Thursday, September 1, 2011

From the Article Archive: Building a Presence in a Global Virtual Workplace

Question: I read your recent column on self-promotion, however since I work remotely from most of my group and cannot present in meetings or catch people in the hallway, it is harder for me to be visible to management. Can you help?

Jo Miller answers:
I recently coached a woman with a similar issue. Perhaps her story can help you.

Ingrid was senior manager of a marketing communications team. She and her team had been well-known as the “go-to people” for the support services they provided to other groups within her company.

After a re-org, Ingrid’s team was moved into a different business unit, reporting in to a new leader. As a result, nobody knew who she was, or what she was responsible for. Ingrid’s new manager quickly recognized her as a star performer, worthy of a promotion, but this required selling the idea to a general manager who had no knowledge of Ingrid or her track record.
To make things even more complicated, Ingrid worked from home, managed a small global team, and rarely traveled to corporate headquarters.

Ingrid’s goal was to become visible to her team’s internal stakeholders and senior leaders, even though she worked remotely from them. Here are the five steps she took:

Step 1. Work less.
Too many women make the mistake of thinking that if they just worked harder, they would get recognized. Unfortunately, their reputation gets buried under a thankless pile of work. To remedy this, Ingrid allocated a couple hours per week, not to work, but to activities that made her more visible.

Step 2. Know your personal brand.
Ingrid thought deeply about what she wanted her name to be synonymous with, and created a 30-second introduction: “My name is Ingrid, and I am the Senior Manager of Marketing Communications. I am responsible for a, b, and c. You should come directly to me if you need x, y, or z.” She used this to reinforce her brand every time she was introduced to a new person or group.

Step 3. Know who’s who in the organization.
With help from her mentor, Ingrid reviewed her business unit’s org chart and identified the key players and teams that she needed to get to know.

Step 4. Create a strategic networking plan.
For every key person on her list, Ingrid identified a way to connect with them and build an authentic relationship. To do this, she arrived to teleconferences early to have time to small talk, made sure to prepare talking points and speak up during every teleconference, set up 20 minute phone calls with people she needed to get to know, scheduled ongoing check-in calls to strengthen working relationships, invited other managers to present in her staff conference calls (and vice versa), and created a team newsletter to update their stakeholders on monthly milestones. On the rare occasion that she visited HQ, Ingrid leveraged that time by using every available meal or coffee break to meet with key people.

Step 5. Make your accomplishments visible.
Ingrid did not want to overdo the self-promotion and make it seem like she was always bragging. As her coach, I pointed out that many women use this excuse to hold back from self-promoting at all and that it was time to strike an appropriate balance. To achieve that balance, Ingrid prepared short “soundbytes” describing her recent accomplishments and included those soundbytes in conversations at every appropriate opportunity: she publicly acknowledged her team (using both “we” and “I” statements), forwarded kudos emails from stakeholders to her leaders to read, showcased team accomplishments in a monthly newsletter, and proactively asked her manager and mentors to champion her accomplishments to senior leaders.

Five months after embarking on her plan to become more visible, every stakeholder in the department knew who Ingrid was and came directly to her for her expertise. The GM commented on how lucky they were to have gained Ingrid in the re-org and approved her promotion.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

No comments: