I know – it’s a controversial title. But I guess since I am going to write about increasing visibility – I might as well get your attention from the get go.
My good friend (let’s call her Teresa) is a Marketing Manager in a media conglomerate. She confided in me recently, telling me how her senior management has told her on more than one occasion that she needs to be more visible. No one has a clue how busy she is, why she is always busy and what she is busy with. In short, no one knows what she is doing.
Of course at this point, she didn’t understand why she has to justify her existence, or the need to highlight what she is working on. She couldn’t care less about what other people think, and felt really uncomfortable with the thought of drawing attention to herself. Like many people I know, she was happily contented burying her head in her work and thinking that everyone else around her should be able to see that she is a super diligent worker. She has clocked in so many late nights and rolled out so many projects – the higher powers must have known.
But do they really?
I explained to Teresa why her assumption was flawed. If these higher powers do not interact with you on a daily basis, why and how would they know what you are doing? Imagine a senior executive who has over 500 employees in his company. His brain would probably implode if he tried to wrap his head around all the projects that they are currently working on. Senior management are equipped with the ability to filter information and only retain what is business critical for them to lead their people and organisation, and having in-depth knowledge of your day-to-day work isn’t exactly a top priority for them.
That is why as you move up the ranks, you absolutely need to acquire this skill called “Managing Up”. Managing senior management is all about maintaining visibilty – by setting and managing expectations and establishing/building a reputation for yourself and your team.
Asians generally tend to be more squirmish when it comes to marketing themselves – perhaps due to a constant reminder by our elders that we should always know our place and be humble. But I believe we can easily achieve a good balance between self-promotion and humility – if we do it right.
Which brings me to my SHIT advice for Teresa:
That’s the key word in Managing Upwards. Share information. Share your milestones. Share your achievements. Share what you do. Share what you are going to do. Share what you have done. Share your team’s accomplishments. Share the highs and the lows. Share success stories and best practices. Share any positive feedback you have received. Start letting people know how you and your team’s efforts and hard work have added value to the business or contributed to the success of the organisation.
Highlight the things you know matter to management. Don’t go into mundane details. Don’t tell grandmother stories. Highlight stuff you know they would want to know about – e.g. the success of an event/campaign; the ROI of a major project; staff turnover rate; market share or share of voice; how much costs savings you have made this year compared to last year. Draw their attention to competitors’ activities – and let them know you constantly have a pulse on your industry. Give top line statistics, figures, percentages and returns. Understand your organisation’s business objectives and speak their language.
As a leader or manager, it is important that you are not just seen as order takers. Following orders is fine, as long as you are also proactively creating ideas to sell to your management. Anyone can execute an idea or a plan – even my interns can do a good job. But if you can be the originator of an idea, get management buy-in and roll it out successfully, you own the idea 100%. You are not just doing something that your boss wants you to do. Rather, you are displaying a visionary mindset to shift paradigms and create something new, unique or better. Something that the business values greatly and can benefit from your drive to make a difference. This – is what will differentiate you from a mediocre worker and increase your visibility among the senior management team.
During the course of your work, you would have set up systems, guidelines, processes that are important for the business. You have to learn to impart some of these insights and knowledge to your management team, peers and colleagues with a view to helping them become more savvy, efficient and effective. As a senior manager, you were not hired just to do a good job. If you are looking to advance your career, you got to be outstanding. You can do this by taking charge and leading changes – either in mindset, behaviour or attitude.
When I first joined my company, I assumed the position of a coach, and assigned myself the responsibility of bringing the management team up to a level where they can deal with the media effectively. I regularly put together simple training materials – Media Interview Tips; Discover our Unique Selling Propositions; How Branding Can Affect Perception; How to Leverage Guerilla Marketing Tactics to Generate Impact and Results. The senior management appreciate the opportunity to learn something new – which would eventually prove to be highly useful in social and business interactions as they ultimately, represent the company.
I have found the SHIT method to be extremely effective for me – and have personally seen it in action among some of my more successful peers. You would have to give it a shot and see if it works for you too. After all, it wouldn’t hurt to SHIT right?