How to Promote Yourself

“Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.”
~Bonnie Marcus~

Natalya couldn’t believe her company hired an outsider rather than promote her to the position she was vying for. She knew she had everything it would take to succeed in that role. She decided to reach out to an executive coach who was referred to her – I was the person she called! “It sounds like you are producing a tremendous amount of value for your company,” I said. “Now you need to learn how to promote yourself at work (and your actual impact), so others will appreciate and recognize your value.” Here’s the plan we created together.

  1. Track Your Accomplishments
    When put on the spot, it can be tough to remember all the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead of relying on memory, keep a file of all your accomplishments and current projects. At a performance review, meeting with executives, or introduction to a new client, you’ll have just the right examples of particular skills or competencies you want to highlight.
  2. Write a Success Story About Yourself
    Create a short “success story” about yourself so you’re always prepared for high-stakes conversations. The story is created by identifying the problem, determine the actions you took to help solve the problem and the overall results that you ultimately achieved. You’ll now know exactly how to promote yourself when talking to organizational leaders.
  3. Expand Upon Compliments
    When someone gives you a compliment, view it as an invitation to say more about the work they’re praising. This will feel less awkward if you share a piece of quantifiable data to sum up what your accomplishment did for the company. Rather than sharing a subjective opinion (e.g., “I’m brilliant”), you’re sharing something objective. And by focusing on results and outcomes, you’re giving them information that can help guide decision-making.
  4. Promote the Work of Others
    When you promote others, you give them positive feelings about you in turn. This encourages them to speak highly of you as well. It’s like cultivating alliances within your organization, only there’s nothing devious about it. You’re simply working toward your mutual success and building a culture of showingappreciation for good work. Likewise, when you lead your team to success, speak about what “we” accomplished rather than centering yourself. Your boss and team will know you showed great leadership, and they’ll see you as a great morale-builder when you share the success.
  5. Take on a High-Profile Project
    Look for a high-profile project that others can’t help but notice. Outline exactly how you’ll devote time to this project while keeping up with our current workload. (Hint: Delegate as much as possible, which willalso show your leadership skills!) Taking on ambitious projects will build your visibility in the organization, preparing you to exert greater influence.
  6. Sing Your Own Praises to Superiors
    Tell your boss, and your boss’s boss, what you’ve accomplished. Phrasing the news in the form of a “thank you” can make it feel less awkward—for example, you could say, “Thanks for the encouragement to pursue project X. I’m thrilled about the results.” In doing so, you’ll be strengthening these relationships by making others feel connected to your success. Then sum up what the project did for the company—again, citing measurable outcomes. Take a big-picture approach, focusing on how the achievement benefits the company. This not only feels less awkward but highlights your commitment to the organization’s success.

Look for opportunities to connect with higher-level leaders in your organization as well. If you hear about a meeting of organizational leaders and you feel you have something to contribute, ask an advocate if you can attend or send your input with him. You have little to lose by showing some ambition, and at the very least, you’re likely to put yourself on their radar. This is an excellent way to promote yourself at work.

You now have six tactics for promoting yourself that feel more natural. With these tricks in your pocket, it will feel easier to promote yourself at work. Joel can help you implement these tips and do what is necessary to get that promotion you feel you deserve. Email executive coach Joel Garfinkle now with the area you want to work on.

How to be Confident at Work

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.
~Arthur Ashe~

Grayson asks: I’m naturally a shy person, and I want to learn how to be confident at work. I know that confidence is key to coming across as a leader, and I definitely want to advance. How can I stop blending into the background and start exuding self-assurance?

Joel answers: Grayson, you’re right to be focusing on building your confidence. Without confidence, you won’t increase your visibility at work or have the courage to take risks. And without taking risks and building visibility and influence, you’ll have difficulty reaching the next level. This is an exciting time in your career—you’re launching a new, more confident phrase that will take you to places you never imagined you could go. Being confident at work takes effort—here’s how to get there.

