“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.
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“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”
~ Malcolm S. Forbes ~
Client Ellen Asks: I’m a woman in a leadership role, and I have a question about perceptions. It seems that women are judged differently than men for the exact same actions. Where a man might be seen as authoritative, a woman acting the same way might be seen as bossy. How do ensure that I am projecting the image I desire as a female business leader?
Coach Joel Answers: I’ve often written about the importance of proactively shaping the perceptions others have of you. This is a key strategy to standing out, getting credit for your work and, ultimately, getting ahead.
But what if you’re a woman?
Do any of these comments sound familiar?
- “I feel inferior to some of the men at my office, even though we have the same titles.”
- “Most of the meetings I go to have few women and I feel alone and intimidated.”
- “When I’m in meetings with men, what I say seems less important.”
- “When I speak up at the same time as a male colleague, my boss always wants to hear what he has to say first.”
- “When I bring up concerns about details, my male colleagues accuse me of ‘not seeing the big picture.’ So I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.”
I’ve heard these same concerns from a number of clients. These are smart, articulate, highly motivated women in leadership roles at blue chip companies. They feel their gender hinders their ability to shape their image. One woman summed up her frustration by telling me, “I feel like the deck is stacked against me. The rules for men are different. If a man speaks up or challenges someone, he viewed in positive terms as being aggressive or competitive. Yet if a woman does the same thing, she’s called a b—-.'”
Naturally, this isn’t the case with all women and work situations. But if you share some of these concerns or frustrations, here’s what I advise my clients:
Don’t feel guilty about being assertive.
There’s nothing disrespectful or “unfeminine” about being assertive and forcefully expressing your point of view. The best decisions are made when everyone contributes their ideas. You shortchange your company, your customers and yourself by remaining silent or intimidated by “what others will think.” Someone once said, “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” It’s time to stop apologizing.
What have you got to lose?
If you’re afraid to speak up, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?” Chances are, you’ll find your fears or reservations aren’t justified and the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.
Is it a gender issue or a confidence issue?
When consulting with female clients in depth about this, we’ve often discovered that the real problem isn’t with “them,” it’s with “you.” They were using gender as an excuse. They tended not to speak up at all meetings, not just those with men. They realized they needed to develop a strategy to build their self-confidence. This might involve reading self-help books or attending an assertiveness training class.
Learn from successful role models or mentors.
Seek advice and inspiration from successful women in your organization. Watch them in action, use them as sounding boards, learn how they use or bend the so-called “rules” to get ahead.
Talk to your boss.
During your next performance review, tell him (or her) you want to work at being more assertive and more comfortable at speaking up in groups. Ask for his advice and seek out feedback following meetings: “How did I do?” “Did I come across as too aggressive or confrontational?” “What should I have done differently?”
But what if it really is a gender issue?
My advice is: you can’t change them (the men in your office), you can only change yourself. Pick your fights and avoid fueling their negative stereotypes. In other words, don’t be overly emotional, focus on facts and not personalities, etc. If you continue to be frustrated, look for work someplace else. “Don’t compromise yourself,” the legendary singer Janis Joplin once said. “You’re all you’ve got.”
Don’t let your gender be an excuse. Joel has successfully coached many women, and he can help you reach your full potential too. Click here to learn more about leadership coaching for women.
Talkback: Are you a woman in a leadership position? Have you found that you are perceived differently than the men in your company?
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“It is important that you recognize your progress and take pride in your accomplishments. Share your achievements with others. Brag a little. The recognition and support of those around you is nurturing.”
~ Rosemarie Rossetti ~
Client Matt Asks: I never seem to get the recognition I deserve for my work, but I’m afraid to say anything because it might seem like I’m bragging. Is it appropriate to mention my accomplishments to others at work?
Coach Joel Answers: You know you’re good at what you do and deserve to get more recognition, increased responsibility and a probably even a promotion. But does anyone else know?
Many employees are passed by or completely overlooked simply because senior management doesn’t know how valuable they are.
In a Newsweek article, Sharon Allen, Chairman of the board, Deloitte &Touche USA, said: “Take responsibility for your own career. Don’t assume that others are aware of the good work you’re doing. When I was a young accountant, I was unhappy about not getting a promotion. I went to my supervisor and told him all of these things that I thought I should be given credit for and he said, ‘Well, gee, I didn’t know that you had done all of these things.’ It was a real wakeup call. You don’t have to be a bragger, but I think it’s very important that we make people aware of our accomplishments…”
Your accomplishments are the currency you use to calculate your value to the company. When tracking accomplishments, focus on:
- Business results.
- The value you’ve provided to the company.
- Fact-based, concrete details.
- The specific feedback you receive from others.
- Quantifiable data is especially persuasive because it measures the impact of your accomplishments.
Not only does tracking your accomplishments create concrete examples of your value, the tracking process itself will give you confidence. As you become aware of your progress, you will be more comfortable telling others, in specific terms, how you provide value to the company.
Like Ms. Allen says, you don’t have to be a bragger. Take advantage of opportunities to communicate your accomplishments. If others don’t hear about them from you, they can only operate from perception and second-hand information.
