to be vulnerable and get career advice. It’s a relationship where one can let one’s guard down, a place where one can get honest feedback, and a place, ideally, where one can get psychological and social support in handling stressful situations.”
Klein adds, “Mentors also should have an understanding of the organization’s values, culture and norms so they can pass these along to mentees. The mentor should be sensitive to the mentee’s needs and wishes, and enhance the mentee’s career potential, while simultaneously looking for ways the mentee’s potential can benefit the organization.”
Often, when initiating the mentoring relationship, you may feel like you are invading your mentor’s space and time. You may be hesitant to reach out and ask for help. However, the mentor also gains from the relationship; says Klein “You get the satisfaction of seeing somebody develop. And don’t forget that mentees may be in a position to help the mentor at some point.
“Mentees may also make the mentor look good.” Terri Scandura, a management professor and dean of the graduate school of the University of Miami, says, “Dealing with a person who is your junior improves your network. Mentors know more about what goes on in lower levels when they deal with mentees. Junior people can provide information to mentors…. [They] are up on the latest technology and knowledge. So it’s an interactive process: Mentors and protégés become co-learners.”
Here are some tips for selecting a mentor:
1. Choose someone you (and others) respect.
Identify an individual who you admire who has accomplished things you hope to accomplish some day.
2. Your mentor should have influence and power in the organization.
This, along with their knowledge, experience and competence, will help to open doors and introduce you to other influential people in the organization.
3. He or she is willing to invest time and is committed to your success.
Look for a respected person who is your senior and is willing to invest time in – and take responsibility for – your success and development. Likely candidates are executives with a reputation for helping others succeed.
4. Good mentors ask tough questions and hold you accountable.
Honesty and trust are critical in a mentoring relationship. He or she will offer constructive criticism when necessary, but will also take joy in your triumphs. The situation is considered ideal when both individuals – the mentor and the mentee – learn and grow as a result of the relationship.
5. Work with a mentor who is positive and enthusiastic.
Your goal is not just to learn from a mentor, but to be inspired. A good mentor is upbeat and optimistic. If you’re energized and raring to go after meeting with him or her, you’ll know you’ve selected the ideal person!
Are you ready to take action to make that next promotion happen? Sign up for Joel’s Career Advancement Coaching program and learn exactly what you need to do to take your career to the next level.
Talkback: Do you have a mentor? How did you find him or her? Do you have any tips to add for our readers?
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