  1. Prepare What You’ll Say at Meetings
    Thinking through what you’ll bring to a meeting will help you say it with confidence. You’ll also be more articulate, having carefully prepared your ideas. Everything doesn’t have to be completely polished—maybe you have a few ideas to share in a brainstorming session, and you want to get the group’s feedback. Either way, you’ll contribute with more confidence when you feel prepared. Come to the meeting willing to speak up at work.
  2. Grow a Team of Supporters
    When you know you have star players batting for you, you’ll feel your confidence soar. Build relationships with mentors you can learn from, both within and outside of the organization. Cultivate advocates within your company as well—people with influence and credibility who will talk you up to bosses and coworkers. You won’t just benefit from their sway over group opinions—you’ll gain confidence from the insights these relationships give you. Whenever you feel uncertain, visualize this team of people all cheering you on.
  3. Ask for Feedback
    A confident person doesn’t put her head in the sand, avoiding any feedback. Nor does she believe she’s above all criticism. Rather, she has the courage to be vulnerable by asking for others’ input about her performance. When you solicit feedback, others will perceive you as more confident—it shows you’re challenging yourself to improve every day. Consistent feedback from people you trust will also strengthen your performance, raising your confidence even higher.By the same token, if your confidence is being drained by a critical coworker, remember that your response to criticism speaks volumes. If criticized in front of others, invite the critic to continue the conversation over coffee. Actively striving to learn from criticism and understand where it’s coming from will show self-assurance.
  4. Find a Problem You’re Equipped to Solve
    Pinpoint a problem that you’re uniquely poised to solve—something that others will notice, even though they may keep pushing it to the back burner. Tackling a persistent problem head-on shows confidence and ambition, especially when you took the initiative to solve it.
  5. Celebrate Risks
    When you make a bold move that took some courage, celebrate! If you held your ground in a meeting instead of backing down at the first sign of controversy, that’s a milestone. Whether or not you accomplished what you intended, you showed guts, and that’s a victory in itself. Share what happened with one of your biggest cheerleaders—whether your spouse, a coworker, or a close friend—so you’ll have someone to affirm your success.

Like Grayson, almost all of us need to learn how to be more confident at work as we progress in our careers. Keep challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone while celebrating your wins, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy level of self-confidence.

Joel’s executive coaching can help you fast track your development by building your confidence, visibility, and influence at work. Review his executive business coaching services.

Professional Development Goals for Work

“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.”
~Bo Bennett~

Gianna had achieved some big milestones over the past year. Instead of coasting on these successes, she wanted to make a plan for building upon them. Many of her friends would make New Year’s resolutions. She didn’t want to wait til New Year’s day to set her goals. When the clock struck midnight, she would have her goals in hand, along with a roadmap of how to reach them.

Gianna asked me to help her work on setting her professional development goals, and this is the plan we came up with.

  1. Prepare to Start Fresh
    Complete the little projects you may have been procrastinating on. Tidy up your workspace so you feel clear-headed and motivated when you step into it. Have that tough conversation you’ve been avoiding—you’ll feel so much better when you’ve wrapped it up.
  2. Assess What You’ve Accomplished
    Create a log of everything you’ve achieved over the past year. Describe the measurable results of each success, so you can mentally celebrate them and share the results with others.
  3. Take Time to Reflect
    Make time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and where you’re headed. Ask yourself whether your goals and interests have changed over the past year. Does doing work you’re passionate about mean something different than it did a year ago? Ask yourself how the past year has grown your skills and knowledge, too.
  4. Set Goals for the Year
    Write down your goals for the year. Imagine yourself celebrating new victories a year from today—what do you want them to be? Make sure your goals are achievable, while also challenging you.
  5. Choose Your Priorities
    Set priorities that align with your goals. Maybe there’s a particular kind of project you want to take on, or perhaps you’re looking to take on a leadership role. Being as specific as possible, write down the priorities that will serve as stepping-stones to your goals.
  6. Determine Areas of Growth
    Ask yourself where you need to grow in order to reach your professional development goals. Work on a list of qualities you want to develop, areas of expertise you want to hone—anything that will help you get there.
  7. Make a Plan for Growth
    Consider who can support you in your journey. Make a list of people who have something to teach you in these areas, as well as other resources, like classes or leadership books.
  8. Leave Yourself Helpful Reminders
    When you come back from the holidays, having your plan somewhere handy will be a huge help. Creating a few notes to stick on your wall as reminders about your next steps will also help you maintain focus. If you plan to attend a workshop, leave yourself a reminder. Jotting down three to five main areas of growth you want to focus on and posting this note by your desk will also help you stick to the plan.
  9. Say “Thank You.”
    Thank your colleagues, bosses, and people you supervise for the things they’ve taught you over the past year. Share your gratitude with friends and family as well. Acknowledging the role of your support network will help keep it strong, and by sharing gratitude, you’ll give them support in turn.
  10. Recharge
    Give yourself time to unwind, celebrate your victories with friends and family, and enjoy hobbies that enrich your life outside of work. Take time away from all workplace communications. Allow yourself to brag a little to the people who care about you—you’ve earned it, and they’re probably excited to celebrate with you!

