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How to be visible and have influence at the senior level

A common obstacle the mid-career women I work with face is that they’re not being seen by the senior leadership team… which also leaves them unable to influence strategic direction, and feeling undervalued in their role.

In this article I’m going to share with you why it’s important to be visible, valuable, and have influence at senior levels, and what you can do to start shifting the dial on your influence and visibility.

Why does it matter?
Earlier in your career, you probably derived a lot of satisfaction simply from being on the team and being able to effectively follow through on the projects or subject matter areas delegated to you. From our school days onwards, we were rewarded for working hard, asking for permission, and waiting to be called upon. And it is this team-member mindset we need to break free from to step up into impactful leadership.

Successful leaders are the people who are setting the vision, making impactful decisions, solving the big problems and focusing on progressing projects that will support the growth and sustainability of the business. And you can’t do that without getting the senior leadership team on board with the projects or agendas you believe in.

What’s stopping you?
If you’re struggling to get yourself seen, heard, and noticed by your leadership team, the board, or the CEO, the first step is to understand – what’s stopping you? These are the issues I commonly see.

  1. Fear
    Fear is the biggest thing holding women back from stepping into the spaces and roles where they can excel. It might be a fear of being too visible, the fear of getting it wrong and looking silly, or fear around asking for what you need.

  2. Focus
    Often the women I work with can articulate what they don’t want – but not what they do want. And if you’re not clear about what you want… you won’t recognise the opportunities to raise your profile and agenda when they appear! It’s time to get focused and specific about the outcomes you want to create, which will also help you focus your efforts to boost your visibility and have more influence.

    3. The Pedestal Effect

Sometimes, when we think about the board or C-suite executives at our workplace, we can get a little star-struck. If you find yourself holding back because you don’t want to take up their time, or you’re worried about being a bother when they have a lot on their plate – the Pedestal Effect is in action!

Whatever it is that’s holding you back from becoming visible and having influence at the senior level, it is time to move beyond those obstacles and get yourself seen. Whether it is your direct manager or leaders higher up in the organisation, your senior leaders don’t know as much about your area of expertise as you do… and being able to influence at that level is the key to being able to contribute to the strategic direction of the business and to create change – for the business, their customers, or your team.

How to build your influence

  1. Adapt your style
    It’s a frustrating truth that we cannot change how others will behave. All you can control is what you do. If you find you’re simply not getting cut through at work, consider how you can adapt your approach and style so that it aligns with the senior leaders. Are they a big picture person, or do they need quite a lot of detail? Will they respond best to facts, or do they need you to present the story of your innovative project? Walk in their shoes, understand what matters to them, and position yourself accordingly.

2. Demonstrate your value.
We cannot expect to be of influence if we’re not being seen as valuable. Stay present to opportunities to let people know what you’re doing, and how you got to your position. This is especially important if you have a knack for making what you do look easy! Demonstrate your capability by allowing people to understand what went into solving that problem or achieving that outcome. It’s time to articulate your magic, ladies!

3. Micro moments matter.
In a busy organisation you won’t often get big enough pockets of time for a detailed presentation about an initiative or project. Instead, you need to keep an eye out for micro moments to sow the seeds of your value. Where can you speak up about what your team is working on? How can you begin to raise your profile with the people that matter? How can you create advocates for your project before you present it more widely?

Relationships first, influence second
If there is one thing that will form the core of your ability to influence it is the quality of your relationships. When you focus on building strong relationships with your colleagues, you will naturally come to understand what is important to them, and how to best approach them with strategic ideas. Check ins and conversations will create those micro moments, and give you the chance to showcase your value and articulate your magic.

Your effectiveness as a strategic leader relies on your ability to influence those around you… and on your ability to influence UP in the organisation. If this is something you’ve struggled with – know you are not alone. It’s time to move past what’s been holding you back, get clear on what you want, and capture those micro moments that can make all the difference.

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