February 7, 2012
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
Our Bloch Executive Education Center is offering a course on “Creating Witnesses.” I must admit, on first glance I thought it was training on giving a good deposition. (After all, leaders can never be too prepared.) The blurb on the session told otherwise and reminded me of two important pieces of advice for effective career self-management.
ADVICE #1: Make sure others see and understand your contributions and achievements (i.e., make them a witness). Good, hard work makes things move along seamlessly and progress as if inevitable – and that means others can easily overlook the breadth and depth of your contributions to making that so. Colleagues and not-so-helpful bosses may be waiting in the wings to take credit for more than their fair share – the organizational world is a political place – and you may never know if they are building their careers on your skill, effort, and reputation. Women, people of color, and others with token status can remain invisible to those predisposed not to see or appreciate them.
Bottom-line: you may think others recognize your skills, talents, and achievements. They may not. And it’s naïve to believe that your hard work alone will speak for itself. (Trust me on that one!) Be proactive in helping credible others understand what you do so that they can speak for you to powerful others. Well-informed colleagues and good bosses can be your witness. You need that. As the adage goes, a person is never a prophet in his or her own land.
ADVICE #2: Maintain a relationship with your witnesses over time. You’ll change jobs. Bosses and co-workers will too – or they’ll retire, move away, and disappear from your life. That’s where a proactive stance toward maintaining your important networks comes in. Stay connected to your witnesses. Help them see how you’ve grown and developed. Email, LinkedIn, and social media sites now make that simple to do. You can’t predict when in the future you may need to call for a testimonial.
So if you’re in Kansas City next month, come and take the Witness course. If you can’t, I’ve pasted a description below to give you a bit of the skinny.
Either way, begin right now developing a plan to cultivate those who can add credibility and an objective assessment of quality and accomplishment to your career story – and keep them as part of your professional life. (That won’t happen without careful attention and effort from you.) As your network grows, so will your confidence in the living reminders of your hard work well done. Onward to a brighter future!
Charmaine McClarie, President of the McClarie Group, will be leading Strategic Preparedness: Positioning Yourself for the C-Suite seminar on March 16th. Click here to find out more information
What are witnesses?
Workplace witnesses are strategic individuals who see and hear your contribution to the organization and communicate the value you bring to the workplace to others.
Why create witnesses?
Simply put, creating witnesses is essential to your success. If you do good work, but no one knows about it, both you and the organization lose. You lose, obviously, because you get little credit (and in many cases no credit) for your contributions. The organization loses because it has no awareness of a resource which you’ve cleverly hidden away — namely, you. This makes you a well-kept secret.
What gets in the way of us creating witnesses?
Usually, our own selves. Most of us were taught to do just the opposite of the kind of self-promotion needed to succeed in our careers. We were told "your work will speak for itself", and "don’t toot your own horn." But being smart and working hard is no longer enough. Most of your colleagues are smart and hardworking, so you have to learn to distinguish yourself from the crowd by creating witnesses for your contributions at work.
So how do I create witnesses?
Witnesses don’t just happen; you have to make them happen. Here is a three-step process
that will allow you to create witnesses to your great work, so that it can move you and your
ideas forward and up the organization.
1. Ask yourself, how do influential people make themselves seen and heard in this organization? What does it take to be respected?
2. Next, identify who you want as your witnesses. In other words, who has the power, influence and relationships to help you accomplish your goals and reinforce your value in the workplace?
3. Finally, plan how you’ll turn these individuals into witnesses for your work. Craft effective messages that will resonate with each of your witnesses and allow them to communicate your value to others in the organization.
The cardinal rule: you must not be a well-kept secret. If you are, you lose because your organization doesn’t know if you are strategic or if you get results. You organization loses because it isn’t able to appropriately leverage the value you bring.
Leaders don’t leave their careers to chance. Begin creating witnesses for your work today!