Chapter 2: Are You Valuable?
Are you valuable? Of course you are!
When I ask this question in my presentations, I don’t move on until I hear it from everyone in the room loud and clear and with conviction: “Yes, I AM valuable!”
Cheesy? Maybe so. I don’t care. We are all valuable but rarely, if ever, do we take the time to make it personal — to ourselves and especially to those who hold our future in their hands: our supervisors.
Mostly, we wait until someone else slaps us on the back and then, in an “aw shucks” moment, we reluctantly accept the praise with a little bow of the head while figuratively digging our toe into the dirt.
But that’s not good enough.
“It is your professional responsibility to make decision makers aware of the value you bring to the organization.”
That’s right; it’s your professional responsibility to promote yourself to your company. Remember how in the first chapter I talked about the 40 years or so that you have to create your legacy? And in my introduction where I wondered aloud how much better my own career might have been had I been told what I’m sharing with you right now? No matter where you might be on your current career ladder, now is the time to professionally promote yourself.
THE REAL WORLD
Let’s briefly talk about the hard knocks of life and work in the real world. In the real world you are at the mercy of those who supervise you. That is how it will always be unless you become self-employed.
In the course of your career you may have attended or will attend conferences where the company CEO will be introduced to the gathering and after a thunderous ovation proceeds to rouse and motivate all in attendance with his glowing vision for the future…and the future is bright!
Immediately following his rallying of the troops, our CEO, now being escorted back to his car by the senior vice president, is informed that he has been let go. His services are no longer needed by the company.
As brutal as this account seems, it happens every day. All too often one of the reasons an employee finds themselves on the losing end of this encounter is that they had not previously communicated their value to management.
Let me say it again: It is as much your professional responsibility to promote yourself as it is for you to perform to your highest capabilities on the job.
I vividly recall the first time I mentioned the phrase professional responsibility to an audience. There was a slight but audible gasp from the 300-odd people in the room as they realized the truth in this statement.
And then I heard a collective sigh as they seemed to recognize I was giving them ‘permission’ to do something they had never been permitted to do before—to boast about themselves. They were exactly right—I was giving them permission to professionally promote themselves.
I understand that bragging or boasting about yourself may go against what you have been raised to believe. If you are not comfortable with these terms perhaps you would rather use ‘inform’ in their place.
From the time we are kids, we are taught that bragging about ourselves is inappropriate and makes us appear to be overbearing, conceited, self-important and no one will like us. Better to let others discover on their own how wonderful we are.
Well, here’s the second problem: they probably won’t.
Remember those celebrities in the last chapter? Musicians, actors, athletes, even politicians didn’t get where they are without banging their own drums until they found enough success to hire PR experts to do it for them. They knew they couldn’t make a dent until they got noticed so they made it their professional responsibility to promote themselves until someone else took notice.
“Someone else” like, in this case, maybe your boss. But it is unlikely to happen unless and until you promote yourself. Why not stack the odds in your favor?
EMPLOYEE MISTAKE #1
“Never assume that anyone, even your immediate supervisor, knows exactly what you do.”
This assumption can be a disastrous professional mistake. It doesn’t matter if your boss is in Tulsa or across the hall, if you share a cubicle or you report virtually to the corporate offices in London. Whether the distance between you is 6,000 miles or 60 feet, it is unlikely that your boss knows much more about what you do than the minimum she expects from you.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say you work on the same floor as your immediate supervisor. Your environment allows you to see each other frequently. You pass in the hall and come together at staff meetings. With such proximity, it’s easy to believe he or she knows all about you and your talents. Wrong. Just because you share space at the office does not, by any means, make you item number one in your boss’s mind.
Believe it or not, he or she has responsibilities other than you. They include, for example, 15 other people who may be managed on site or virtually, inventory to deal with, new software to be selected, implemented, tweaked and rolled out to the department or company wide.
And then there is that slip-and-fall that occurred on company property yesterday (the lawyers are already calling), a regional quarterly meeting to prepare for and, oh yeah, that big presentation early next week that needs to be fine-tuned in the anticipation of acquiring a major new account.
And you think your boss knows how you contribute to the overall mission?
“You must make sure decision makers are continuously aware of the value you bring to the organization.”
Your boss may have a general idea about what you do and how that makes an impact on some of what she is working on but don’t count on your supervisor clearly knowing the detail and specifics that you bring to the company. So…
“You already know how to dress to impress. It’s time you learned how to express to impress.”
Trick question: What single word appears in all four of the quotes in this chapter? That should be easy: YOU. That’s by design. This book is about you.
The repetition is important to remind you that is it YOU who must be doing the promoting of YOU. No one else is going to do it.
If the idea of talking up your knowledge, talents and accomplishments makes you uncomfortable, makes you think that you’re singing your own praises at the expense of the team, get over it because being too modest is not good for your career, for your pocketbook or for the company.
TYPE B PERSONALITIES AND PROMOTION
Over the years, I have worked with many highly skilled Type B personalities I call “Analyticals.” Generally, but not exclusively, Analyticals come in three varieties: Information technology professionals, engineers or accountants—people who deal in absolute truths. As I describe it: To an engineer (most often Type B) 1 + 1 will always equal 2. Always. To a Type A salesperson, 1 + 1 will equal whatever it needs to equal in order to make the deal happen. I’m exaggerating of course—but not by much.
Being the type of people who prefer their work to speak for them, Analyticals have a more difficult time coming out of their shells to express their value.
But once my clients understand the process and value of informing others of their value they become very comfortable peeling back the layers to explain the how’s and why’s of their accomplishments.
If you are not regularly declaring your value to your boss, or your boss’s boss, you may be in danger of losing your position because you can be certain someone else, potentially one of your team members, is proclaiming his or her value.
Recently, a colleague mentioned to me that she had never promoted someone she didn’t like. The question then becomes how does she come to prefer one employee over another? All things being equal, the answer lies in the ability of the chosen one to properly promote herself.
At first, it may feel like you are bragging and guess what, you are. But in today’s lean, mean, highly efficient workplace environment, that’s not just okay, it is mandatory for survival—if done properly.
At any moment you should be prepared to express how you are adding value to the organization today, yesterday, three days ago, three weeks ago, three months ago, last year and what you will deliver in the future. That’s hard to do and I’m willing to bet you can’t. Not yet anyway.
You might be thinking you can’t be that precise. But that’s where you are wrong. It’s not that hard—once you establish the mindset and work the very simple plan that follows.
As I think you have gotten by now, I’m here to show you how to evaluate your own performance and accomplishments so that you can state categorically that you are an indispensable member of the organization.
Next week’s installment: Chapter 3, “Welcome to Your New Professional Mindset” from PROMOTE!