If you’re unsure about how much self-promotion is too much, Joel’s coaching program will provide you with a customized action plan to help you leapfrog your way to the top of the career ladder. Click here for more information.
Talkback: Do you get the recognition you deserve at work? What can you do to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments?
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“There is no good idea that cannot be improved on.”
~ Michael Eisner ~
Client Miles Asks: Innovation is vital to our company’s success, but creativity is extremely difficult to regulate or control. How do we encourage innovation and avoid stifling creativity?
Coach Joel Answers: Today’s corporations face a harsh reality: innovate or die. Executives’ responses to this imperative have varied widely—ranging from instituting mandatory innovation training workshops to flat out requiring employees to innovate in designated areas. Unfortunately, some companies try to reduce innovation to prescriptive formulas.
Take Kodak. After decades of success, non-engineering executives took control of R&D priorities and shoveled almost 95% of the company’s resources into existing core products. The result? Kodak went bankrupt.
To avoid Kodak’s fate, executives should consider following these five pillars of innovation leadership:
1. Innovation takes time. Leaders who expect immediate results from their chief innovators will be disappointed. Engineers, researchers, and others need time away from routine duties—and a lot of it. Google is a great example. They provide their employees with “20% time” to pursue their interests. Gmail was one employee’s 20% project.
2. Employees need space to socialize and think. Innovation often happens when we least expect it. Recent research has shown that “psychological distance” fuels the creative process. Employees need time to think on their own, bounce ideas off others in informal settings, and relax away from a cubical or office.
3. Companies must look beyond core products.Many corporations are like Kodak: They devote 95% of R&D funds to core products. HP used to be one such company, but they learned their lesson. Now, HP dedicates 70% of funds to existing products, 20% to adjacencies, and 10% to completely new products, which has led to innovations in the cloud computing sector.
4. People learn from failure. Some companies are too quick to punish employees who don’t deliver blockbuster results. In reality, failure can be a rich learning opportunity. Silicon Valley recognizes this lesson: Venture capitalists there aren’t afraid to invest in startups led by previously failed entrepreneurs.
5. Innovation thrives on a culture of achievement. Leaders at companies like IBM, Apple and Google have developed a culture of achievement by recognizing excellence, encouraging employees to own their accomplishments, recruiting ambitious young talent, and allowing employees to function in a relatively flat hierarchy.
Subscribe to Joel’s Fulfillment@Work newsletter to receive regular updates on leadership, innovation, career advancement and more!
Talkback: Is innovation important in your industry? How does your company encourage new ideas and advances in product development?
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“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them.”
Client Mindy Asks: Our tech company is growing and expanding. We’ve hired some managers in the past, and it hasn’t worked out the way we expected it to. I need to learn how to recruit and retain managerial talent. I want our people to stay with us and produce the results we’re looking for.
Coach Joel Answers: Mindy, you’ve hit on two key points. When you recruit well, the second issue—retention—becomes much easier. So let’s start with some recruiting tips to ensure that you are recruiting managers who will be more likely to stick around.
1. Determine your needs. First, it’s absolutely critical that you have a thorough understanding of what you expect from your manager. You need to know not only the duties he or she will perform, but the intangibles, such as emotional intelligence. Even if your new hire comes with great technical skills, if they don’t have people skills, vision, and motivation, it will be difficult for them to manage.
So look at your corporate climate. What social, communication, and team building skills do they need as well? Enthusiasm and motivation can go a long way to ensure the success of the new manager.
2. Advertise broadly. Your ideal manager may be working within your company. Or they may be working for your competitor. Make sure your open position is made known to a wide range of prospects. Can it be filled by someone just out of college? Is the market so tight you need to look to pull someone out of retirement? Don’t lose your best talent by limiting your scope when recruiting managers.
3. Sell yourself. What does your company offer to attract the kind of managers you want to hire? Being transparent about the type of company you are and what you have to offer is the key to retaining the managers you hire. A mismatch results in your managers not hanging around long.
What is there in your brand that will resonate with the recruit? Are you eco-friendly? Consensus building? Highlight your cross training or the value your company places on its employees.
4. Show them it’s true. What is there in your recruitment process that illustrates the strengths of the company you’re selling to your new hires? If you tell them your company values employees, will your prospects find a helpful HR office? Will they find that your online presence reflects your promises to them? Is the application process easy and straightforward, or convoluted and full of hoops to jump through?
5. Offer sufficient training. Once you have your new managers in place, you must provide them with the training they need to do their jobs well and to advance in the company. Retaining managers is easy if you can do these three things: Keep them happy. Keep them fulfilled. Keep them engaged in and with your company.
One way to ensure you retain your managers is by ensuring they have a full range of training to orient them properly. Have a mentor to help them understand the company culture. Offer frequent feedback where your manager can feel confident he or she is on the right track and he or she feels free to ask questions. Work together to create realistic milestones for integration and achievement.
Recruiting and retaining managers are closely linked together. When you know how to attract your ideal hire, you increase the probability you will keep your manager for a long time. However it’s important to continue training, support, and open communication on an ongoing basis.
Are you looking for ways your company can recruit and keep excellent managers? Contact Joel for insights you might be missing.
Talkback: What has been one of the most important factors you’ve seen as you recruit and retain your top talent?
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