Ready to Step Up and Shine? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I manage a small team in a fast-growing area of a giant information security company. There is so much opportunity for my industry right now (have you seen the stuff about “Zoom-bombing” in the news? We stop that kind of thing).

I have always been ambitious—and right now, during this crisis, I am doing so well with my little team. I feel that this could be the time for me to really step it up to shine. But my boss, along with everyone else, is crazy busy. We are all going through a ton of transition and, of course, stress.

I have big ideas! But don’t know how to go about getting them in front of the people who can do something with them. How do I increase my visibility right now without being a pest? I want to—

Carpe Diem

Dear Carpe Diem,

It is awfully nice to hear some good news! I knew some people must be thriving in the current state of affairs, I just haven’t read about them in the news!

The first thing that comes to mind is one thing to definitely not do. Do not send your boss emails with good ideas for her to implement. Ideas are fun, but what matters most when things are nuts is execution. So if you want to send a good idea with a detailed action plan with timeline that you intend to act on, great. Otherwise—don’t.

The converse of that is to ask your boss what you can take off her plate right now. Say something like “it seems like there is a ton going on, and although we are busy on Team Carpe Diem, we love to add value, so what can we take on that would lighten your load?

All my other ideas are going to require a slightly longer-term outlook and will probably not yield immediate results. However, I guarantee that if you pick a couple of these and commit to them, you and your brilliant career will absolutely benefit. Pick the ones that feel doable to you and will not require a personality transplant. (Those are very difficult.)

Crush it Now. Be 100% the best at what you already have on your plate. Make sure everyone on your team has everything they need right now, and that each of them is fully engaged and satisfied with you as a leader.
Become a PR Professional. Start a newsletter for your team or department. Post on your company intranet what projects you’re working on and how they make a difference for the organization at large.

Build Your Reputation as a SME. Post interesting, fun, value-added stuff on social media about what is happening in your industry. Make sure you aren’t sharing company secrets, of course—just stay current with the news and comment from your unique perspective.
Check your attitude. Make sure you are staying curious about what other teams are doing, looking for opportunities to collaborate, finding ways to be of service.

Network. This is such a dirty word to some folks. These are the folks who are upset by the adage “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.” The problem is that the adage is true—and if people don’t know you at all, they certainly aren’t going to know about what you know. So get to know people. Start new relationships with people you don’t know and build stronger relationships with people you do know. Get your colleagues at work to introduce you to their friends. Think less about the position a person holds and more about the influence they have. Curiosity is your friend. Get people to tell you about themselves, what they do, and what they know. The more you learn—and the more you know who to go to for what—the more valuable you are to the organization. Engage individuals in the chat on Zoom calls. Contribute to calls for ideas and feedback.

Find a mentor. Identify people in the organization who know things you don’t know and ask them to teach you what they know or share their experience with you and to give you advice. People love to give advice. I should know. 😊

Be an amazing organizational citizen. Volunteer for committees or attend events that aren’t necessarily mission critical. Send thank-yous to people who do you favors and congratulations to people who accomplish cool things. It isn’t sucking up—it’s nice.

I know this sounds shockingly obvious, but it can be amazing how often it is forgotten: a lot of being visible is showing up to things so that you can be seen. Be interested in what is going on, be curious about people, be engaged, and pay attention. Don’t expect people to come to you.

Shine on, Carpe Diem.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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