Author: Melissa Raffoni Source: Harvard Business Review
You’re bright. You have good ideas, insights, and the ambition to take on more. But you aren’t getting the opportunities you want, and your manager has not been helpful. How do you get noticed by senior leadership without going over your boss’s head?
To help me answer this question, I reached out to two of my most successful clients: Dave MacKeen, CEO of Eliassen Group, a strategic consulting and talent solutions provider with 21 offices across the United States, and Chuck Cohen, Managing Director of Benco Dental, the largest privately owned dental distributor in the U.S.
Chuck and Dave have decades of leadership experience during which they’ve been on the lookout for “future stars” or “high potentials.” These employees are often identified as hard workers with the drive to make a difference — not only in the company’s success but also in the success of those around them. They go above and beyond their job titles and get noticed because they demonstrate potential to do great work on a more advanced level.
After putting our collective heads together, Chuck, Dave, and I landed on ten steps you can take to be recognized by senior leadership as one of them. If followed, these actions can help you grow and move toward greater opportunities — without coming off as a braggart or upsetting your direct manager.
Demonstrate your commitment to your growth and to the company. One way to show how serious you are is to invest time outside of the office in learning skills that will help you grow and contribute to the company. This could mean taking courses that support the work you are doing, or reading texts in the areas you want to master. For example, if you want to get better at developing strategy, ask your boss (and boss’s boss) if they can recommend any books. Another way to show commitment to growth is to tell your boss that you’re interested in taking on special projects, ones that will both help the company reach its goals and provide you with an opportunity to stretch yourself.
Focus on the team’s success, rather than your own. While the voice of ambition may be telling you to focus on your own success, senior leadership notices those who work collaboratively and support others. They recognize that the greatest opportunity for success lies in a team working well together. “It’s easy to notice someone who gives their time and advice to help make others successful,” says Dave, “whether they be their direct reports or peers. Someone who makes those around them better is invaluable.”
Know your numbers and take ownership of your work. Whatever part of the business you own, small or large, you have to know it inside out, and be ready to discuss the performance metrics and business analytics that matter most (revenue, profit and loss, etc.). You want to have a good idea of where you stand within the larger organization, especially in moments when all eyes are on you — such as presentations, meetings, or project reports. When you are able to prove the value of your contributions, you are able to prove the value of your worth as an employee and team member. Think of it as an opportunity to show senior leaders why they should be paying attention to you. Remember, though, this also means taking full responsibility for your failures. Adopt a “no excuses” mentality. Doing so shows a level of self-awareness that is inherent to great leadership.