Ah yes. The ‘raise your profile’ objective. This comes up in quite a few appraisals. Indeed, long long ago and far away, I think it may have figured in one of mine. At the time I thought, “OK, yeah, raise my profile, right”. Then as the days and weeks went by, I realised I had so little idea of what it actually meant that I had zero idea of what to do. All I knew was my profile had been deemed low, and up until that point I’d been completely unaware of it being an issue. So offered below are some thoughts to help you handle the sticky business of profile-raising:
As with all vague goals and objectives, we are doomed to fail unless we get some more specific detail. So the first step is to ask the goal-setter(s) how they will know you’ve succeeded in raising your profile. Keep questioning until you’re getting some tangibles on this. Clue: metrics and verbs are good. Waffle and adjectives such as ‘gravitas’, ‘proactive’, and ‘strategic’ are far less helpful as they’re open to misinterpretation. How will people know you’re being proactive, strategic or have gravitas? What will you be doing, saying – and not doing, saying? And what super-objective will be served by you doing all this? More projects, revenue, opportunities?
It may be that it’s as simple as speaking up more in meetings. If that fills you with deep dread, remember that it’s OK to speak up by asking questions. You don’t have to have an array of earth-shattering pronouncements (in fact, best not to have any of those, at least not yet). Ask intelligent, open questions that get people thinking and really listen well to their responses.
It might be that very few people actually know who you are and what you do. And maybe, that you had no idea that this really mattered until The Profile Thing cropped up. So it might simply be a case of good old MBWA (Managing By Walking About) and finding out who colleagues are and what they do. There are many people in organisations whose preference is for Introversion (they get their energy from within, amongst other things), and they can be staggered to learn that people would love it if they just got out of their cupboards a bit more.
It could be a case of you needing to build strategic relationships with certain individuals in particular roles, for the good of the team, department or organisation. Do this in increments, small steps at a time, and with integrity – or they’ll suss you out and your Profile could be damaged rather than raised.
Or it may be that you need to build an individual reputation as an expert by giving talks, writing articles, blogs and books. Or all of the above. Try just one thing for now and see how it works for you. Then another. Repeat.