Make Your Impact @ Work: Be Seen
This is the first in a 3 part series focused on how to make and increase your impact at work now and throughout your career.
I was inspired to write this after running a 3 month Impact at Work Programme with the Princes Trust and as many of my clients are coming to me concerned that their impact and influence has decreased during the pandemic.
Remote working is a boon for many people but it does bring it's challenges and for many of us being seen, heard and decisive is hard when so physically distanced from our colleagues and teams.
Coronavirus aside, I see the same impact-obstacles come up time and again with my clients and recognise many of them as I also faced them in my previous careers.
They range from:
Being spoken over in meetings - or not even given the chance to speak up
Fear of challenging the 'norm'
Having their idea taken as someone else's and therefore losing the credit for it
Realisation of distinct favouritism
Feeling invisible especially when it comes to promotions and pay rises
Recognising the need to be a certain 'type' of person in order to fit in
You may recognise some if not all of these and you may have several impact-obstacles to add to the list - either way - ready on for my essential guide on how to make sure you and your work is being fully seen and appreciated by the right people, at the right time.
Being Your True Self
A common impact-obstacle my clients, especially women, face is the fear that they will come across as being too pushy, assertive or even aggressive if they try to make an impact.
This tends to stem from our wide-held belief that 'little girls are seen and not heard' so should not assert their ideas or opinions.
Thankfully, we see that this is now changing, however, for many people in the workforce they fear being too assertive and thereby offending others as they simply don't know how to make their impact in any other way.
Whether you are quiet, shy, a complete introvert or lack confidence in certain situations it can be incredibly hard to be yourself and prove your value and worth in your organisation.
If this is what you are currently facing then you may wish to ask what is stopping you - it may not be you - it may be that you are at the wrong place of work.
I am in no way suggesting you immediately jump ship, however, you may wish to take stock of where you currently are in your career and see what or who is stopping you from making your impact.
One way to see if your workplace is supportive is to find others who are in the same boat as yourself. An organisation I have worked closely with set up a Confidence Collective which runs get togethers every month to talk openly and honestly about the confidence blocks they face at work. Everyone is welcome to join, there is no pressure to speak up but just a mutual understanding and agreement to share thoughts, ideas, concerns, tips etc.
A surprise for many in the group was just how many senior team members suffered from lack of confidence, shyness and imposter syndrome.
By opening up the conversation the company realised how crucial training, especially for line managers and in presentation skills, was for their employees.
You may also want to ask yourself how you are getting in your own way? Yes we should bring our authentic selves to work, however, we should also be challenging ourselves to an extent or else we will become too comfortable and complacent by easily blaming others for not seeing our potential. We need to push it a little each and every day.
How can you do this without being too pushy?
When it comes to highlighting your work and therefore your worth and value start by identifying who needs to know what about you.
Then - tell them.
I know that this may seem like a scary prospect or, at best, as if you are blowing your own trumpet, but the fact is you don't know what you don't know. So if your manager, boss, project lead is completely unaware of your input, achievements and ideas they will never attribute credit to you.
A few ways in which you can bring the focus back to you and your work include:
Weekly 'keep you in the loop' emails to highlight all you have done and what you plan to do.
1 to 1's with you line manager - these are crucial (especially as the majority of us continue to work from home and remote working looks set to become widespread)
Team meeting updates - here you can share the load with colleague and agree to give each other praise so that everyone's is being recognised - work karma!
Write an internal blog or liaise with your marketing department to see if you can write regular pieces for social media channels such as LinkedIn or the company website.
Now that you are informing those who need to know about you, your work and your value it is time to push a little more. Because now you want to prove what you are truly capable of by asking for more. Obviously only do this if you want to and have capacity, however, if you don't ask you won't get and you need to start stepping up to avoid getting stuck or passed over when it comes to promotion and pay rise time.
When it comes for asking for more you must be specific in what you want and the commitment you can make. Are you asking to lead on a project, start a new piece of work, manage or mentor someone or take on leadership of an entire team?
Start by making your progression plan known to your manager and others who should be aware (their boss? the L&D team? HR?)
Open up the conversation with them to discuss how this can work and to identify what you now need to do:
Take a lead on certain projects or initiatives
Mentor a junior colleague before you start managing them
Find suitable training and make a business case to request this
Ask to shadow on certain pieces of work
Request more challenging work
Network within your organisation to ask others for their advice, especially if they have done what you wish to do
Pay it back and help others out too - a simple LinkedIn recommendation can go a long way for a colleague.
Create an in-house networking or mastermind group to share learning, give and take advice & guidance and to highlight what you have done and are working on
As you begin to stretch and challenge yourself - keep those that need to know updated on your progress - a quick overview to your line manager, mentor or boss each week will enable them to identify further opportunities for you.
Get Others Onboard
Making friends at work invariably makes life much more bearable, however, it is crucial to also foster your business connections in and outside your workplace.
I previously hinted at getting a mentor on your side to help you navigate your progression which can be hugely beneficial, however, you may want to have someone more senior in your corner to highlight all of the fantastic work you are doing.
Having a work champion speaking about you, your work and your plans can raise your profile and impact without you having to have those uncomfortable, sweat-inducing conversations.
You do need to take the first step and ask a key player to be your work champion so be clear on the reasons why you want them - specifically them to be your advocate and how this can also benefit them in the organisation.
If this option is not open to you due to the size of the business or even the set up and culture - return to work karma and make an agreement with certain colleagues to be each other's allies.
This works particularly well if you feel that you struggle to speak up in meetings as you can ask your ally to bring you into the conversation.
Finally, work on solidifying your relationship with your line manager and those up the chain - the simple act of being friendly, supportive and asking how they are goes a long way as it shows that you are invested in them as a person as well as your manager.
This approach will help you realise when they are under pressure and therefore when you can offer support to them.
Many people struggle with this approach so consider setting yourself a target to find out one new thing about them in each of your 1 to 1's and then remember these so you can follow up on how their family are, what hobbies they enjoy and how their house renovation plans are going.
We all like to be treated as humans - with respect and warmth so by showing you can do so - even with the CEO proves that you are able to forge successful working relationships.
Really Stand Out
You don't need to be loudest voice in the room to consistently stand out and make your impact known.
In fact, those who tend to make a lot of noise rarely follow through so consider following these top tips to make your cement your presence and reveal your positive impact:
Be the calm in the storm - no-one needs extra drama or noise in a work crisis so think before immediately chiming in and allow your words to have resonance.
Challenge when you need to not just for the sake of being heard and noticed. Again -consider and plan how you want to approach this as you may have to create a strong business case to do so.
Be the positive and solution focused team member by finding the win-win and working to deliver it rather than constantly complaining of problems and issues.
Accept praise and thanks graciously but also ask how you want it to be given. A client of mine was up for a work award and feared having to make a public speech so asked his department head if he record this rather than do it live. He created a fantastic video which the entire organisation loved and allowed him to say thanks as well as show off his creative skills - win-win.
Be present in meetings - especially as we are working remotely - by switching your camera on, really listening to what is being said and following up afterwards with questions or comments if you feel uncomfortable asking in the moment.
I hope this helps - next time I'll be delving into how you can be hear more at work in order to help you speak up in meetings, presentations and how to get your ideas across to the right people as well as be given the credit for them.