Welcome back! Last week we started talking about advocating for yourself. We know that the workplace is a political beast. You have to navigate adeptly in order to get assignments, placements, and projects you want. Advocating is such a pain to do. It makes us feel super-awkward. But it’s so important to be good at it.
We talked about creating a personal brand last week. This week we’re focusing on communicating with your boss and other senior management.
Our advice comes from an amazing network of women – from across the country, across government and business. I asked these leaders: how do you get that next project or position? How do you become the go-to person? How do you get where you want to go? How do you get your ideas heard? How do you advocate for yourself?
Almost everyone came back with how important it is to communicate with your boss. Here’s their advice:
No one is a mind reader.
Most of us put our head down and get the work done. We think that if people see how much work we’re able to do and how well we do it, we’ll get noticed. Our boss can obviously see that we’re ready for more or ready for that next step.
It’s adorable that we think it’ll work. Nope. The reality is that our bosses are busy. They’re putting out fires, trying to get new initiatives passed, or working through complex political issues. If your name doesn’t come up, good or bad, chances are they’re not thinking about you.
Give good updates.
Just because our bosses are busy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk to them. You need to give your bosses updates. Do it regularly. Keep it short. A coworker who is all talk and no work? You bet they’re talking to your boss.
You also have to talk to your boss about your goals. You have to do it more regularly than your performance reviews. Have you ever had an employee’s review where they tell you they are unhappy or disappointed? And you totally could have helped them out, if you had known what was going on! Your boss feels that way too.
Have a plan for communicating your goals with your boss. It doesn’t have to be long or in-depth every time you have that conversation. You can tell them why you are enjoying a project, give a status update, and let them know that you’d like to work similar projects in the future. Done and done.
Pick your battles wisely.
You can’t fight every fight. And you shouldn’t. Being the contentious non-team player doesn’t get you anywhere. This is where the elusive “political savvy” comes in. Understand the larger environment you are operating in. Know the factors and stresses affecting management above you. And when you have to address any of these things, find a way to talk about them in a positive light.
You have to know what your boss responds to. Your strategic thinking may be heard as complaining or being needy. Understand the arguments and presentations that work well for the people above you. Broaden your perspective. Make “us,” “we,” and “team” arguments instead of “me” arguments. Tie everything you are trying to advocate for to an agency mission, strategic goal, or performance measure when possible.
Next week, we’ll wrap up how to advocate for yourself with relationship-building. In the meantime, how do you advocate for yourself? Does it come naturally? When your subordinates advocate, what works? What doesn’t? Add your thoughts and ideas to the comments below!