I have the pleasure of working with a collaborative group of consultants who regularly share best practices and challenging questions. Recently I posted my response to one of their tough questions: What do you do when you feel your hackles rising? Today I’m posting their helpful responses to this tough question I tackled recently with a friend:
I have a couple of co-workers who have been with our company for a long time who are feeling underappreciated and overlooked because they feel the senior leadership only sees them as the inexperienced people they were when they started. Do you have any ideas that would support them in being seen with a fresh perspective? They are both considering leaving, and that would be a major loss to the company.
Brent Proulx responded first with this suggestion:
Given there are two of them, they could work together to create a mutual day of recognition. They can start with each other and write down everything that they appreciate about each other – accomplishments, talents and strengths, ways they’ve helped co-workers, ways they’ve helped the company, etc. They could bring in as many co-workers as they can to be a part of it. Then, set up a luncheon or afternoon session and invite the senior leaders to just sit and listen to all the praise being given. Hopefully that would do something to get the leaders to think about those employees (and their co-workers) in new ways.
Are there certain things they are interested in at work that they can proactively raise their hand for as a way to show their commitment and initiative for taking on new things? The two of them could come up with a project proposal, something that closes a gap they see or addresses an opportunity – something that showcases the talents and experiences they could bring to the table. They could pitch the idea to the leaders, including the cost/benefit analysis of approving them to move forward. Progress reports can reinforce that it’s their talent and experience that are making the project successful. In the process, they could talk to the senior leaders about their successes, what they've learned and how that will help them and the company in the future.
Kyle Bruss made this suggestion:
I would recommend trying out the ideas in Chapter 11 (Cultivate a Great Relationship with Your Boss) of a new book called Managing to Make a Difference (fair warning, Kyle might be a little biased since he often moderates weekly podcasts based on the book with Larry Sternberg and me. Kyle adds: A Career Investment Discussion with those senior leaders may also help … perhaps with an even stronger focus on skills learned, successes, and how they have developed and grown in their career with a then vs. now component.
I relayed these ideas to my friend, she talked with her co-workers, and here’s the rest of the story:
These two co-workers have two totally different histories and two totally different paths. After your advice, they both found ways to ‘lean in.’
One, who has been with the company for seven years, went to her supervisor and openly talked about the direction she would like to see her role going. The supervisor is a newer employee who seemed to have an open mind in conversation with her. Although she didn’t get a 100% turnaround, they are currently talking about different projects more aligned with her skill level and areas of interest where she can prove herself. She is also working with the more senior leader in her area on a big project after he proactively approached her as well. She is still actively looking for positions outside of the company but is feeling more empowered and considering the possibilities if she stays.
The other employee, who has been with the company over 15 years, has experience with the company in all levels from support to operations management and understands every facet of the business better than anyone. She boldly approached the executive with the biggest bias who has known her since her first day on the job and requested to be included in monthly financial meetings to offer her assistance. In the first meeting, she offered lots of helpful input, and this executive at the end of the day-long meeting personally thanked her for her insight. I saw it first- hand – there was surprised appreciation on one end and a glowing smile of achievement on the other. The communication between the two has greatly improved. She has discovered with pointed discussions with HR staff that she was also feeding some of the bias she experienced with her own lack of confidence in herself and unwillingness to speak up.
My friends’ co-workers wanted their leaders to notice their potential. They each tried something different, and together they’re batting a thousand – they both improved their situations. Do these ideas inspire you? Do you have ideas for getting your potential noticed that you can share to help others in this situation? OR…do you have a question you’d like our team to tackle? We’d love to hear from you!
Kim Turnage, Ph.D. works as a Senior Leadership Consultant for Talent Plus and with her colleague Larry Sternberg is author of Managing to Make a Difference. She writes regularly on leadership and everything that goes along with it. Find more of her work here.