Over the years, I’ve navigated the business world with the belief that the person in front of me would want to tell their story. What I didn’t understand was that by focusing on them, I was limiting my own visibility.
Many women share how hard it is for them to talk about themselves, either taking credit for their work or talking about their skills in the workplace. More often, we’re hoping people will notice our hard work – that our efforts and dedication will be rewarded.
I like how leadership coach Sally Helgeson articulates this in her blog, saying: “I have come to recognize that women with extraordinary skills are sometimes uncomfortable articulating their strengths.”
If you survey women leaders, you’ll hear it’s much easier for women to praise others than to tell others about the quality of their own work.
In my experience as a business leader and an executive leadership coach, it’s not always just women who struggle with this. It sometimes has to do with personality.
- How comfortable are you putting yourself forward for consideration for projects or promotions?
- Are you the first to raise your hand in a meeting or do you wait and hope to be called upon?
- When was the last time you had a conversation with your boss and you spoke to your strengths?
- In a performance review, have you ever countered constructive criticism with examples of your skills and accomplishments?
It’s tricky. No one wants to be the loudmouth who boasts and brags, but if you say nothing then you risk losing visibility. If you don’t advocate for yourself, what are the odds someone else will do that for you? It’s you who needs to make sure you’re visible to others and recognized as a valued contributor (not boastful and annoying!):
Here are 10 ways you can improve your visibility in the workplace:
- Network and build strong relationships within the organization. If people don’t know you and what value you bring, they can’t possibly think of you when opportunities come up.
- Cultivate good working relationships with your peers as well as with the higher ups. Peers will continue to grow and possibly move up the ladder with you (or ahead of you!). Having peers as trusted allies will serve you and them throughout your career.
- Use management meetings as a place to add ideas from your own past accomplishments on projects. If you’ve done similar work, remind the people the others about that conversationally. “Oh, that’s a similar challenge to the problem I tackled with a team for X project last spring. Perhaps we could consider x, y and z as a strategy for this.”
- Use storytelling to highlight your skills and accomplishments. When we share information by telling a story, it’s more than just sharing details. Storytelling builds connections. “Remember when we thought we were going to lose X account? I reached out to marketing and creative and invited everyone to the table. We had some great ideas in a brainstorming session and then I pitched a new campaign idea to X account. They’re still with us.”
- Contribute your ideas and opinions in meetings. It’s not about taking up airtime, it’s about adding value to the discussion. Don’t wait to be called on. Contributing in virtual meetings is arguably even more critical as it may be the only time people see or hear from you all week.
- Put yourself forward for consideration when an opportunity that interests you arises. Don’t wait to be asked; raise your hand if you think you can take on a task or project. This can be way outside the comfort zone of some leaders, who prefer to be appointed. You might not get picked, but your chances are greater than if you sit on the sidelines. And you will get noticed!
- Be true to who you are. No one likes a braggart. The key is to talk about your value and accomplishments through your authentic voice. Practice sharing ideas and saying positive things about your contributions in ways that are comfortable for you.
- Let others know what your team does and how they do it. Confident leaders give credit where credit is due. Sharing the contributions of your team members demonstrates you’re capable of putting together a good team that can accomplish great things – and that you recognize the importance of each person’s role and responsibilities. (Not to mention that everyone working for you will remember that you acknowledged their value – and you never know where they might go in their careers.)
- Understand how your boss likes to be kept apprised on your progress. Are you keeping your boss informed? Does your boss prefer email, face-to-face conversations or quarterly performance meetings? Figure out how and how often to communicate so that you find the sweet spot between too little information and annoying. Don’t assume they’re aware of your learning and wins.
- Let your boss know your goal of increasing your visibility. Ask them for support and ideas. What are some things that have worked for them? Use time with your boss to talk about risks, ideas and potential outcomes. Be open and clear about sharing your perspective. Influence comes from having deeper conversations, which in turn highlights your visibility.
Being open and honest about who you are and what you bring to your role is key.
When I meet with potential clients, it’s important I share what I bring to the relationship. I use examples of success I’ve achieved and what my strengths are. Communicating about myself builds rapport and confidence in my ability to help them.
Think about what your “brand” is and get comfortable both infusing your values into your accomplishments and how that has led you to successfully leading.