If brand recognition comes from repeated exposure to a consistent message, how strong is your visibility to those stakeholders that really matter?
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If I asked someone that knows you well about how visible you are, what do you think they might say?
Today I’d like to address personal and professional visibility – your visibility; something I believe to be a vital part of any success, whether you are employed, contracted or consulted, leader or led.
Talking about this to one of my clients this week he told the story of a discussion with his daughter about “finishing her degree”, that in his day it was OK to find a job after school, even without a degree, but that in today’s competitive world a degree has become a pre-requisite to even get into the race and that it is no longer a real differentiator.
I used that metaphor as our conversation went into the visibility space to suggest that in that same way, “allowing our results or performance to speak for themselves” is no longer good enough to assure our visibility in our career these days. We need to become more pro-active in driving that visibility, would you agree?
So just have a think about this last week in your career. What did you actively do to promote yourself and your visibility with those around you – with your client or prospects – with your boss or with other stakeholders you need to influence for your key outcomes as well as with your network?
Would I be right to say that most of us don’t like “blowing our own trumpet”? I certainly hear that from my clients more often than not. Whilst some are better than others in recognizing and acknowledging good performance when they see it – and everyone loves recognition – I would say most also “forget” to promote any successful outcomes of results they have achieved themselves.
Notice I haven’t used the term “selling yourself”, but rather “promoting yourself”. To me promoting is more subtle, more elegant, however whatever you call it, very necessary in today’s competitive world. Your stakeholders need to know who you are and more importantly what you are doing and achieving (for them). And, from a career perspective, the more they know about what you want or want to get to, the better they might be able to help “pull you up” into roles you aspire to.
We know that brand recognition comes from repeated exposure to a consistent message. Over time it helps associate expected behaviours and results and above all trust and confidence with that brand. Reputations don’t just prevail – they need to be constantly developed and maintained.
Promoting oneself or ones company plays an important part in growing your clients or stakeholder’s confidence and also trust in you. Results matter, and often the personal relationship implications of those results matter even more, if you are building and growing that relationship. So being noticed matters. Being known to always deliver what you promised is part of your “brand”. However, finding ways to always assure its visibility is just as important.
What can we do to raise that visibility?
Internal events. Think of how you can use events like a meeting or a presentation or a birthday celebration or a social event, to connect with others before and after the event. By asking them what they are “focusing on this week” you can direct the conversation to have them talk about themselves (notice that the question is quite specific while being an “open question”). My expectation with that was always to have them ask what I’m doing so I can tell them.
The event itself can provide opportunities for you to point to some things you are up to or relevant results that have been achieved. I like to speak about “what I have learned”. Of course there is a subtle difference between promoting and “grandstanding” and I urge you to find that fine line for yourself. My point however, is that you should not let this prevent you from “having a go” at raising visibility.
Asking questions can help raise visibility too, but not if “abused” just for visibility sake.
External events. The same applies to external events. My clients learn to set networking goals, which includes planning attendance at the right events at least once a month and more importantly what to do to assure relevant interaction with at least three other people “at their level and above and within the domain of their interest”. That means at least three other people they didn’t know before then know about them, their organisation and what they do. Visibility.
Lunch time. Do you go to lunch by yourself or with the same people every day? Why not use lunch as an opportunity to sit with others you don’t often get to speak to? Be pro-active. You might also try and get different people together for lunch or for coffee.
I sometimes smile in the hotel breakfast room when I observe people trying to ensure finding a private table so they “don’t have to talk to anyone”. Whilst I appreciate some of us aren’t “morning people” I do observe that when a full breakfast room necessitates table sharing, there is usually animated and interested conversation that follows.
Why not use the fact that we sit down for a meal as a catalyst to doing so with others you don’t often get to meet? Listening to what they do in the organisation increases your understanding of how the company works, learning about other agendas and gives you the opportunity to raise your visibility by telling them what you are doing or have done. But please don’t forget that others will also notice that you are doing this, a further visible fact.
Social media. LinkedIn is becoming what I call “the Facebook of business”. You can either just have a passive presence on in or you can (pro) actively use it for your visibility as well. I use it to help me promote my visibility in that I announce my weekly blogs through it. I notice it is being increasingly used for people to announce interesting activities or results or outcomes.
I teach my clients a number of techniques on how to grow and then use their LinkedIn presence to enhance their visibility.
The written word. Writing takes time both to write and to read, however I find it gives more permanence and credibility than just the spoken word. Both are necessary for visibility. Capturing an idea or proposing a way forward or summarizing an outcome or confirming a commitment is often best supported in writing. A powerful heading and a captive introduction are key to attract attention and crisp content or an exec summary for longer documents honour the reader’s time and the choice of format needs to be relevant for purpose. Email has become pervasive for almost any purpose today but a white paper can differentiate and an attached report substantiated with the right graphical emphasis can raise the level of professional visibility. But visibility is the driver to support the intended outcomes.
I attended an HR Summit with some 6o HR Directors in Singapore this week where we saw a few presentations on the extended application of social media tools to keep the shorter attention span of younger generations engaged. In the context of mentoring and also to not forget the value of the older generations, I suggested leaders could encourage their older players to share insights into their experience through publishing blogs (internal or external) about specific topics, to address a number of those issues, because the younger generations “read that stuff”.
Voice and Video
Today podcasts and video are the more expected media for people to engage in because we are all so time poor. Plus it is a much more personable media that gives those listening or watching a far better ability to “connect with you”, than just the written word.
Visible support. I emphasize to my clients how important it is to be developing a web of supporters, both within specific projects or engagements as well as on their ongoing journey of growing their personal and professional network. Visibility works both ways for that, both to attract and to provide support. People want to be associated with a visible success.
We’ve heard the cliché: “the job ain’t done till the paperwork’s finished” and I strongly believe that applies to our visibility. The job isn’t done until you have told everyone about it. Before, during and most importantly after it’s done. We so often forget to make the result visible and to celebrate the success and miss out on such a great opportunity to leverage visibility, both for ourselves and for “the cause”.
Remember that you next role(s) may be in a different city, necessitating your visibility with such stakeholders in those cities. Remember also that the decision makers for your next role may well be in different cities too.
My clients learn that whenever they are in a different city, their homework is to find out who these potential stakeholders are and develop a means to get in front of them during their stay. Only the ambitious ans career minded “fetchers” will do this, so it’s up to you to figure out which camp you are going to be in.
So what can you do differently about your visibility and your presence this coming week? What activities are you going to plan that start your ongoing path to greater visibility? If you plan your week’s focus areas (as most of us that that have goals will usually do), what can you add into those plans that will add to your visibility this week? And next week? And next month? How can you inject some fun into that so you look forward to it? What if you could?