Many people have told me that the biggest challenge they face is that they are not able to get the attention of the senior people in their organisation. In fact, my articles on gaining visibility and building reputation are among the most popular of the 500+ that I have written over the last few years.
The frustration is palpable. One recent example was Alan, a VP in risk management:
“I’m arguably one of the best qualified people on my topic in the business, and maybe externally too. I’ve been interviewed by the media, am prominent in my institute and have even published articles. But, will my executive listen to me? Not a chance. There is a major problem emerging and none of the senior team are in the least bit interested. Sure, they make the right noises, but do they do anything? Well, it is starting to present a risk to my career now. If this thing blows…”
When I worked it through with Alan, it was clear that the executives should be taking notice, recognising what he can contribute and certainly, taking concrete action. Right now, we are taking steps to ensure that Alan, and his organisation, avoid a calamitous and very public reputational nose-dive.
Gaining the appropriate level of recognition can do a lot more than avoid catastrophes. Over the last year alone, many that I have worked with have reported back that the increased recognition has given them benefits such as:
“Within less than three months I landed my ideal role with the enthusiastic backing of the COO and several of his colleagues.” SB, Edinburgh.
“In the last few weeks, three different members of the senior team have been sounding me out on different opportunities. Now I have a different problem – which one to choose!” DW, London.
“Formerly, I had to hunt for processes to make more efficient. Always getting good results, but never getting the recognition. No longer, the exec committee are now directing me to where they need more efficiencies, and the results have gone up significantly.” AW, Geneva.
A Quick Exercise
Now, how does this relate to your situation?
- What do you want to be recognised for by the most powerful people in your arena?
- If you can get this recognition, what difference will it make to your work?
- At a personal level, how will this help you?
- Is this something you should be putting more energy into?
If the answer to the last question is a definite “yes”, what you’ll need to be doing is making sure that you have the right foundations in place, and also, that you are able to use a critical success factor that will ensure you stay on course and arrive at your intended destination.
Four Vital Foundations
To maximise your progress, and make your journey to high-level influence as simple as possible, make sure you have there four in place to a large extent:
- Have a unique selling point. In crowded places, you need to have something to stand out with. If you are just like everyone else, you’ll stay just like everyone else. And, your USP needs to be context sensitive and valuable to powerful people.
Enjoy the cut and thrust. You simply cannot avoid the politics, try as you might. Learning to enjoy it while holding on to your sense of integrity, means that you will engage proactively with these natural processes. Keeping your head in the sand on this one is not viable.
Know who the powerful people are. Sounds obvious, and it is, if you know what to look for. This is not just about seniority, you need to get behind the big decisions and see who are calling the all the shots. Power ebbs and flows, collaborates and conflicts, so you must keep your finger on the pulse too.
Have a strategy and plan. Another obvious one, but overlooked by most. Based on what you are aiming for, who the powerful people are, and what you can do for them, you need to break it down into a step-by-step process to get yourself recognised. Being ambitious and determined is wasted without a plan.
The Critical Success Factor
The great thing about these four foundations is that by and large, they are within your control. Careful thinking, judicious consulting and firm decisions are usually all that is required.
Then, your strategy and plans should be driving your towards the simple truth, the critical success factor evident in all those who make it big:
“Position yourself within their line of sight.”
This means working out where they are looking, what problems they are grappling with, and then, aligning your USP as a valuable contributor to the solution to their problem.
Take Action Today
- Identify the most powerful people. Look widely around your domain. Don’t worry if they are not accessible, just make sure they are the ones calling the shots.
- Explore their agenda. Do all that you can to discover what’s really on their mind right now. You’ll need to pull in the overall organisations strategy, the regular updates they give and tap into your intelligence network for this one.
- Map your capability to their agendas. This is the repositioning piece. Taking stock of what you have, re-interpreting your assets, and being creative are necessary with this action.
Do these well and you will be well on your way to finding the easy way to get recognised by the powerful people in your world.
Colin Gautrey is becoming the most sought-after expert in power and influence by ambitious and talented professionals who are serious about accelerating their careers and their results. But, Colin is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
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