We recently asked three Everwise Mentors to share about their experiences in personal branding and managing up. Our community brought a variety of questions and issues regarding both topics, resulting in two online discussions that complimented each other well.
Thanks to the following mentors for shedding light on the challenges our community shared:
Richard Worth, Managing Director, Worth Associates
Cheryl Nelan, Owner and CEO, CMIT Solutions
Muriel Pineau, Engagement Strategy Lead, Shell
For professionals, from junior employees to c-suite executives, building credibility is necessary to establish oneself as a leader. When you’re new, it can be difficult to understand how to build that credibility. Is it best to go big or take a slow and steady approach?
Richard Worth advised that either approach may be acceptable. Taking into consideration the people you are working with and the dynamics of the project you are working on, the question to ask is: “Which is the most relevant?” Worth also reminded us that actions speak louder than words, “It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do to support others around you.” What can you do to be there when your teammates need you most? Working with a veteran sponsor or mentor within your organization who has proven their value and understands the inner-workings of the company can help you navigate these situations.
Several people sought advice in cases where their superiors take credit for their ideas and accomplishments. Muriel Pineau pointed out that this happens more often than you might think, even if it is unintentional. She suggested sending your manager a kind note (so there is a paper trail) thanking them for good representation of your project and volunteering to field any follow-up questions. She also reminded that word of mouth is very powerful and leaders are always interested in understanding who executed what. She ultimately recommended carrying on good work and trusting that, “The more you become indispensable to the success of your manager, the less invisible you will become, especially as you steadily develop your reputation as a subject matter expert.”
Standing Out to Leadership
Worth offered that in considering personal work objectives for the year, it is important to consider your organization’s top goals. He noted, “Visibility and impact is not always measured by financial results alone. There are likely to be objectives that are linked to corporate responsibility for the environment and local communities. These soft measures are sometimes as important as the hard bottom line financial measures.”
A number of community members wondered how to gain visibility and recognition if they work remotely and therefore do not have as much of a presence in the office. Worth shared that while he was operating in an offshore location, he found success by building relationships with individuals back at headquarters. More specifically, he sought out elder “statesmen-type” people who could support and represent him well to other stakeholders, even when he wasn’t physically present.
Pineau recommended seeking invitations to essential meetings and to be physically present for each of those. Cheryl Nelan agreed, pointing out, “we are a society of relationships, and those can be hard to form when there are miles between us.” Luckily, technology can help overcome these challenges. Leveraging video conferencing – putting a face to your voice – can help people get to know you, and let them see how engaged you are with the work. Using your company’s chat tool can also help you build the personal side of your business relationships and keep your name top-of-mind for colleagues. All three experts agreed that keeping your manager informed with regular, concise update emails will let them know about the work you do and progress you make against your goals.
When you change companies or teams within a company, often you must reestablish yourself as a valuable member of the team. In this situation, Worth recommends seeking feedback from your direct manager and peers. He observed that if you ask for their feedback, “You obviously care about how the organization perceives you, so be brave and ask!”
Because there is often a fine line between the two, community members asked for tips to best balance friendships and professional relationships with others at work. In Pineau’s opinion, as long as you are clear about separating work from play, perhaps the larger issue is the impact friendships can have on team dynamics. Pineau recommended keeping it professional in the office and abstaining from sharing topics related to your friendship with your boss.
On the flip side, what happens when something has soured a working relationship? In this case, Pineau recommended acknowledging the fact that there is an issue by scheduling a short meeting or coffee chat. This provides an opportunity to highlight what you see as an issue and express your interest to clean the slate. Consider creating some rules that will work for both of you in order to establish a working relationship that will benefit both of you, your projects, and teammates.
Of all the topics hit in these two AMA’s, the community was most eager for advice in the area of managing up. Many wondered how our experts suggest providing constructive feedback – which could be seen a negative – to their bosses. Pineau suggested that if your feedback is about how your manager relates to the team, positive reinforcement is best: “Sometimes, people in leadership positions do not feel very comfortable in their roles. A bit of encouragement goes a long way.” If your feedback is about strategy, she recommended setting up a meeting and preparing data to illustrate how your manager’s approach impacts business results, and suggestions for improvement. Emphasize that you want the same thing: business success.
What if you are feeling overloaded and don’t have the time to take on everything your manager is sending your way? Cheryl Nelan suggested that positive communication is also very effective in this situation. “Talk to your manager about your goals and objectives. Make sure you understand what is important. No manager wants to see their employee fail. So help them help you be successful.” In Nelan’s opinion, being clear about what is consuming your time and coming to your manager with some potential solutions will frame the conversation in a productive light. Pineau echoed Nelan’s recommendations, adding that your conversation shouldn’t be one-off. Setting follow-up meetings will help to manage expectations on an ongoing basis and help your manager think more strategically about their deliverables.
The major takeaway when it comes to managing up? According to Pineau, it comes down to providing value, being seen as a trusted partner, managing expectations, and creating the right environment for your management to succeed.