One afternoon, as he stepped onto the elevator to return to his office after lunch, Brinker International CIO, Johnny Earl, joined the twenty-something man already inside. Not knowing each other more than by name, they exchanged a quick pleasantry and shared the short ride together. Johnny couldn’t help but notice that the young man seemed very upbeat; as though he was extremely pleased about something.
Johnny didn’t ask about it in the moment, but later that day he inquired about it with the young man’s supervisor. Not knowing the reason, the supervisor went to speak with the young man and reported back. Apparently, he’d just returned from the latest assembly of the “Good Idea Meeting”, a monthly lunchtime gathering specifically for sharing ideas amongst peers at Brinker.
Now this wasn’t a company sponsored meeting. It was something he’d created on his own for individual contributors to come together in a “sandbox” atmosphere, where they could bounce ideas off one another. A safe space to create, innovate and refine their ideas before bringing those with real potential to management.
Johnny was intrigued and wanted to encourage their efforts, but he knew if he attended he’d inevitably change the dynamic of the meetings. So, through the supervisor, he expressed his enthusiastic support and had pizzas delivered to all the subsequent gatherings. They never tried to formalize the meetings, allowing them to remain organic, comfortable, and without management accountability.
In Johnny’s eyes, the young man became the “Idea Guy” and the monthly attendees were known as the “Idea Posse”. From the beginning, there was no fan fair, no budget, and no expectation of recognition. Yet, several initiatives eventually came to fruition because of their ongoing idea generation. The young man was ultimately invited into higher level strategic discussions and then promoted.
How do YOU create opportunities for visibility?
My clients often ask me how they can increase their visibility within their organization, how they can position themselves for that next promotion. That’s often followed by questions about how to do the same for their team, how to advocate for them. Much of the time, the discussion also includes a confession of great discomfort and concern about appearing boastful and arrogant.
When asked, I usually tell the “Idea Guy” story. It’s such a perfect example of how to demonstrate your abilities, how to get the word out about who you are and what you can contribute (leadership, innovation, facilitation, risk-taking, passion, focus, and on and on), all without verbally boasting and bragging.
Gaining visibility within an organization can be a tricky endeavor. Having to advocate for yourself and getting noticed can make the skin crawl for some people, no matter where they were raised. And for foreign-born folks working in the U.S., this can be experienced as anything between utterly-excruciating, to coming off as a bull-in-a-china-shop. Different cultures have different perceptions and values around being humble, direct, competitive, deferential, etc. Striking the right balance here is an art.
You want to get noticed so management will offer you great opportunities, right? There are lots of ways to do that, without the metaphorical chest-beating. Here are just a few ideas to try.
Not everyone needs to be an Idea Guy (or Gal). Find your own unique way to shine your light!
Marie Bankuti, PCC, CPCC, PMP, Founder of Tether Free Vision Inc., is a business coach with more than three decades of experience in technology and leadership coaching and training. She specializes in helping foreign-born professionals and the companies that hire them accelerate ease of acclimation, boost productivity levels, and improve the leadership potential of those coming to work from abroad. Find out more at TetherFreeVision.com
Copyright © 2018 Marie Bankuti, All rights reserved.
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