Smart Ways to Be Seen and Heard At Work

As a professional woman, being good at what you do simply isn’t good enough these days. Intense competition in the workplace means you’ll need to understand how important it is to be visible, as well as gathering a host of tools and skills to ensure that you’re seen by the right people.

This is particularly important if you are ambitious and want to progress into more senior roles: it’s crucial that you are not only great at what you do, but that other people know that about you too. Being your organization’s biggest-kept secret will not help get you that next promotion. However, some of the advice in this article might.

Strategies to Ensure You are Seen and Acknowledged

My recent research interviewing women in senior leadership roles highlights some of the ways you can make yourself seen and heard at work — for the right reasons, of course!  Here are five ways to be seen and heard at work:

1. Be Seen.

Sounds simple, but in the world of emails, instant messaging, Skype calls and  teleconferencing, it’s all too easy to become a virtual colleague or team member. I maintain that we still form the biggest bonds with people we actually meet, and that is where rapport is built at its most strongest.

Jayne Mitchell, the deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bishop Grosseteste University in the U.K., agrees. She has a policy of actively being seen by “walking the campus” – i.e. popping into offices and saying hello to staff and students, and having an informal chat with whoever she meets. It’s this combination of being visible and talking that, she says,  ”Keeps me in touch with all staff, and allows me to hear their concerns and achievements — it gives me an opportunity to be approachable, if I can’t always be accessible at other times.  It also builds trust among staff in my leadership and decisions-making.” The lesson here? Where possible, take opportunities to leave your desk instead of emailing, and go and meet colleagues face- to-face. The goal: get yourself seen around your organization, introduce yourself to others. and have something to say.

2. Volunteer for Opportunities Outside Your Immediate Work.

There may be times when you have skills that need to be developed, yet find that there are limited opportunities at work for this to happen. At this point, it’s time to volunteer — as Jo Cox Brown, the CEO of The Malt Cross Trust, told me.

This means that you’ll not only be visible outside your immediate industry, you’ll also be doing good and developing your leadership skills at the same time.  Jo related to me how, wanting to develop her skills in chairing meetings, she got involved in a charity in Ghana that worked  with women escaping the human trafficking trade. As she recalled, “I did that for two years, and got the experience of chairing a multi-disciplinary meeting. The work was very rewarding,  but from a professional perspective, it was also about thinking ‘what skills do I need, and where can I get those from?’ “  Your improved skills back in the workplace will make you more visible. So ponder: where could you volunteer that would not only build your skills, but might help others too?

3. Be Memorable – for the Right Reasons.

We create an impression everywhere we go. Every time we open our mouths or do something, we make some sort of an impact.  The question is, is it the right one?

Kate Roebuck, Equity Partner at Bridge McFarland, counsels against over-sharing. “Don’t disclose too much — people don’t need to know everything about you.” Wise words, echoed in this Harvard Business Review article called The Authenticity Paradox. As the article points out, “Being authentic doesn’t mean that you can be held up to the light and people can see through you.” So sharing details about your domestic or financial problems at work may not create the impression that you’re looking to make. Decide what you’d like to people to know about you, and also what’s appropriate for them to know. Then save the rest for your best friend or therapist.

4. Be a People-Connector.

Networking is, not surprisingly, a tool consistently used by the senior leaders I interviewed. Research has shown that more and more women are understanding the importance of building a network, and learning to nurture it. This BBC article discusses how much business performance can be increased by actively networking, and how women need to change their perspective on what networking is, and importantly, what it isn’t.

One of the keys to this for women, I believe, is to view networking as building relationships. A great network is invaluable — but then you need to use it, and use it to the benefit of others. So connecting the people in your network to one another is an effective way to be visible: not only does it put you on the radar of two people, it will also be of help to others, which is something they won’t forget in a hurry.

Debbie Hunt, a Regional Sales Director for Maserati, has networking running through her veins: “I am constantly thinking about who may be useful for other people to know, and can often manage to make useful introductions that are of great benefit to all concerned.” So think to yourself: who would be a great connection for the next person I speak to? 

5. Consider Doing Something You Don’t Love.

Sometimes a way to be more visible is to take the less obvious route. This is something that Kate Davies, CEO of Nottinghill Housing, recommends.  In other words, if the position you aspire to is on a small team but is currently  filled by someone who won’t be moving for some time, then consider a different move that will equip you with the skills you’ll need, and help to take a different path to the top.

Kate clarified the process thus: “In this industry, although you may aspire to be in policy, becoming a housing manager first will allow you to oversee and work with a team of ten people. After two or three years of that, you’ll be able to move up much more effectively than if you had just sat in a lower position in the policy team.”

So you’re better off not waiting for the right opening indefinitely, and possibly missing out on opportunities. Instead, she advises, “Do something that will advance your career, even if it feels initially unappealing, because there will be more learning in something that feels uncomfortable.” In fact, finding creative ways to be more visible and following a different path than one you had originally envisioned may lead you to more success than your first plans!

Remember, as noted, being good enough isn’t good enough — you need to be visible. You’ll need to employ strategies like the ones mentioned in this article if you want to make it to the top.  Have a look at these pointers and choose just one to get your started, then try to employ several of them to lead you on the path to being visible and valued at work.

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Susan Ritchie

Susan Ritchie is a leadership coach who specialises in working with new and aspiring female leaders, helping them develop their leadership presence, so they can lead with confidence, create the right impact and excel in their role. She’s the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant: 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful.
She can be found at www.susanritchie.co.uk where you can download 5 Steps To Developing Your Leadership Presence – and why not come and say hello on twitter @susanjritchie.

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