Having this plan in place made Gianna excited about the coming year, as well as confident in her ability to achieve her goals. When she went back to work, her goals for professional development gave her renewed enthusiasm. Like Gianna, you can enter the new year with newfound clarity, energy, and resolve by enacting the same plan.

Joel can help you craft a plan for success over the next year. Contact him for Executive Coaching Services.

Six Types of Stakeholders Leaders Need to Influence

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” ~Robin S. Sharma~

Jackie had just accepted a promotion and was working to develop a grasp of whom she needed to influence in her organization. She knew that influencing stakeholders, both internal and external, is critical to any leader’s success, and that building strong working relationships strengthens influence. Her mentor helped her to map out the key people she needed to influence at this stage in her career, and this is what they came up with.

  1. Executives
    Influencing executives helps a leader to build broad support for her projects and ideas and to gain financial backing when necessary. When a leader sells her ideas to executives, they in turn influence shareholders and directors, as they typically have closer contact with them. Therefore, by influencing an executive, a leader influences others who are high on the organizational hierarchy. Plus, these executives often have direct influence over promotions, so gaining influence with them is critical to career advancement. Learning to think like executives, understand their vision, and articulate ideas with confidence are key aspects of gaining influence with them.
  2. Clients
    When a leader has influence with clients, they trust her ideas and advice. They’re more likely to support taking calculated risks and trying new ideas that the leader supports. Reliability is a key factor in gaining influence with clients. Building a strong rapport with them is another. Strong relationships allow a client to understand how a leader thinks and what she cares about, building a bond of trust. These relationships also allow leaders to gain input from customers that lets them better serve their needs.
  3. Sales departments
    It’s important for leaders to influence their sales departments so these departments truly have confidence in their company’s products or services. When the sales department believes in what the company is doing, it will convey that enthusiasm to customers or clients. Leaders need to make sure sales departments are thoroughly educated about products and services as well as their value. This knowledge will help them convey a sense of confidence to customers and clients.
  4. Finance departments
    Finance departments are another group of stakeholders that leaders must influence in order to gain their trust as well. This trust allows them to work as partners to allocate financial support to projects. Leaders must show the finance department that their projects are good investments for the company. Additionally, they should thoroughly educate them in the rationale for pursuing particular projects, so finance personnel can articulate it to others in the company, further building buy-in.
  5. Other colleagues
    All colleagues in the workplace are stakeholders that a leader needs to influence. Building strong relationships throughout the workplace will help a leader gain buy-in for projects and ideas. Further, it will prime him to move into a more advanced leadership position, because the people he’ll be supervising already have a high level of respect for him.
  6. Suppliers and contractors
    Leaders must build strong relationships with suppliers and contractors as well. They’ll gain more leverage with these parties as they convince them that the company’s endeavors will prove lucrative far into the future. These parties want to build relationships with companies that will continue reaching higher levels of success, meaning they can grow together. When leaders convinces suppliers and contractors that the company’s growth will continue, they’ll have more room to negotiate with them as well as a stable base of support.

