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.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/ shutterstock.com

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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How to Get Your Shy Employees to Speak up in Meetings

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“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

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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