By Greenbank Partner Judith Hirst
During our conversations with people at work, particularly in the UK, we often come across a reluctance to let our bosses and colleagues know what we do really well and what we have achieved. There can be modesty or reluctance to “blow our own trumpet” perhaps based on a belief that the results of our long hours and energy will surely speak for themselves.
The challenge – avoiding the ‘not seen’ trap….
Few of us respect those who spend a large part of their week in self-promotion and we can easily feel distrust for those who seem all too ready to tell us how wonderful they are. However, not all managers or organisations will appreciate the ‘unsung heroes’, the people who deliver the goods consistently and without fuss and when the time comes for performance reviews, succession planning and decisions around promotions there is a real danger that some of the real star players are overlooked.
In recent use of 360o feedback surveys in our leadership programmes, we have come across several participants whose key stakeholders have answered ‘not seen’ against important competencies such as negotiation skills, business development and influencing skills. In many cases the participant is doing a great job in these areas, but what they aren’t doing is allowing their stakeholders to see that this is a strength…
In this article we want to take a fresh look at how each of us needs to make sure that we actively manage our own reputation, let others know what our skills and talents are and what we have achieved- rather than quietly and patiently waiting for others to spot our talents.
Managing Your Career – “Me Plc”
No one has more interest in your career than you. So take some time to think about you and your career – almost as if you were your own company – Me Plc. Ask yourself:
- What are the product/services that I have to offer?
- How do they meet the needs of the organisation?
- How do can I make my abilities known to others?
- Where do I need to invest time and energy to build my stock of skills and knowledge in areas which are valued by the ‘market’?
We work with one of the top 5 international consultancy firms on their High Potential programme and have the pleasure of listening to their senior partners talk about the importance of their top people having their own marketing plan. Promotion decisions are tough if candidates don’t make it clear what their strengths and capabilities are!
Capturing & demonstrating your USP (Unique Selling Point)
Some top tips….
- Take time each week to review what has gone well and what you have achieved
- Recognise the opportunities to demonstrate your abilities – spot key moments – presentations, meetings with senior people and key decision makers and make sure you invest the time an energy so that you show case your skills
- Volunteer for projects that are visible and central to the organisation’s goals
- Coach/mentor others in your organisation
- Don’t understate the difficulties that you have had to overcome to achieve results
- Keep a folder of personal praise, achievements & commendations
Actively Managing your Reputation
Of course the first step in managing your reputation is to decide what you ideally want your reputation to be! We suggest that you write down a list of the words that that you would be please to hear your important stakeholders saying about you; eg “they are professional… they have gravitas..he is a strategic thinker…she is loyal” etc…
If you are just starting a new role with a new company, you may be fortunate enough to be starting off with a blank canvass as far as your reputation is concerned – although usually the grapevine or your social network that mean we will all have some reputation out there. So – whether you are new in role or an experienced contributor, it’s vital to understand what your reputation is right now and any gaps with your ideal list.
You can ask directly for feedback from your key stakeholders or you might also want to consider setting up a 360o survey.
Identify your Key Stakeholders
In our Strategic Influencing workshops, we work with participants to first identify their stakeholders – both for (a) their current role or project and (b) their long-term career. This in itself can be an insightful task…Questions we suggest people consider include:
|Who has the line authority in your company to sign off deals, additional resources etc|
|Who owns the human resources you need to be successful?|
|Who has scarce expertise or knowledge you need to be successful?|
|Who has the ear of your own line manager?|
|Who is well connected in multiple ways in the organisation|
|Who do you need flexibility or ‘over-and-above’ working in order for your role to be successful?|
|Who might be main competitors for the resource you need?|
|Which clients, relevant to your work, are seen as being the most influential|
|Who is a great communicator and networker?|
|Who could potentially ‘trip you up’ or be a block to success?|
|Who could be a gatekeeper potentially allowing you access to a key person?|
This will help you form a list of the key people who can affect your career and define the reputation you need to have with each of them in order to be successful. In Ashley Birchall’s article this month, he suggests some ways to prioritise and understand better these stakeholders in a project context and many of his ideas have broader relevance too.
Obviously one of your most important stakeholder is your immediate manager and if this is an area of interest for you, then it’s worth a glance at our article on this from September where we look at your relationship with your boss in more detail.
Self-Promotion without Smarminess
If marketing yourself to your own boss feels a little ‘slimy’, think about ways you can casually talk things up without overselling – and without driving your core message into the ground. Each interaction should add new information, and when you can, fold the message into the day’s news, for example: “I just got off the phone with a candidate for the R&D job. We’re getting resumes from some really impressive people.”
Being both Proud and Generous
If you are still feeling uncomfortable with ‘blowing your own trumpet’ then think about how you can do this for others as well as for yourself. By genuinely praising the good work and achievements of others you will develop a strong reputation of someone who is positive, supportive and appreciative of both your own efforts and those of others. On a recent programme one of our participants had been trying to develop his own ability to say ‘thank you’ and recognise others in his team. He reported that he has since been told by a colleague that he was ‘the only person in the business who ever said thank you’. He had also noticed that this person seems to be putting more effort and attention to their work together – a clear benefit of his new habit of giving sincere praise for a job well done.
Generosity – ‘paying it forward’ builds trust and will in most cases lead to a repayment in kind. So if you want to nurture your reputations think about ways and opportunities where you can both recognise the contribution of others and be seen as being confident enough to share credit where credit is due.