I was probably 19 at the time, it’s been so long I can’t quite remember, but the experience is still fresh in my mind. It was review week and this was the second time I’d seen this on my report “rarely speaks up to take on new assignments.”
Was this a running joke, or were people really not seeing me for the powerhouse employee that I was? I put so much energy into doing a great job, went above and beyond in my projects, and took on other people’s projects when they couldn’t complete them. I had to say something this time. They can’t just tarnish my reputation with imperfect remarks without an explanation for how they’re measuring “speaking up,” so I went to the manager. “Can you please take a moment to explain what it means that I don’t speak up to take on new assignments?”
“I know you do good work, but some of the other employees speak up more than you asking for new projects and taking on assignments as I bring them up. You don’t do that.”
“Yes, I’ve seen them do that, but do you recognize that I have taken on several of their shifts when they overbooked themselves? I only take on work I can handle while they continue to over book and then end up needing me to pick up the slack,” I replied.
“Now that you mention it I have noticed that. And were you the one who redesigned our productivity spreadsheet?” the manager asked.
“Yes, that was me. I had some downtime during one of my shifts and I saw that it needed to be updated with our new strategy, so I took the time to make the changes. I figured you’d notice when you looked at it in the morning,” I said.
“I did, but it could have been from anyone during the day, so I didn’t immediately assume it was you. I was waiting for someone to say something. This is what I’m talking about, how can I know how to rate you if I don’t know what you’re doing? I can’t read your mind,” he replied.
This was when I began to realize the pattern I had fallen into. At each job I had been in there were people who stood out and continued to get more opportunities than me even though I knew I had an impeccable work ethic, but work quality alone is not the route to the top of the ranks. To get there, it’s important to stand out and become a well-recognized resource to the company management.
The people who succeeded in receiving promotions and opportunities for growth exhibited several behaviors such as:
Taking on highly visible assignments - Those who accepted high profile assignments such as those specially requested by higher levels of management received a great deal of praise even if the projects were small in nature. When they did a good job they were praised by leadership, which gave them additional clout.
Pointing out their accomplishments - People who earned the most attention from leadership also did quite a bit of bragging in the form of storytelling. They’d share war stories from their latest projects starting with how big the project seemed in the beginning, how they strategized to solve the problem, and how through their wits they were able to conquer and win. They brought other people into the conversation giving them praise for their parts and receiving it back publicly, further advancing their brand.
Building rapport with leadership - Employees that spent time building deeper bonds with managers in decision making positions always seemed to get ahead much faster than anyone else. If your work is comparable to another person, what do you think will become the deciding factor in a promotion? This doesn’t mean you have to be inauthentic or kiss anyone’s butt undeservingly, but make it a point to establish a relationship, so when the decision comes to down to who they would prefer working closely with they can picture spending long hours with you.
For me, it took several years to really start getting to work on building some of these skills. I recognized what was happening around me, but I still couldn’t quite get the hang of doing it myself. It just didn’t feel natural.
If you're anything like me, you want to start implementing these changes successfully right away, but it's important to give yourself time to adjust to trying to incorporate more visible activities into your workplace lifestyle. To get started it helps to start with a clear plan of action that details how you feel about where you are today, where you want to go and what it will look like, and chart the steps you’ll need to take in order to reach your ultimate goals.
My workbook “The 4 Keys to Influence” is a great place to start drafting your plan for getting noticed as a workplace leader. It’s only 32 pages, so it’s an easy book to read and offers lots of workbook pages to help you develop your strategy. I encourage you to pick up the paperback version, so you can write your thoughts down on paper and review them later on as you look back at your development years into the future.
If you’re on Twitter, let’s connect — @krystalgolead