As part of the leadership skills coaching I do with my clients, we often look at how to raise their profile at work and beyond. This can feel uncomfortable to say the least for most of my clients. Initially almost cringe-worthy! They are successful business women who value their integrity, not ‘smarmy’ self-promotion.
But getting known for what you achieve is vital. These professionals are often more comfortable talking about the successes of their peers. Alternatively, they’ll praise what their clients are achieving. It becomes a story about anything other than their own successes, something I speak about in my talks to organisations.
Talking about their success is part of leadership skills coaching
The trick is how your clients and colleagues are winning can actually work well for you! Plus it doesn’t create the ‘icky’ feeling of some self-promotion at work. If that sounds good, here’s two techniques, taken from the leadership skill coaching I do with successful business women, that could work for you.
1. Recognise the power behind your ‘internal clients’ for self-promotion at work
Ask internal clients to share the difference you’ve made. Mary, a CIO I interviewed when writing ‘Beyond the Boys Club’ had developed her reputation for impressing internal clients at the professional services firm where she worked. For this ‘internal focus’ her reputation grew. She remembered what had worked well in her long career.
Mary recalled: ‘Internal clients can see what you are doing and if they like the results, they’ll talk. Years ago, in my team that included giving our colleagues the ability to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or a pre-registered PDAdevice. External clients then hear about what you are doing and then they start talking. Between both groups, their talk then raises your profile. You don’t have to be an extrovert to get noticed.’
This approach worked well for Mary. She had been interviewed several times on television about areas aligned to her expertise. These included interviews about how to handle spam email within corporate settings. By the time I interviewed her, she was regularly being asked to help the internal PR team to speak on a variety of topics.
These ranged from how her employer handled large IT projects. But in the early days, she also spoke to whether they should block employee access to social media sites. What’s important for you to realise? This external facing work grew initially just from internal people talking about the help they’d got from Mary and her team.
2. The power of ‘I’m delighted you’re satisfied, would you mind passing that on to my boss?’
We’ve all heard of employees poached by their former clients. Le’t be realistic, this counts even if you have no intention of going anywhere else. Your client’s positive regard for you still will make a huge difference for you internally if people know about it!
Matilda, a director at a Professional services firm whom I interviewed, shared the utility of the simple question to clients. After getting any thanks: ‘I’m delighted you’re satisfied, but would you mind passing that on to my boss?’ It’s advice that stands well for my leadership skills coaching clients.
Matilda explained: ‘I had a lot of great feedback from clients, which was occasionally and helpfully fed back to the partners. But eventually I learned I had to sometimes help that process along. I learned to take the compliment graciously. But the stretch was to ask them to let my managers and other stakeholders know how pleased they were.’
For Matilda, this extra step is what made the difference. We too often assume people would pass on their kind words. But ‘waiting around’ can leave us dissatisfied. Plus, it robs professional women of their power.
In reality, a ‘forgotten’ compliment is often indeed just that, forgotten. After all your clients are busy people – just like you. However, sometimes we read too much into it. Without recognising your part in how this works, we blame ourselves
We too often assume it’s something we must have done something wrong. ‘They mustn’t have been happy at all!’ However, the truth is more likely to be a spam filter or lack of time, than anything more sinister!
The truth is often banal, something we often unpick in leadership skills coaching. A follow-up message of ‘I know you’re busy, but I’ve got important appraisals coming up. My boss hearing positive external client feedback from you would make such a difference to me!’
Try it out and let me know how it works!