When you are visible, things happen. People seek you out because they’ve heard about you and your capabilities. They invite you into business meetings and conversations when they don’t have to. Your name pops up when people talk and gets passed upward and outward. You are top of the mind and tip of the tongue. You receive calls from people you’ve never heard of inside and outside the company. You get endorsements from people because they know you. “Yeah, I know him. He’s a good guy” is all it takes versus “Hmm, no, never heard of him.” And you cause people to remark, “Let’s get him before somebody else does.”
It’s very easy to become invisible. When that happens, headhunters don’t call, bosses don’t promote, and mentors don’t respond.
In talking with CEO and C-level executives they tell me:
“Get noticed early in your career and preferably by the top people; that’s how you get anointed.”
“Getting noticed does not mean unbuttoning the top two buttons on your blouse before you stand up to give your presentation. It will evoke a smile, but it won’t get respect.”
“Unless you fight against it, in business you can become like a rock in the river, tossed, turned, and ending up pretty much like every other one.”
“Being visible is not going to every Starbucks and introducing yourself.”
“It’s not who you know, but who knows about you.”
Being visible can be as simple as this story told to me by a client: “I remember joining this several-billion-dollar company years ago right out of college, and I happened to see the CEO unexpectedly walk by my cubicle one day. I stood up, went out to him, and introduced myself. He asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and explained that I had just joined the company, and he said, ‘Well, keep up the good work.’ And then he made a point to stop at my cubicle months later when he happened by again.”
You can run with the pack and just go along, or you can leap out ahead. It’s up to you.
Being visible does not mean that you embellish your work, are pretentious, show off, seek the limelight, have a popularity contest, or over self-promote. It means you:
- Go the extra mile.
- Go out on a limb.
- Distinguish yourself.
- Resist invisibility.
- Care about what you’re doing, not caring about being photographed doing it.
- Stand out but not grandstand.
Take on the most challenging, high-risk, and meaningful assignments from the top leaders and the company. Do things people shy away from and say can’t be done. Action and accountability make you visible. If you’re doing good things with no regard to accolades, you’re doing them for the right reasons.
Senior executives are always looking for ways to identify talent. So do anything to make yourself noticeable by taking any assignment that comes. Many times a senior executive will need something done and be looking for someone to do a job. Unwise employees look at this as being “dumped on” or the assignment as being “beneath” their status. Wise employees will say “Absolutely” to being asked to do what appears to be mundane. And when they do a great job in filling the assignment, the senior executive will become more and more willing to ask them to fill additional assignments, and they will be more and more recognized.
Be willing to step up, speak up, and put forward what you did.
When you generate good results, let people know, not by saying, “I did this or that,” but by saying “See what my team has done.” Tell a simple story of accomplishment: the situation, obstacles overcome, and the outcome. With pride, name names and describe the efforts of others.
Don’t brag about yourself, but boast about people on your team or someone else’s team who helped yours.
One CEO told me, “The best way to be visible is to tell others how great your team is. You must toot everyone else’s horn. And if you don’t have a good team, lie that you do, and then go change your team. The ones who tell me they are wonderful themselves always make me wonder if they are.”
You can’t fear being out front. Just be sure to bring others out front too.