As Jackie worked on influencing these key stakeholders, she found herself becoming more respected as a leader in her company. At first, she had to make a conscious effort to think about how to approach these stakeholders on a daily basis, but after a while, it began coming naturally. Often a colleague would reach out to her to discuss a company project or new idea, so she was no longer doing all the legwork in building these relationships. As her influence grew, people began coming to her more often, and she did her part to maintain strong ongoing relationships with them all.

Joel’s leadership coaching will help you reach the key stakeholders in your organization. He’s an expert on how company’s leaders can use their influence with key stakeholders.

Talkback:
Have you found it especially easy or challenging to gain influence with any particular groups of stakeholders? Share your experiences here.

Six Ways to Improve Business Communication Skills for Greater Success

“Intelligence, knowledge or experience are important and might get you a job, but strong communication skills are what will get you promoted.” ~Mireille Guiliano~

At a performance review meeting, Sean’s boss told him he needed to improve his communication skills. “You express yourself articulately, and you’re assertive, but you can go further,” his boss told him. His boss went on to describe a range of communication-related skills that would help Sean become a stronger leader, some of which Sean had never thought about developing.

Articles on business communication skills often address the importance of being assertive in the workplace. In some cases, however, they don’t discuss the “hidden” skills that are essential for strong communication, like the ability to view the world from someone else’s point of view. When you’re equipped with a wide array of communication skills, you’ll be poised to succeed in all realms of business. Here are the six ways to improve business communication skills.

  1. Practice good office politics.
    Participating in office politics is essential, and that’s not a bad thing. Done well, it means influencing company culture and building your influence. Showing loyalty to your boss, honing strong relationships with allies, and networking with different circles of people in your organization are all examples of participating well in office politics. It all comes down to being respected and noticed by others, and showing respect and appreciation in turn, in order to grow your influence with them.
  2. Communicate across functions.
    Strong communications across different organizational areas is essential for maximizing productivity. Your team isn’t going it alone—you depend on all the other teams in your organization, and if you’re not communicating closely, your relationships, processes, and outcomes are suffering. Get to know the people in other areas of the organization, and become a liaison between these different areas of business to improve the flow of communication. Along with members of these other teams, work to define your joint goals and establish how to coordinate your efforts.
  3. Learn to understand different working styles and personalities.
    Learning how others think and work is an essential part of leadership. During one-on-one sessions with people you manage, ask them how they learn and work best. Some employees might appreciate receiving an email about an important topic the day before a meeting, rather than being asked their opinion on the spot, for instance. Navigating these differences is a vital task of a leader, and it will greatly improve the effectiveness of the team.
  4. Become a pro at conflict resolution.
    Conflict resolution may not be fun, but that’s why it’s such an in-demand skill. Learn to master conflicts by addressing their root causes, helping everyone to feel heard, and asking for solutions from everyone who’s invested in the issue. As you guide both parties toward compromise, you’ll gain greater respect and trust from them both, enhancing your relationships and reputation in turn.
  5. Be assertive yet humble.
    Assertiveness is one of those obvious business skills that articles on communication in the workplace tend to tout, and it’s definitely an important quality of a leader. However, the strongest leaders balance assertiveness with vulnerability. They know how to ask for feedback on their performance, be transparent about issues that affect everyone, and gain the trust of others by putting them at ease.
  6. Use virtual communication effectively.
    Resisting using virtual communication will prove a major hindrance in today’s workplace. Virtual communication offers a way of making the playing field more equitable for people who may have trouble physically getting to work for long hours each day, like parents of young children. It also makes working with contract staff more viable over long distances. Plus, job training and coaching can often be done via virtual communication for a lower cost. Get comfortable with virtual communication, and many doors will open.

“As you build strong business communication skills, you’ll enhance cooperation and relationship-building throughout your team,” Sean’s boss said. For the remainder of their meeting, Sean’s boss helped him craft a plan for improving in these areas. He also gave him business articles to read on improving communication skills. Sean left the session energized and enthusiastic about making the changes, knowing his boss was priming him for taking on greater responsibility down the road.

Are you working to improve your business communication skills? For specific guidance, support and tips on becoming a master communicator at work, you can contact Joel for executive coaching or visit his hundreds of articles.

Talkback:
What business skills have you focused on developing? How did they improve your leadership? Share your stories here.