“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.” ~Margaret Cho~
Zachary Asks: You’ve seen a lot of people climb the ladder of success. And probably some fall back down it. In all that time, what’s the one thing people should know… but probably don’t… that would have the greatest impact on their career?
Joel Answers: Great question Zachary. We’ve been programmed that those who work hardest get ahead. But we look around and see that isn’t necessary so. We’ve also been told to dress for success, to be a team player, to communicate well, and to network.
All these things are important. They are an essential foundation to produce success. But you can do all these things and still feel you have somehow missed the growth trajectory you expected.
In my opinion, the real key that takes your strengths of hard work, communication, and all the others and propels you to success is one overriding skill: increasing your job visibility at work.
Wait! Don’t tell me, “Oh, everyone knows who I am.” It’s really more strategic than that.
If you fail to make yourself recognized at work, you run the risk that your peers and management may not actually know your impact. They may be clueless about what work you’re doing or the impact you are having on the company.
If they don’t see the overall value you bring to the organization not only might you not be promoted, you could be one of the first let go. Gaining job visibility is vital to career success at work.
Three Steps to Greater Visibility
- How does Your Work Bring Value to the Company? For some this is an easy question. They develop a product and the sales bring in revenue. But in middle management, sometimes there are more steps between your work and the bottom line of the company.
It’s helpful to chart that out. Look at each thing you do and connect the dots to the company’s profitability.
- Can Your Coworkers Identify This Value? Coworkers can be a strong advocate in raising your visibility. They can praise your work to others or share your memos that tell what you are working on and why it’s vital.
One way to increase your own visibility is to share the successes of others. “Our team worked overtime to get this report ready to present by the meeting. They really pitched in.” By implication, others will know you also pitched in and worked hard.
- Does Your Boss Know What You’re Doing? A key to success is making sure the management knows of your work, your projects, and your successes. You can do this as you:
- Schedule review meetings with him
- Send weekly updates on your projects
- Bring him or her into the loop by consulting on thorny problems
- Speak up at meetings with thoughtful questions and good solutions
- Look for your remarkable achievements and share them- tell your story
- Share what makes you unique so you stand out at work
Be aware of the ways you use to gain visibility. Your job is to check the outcome to see if they are getting the results you want. Are people aware of you and talking about your work? Are they giving you the highly visible jobs? In your annual review, is your boss commenting on some of the outstanding projects you’ve done?
Once you master the key to increasing your visibility at work, you will see your career move forward at an accelerated pace.
Are you looking to gain visibility in your job? Is it hard for you to come out of the shadows? Evaluate your visibility so you can learn how to become known for your actual impact at work.
Have you struggled to increase your visibility at work? What ways have you found to be most successful?
“If you’re climbing the ladder of life, you go rung by rung, one step at a time. Don’t look too far up. Set your goals high but take one step at a time. Sometimes you don’t think you are progressing until you step back and see how high you’ve really gone.” ~ Donny Osmond ~
Katherine Asks: Your book, Getting Ahead – Three Steps to take your career to the next level focuses on the three key factors that will propel people up the career ladder – improving perception, increasing visibility and exerting influence. Why should I focus on these three steps? Won’t my work/professionalism speak for itself?
Joel Answers: Katherine, I wish it was that easy. The truth is that how quickly and successfully you climb the corporate ladder depends on far more than just your excellent work. Advancement is based on the perception you create, not just the merit you have accumulated or the skill level you have achieved.
For example, one person I coached was a senior business development manager who worked for Cisco Systems for 11 years. He came to me for coaching because he wasn’t advancing in the company as quickly as he wanted to. Even though he had solid performance reviews and excellent job skills, he had gone four years without a promotion.
Like you, Katherine, this man thought that his work should speak for itself. He believed if he just worked hard and did a good job, people would notice him. But it didn’t work that way.
Because he didn’t let management know how valuable he was to the organization, they overlooked him. Think back to when you were in school. Didn’t the teacher recognize the person with the raised hand? While others flew under the radar?
The PVI model provides the art of getting ahead. It gives you simple steps to “raise your hand.” They help you improve your perception, increase your visibility and exert influence. When you do these things, you get noticed… and get advanced.
- Improve Perception. You can help others have a more positive view of you. Simple steps can change their perception. Speak up. Take the lead. Praise others. Let management know how your work benefits the company. Help others see you as a leader, a team player, a hard-working problem solver.
- Increase Visibility. How many people know what you do? When others are aware of your value, they can help you in climbing the corporate ladder. You might take on a project no-one wants or a high-profile project.
