“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
~ Mark Twain ~
Client Mark asks: I’m mostly quiet at meetings. I’ve always thought that if I just do my work, it would speak for itself. But it’s not working. I think I need to speak up more. But what is the best way get my opinion out there?
Coach Joel Answers: Mark, you need to trust that your opinion matters. No one sees the world through your perspective. No one else has your unique blend of experience, knowledge, understanding and skills. In order for your group and organization to perform their best, they need varied input. They need your input.
When you share your opinion you stand out and become recognized. As you do so, you create value and that impact sets you up for promotions.
If you have been a worker-bee, or shy and deflected attention, it may be hard to take the risk of sharing your opinion. But doing so will increase your confidence and help you be more widely known.
Let’s talk about the when, where, why, and how to make your opinion take you to the leadership position you desire.
- When to share: Good leaders listen first. Take time to process what has already been said. Then see where you can add value. You may want to start sharing your opinion in smaller groups. But ultimately you want your manager’s bosses, and a wide range of people to hear your opinions.
- What to share: Take an honest look at your level of expertise and your strengths. You really have a lot to offer. Think about what you can add that will move the conversation forward. Of course you don’t want to duplicate what someone else just said. Don’t waste time adding your me-too experiences or examples.
Look for ways your opinions can provide solutions, build consensus, or shed new light on concerns. These kinds of opinions will show others your talents and skills. They will demonstrate what you offer the organization. When others hear your opinions, they can recognize your value, appreciate your contribution to the company, and leverage your talents.
How to Share. Share with confidence. Yes, it feels risky, but it’s important to step up and speak out. Be sure you do not apologize or minimize your contribution. “I just… um… thought…ah… perhaps…” In the beginning you may want to plan out what you’ll say.
- Share your opinion in in writing. You can take the time to think through how best to express your thoughts. You can write an article, send an email, or a memo. The advantage of written opinions is that it’s easier to share them up and across the leadership chain.
- Write out what you want to say at meetings. Prior planning can reduce your fear, build your confidence and help you express your thoughts more clearly.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings. You may find it easier to share your opinion with one person at a time at the beginning. Then you can move on to small groups and finally to large meetings.
Why share? Leadership and visibility require each other. If you want to advance, you have to be visible. When you speak out and share your opinions, people will see you as someone with power, inﬂuence, authority, and leadership. If you stay silent, you won’t be noticed, and your career will stall out. When you actively add to the conversation with insightful, thought-provoking opinions you stand out. You increase your value to the company.
Is it time for you to speak out and have your opinions heard and respected? Contact Joel and find out how you can maximize your potential.
Talkback: Let me know about a time you spoke up and it changed your career path.
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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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“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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“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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“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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