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Moving Your Career to Center Stage


Illustration of Spotlights on empty old wooden stage

As I work with my coaching clients, I often use the stage as a metaphor for managing career progressions. Some people step into the spotlight every chance they get, while others toil away backstage without ever being noticed or getting any of the credit. Those behind-the-scenes jobs are certainly critical for the overall production, but professionals who optimize their visibility tend to be cast in more starring roles. So where do you currently stand on the corporate stage?

The whole organization doesn’t need to know about everything you accomplish, but your supervisor or manager should—as well as any others who have a stake in the output you create. Not in an arrogant way, but as part of a strategic plan to demonstrate the value you add. If you’ve gotten too comfortable playing a supporting role (or be honest, maybe you are hiding offstage behind the props), it’s time to think about what’s holding you back from taking center stage.

Do you feel nervous talking about your contributions and achievements? Are you concerned about how you’ll be perceived if you show up more confidently? Are you worried that your colleagues will feel like you’re less of a team player? Here are three things you can do to move your career to center stage in an authentic way that eliminates (or at least minimizes) these fears.

1. Focus on results

As a manager of people, projects or programs, your success depends on getting results. Reaching your goal. Getting the job done. Producing the goods. If you are unclear about exactly what is expected, ask your boss and get it in writing. If you don’t understand the objective, your chances of hitting the target are significantly decreased. Consider these guidelines as you make results a top priority.

a. Set high goals and standards (for yourself and those you manage). b. Drive change and innovation. c. Delegate so you can focus on higher-value planning, process improvement and relationship building. d. Learn continuously. e. Quantify how your work impacts the bottom line in revenue, cost reduction or increased profit. f. Deliver value.

2. Improve your communication

People who typically occupy the center stage in business are known for outstanding communications—in person, online, on the phone and in written form. To help you move there, take a few extra moments to make sure everything you say, write or post is relevant, pertinent and applicable. Think about these concepts each time you share an idea or message.

a. Establish a clear vision of what you’re trying to communicate. What is the main thing you want the reader/listener to take away? b. Pinpoint the appropriate recipients. Who should receive (or not receive) your message? c. Know your audience and speak their language. What terms and metrics will be critical for executives vs. engineers? Salespeople vs. accountants? d. Remember that the audience is thinking WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). How can you customize your message to provide that answer in a compelling way? e. Recognize the contributions and perspectives of others. How can you show appreciation for your audience’s impact and unique viewpoints?

3. Build relationships

Closely linked with the first two components, building relationships is a critical part of moving your career to center stage. Incorporate these ideas to help you connect and collaborate more effectively.

a. Work to strengthen your connections with others. Does your team consider you credible? If you’re a leader, are they following? Do you maintain trusting relationships with partners, customers and allies? b. Keep your stakeholders informed. Do they understand what you are doing for them and see the value? c. Share innovation and demonstrate thought leadership. Can you serve others as a consistent resource for fresh ideas and smart insights? d. Give back to your network. How can you provide help or support to others? Can you volunteer or become a mentor?

By applying these three steps, you will be poised to take center stage within your organization and, chances are, you’ll earn rave reviews when you get there.

Please share your comments. And if this discussion could be valuable for developing leaders within your organization, please contact Onpoint Leadership about scheduling a workshop, web conference or group coaching.

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