Why do some people get so much credit when they do less than you? You work hard and get great results, and it is hardly noticed. We hear this often from talented leaders who have progressed quickly early in their career and then seem to stall out in their progress.
“My work should speak for itself,” is often the mantra. “I don’t want to be a brown-noser or stuck-up”. “I don’t do politics,” is a comment that usually follows close behind. Our Asian clients will say they do not want to be the “shoeshine boy”.
Why? We hate the idea that we might come across as phony or superficial. We have all seen the “empty suit” who gets recognition and promotion when others know they’re not that good.
So how can you be authentic and still get the recognition you deserve?
If you invented a really great product and did not tell anyone about it, or what it does for them, would you expect people to buy it? Of course not. What you do is much more apparent to you than to others. If you do not communicate how your product benefits others they are not likely to buy it — and if you don’t let others know what you and your team are doing they are not likely to buy you either.
I am not talking about the old-time “snake oil salesman” who sold a worthless product. That’s closer to the empty suit. You need to craft your honest marketing plan for you and your team if you want others to recognize and appreciate what you do.
It is your responsibility to promote yourself – you can’t outsource this responsibility! Some people are fortunate to have a champion to do their marketing for them. You cannot plan on that continuing, nor should you.
You need to help your boss promote you. If your boss’s boss and your boss’s peers do not see how good you are, your boss takes a big risk to promote you or recommend you to others. If you are promoted and do not meet expectations … it reflects poorly on the one who recommended you. That is a high risk. The higher you go in the organization the harder it is to measure success, and the higher the risk.
What if your champion is transferred, leaves the company, or retires? Your reputation is what you have left. Make it a good one that is well known. Assume that people are too busy to automatically pick up on what you’re doing. If you do so, your courage to tell your story will be doing yourself, your career, and your paycheck a big favor. If you have value to bring to the organization and nobody knows about it you are also hurting the organization. They will promote someone else when it should have been you.
You don’t have to be slimy to build advocacy or market yourself at work
How can you show that you are on a different glide path? If you do this right, you can segue more smoothly into your self-marketing so it doesn’t have that slimy factor we all hate. Here’s how we encourage our clients at Change Masters, our global leadership communications company specializing in executive presence, to make their capabilities known in their organizations. This template works around the world – in fact, here’s an example from a Western European leader now working in Asia.
First, make your progress known in the three big areas every company is interested in today:
1. Driving business results. 2. Driving breakthrough innovations. 3. Driving people development to the next level of performance. Just thinking of these things allows you to re-calibrate your language and your actions to focus yourself in the right direction.
Second, if they don’t know what you’ve done it’s almost like you haven’t done it. Get the word out. You create a product or generate an idea, but stick it on the back of the bottom shelf and let it get dusty, no one will ever buy it. You have to socialize your ideas to get heard within your circles of influence. Don’t let your comfort level be your guide — let their ability to register and retain your message be your guide.
Third, when you socialize what you’ve done, concisely focus on some unique nuance of your approach or what you did that made it work because of your unique perspective on the situation. Don’t assume they know! When you do so, cut out the blah, blah, blah of providing excess background. You just want to hook them with one brief, intriguing statement. As one client of mine, a Dutch engineer, said, “Take them by the hand and give one line of background for context, not the history of the world!” He had great results with this approach, saying, “You made a Dutch engineer half-Italian!”
Bottom line: Engage your senior leaders in topics that are meaningful to them. Remember, if you did it and you said it, you’re not bragging!