Every year, at performance review time, I seem to get the same question from my clients.
“How can I be more ‘visible’ at work?"
Let’s take the case of Karen. Karen was a high performer in her organisation. Karen was capable, committed and ready for the next step in her career. The only trouble was - Karen was not visible enough. During a discussion with her boss, he had told her that he had to ‘go into bat for her’ in the talent review forums because most of his peers didn't know who she was, or what she was capable of. He found it hard to fight for her bonus, and recommend her for a promotion, because no one else really knew of her talent and potential. So his developmental feedback to her was to work on her personal branding, and become more visible, in order to fast track her career opportunities.
We pondered this advice in our coaching session, and came up with 3 questions to guide her on her quest for greater visibility. (Perhaps they can help you also 😊)
What does visibility mean to your boss?
To whom do you need to be visible, and for what behaviours?
How will your boss know you have become visible?
Becoming more visible is not about tooting your own horn, or hijacking meetings with tales of your achievements, it’s a strategic approach to elevating your personal brand and interpersonal impact. It’s about understanding how people see you. Do the right people see you? Are you known for the right talents and skills? What do you want to be known for?
That’s where the 3 questions come in.
1. What does visibility mean to your boss?
Unless you know what behaviours, actions, or activities will produce more visibility you could spend extra time focusing on the wrong activities. For instance, you might think visibility means to turn up to more meetings so people can see your face more often, whereas your boss might think it’s more about leading the few meetings you currently attend so you seem more visible when you are there. These are two different approaches to being more visible. You need to understand what your boss means by ‘being more visible’. We can then translate their concept of being visible into the concrete behaviours of doing visible things. That way you can ensure your actions are aligned with their expectations and you are not wasting your effort. After all, they are the ones judging your visibility, so it pays to really understand what it means to them.
2. To whom do you need to be visible, and for what behaviours?
Let’s get strategic here. Who needs to see you doing what in order to see you as more visible? Is it your boss’s boss? Your boss’s peers? A certain customer or stakeholder? We don’t need to be visible to everyone, just the people who will make a difference towards the goal we are trying to achieve. Getting clear on who needs to know you, and what you can do, helps narrow the focus of your actions, so make sure you find out.
3. How will your boss know you have become visible?
A common factor in all development work is making sure that those around you can see your improvements. Your boss needs to be convinced you have become visible. Most of my coaching focuses on the ‘perception’ of changed behaviours, just as heavily as it does on the ‘performance’ of the changed behaviours. So if you are doing all the right things to make you more visible, but your boss isn’t hearing about it, or seeing it, or experiencing it directly from you, then you may as well not bother. The person you want to become more visible to needs to think you are more visible, not just be told by you that you are now more visible.
A great place to start is by simply asking the question, “How will you know I have become more visible?” You will hear answers like, “I’ll hear about you from Janet on the steering committee,” or “I’ll see people ask you more questions in our client presentations,” or “I’ll just know by working alongside you and seeing who comes to interact with you from other departments.” All of these answers give you a recipe for how your boss will gather evidence for seeing you become more visible. You now have the blueprint for who to talk more to (Janet from the steering committee, and feel free to give her a nudge to let your boss know you’ve been speaking quite regularly), or how to behave in a meeting (maybe initiate a Q&A time that you can lead, or word up a favourite client to ask you some questions in front of your boss 😊), or how to interact with people from other departments (make sure it’s in front of your boss!).
With these three questions, you can build that blueprint for strategically influencing your visibility in the workplace – both the actions of visibility and the perception of visibility. Remember, both count.
As always, I’d love to hear how you go.