If you want to be seen, heard and valued at work, read about these four common traps that prevent you from gaining visibility, and the strategies that will overcome them.
Trap #1: Being Politically Blindsided by an Organization You Don’t Understand
You don’t have to read all the latest leadership books to figure out what it takes to be visible and respected in your organization. Simply look around your workplace and pay attention. Every organization has a culture, a set of values, beliefs, and unwritten codes of conduct that are your clues.
As you look around, ask:
• Who gets seen and heard in your organization? Who is highly respected in your organization? Why do people listen
• Who is a great contributor but goes unnoticed? Who has great insight but is ignored? Why don’t people listen to
Make your observations as concrete and specific as possible. Name two or three persons who fall into each category ('seen and heard' and 'invisible') and then decipher why this is the case. Think through both the language these people use, the way they say things, and even how they dress.
Keep watch of these people over the next few weeks to identify additional subtle cues. When you've gotten a good sense of what works and what doesn't, turn the focus on yourself. Which category do you fall into? Which behaviors do you most closely model? If you want to gain further visibility, how can you do this effectively?
Trap #2: 'Don't Toot Your Own Horn' Mentality
We want to be noticed not for the sake of being noticed, but valued for our insights and contributions. This means we have to make our contributions to the organization known. And for many of us, talking about our value is hard to do. Chances are, you grew up hearing messages like "Don't toot your own horn," and "Don’t get ahead of yourself."
If this was your upbringing, you need to unlearn these childhood messages and undo this mentality. This is often especially challenging for women who were raised believing 'good girls' aren't assertive, but it's a lesson all of us need to unlearn to be effective in our roles. If you don't toot your own horn, who will?
How can we gain visibility by speaking about the value that we bring in a way that doesn't feel like ego-inflation? A lot comes down to what you say and how you say it.
The focus doesn't have to be only on you for your achievement to be noticed. If you are responsible for a team that has just nailed a project, you led the initiative, sure, but when you talk about it identify the people within your team that implemented critical components and ensure everyone gets credit for the success.
No team to focus on? No problem. Instead, focus on the organization, on an issue that was plaguing the organization, and how your insights and analysis helped sort it out. That way, you come across as solutions-oriented (highly valued) rather than self-oriented (not valued).
Trap #3: The Task Focus
We often fall into a trap of simply describing our work rather than its value to the organization. How did you respond the last time you were asked, "What do you do?" Chances are you responded either with your title or your job responsibilities—your tasks—rather than highlighting the value of this work.
We fall into this trap in part because describing our jobs is what we have become accustomed to doing. But it also happens because we aren't clear ourselves about the connection between our work and the value to the organization. To crystallize
and communicate your value, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is it that I am doing and why am I doing it?
2. What is the underlying motivation?
3. What makes it an effective performance? And how does that performance make a positive change in my immediate
4. What are the larger implications of this work?
5. How does what I am doing fit into the progress of the corporation in general?
6. How can I assure that it aligns most effectively with the corporate vision and strategy?
Trap #4: Not Being Prepared to Receive Credit
The final trap many people fall into is the deflection trap. They work hard to be seen and heard in their organization and then when the proper credit they deserve is bestowed upon them, they deflect the credit or minimize their contribution. One lesson you do want to hold onto from your childhood is that of learning to accept a complement.
When you are recognized for the value of the work you do, make sure not only to accept credit for it, but to leverage the credit. If it’s appropriate to get the recognition in writing, do so. And, when possible, turn the complement into an opportunity for further work. For example, if your boss congratulates you on your latest project, you might respond: "Thank you, this was a complicated project and I am really proud of the work I did and my team's delivery. There are a couple other projects that have similar potential that I'd like to discuss with you."
Charmaine McClarie, head of McClarie Group, leads executive development programs that build competitive advantage for organizations. Charmaine is the architect of the powerful Executive Success Principles® and its corresponding ESP® program. She is an oft-quoted source in publications worldwide including the New York Times, Harvard Management Update, the London Financial Times, Forbes, and People magazine. Charmaine's clients include Fortune 500 companies seeking to develop and retain their future leaders. For more information from Charmaine, visit www.mcclariegroup.com.