“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.