When I was a little boy I played basketball at the Boys Club. I didn’t really understand the sport other than the basics. So, when our clever coach called the team to the sidelines near the end of the game to give us some strategy coaching, something funny happened. It seems the other team’s best player had four fouls and we were behind. We needed points, and we needed him to stop scoring points. The coach’s solution was to get that player to foul one of us. So he instructed us to try to draw a foul.
I really had no idea what he meant, but I thought I did. In my mind, I needed to make the kid mad enough that he would hit me, so I started running into him, knocking shoulders with him, and doing anything to get his attention. I wanted him to know I was there and be unhappy about it enough that his anger would get the best of him. If I could do that, I knew I could draw the foul.
Stop laughing…Some seven-year-olds know better, but I didn’t.
There a are few lessons to be learned here. One might be it’s a good idea to understand the rules of the game before you play it. Another might be to get clarification from your coach if you don’t understand his instructions. But the lesson I want to draw out today is when you want to become visible to someone else, there are certain things you do and certain things you don’t do.
This month I’ve been talking about how to get promoted. Last time I talked about the importance of volunteering for special projects. Today I want to talk about how to make sure the people who make promotion decision know you exist and are glad you do.
In addition to volunteering for special projects, there are two keys to moving from the invisible cube dweller to the can’t be missed, promotion-worthy, partner.
- Make a contribution to the discussion
- Contribute to the development of others
Make a Contribution to the Discussion
This is one of the most important lessons we need to learn. It happens all the time. You desire a promotion, and you are invited to a discussion where leaders are talking about a project, a vision strategy, or a problem that needs to be solved. The leaders are laying things out to help lead the team, but they are also seeking input from the team. What do you do?
Here’s what you don’t do. Sit there like a mindless robot seeking commands from your programmer. If you want to be considered for the next promotion, this is your opportunity to make sure your leaders know you exist and have something to contribute. SPEAK UP!
I know, you might feel like it’s not your place, especially if you are speaking several levels up into the organization – past your boss even. But it is that willingness to take risks and make contributions that will set you apart – often even from people who sit in higher levels of responsibility than you. The next time you are in a meeting watch the influencers and the people on the rise. Are they quiet or are they engaged and making meaningful contributions?
But note the word ‘meaningful’ in that last sentence. As important as it is to speak up, it is just as important to say something of substance. Don’t just talk to be heard. Talk to make a difference. That means you must come to meetings prepared, listen carefully, take good notes, and as quickly as possible think one or two steps past what you want to say before you say it. You may still be wrong, but you will demonstrate you are engaged, and that is a golden ticket forward in the line toward promotion.
Contribute to the Development of Others
In addition to contributing to the ongoing leadership discussions going on around you, it is essential that you contribute to the development of others. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s not. Here’s why.
- Leadership is all about leading others
- You can’t lead others without contributing to their development
- Decision makers are looking for leadership qualities when considering people for promotion
Again, you may think your focus should be on your own self-development, but don’t miss this – when you help others grow, you grow. Contributing to the development of others is itself and exercise of self-development.
- It sharpens your knowledge of the particular area of focus
- It hones your communication and coaching skills
- It gives you new insights into the subject as you see and experience it from the another perspective
In the process of giving your time, energy, knowledge, and skill to others, you show decision makers you are a leader who is committed to the growth of the company, not just yourself.
An Underlying Theme
I hope you caught the underlying theme here. To make yourself visible to decision makers you have to make contributions beyond your day to day job, which benefit more people than yourself. You have to be thoughtful and generous. You have to take some risks and get uncomfortable. If you don’t, they won’t see you. They will see someone else, and that person will get the promotion. The only person to blame then is you. So get out there and contribute.