You need to be viewed as credible if you want to be highly effective and get the recognition, resources, and trust you deserve.
But you can’t be credible if you are invisible.
Humble people often tell me, “It’s the work that matters. it’s not authentic for me to promote myself and make myself visible.”
I can tell you that this line of thinking gets you into trouble if it makes you refuse to invest in your visibility.
I think you also need to question if you are really taking the high ground based on humility? Or are you just avoiding doing something you find uncomfortable? Be honest with yourself.
What I advise people is to build their brand and their credibility in way that is both doable and comfortable to them, even if they are shy or humble.
Here’s where I think many people get tripped up. I say, “Make sure your work is not invisible. Make sure others know what you doing and why it matters…”
But, for example, if your job is to complete an analysis and write up a report, when you finish the report, it would indeed be awkward to go around telling everybody, “Hey, I did this great analysis and produced this great report.” That was your job. That communication would come off as annoying self-promotion — as bragging.
But the other choice of completing the report, emailing it off, and starting the next one without communicating about it to anyone, is not the right thing to do either.
Communicate things of actual value
The trick to not bragging is to only share things of real value with others.
If you are wondering whether or not you should communicate about something you accomplished, ask yourself if it has real value.
Article Continues Below
If the answer is yes, here are some ideas for ways to communicate that will not sound like you are bragging in the least.
- What I learned. If you used a new system or technology, or uncovered an item of general interest in your research, share something you learned. Don’t just keep new learnings to yourself. Point people to the useful answers and resources that you have found. “While I was completing the XY analysis, I learned that you could use Linkedin in a very interesting way…” Sharing knowledge has the benefit of making you visible, without calling specific attention to yourself.
- Why something matters. As you are working, always be thinking about why your work matters and who your work impacts. For example, In doing the research for the XY analysis, I discovered that these two groups were doing work that was overlapping. By connecting the dots we were able to change the process for the future to take the best of both groups’ work and eliminate the duplication of effort. Sharing benefits of the work with others, actually helps them. It is not just about you.
- Meet the next level up. When your boss asks you to prepare information to be presented to upper management, ask if you can go to the meeting with your boss and be the one to present it. (All bosses should do this for their top performers.) If your boss is not doing it they may just not have thought of it. I have seen too much work get “stolen” because the people who did the work, opted out of being the presenter. Don’t stay in the wings and always let others present your work (even if you prefer that).
- Say “thank you.” Send a message to an executive stakeholder of your work and tell them that you really appreciate something they said or did. Let them know how it impacted you, what you did with the insight, and what the result was. Most executives get very few “thank you for doing a great job” messages. Don’t be lazy about this and make a vague gesture. Be concrete and specific, and connect it with what you accomplished. It (and you) will stand out as long as it is sincere and well thought through. If it’s not sincere, don’t do it.
- Ask for advice. This is a great way to make a visible connection in a very genuine, productive way. Send your stakeholder a note and ask for 10 minutes of their time to get some coaching or input on your project. This is flattering. If you are very clear about what you are after, and make it clear you only want a short amount of their time, most people will be happy to help. You will score points for being interested in them, and they will then know who you are.
Or try a Conspiracy!
I wanted to call this out separately as this is such a great story.
This is from a group of three women who wanted to get visibility in a large corporation, but none were comfortable with self-promotion.
So they decided to work together. They all worked in different groups. So they agreed that each would talk up the other two across all the organizations, to get their names known and build credibility. “You know Mary B did something remarkable last month…”
It worked. Over the next two years they all got promotions!
If you want to build your brand without bragging, maintaining humility, and without being annoying, the trick is to make it about them, not about you.
This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life.