7 Ways to Increase Your Visibility at Work Before a Performance Review
Usually when we write about workplace visibility on this blog, we focus on organizational visibility and transparency—the ability to know who is working on what, to see and manage the capacity and momentum of a team, and to consistently connect everyday tasks to the organization’s most important goals.
But there’s another side to visibility at work, and it can be just as important to employee satisfaction and productivity. I’m talking about increasing your own personal visibility. Raising your profile. Shining a gentle spotlight on the results of your hard work.
Some of us are naturally good at touting our accomplishments and making meaningful connections with the decision-makers within the organization. Others of us are a little too good at it, crossing into bragging and grandstanding, which tends to alienate our co-workers. And then there are others who could use a little help gaining the respect and opportunities they deserve. It’s for this last group that I’ve assembled these seven helpful tips, which are particularly important when you’re about to go up for an annual performance review.
1. Speak Up in Meetings
Not every personality type finds it easy to voice opinions or share ideas in a meeting setting, especially those inclined toward introversion, and especially when everyone else in the room is an extrovert. (Not sure where you land on the introvert-extrovert scale? Here’s a quick quiz from Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.) But one of the best ways to increase your visibility at work is to make your voice heard in meetings, particularly in cross-departmental gatherings that bring together people from across the organization.
If speaking up doesn’t come naturally to you, take a moment to examine what’s holding you back, and address that issue directly. If you have trouble coming up with good ideas on the fly, prepare some thoughts beforehand. Consider reading through the agenda and brainstorming some questions, points, or ideas in advance. If your struggle is feeling like you have nothing new to add—or that someone else has already said it better—then make a point to speak up early on. “If you wait until the end of the meeting, chances are someone else will already have shared your idea,” says Robert Chen, writing in FastCompany. “Make it your goal to be one of the first two people to say something. For guidance, you might want to observe those who speak up first, and note what they say and how they say it.”
2. Put Past Talents to Use
“Staying in your lane” may be a virtue in certain situations, as it can keep us from overstepping our roles and getting in other people’s way. But that doesn’t mean you have to come to work with one hand tied behind your back. Think through your complete list of past accomplishments and talents, and look for ways to apply them to your current work role.
I have a friend named Wendy who works in the media arm of a large non-profit that focuses on family history research and software. Her primary role is to plan, strategize, and manage content for the brand’s blog and social media channels—a very behind-the-scenes position. However, when an opportunity came up to discuss her team’s latest campaign on a local news broadcast, Wendy volunteered. She had gained experience doing on-camera work at a past job, where she had a more public-facing role, and she relished the chance to dust off those skills at her new position.
She could have sat back and let the PR department handle the segment, but this was a campaign she was intimately familiar with, and she knew her way around a television studio, so she put herself out there. The result? In one five-minute television spot, she drew the notice of several colleagues she’d only worked with in passing, including the company’s CEO. Opportunities for cross-departmental connection and advancement have since followed.
3. Take On a Problem No One Else Wants
Elena Bajic, CEO of Ivy Exec and Forbes contributor, suggests raising your profile by tackling a problem that others are reluctant to deal with, like volunteering to help with a product that isn’t performing well.
“Most people want to work on the product doing well,” she says, “but by taking on the product that isn’t succeeding in the market—and trying to change that—you have the chance to make a much bigger impact. You will raise your visibility and change the way the company’s managers see you. Now they know you are a problem solver, a go-getter [who can take] initiative and think creatively.”
An added benefit to this approach: If you rescue the product, you’re a hero. If you don’t, well, everyone knows the product was in trouble before you got involved. But you’ll get credit for trying. It’s basically all upside for you.
4. Think Outside Your Department
I once had a manager, Hannah, who was especially good at forging strong one-on-one relationships with peers on other teams. She seemed to have at least one genuine friend in every other department, rather than isolating herself within her own team, as so many of us are prone to do. She would regularly arrange informal lunches and invite assorted acquaintances to join her. At company events, she would mingle widely. Over time, she earned a reputation as a genuine bridge builder, all because she was constantly looking for opportunities to connect with people one-on-one, with no regard to prestige or position.
Hannah became particularly good friends with the CEO’s administrative assistant, who was a useful ally in all kinds of situations. Hannah always knew she could ask, “Is today a good day to nudge Jeff for his review of that project he promised last week? Or should I wait until tomorrow?” or “How’s the weather up there? I need to get Jeff’s buy-in on something, and I want to approach him at the right time”—and that she’d get a straight answer in return. Importantly, Hannah was always genuine about her interest in other people, and they tended to reciprocate.
5. Volunteer for Committees
Volunteer to represent your team at cross-departmental meetings or on planning committees and other projects. It’s a great way to give your talents exposure outside of your typical contacts and work responsibilities. “Participating in a committee or helping to host a conference or charity event translates to an abundance of networking opportunities,” writes leadership coach Joel Garfinkle. “Committees and events give you the opportunity to meet new people, talk about your work, and put your name and face in front of people who wouldn’t normally notice you.”
One interesting finding from Workfront’s State of Work report is that when asked about productivity, we consistently rate ourselves highest, our direct reports second highest, and everyone else lower in descending order based primarily on how familiar we are with the work they do. This kind of insular, siloed mindset is human nature, to a large degree. We naturally trust those in our “in group” more, and we feel less trust and camaraderie with anyone in an “out group.” Volunteering for committees is one way to expand the boundaries of our “in group.” And it might help open the doors of communication, given that 56% of those surveyed say lack of communication is a source of conflict with other departments or teams.
6. Spotlight the Accomplishments of Others
I believe in the well-worn adage “what goes around, comes around.” When we demonstrate that we believe in abundance rather than scarcity when it comes to the praise and attention of others, we help create that reality in our own work spheres. Don’t hesitate to call attention to a colleague’s particular contribution to a team project, either verbally, in a group setting, or even within the software solution you use to manage your work. When we do this, our colleagues are more likely to respond in kind—either at the moment or sometime in the future. If we can help create a culture where everyone is willing to elevate other people’s accomplishments, we can trust the spotlight will shine on our work more often as well.
7. Be a Technology Champion
In her Forbes article mentioned earlier, Bajic suggests that those who’d like to increase their visibility at work should “look carefully at what your department does—or in some cases, what the company does—and identify problems that others haven’t. Then take the initiative. Tackle a problem that requires your particular skills and expertise, or offer to step in and help others who haven’t found a solution yet.”
A great way to do this is to champion the adoption of a transformative new software. For example, let’s say you used an effective work management solution at one company, then you change jobs and find the new company doesn’t have similar measures in place. This is your opportunity to champion its adoption in your new role. Help roll the solution out within your team, and be willing to be a resource to other teams who notice the benefits you’re reaping. You’ll be seen as a problem solver who is not only knowledgeable about the latest tech but also generous with your time and talents.
See and Be Seen
With every one of these tips, authenticity is key. Adopt the tips that feel natural to you, especially those that would help you compensate for a weakness, and leave aside those that don’t. But don’t go overboard. Speaking up too much in meetings will raise your profile in an unhelpful way. Cozying up to the CEO’s administrative assistant just to get in with the boss will increase your visibility, but not in the way you want. Complimenting other people’s accomplishments only because you expect them to reciprocate demonstrates a scarcity mindset, and your intention is likely to shine through.
But if you approach them authentically, these quick tips will help you use your natural strengths to your advantage. They’ll enable others to see who you are and what you have to offer. And perhaps most importantly, they’ll keep you from standing in your own way.