Is there “buzz” about you in your company or industry? Do people frequently come to you asking for your expertise or input? Is your value to your employer or client obvious?
As a professional woman, building a positive reputation for yourself within your company or industry can generate more opportunities, bigger promotions, better projects and more money!
One of the biggest mistakes many women leaders make is avoiding the spotlight. Time after time, our women clients tell us stories of being “lost in the shuffle” when it comes time for promotions and opportunities. Most of the time, it’s not because they lack the skills or the ambition to rise up in the ranks, but because they’re not visible within their organizations.
Our client Carla was a brilliant EVP for a global financial services firm. She led a team of hundreds and her division was outperforming others within the company. But she came to us with a concern – she felt she wouldn’t rise up the ranks to the management team because no one really knew her successes.
After speaking with Carla’s colleagues – we confirmed her suspicions. Sure, they all knew her division performed well, but that’s about it. No one knew about her personal leadership qualities that had led her team to success. No one really knew what Carla had to say outside of her formulaic updates at meetings.
It turns out Carla felt she was too busy to step up to speak at company conferences and events. She shunned the public relations department when they came to her looking for expertise for industry journals or other publications. The bottom line: Carla wasn’t putting a priority on visibility. In a dog-eat-dog world, being visible is essential to standing out from the pack.
Here are four ways to help ensure your value to the company is recognized:
1. Talk about BIG ideas.
Women tend to speak very specifically about projects or ideas. We like to talk details! But in business, companies and teams need leaders who speak strategically. In EVERY conversation, meeting, presentation or speech you need to be talking about BIG ideas. To really become known as a leader, you need to motivate and inspire every audience with your strategy.
2. Seek out speaking opportunities.
Speaking is one of the best ways to become known as a leader and share your expertise with the world. But you can’t just sit around and wait for conference planners to come calling. Put yourself out there and let people know you want to speak. If you work for a large company, your marketing department would probably love for you to offer yourself as a speaker. If you have your own company, it’s even more important that you get out and speak about what you know and do. Call every meeting planner or conference planner you can think of where you can get on stage and shine in front of the right people.
3. Polish your spotlight presence.
Your presence is much more than your wardrobe or grooming. A leadership presence means paying attention to your body language. A leader has good posture, makes eye contact with others, has a firm handshake, and shows appropriate facial expressions. Leaders don’t rush into meetings late with things falling out of their arms. They walk into a room like they OWN it.
Your posture, demeanor, voice, gestures and expressions all communicate your confidence and your ability as a leader.
4. Offer to lead a women’s initiative or other company project.
Many companies have their own programs solely for advancing the skills of their women employees. Many law firms and professional services firms host networking events for their clients and the business community. Whatever your company does, get involved! Even better, offer to lead a project! The contacts you make will be invaluable, your name will be plastered all over promotional materials and press hits, and your visibility will skyrocket.
Visibility isn’t a want, it's a need, if you’re going to stand out among the other experienced, knowledgeable leaders in your company or industry. Avoiding the spotlight might mean you have more time to dig in the weeds and do the “day-to-day” work, but it also means you’ll fail to be recognized as a leader. Create visibility for yourself by seeking out the spotlight then embrace the possibilities!
Written originally for w2wlink.com by Sarah Woods.
Sarah Woods, Principal, Bates Communications, Inc., is an executive coach and senior communications consultant. Prior to joining Bates Communications in 2007, Sarah spent decades as a management consultant, advising both international corporations and early stage startup companies in the area of sales, marketing, communications and strategy. Sarah began her career by managing and producing international fine rug auctions at Sotheby’s in New York City. As an active member of her community, Sarah has served on a number of boards including the Wellesley ABC (A Better Chance) Program for inner city students and the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project where she produced a public forum on the impact of the environment on cancer statistics. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York. Bates Communication's clients include Dow Chemical, Fidelity, Mellon/Bank of NY, Blue Cross, and Stop & Shop. www.bates-communications.com