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.

Image courtesy of Krasimira Nevenova / fotolia.com

How to Get Your Shy Employees to Speak up in Meetings

Woman with Megaphone

“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

~ Thomas A. Edison ~

When it came to programming complicated scripts, Anita’s manager, David, knew that she understood Java like the back of her hand. Anita was a hard-working, diligent worker but she was awfully quiet. She would sit in meetings and not say a word. It almost seemed as if she wasn’t engaged at all, yet her work was at par or above her peers who beamed confidence and shared their ideas for new scripts and software improvements with passion and assertiveness.

David recognized Anita’s potential and knew that if Anita spoke up in meetings, her ideas and contributions could be very valuable to the rest of the team.

Here are three things you can learn from how David helped Anita feel comfortable and confident enough to contribute, share her ideas, speak up in meetings, and eventually overcome her shyness:

  1. Use their names. Calling on an employee by name is a great way to get them to participate. Make the employee feel comfortable by asking a simple question. Asking them to share their opinion rather than come up with an idea is a great start. For example, David encouraged Anita’s involvement by asking, “Anita, we’ve discussed two possible options; is there one you’re more inclined toward and why?”
  2. Take the employee aside. David quietly took Anita aside after one meeting and expressed his desire for group participation. He then casually inquired about what was holding her back from speaking up in meetings. David discovered that Anita lacked self-confidence and felt she didn’t really have anything important worth sharing. David reinforced Anita’s self-esteem by telling her that she was smart and had excellent insight and was doing herself and her team a disservice by not participating.
  3. Encourage mentorship. Pairing a shy employee with a fellow co-worker or mentor can help them to build positive relationships at work and actually elevate their confidence and comfort levels at meetings. But David decided to try something a little more outside the box. In an attempt to push Anita out of her comfort zone, David paired Anita with a new employee to train him and get him up to speed with everything the current project entailed.

In a few short months David noticed Anita getting more involved in meetings. In a private consultation, David asked Anita to share what had made a difference. Anita pointed out that training another employee had helped her to discover her own strengths and abilities, many of which she had taken for granted or never even known she had. This helped develop and build her confidence.

This boost of confidence in turn helped her to proactively offer her input at meetings. When she observed that her ideas were getting noticed and praised, she built up even more confidence to share more. This eventually led to taking initiative and assuming more responsibilities.

A year later, Anita became the new team leader for a million-dollar software program. David has advanced to another firm but Anita still remembers him for helping her to develop her true potential and thinks of him fondly as the manager who taught her how to speak up in meetings.

Do you want to get ahead at work but don’t know how and your manager’s not helping? Enlist the services of an executive coach  or read my book to build perception, increase your visibility and exert influence in the workplace today.

Talkback: How have you learned to overcome shyness to be an active and engaged participant at meetings? Share your ideas and stories below. 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Warning Signs That You Need to Increase Visibility at Work

Increase Visibility

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

~ Will Rogers ~

Are you asking yourself the question, “How do I increase visibility at work?” If you’re not, you should be. According to executive coach Joel Garfinkle, increasing your visibility and getting known in your organization is critical to landing the promotion you want, getting others to value your work, and getting ahead in your career.

So how do you judge if you’re visible enough or not? Here are three warning signs to help you determine whether you need to work on being more visible:

Warning #1: You pay no attention to branding.

Branding or creating a unique identity for yourself is crucial. Without creating your personal brand it can be incredibly difficult to stand out. Let’s face it: Your firm may be saturated with talented people just like you doing the exact same thing. So how do you stand out? Identify the key areas that you shine at and become known as an “expert” in those areas in your firm. By doing this you can very easily become the first person people go to when they need help in that area. This helps increase your visibility at work.

Warning #2: You’re afraid to take risks.

Do you speak up in meetings? Do you hold back at expressing an innovative idea you have for a new product? If you’re more comfortable taking on a passive role—staying in the safety of your comfort zone and hiding in the shadows while others take the limelight—don’t be alarmed if they’re the ones who land promotions and get ahead of you at work. To increase visibility you must be willing to take a risk. That means not being afraid to share your ideas and take responsibility for new tasks.

Warning #3: You rarely talk to senior executives.

Do you hang around the water cooler with your co-workers and have lunch with the same people every day? Do you ever try to strike up a conversation with upper-level management or attempt to get them to know you? Well, that’s definitely warning sign number three. Associate with people whom you aspire to be like and show them the value you provide to them. Try to get to know your boss’s boss and volunteer for opportunities that will give you a chance to interact with those above you.

To read a case study on how a senior director at a large corporation increased his visibility at work to get the promotion he wanted, head over to a recent blog post I wrote titled: Stand Out! Seven Ways to Increase Your Visibility at Work.

To learn how to use visibility along with perception and influence to get ahead in your career, read my new book, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Shine When the Competition Gets Tough

Eco Energy Saver Light Bulb
“Nobody’s a natural. You work hard to get good and then work to get better.”

~ Paul Coffey ~

You’ve always been a star worker—respected by your peers and looked up to by your employees. Using your quick wits and technical skills, rising up the ranks was smooth sailing until you moved to a larger firm.

You took on the responsibility with zeal and excitement, awaiting the same recognition and esteem only to find that you’re now surrounded by other star workers, each with their own unique skill sets and talents, and you find it hard to stand out from your peers.

The star status that seemed effortless at one time seems to be getting harder and harder to achieve with the tougher competition. You strive to get noticed as you see others shining in the limelight of success.

If you identify with the above, you’re not alone. As an executive coach, I see this happen all the time. Clients come to me feeling confused about how they should tackle this difficult adjustment and what steps they should take to up their game.

If you’re in the same boat and want some immediate answers, my recent guest post for Successful-Blog.com will tell you how to stand out from the talent around you. You must have done something right to get to where you are; keep your confidence high, and with the right know-how you’ll shine again.

If you need a little help getting your star to shine again, executive coaching career coach Joel Garfinkle can help. Contact Joel today to reach your full potential through his executive coaching services.

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When it Comes to Your Career
Playing it Safe is Risky

Guy Diving Off Cliff
“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”

~ Ray Bradbury ~

With the current state of the economy, the trend in the workplace is to “play it safe.” Some employees feel that if they hide in the shadows and continue to do their job without getting noticed they’ll have a safe and secure career.

In my experience I’ve constantly seen people just do enough to keep a job. These are the same people who never see a promotion and are the first to go when the company downsizes.

Organizations look for leaders—those who innovate, think outside the box, and improve the company’s bottom line. In today’s economic culture, playing it safe just doesn’t cut it. If you can stand out, make influential relationships, and do more than what is asked of you, you create both job security and success.

Playing it safe can be detrimental to your career. If you’re looking for career and job advancement, harness the courage to step out of your comfort zone and take a calculated risk. Don’t be afraid to fail and don’t let the recession hold you back. You don’t know what you can achieve until you try.

When you’re ready to take a risk, don’t get side-tracked. If you want tips and real-life examples on how to get noticed, head over to a recent blog post I wrote on 3 Ways Remarkable Leaders Get Noticed. That should give you the confidence to take your own risks and leap ahead.

Are you ready to get ahead in your career? Read my new book, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.