You can interact with people outside your immediate organization and make ways to inform your boss… and even your boss’s boss about the important things you are working on.
- Exert Influence. The surprising thing is that you don’t need any kind of title or authority to have influence. Your character and the way co-workers perceive you can build the trust and respect needed so they listen to your comments and value them.
As you are known for getting things done, building alliances, and gaining buy-in for your ideas, you begin to be the kind of person people rely on. You can sway decisions. Others want to follow you. Then it only makes sense to promote you to a position that uses these qualities.
Katherine, doing a great job is the foundation that the PVI model builds on. It can’t work if the person does poor quality work. But once you have that foundation, using perception, visibility and influence helps you rise to the top, stand out, and get promoted.
What did you do this week to move up the corporate ladder?
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all. ~ Peter Drucker ~
Kevin had been hired to turn the company around. He arrived to find a sluggish, apathetic staff. Most were warry of the change and unwilling to stick their neck out for anything.
Kevin moved immediately to work on the three things that would most affect your employee’s productivity. He knew he had to energize the workforce. He had to learn who could rise to the top and which employees are worth letting go.
The PVI Model— Perception, Visibility, Influence— seemed designed to empower employees to take back control of their careers. Keven felt sure once they saw the impact they could have in influencing those around them, they would become energized and increase productivity.
- Perception. Kevin started educating his workforce on both how he perceived them and what he knew they were capable of. He encouraged them to look within themselves for their strengths and talents.
“Sharing what you know and can do is not bragging,” he said. “It helps us use your strengths in key places. You can enjoy your work more and we can produce more when we match your strengths to our needs.”
Kevin was quick to value employees who spent the time looking at how they were perceived and then acted in a way to increase positive responses.
- Visibility. Sometimes it was hard to see who really had the greatest talents. It wasn’t just those who talked about it the most. But it was essential for Kevin to find the rising stars. So he deliberately cultivated a culture of people willing to increase their visibility.
Workers sent in a weekly report of their accomplishments. They created a large “brag board” for employees to pin “atta-boys” for themselves and co-workers. They took a few minutes at meetings for attendees to tell their greatest accomplishment of the week.
Soon, Kevin had a firm grasp of those employees who were contributing to productivity.
- Influence. Kevin saw the influence of the more confident employees rub off on the apathetic ones. He encouraged team work and mentoring. Open discussions allowed employees to influence decisions made at higher levels.
As the workers saw their increasing influence, they began to feel empowered. Kevin felt the energy increasing week by week. Workers took more responsibility for themselves and their projects.
Friendly competition and rivalry made each team seek to do their best. Kevin cross- pollinated the teams so the best influencers could enrich weaker teams.
“The pay-off for the organization was huge,” Kevin said. “This PVI Model had a major effect on the employee’s productivity, motivation, and staff retention. After just a few months, it feels like a completely different company.”
Kevin commented on the tone, the buzz of the office. Workers came up and thanked him for making such a difference. “They even told me they’d recommended their friends come work here.” Kevin said. “That’s such a contrast to the brain drain I faced when I arrived.”
“Perception, visibility and influence just make the company run better— on every level,” he concluded.
What parts of your company culture affect your productivity? What makes your employees most productive?
“Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.”
~ Gore Vidal ~
Nathan felt it was time to raise his visibility. He knew he needed this just to keep his job in a tight market. He especially needed to get recognition if he hoped to advance. But no one likes a show-off or a know-it-all. So Nathan struggled with how to accomplish good self-promotion in the workplace without coming off in a negative way?
He decided to use three simple ways to let other in the workplace know of his good work. It’s self-promotion without sounding like your tooting your own horn.
- Share your accomplishments
You’d love to have your work speak for itself. After all, it’s good work. But merit is determined by people— by human judgement. That’s a blend of information, viewpoint, and emotional filters. In order for the person who determines merit to appreciate your work, several things have to happen, including sharing of your accomplishments.
- They have to know about the work.
- They have to know that YOU did the work
- They have to understand the time, effort, intelligence, and skills it took to accomplish the job
- They need to see how it benefits the company
They can’t get all this by osmosis. Someone needs to at least get them the “Cliff’s Notes” of your involvement in the job. You can do that several ways
- Send a brief report to your boss or the influencer about the job. It could be in the form of a question. “I did this, and this and this…am I on track? What would you like next?”
- Ask a mentor or senior in your organization to publically or privately pass on recognition of your accomplishments.
- Request a co-worker write a letter of recommendation about your efforts on the task.
