At the beginning of the year I wrote an article on "How to be More Fascinating". I referenced Sally Hogshead's work on "How to Fascinate" and the importance of understanding your own value and being able to clearly communicate that.
Most of us are really good at describing the job that we do (describing the widget). In fact, let's be honest here, men are even great at describing how well they do the job! Yet we women (and I include myself in this) are far more comfortable describing the role itself and downplaying our own contribution.
But what's frequently missing for both men and women's communication is clear articulation about the value that you offer to the success of the organisation more broadly.
"It's not the what and the how, but the why. " And if you want to know more revisit Simon Sinek's Leadership talk on the power of Why.
What might that sound like? Examples below:
- "Yes, I run the customer care team and I do it well - but as a result of that good work we've managed to drive customer satisfaction levels up by 2 points in the past year which drives customer retention and ultimately improves profitability, and don't forget that it costs 7 times more to attract a new customer the retain an old one."
- Yes I head up the complaints division and I do it well - in fact just this year we reduced the number of complaints that ended up being referred to the Ombudsman by 25% which resulted in far fewer penalties and fees, plus we also decreased the amount of time it took to handle each complaint which means a significant reduction in costs, plus higher staff engagement and increased customer retention by 15%. By the way, did you know that a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%?
- "Yes, I run the events department and as a result of this great work our brand advocacy has increased which we can see via our social media metrics (insert compelling %), we are also perceived seen as the "go to" provider of PD for the sector which is edging out our competitors, plus we've managed to put increased efficiencies in place due to the repeatable nature of our work, so are delivering better than budget financial results for the entire organisation."
- "Yes I run the HR function and as a result our staff engagement scores have increased by 10% in the past 12 months, we've seen a reduction in staff turnover which saves us both money and loss of corporate knowledge, plus we've been nominated as an "employer of choice" by the staff which means both retention and recruitment in the future will be less labour intensive." (Once again insert compelling statistic).
Now I've made these examples up, but I think you get the picture. In fact I hope you can see the big picture!
It's not enough anymore to say "I do a good job". As women we've been socialised to believe that doing "good work", behaving well and doing the right thing is the secret to success. However the reality is that doing good work will only get you so far.
As an ambitious woman or a "leader in the making" you need to be able to demonstrate you see the big picture and how the work you do completes that picture for the organisation as a whole. You need to dream, to scheme, execute bold, audacious moves along with communicate in terms of value.
This is not bragging - this is simply smart business. And the reality is that the people who frequently get promoted over and above others, are the people who understand how to communicate in language that the C-suite understands - the language of value.
So what gets in the way of clearly communicating value?
1. Pretending to be someone you aren't: Maybe you took the role because it pleased a partner or parent. Maybe it was something to pay the bills until the right role came along. Maybe you feel like you're in a holding pattern, until something better comes along.
So find a way of expressing yourself confidently and authentically at work - or change organisations. Clean up any "dirty little secrets", be prepared to do the work without your war paint on, commit to the here and now and step fully into the role. You will be far happier AND more effective if and when you are able to step up, speak out and take charge.
2. Lack of belief in your own abilities - sometimes manifesting itself as "imposter syndrome" or feeling like you're a fraud about to be caught out. This can be exacerbated by feeling over-stressed, over-worked and over-whelmed - frequently followed by fear of under-performing.
Find a way to take time out to regroup. Find a way to get support whether at home or at work to help you get back on track (champions, sponsors, coaches and mentors are great resources). And remember, if famous people like Emma Watson feel like a fraud, then it's perfectly normal for you to feel it too at times. Many years ago my coach told me to take a holiday. And while at the time I thought the advice was misguided, he was right! I came back refreshed with my confidence and self belief replenished.
3. Not understanding your "why" and the knowledge of what drives you to get out of bed every day and do good work.
Connecting with your why will not only make it easier to believe in your own abilities, but is also a great starting point for connecting with the why of your organisation. Your ability to see your own big picture, is a great starting point for seeing the bigger picture about the work your organisation does.
Why does everything need to be either/or? Why not try a "YES AND" approach and see how this changes your perspective making your work a lot less confrontational, less about who is more right, and more about how can we deliver value together.
5. Lack of preparation - sometimes we go into these discussions imagining we can "wing it", make it up as we go along and play it by ear. The reality for most of us is that we need to do the work. If you don't naturally think in terms of value, then not preparing is just like the ostrich sticking its head in the sand.
So take time to reflect, to prepare and run through a variety of "what if" scenarios. You need to talk with others more senior to you. You need to work out what keeps your boss awake at night and you need to do the work. This is part and parcel of a growth mindset - and while right now it might appear you are on the wrong side of a whole heap of work - if it means a bigger salary far sooner, more acknowledgement from those more senior, or simply that you love your role more, then it will pay off in spades.
So why have I brought this up now? Because it seems to be salary negotiation season right now. Many of my clients are asking for tips on negotiating and/or renegotiating salary packages or consulting fees. And being able to clearly communicate your value, rather than describe the job, is critical.
- A picture says a thousand words, and having a decent set of professional photos for your career progress is really important.
- It says you are ambitious, keen to get ahead and that you think of yourself as leadership material. So put aside your discomfort and get some headshots done.
- I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so