“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?
“I believe ambition is not a dirty work, it’s believing in yourself and your abilities. Imagine this: what would happen if we were all brave enough to believe in our own ability, to be a little more ambitious. I think the world would change.” ~ Reese Witherspoon ~
Aaron felt like he was stuck. The job just seemed like a treadmill. The same thing over and over. When he took the job 8 years ago, he had visions of promotions and advancement. Now? Not so much.
As Aaron took stock of his career he decided to combat the stagnation. Surely there was a way to get around it. He just couldn’t figure it out on his own. He hired Joel to be his executive coach.
Part of it involved recording exactly what he was doing so he could be prepared and present it as needed.
- Sharing accomplishments. Words disappear and can’t always be remembered. Aaron saw the value in sharing his accomplishments through writing. He wrote a weekly message updating management on the projects he was working on.
He included the challenges he’d overcome and the progress he’d made. The make sure to explain how his work affected the progress of the job. And how the job would impact the company. This gave Aaron confidence his job was valuable and productive
- Meeting Preparation. Aaron doesn’t think fast on his feet. He works better when he has a chance to mull over ideas. This is true of most introverts. So Aaron decided to write out notes about what he wanted to say before meetings.
If you want to say something at a meeting or event, take the time to write it out beforehand. This way you can organize your thoughts, focus on what is essential, and not be fumbling for words when it’s your turn to speak. When you have something prepared, it makes it more likely that you will speak clearly and professionally. And you say what you intended to say.
- Prepare for and schedule one-on-one meetings. Again, if you have an agenda you want to cover, writing an outline of the topics can give you confidence going into the meeting. One-on-ones are a great opportunity to talk about your work and how it affects the company.
This is a great time to discuss your concerns about your career stagnation. Meetings with your boss can help you formulate a plan for your transition into the next step of your career.
- Volunteer for committees and events. Participating in a committee or helping to host a conference or charity event translates to an abundance of networking opportunities. Aaron found that committees and events gave him the opportunity to meet new people, talk about his work, and put his name and face in front of people who wouldn’t normally notice him.
After working this program for several months, Aaron feels much more hopeful. He sees his career stagnation breaking apart. His boss is on board with his goals for a promotion. Many more people know of him and his work. He’s received more praise and people are paying more attention to what he says.
“This is what I was looking for,” Aaron said. “Coaching really helped me. I can’t believe how much more excited I am about my job and its potential.”
How have you pushed back against career stagnation?
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?
“There is no[thing] better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” ~Malcolm X~
When Stacy started work, she found it exciting and rewarding. She felt she was moving up and making a difference. But lately, when she walks in the door at work she feels drained and unenthusiastic.
A few weeks ago, Stacy decided to face this frustration. What was going on at work that created a feeling of DE-motivation? What was causing her to be less satisfied with her job and less willing to dig in and get the work done?
She decided to list her concerns and then figure out what to do about it. At the end of the week, Stacy’s list of demotivators at work looked like this:
- Micromanagement. When she first started work, she needed some extra help. But now that she was confident in her work, the micromanaging seemed interfering. It made her feel like the boss didn’t trust her.
Solution: Before a project starts, Stacy will talk to the boss about the expected standards and the basic approach. She’ll understand the guiding principles the boss wants to see in the job.
Stacy knows her boss is a worrier and stresses. So she decides to really work on building trust with excellent work. Also, she’ll try to control the conversation by initiating frequent progress reports to help him see that the work is progressing smoothly. Be detailed and specific. If she has questions, she’ll ask for clarification quickly.
- Slow Progress. Stacy had moved from a small company to a larger one. There are so many more layers of management here that it seems to take forever for decisions to be made. She’s suggested some real cost saving initiatives… but nothing seems to happen.
Solution: Stacy decides to more closely align her goals with the company goals. She decides to talk with her boss about what is most important in the company’s eyes for her to accomplish. Perhaps what she thinks is important isn’t exactly on target.She also decides to focus on what she can control and do excellent work there, while she waits for progress on some of her ideas.
- Rewarding poor performance. Stacy still smarted from a slight from last week. She’d worked overtime on a project why Ernie had been on vacation. Yet in the meeting where the project was presented, Ernie got the praise. Talk about a demotivator!
Solution: Stacy decided to make sure she was the presenter on projects she had major input on. She would prepare comments and speak up more at meetings to make sure people were aware of her contribution. If necessary, she would schedule face-time with the boss on a regular basis to keep him informed on her work.
- No connection with co-workers. Stacy had been close to her co-workers at her last job. Here, she felt a bit excluded. She really didn’t have any good friends at work. In fact, she didn’t know much about them at all.
Solution: Stacy decided she needed to reach out and connect on a more personal level. She needed to get to know about her co-workers—their families, hobbies, and interests. She decided to start inviting them out to lunch one-on-one and showing interested in them as a person and not just as a co-worker.
Stacy was surprised to find four things that led to her demotivation at work. But once she made a game plan, she felt excitement come back into her day. Now she had control and could make her plan work. And it wasn’t a surprise to her that after a few more weeks, she had friends among her coworkers, her boss was micromanaging less, and she felt like her performance was accurately recognized. As for the layer of management that made progress slow? She discovered a mentor could also help cut through some of the red tape!
If you have a motivation problem at work executive coach Joel Garfinkle can work with you to find solutions.
Do you ever feel burned out or demotivated? What causes your demotivation? And what have you done about it?