Why You Need an Advocate at Work

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“I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

~ Maya Angelou ~

Melanie is in a total funk. She’s been supervisor in her high tech company for almost three years now. When she first came on board, she was considered somewhat of a superstar, a high potential, high achieving future leader. Lately, however, she feels she’s been fading into the woodwork. She’s not being asked to take on high profile projects. Sometimes she’s not even invited to brainstorming sessions or brown bag lunches—those informal, off-the-record meetings where a lot of new ideas and strategies are being discussed. What could possibly be wrong?

Melanie unburdens herself to a close pal over lunch. Her friend listens patiently for a few minutes and then interrupts the litany of complaints with this advice: “Girlfriend, what you need is an advocate!”

“What’s that?”

Immediately Melanie begins to research the whole topic of advocates at work. Shortly, she has put together a four-step plan to raise her profile by using advocates. Here’s the plan:

  • Advocate for yourself first
  • Make your boss a partner
  • Look up
  • Look out

1.  Advocate for yourself first. Before you can ask anyone else to speak up on your behalf, which is what advocates do, you need to know your own strengths and your potential for growth. Start by creating a three-column spreadsheet with these headings:

  • What I do well
  • What I like to do
  • What I need to learn

Once you have a clear picture of who you are now and what potential you have, you are ready for Step 2:

2. Make your boss a partner. Almost everyone loves being asked for advice. Maybe you already have a good relationship with your boss, or maybe the relationship needs a little nurturing. Either way, schedule a one-on-one and ask him/her to help you create a personal development plan. This can include new projects or initiatives you’d like to tackle, courses or seminars you want to take—anything related to your professional growth is fair game. Come up with a timeline and begin to implement your plan.

3. Look up. The best place to find your first advocate is probably somewhere on the ladder above you in the company. Begin to notice people whose style and executive presence you admire. Then use the same technique you developed in Step 2—ask for advice. Over a cup of coffee or in some other informal setting, share an idea or project you’re working on. Ask for their input. Then ask for their help. “Joe, I need someone who knows me and can help me raise my profile a bit. Would you be willing to speak up about my accomplishments to some of your colleagues?”

4. Look out. Use the same strategy to find people outside the company who can act as your personal publicist. It may be a client, or someone in a professional organization, or just a friend who has contacts inside your company. Ask for their input on your ideas; then ask them to look for opportunities to speak up for you.

And above all, don’t forget to say “thank you.”

Three months after she began to implement her plan, Melanie landed a couple of high profile assignments and found that she was back on the company radar screen and moving ahead again.

Feeling invisible? Perhaps you could use an advocate or two. Email Joel today, and he will help you put together a plan.

Talkback: Have you successfully recruited advocates to help raise your profile at work? Share your experience here.

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The New Art of Getting Ahead

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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.

1. Improve your image

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.

Want to learn more about getting ahead? Hire Joel Garfinkle to help you develop a step-by-step plan for career advancement.

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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Stand Out at Work – #1 Key for Advancement

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“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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Are you Afraid to Speak Up at Meetings
When you Have Good Ideas?

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“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

~ Coco Chanel ~

Casey is facing a dilemma. She has always considered herself a leader. And she’s always been considered a leader by others. At work, she consistently brings out the best in her people by encouraging them, listening to them, empowering them, and letting them know they are important and that their opinions matter.

Lately, however, Casey has become The Reluctant Leader. She feels she is not being noticed for all her hard work and accomplishments. Yet she doesn’t feel comfortable bragging, talking about how great she is, or publicly calling attention to all her accomplishments. 

In recent meetings and encounters with her boss and other C-level employees, she is consciously choosing not to speak up when she knows she should. She wonders if she’s just come down with a temporary case of shyness, or if this has the potential to become a real problem. In discussing it with me, Casey lists these reasons for her reluctance:

  • I’m afraid of stepping on peoples’ toes
  • I feel like people know my strengths and they should ask for my input
  • Sometimes I feel like punishing people for not listening to me by letting them struggle and find the answers on their own
  • I even think sometimes that I have the wrong answer and don’t want to embarrass myself by speaking up.

As Casey’s coach, I concluded that she had probably become a bit too comfortable in her comfort zone. Sometimes it’s easy to figure that “once a leader, always a leader,” so you quit trying to raise your visibility with the bosses. I offered Casey this checklist of ideas to jump start the raising of her profile.

  1. Volunteer for a high visibility project. Look for something that has serious consequences at the senior management level, or that has been perceived to be challenging or risky by others. Focus on something with real results, including bottom line impact.
  1. Find cross – departmental opportunities that will expand both your horizons and your visibility. If you work in accounting, look for a project in sales, marketing, or communications. If you work in sales, look for ways to get a thorough understanding of the support functions in the company. It will make you a better sales manager and your superiors will notice your initiative.
  1. If you have a bright idea or an answer to some recurring problem, look for the right occasion to speak up, preferably in a meeting where top brass are present. Volunteer to make it happen too—don’t just leave it on the table.

Don’t wait until you feel comfortable to start changing your approach. Nobody’s perfect, and even if you implement all these action items, you’ll make mistakes along the way. Don’t let that discourage you. Just dust yourself off and keep talking.

Casey implemented all these ideas over the next month, and found that her reluctance to speak up all but disappeared and she was once again the leader she thought herself to be. 

Make a list of where and how you could implement each of these ideas. Then start implementing them this week.

Talkback: Have you successfully raised your visibility at work? What ideas worked for you? Share your experience here.

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Share Your Achievements to Get Recognition at Work

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“It is important that you recognize your progress and take pride in your accomplishments. Share your achievements with others. Brag a little. The recognition and support of those around you is nurturing.”

~ Rosemarie Rossetti ~

Client Matt Asks: I never seem to get the recognition I deserve for my work, but I’m afraid to say anything because it might seem like I’m bragging. Is it appropriate to mention my accomplishments to others at work?

Coach Joel Answers: You know you’re good at what you do and deserve to get more recognition, increased responsibility and a probably even a promotion. But does anyone else know?

Many employees are passed by or completely overlooked simply because senior management doesn’t know how valuable they are.

In a Newsweek article, Sharon Allen, Chairman of the board, Deloitte &Touche USA, said: “Take responsibility for your own career. Don’t assume that others are aware of the good work you’re doing. When I was a young accountant, I was unhappy about not getting a promotion. I went to my supervisor and told him all of these things that I thought I should be given credit for and he said, ‘Well, gee, I didn’t know that you had done all of these things.’ It was a real wakeup call. You don’t have to be a bragger, but I think it’s very important that we make people aware of our accomplishments…”

Your accomplishments are the currency you use to calculate your value to the company. When tracking accomplishments, focus on:

  • Business results.
  • The value you’ve provided to the company.
  • Fact-based, concrete details.
  • The specific feedback you receive from others.
  • Quantifiable data is especially persuasive because it measures the impact of your accomplishments.

Not only does tracking your accomplishments create concrete examples of your value, the tracking process itself will give you confidence. As you become aware of your progress, you will be more comfortable telling others, in specific terms, how you provide value to the company.

Like Ms. Allen says, you don’t have to be a bragger. Take advantage of opportunities to communicate your accomplishments. If others don’t hear about them from you, they can only operate from perception and second-hand information.

If you’re unsure about how much self-promotion is too much, Joel’s coaching program will provide you with a customized action plan to help you leapfrog your way to the top of the career ladder. Click here for more information.

Talkback: Do you get the recognition you deserve at work? What can you do to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments?

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