Nathan read that studies show it’s not the most competent that gets promoted, it’s the most visible. No one likes a boss that is less competent than they are. It’s not good for you or for the company. In self-defense, Nathan needs to have his competence shine. Decision makers need to know of your abilities.
- Speak up in meetings
- Offer to present material
- Check with your boss or others and share what you are working on
- Come to your review process prepared to show and explain your part in the work and in strengthening the company’s bottom line
When you promote others, you often promote yourself as well. Nathan has been producing excellent results for his company. But he had not done a very good job of self-promotion. He hadn’t been sharing wins and accomplishments in his workplace.
He decided to write an email that outlined five specific things his team had done in the past month. He made sure each point had measurable results. He said, “I’m very proud of the work this team has done and wanted to take a moment to highlight their accomplishments.”
Notice it does not look like self-promotion since Nathan is giving accolades to his team. Yet it still reflects well on him.
The CTO wrote back, “Thanks for pointing this out and congratulations to the team. The quiet success of these accomplishments from you and your team has not gone unnoticed. The CEO and senior leadership were much appreciative.” He encouraged Nathan to keep them informed about their work and the value they bring. The CTO recognized that sometimes work that goes well goes unnoticed, yet, he said, “It is important we educate the business on the value we bring.”
Self-promotion, well done, can build your visibility and lead to advancement. It helps management do a better job of recognizing who are their truly skilled workers. It also helped Nathan feel more valued and gain more satisfaction from his job.
If you need to increase your visibility and promote yourself in your workplace, first evaluate your visibility.
What have you done for self-promotion? Has it worked? Has it come off brash, or confident?
“Leadership is intentional influence.” ~Michael McKinney~
Client Brianna asks:
People often talk about the importance of influencing internal and external stakeholders. What makes a successful influencer, in your eyes?
Coach Joel answers:
Successful influencers do these five things better than anyone else. These five strategies foster strong relationships that make others see those influencers as people they can rely on. If you succeed in putting these five things into practice in your daily work, you’re just about guaranteed to build influence in your workplace.
- Build strong partnerships. A strong influencer is able to create partnerships across all business units, thereby developing a wider base of support and cooperation. When you develop these strong relationships, you’ll help the whole organization to function more effectively—and you’ll be seen as someone who guides others in developing relationships that benefit the whole group.
- Leverage allies. Your allies will help support your ideas and accomplish the tasks that have been deemed important. Successful influencers cultivate alliances with people across the company who are in positions of leadership or who have strong social capital. Influencers stay in close communication with these allies and have the confidence to ask for what they want. They know how to clearly articulate their needs for support to these allies, spelling out how their request will benefit the whole organization.
- Cause others to rely on them. Because successful influencers shape group decisions and change outcomes for the better, people appreciate their conﬁdence and know they can depend on them. Higher-ups as well as people they supervise come to them for advice and ideas. To get higher-ups to rely on them, successful influencers might become experts in areas that most people aren’t knowledgeable in, filling in important gaps. They might also demonstrate their ability to creatively solve problems that everyone else avoids. The people they supervise feel empowered by talking with them, because influencers give them guidance in developing and implementing their own ideas.
- Lead up. When building your influence within your workplace, don’t just work to lead those who are below you on the hierarchy. Leadership isn’t about having a title. Influencers establish mutual respect with people above them, who seek out and listen to their opinions, ideas, and insights as a result. Voice your input to these key players with confidence, using your existing relationships with key players to reach new ones. For instance, if you have a suggestion for improving a product development strategy, present it to an advocate and ask for help in connecting with decision-makers. Carefully craft your rationale for your ideas and suggestions before speaking with those further up the hierarchy, and voice your input to these key players with confidence.
- Gain results from others. Strong influencers know how to keep others motivated, lighting a fire under them to succeed. That means making them believe they can achieve their goals. They also work to create a positive environment that makes employees happy to come to work. As you become a person who gets results from others, you’ll inspire them to keep taking on more ambitious tasks that positively impact the company’s bottom line.
When you master these five qualities, you’ll have become a successful leader in your organization. You don’t need to be in a formal leadership position to hone and utilize these qualities. As you naturally assume more of an informal leadership role, a work promotion is likely to follow. Don’t wait until someone else gives you the green light—begin stepping into a leadership position now, by developing these key skills. Your influence in the workplace will keep building as you grow more practiced in all of these areas.
Try focusing on one of these five qualities each week. Email Joel to discuss your progress and how you can continue improving.
Have you tried any of these strategies? What were your results?