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Your Own Personal PR Firm: You


How to raise your workplace profile.


Just as nature abhors a vacuum, human beings abhor a gap in the story. If people below, beside or above you on the organizational food chain know a part of your story, but not all (what you're accomplishing professionally, who you're working with, where your loyalties are), you will most likely be disappointed -- damaged, even -- by the story they manufacture to fill the gaps. And fill the gaps they will. Count on it.

Since the dawn of civilization, people have created metaphor and symbolism to explain the origins of the species and to bring meaning and substance to their existence. The people populating the political ocean you're swimming in are no different. As I coach executives, some mighty sharp cookies proudly tell me they choose to stay out of office politics so they won't be damaged by them.

Fatal flaw. Can't be done. It comes as a great epiphany when these executives accept that their careers are made or destroyed during conversations that take place outside their presence. You won't be around when the Grand Poobah asks the Big Kahoona, "Who can we count on to run this business?" More than likely the question will come up on the golf course, over lunch or drinks, in the men's room or (as is more and more often the case) in the ladies' room.

If these folks are not fully briefed on your capabilities and capacity for additional responsibility, don't be surprised if you get passed over. It's not their job to seek out complete data on you and HR will do a lousy job of supplying it - relying exclusively on a snapshot from last year's performance review and an MBTI you completed at a lame management retreat three years ago.

Make it your premeditated, methodical strategy to let people with beaucoup institutional authority know what you're up to - and don't leave any holes in the story. I call this loading conversations. It isn't hard to do. It simply requires a stepped up communications strategy and some political savvy. I've seen it happen at NBC Universal (GE), Citigroup (C), Whirlpool (WHR), IBM (IBM), Xerox (XRX), Disney (DIS) and McGraw-Hill (MHP).

Most of the pushback I get at this point comes from those who think I'm recommending they go blow their own horns in an obvious attempt to ingratiate themselves to the power brokers. If done correctly, you will ingratiate yourself to them, but your style will be seamless. Neither they, nor anyone else, will know why the top dogs have such warm and fuzzy feelings when your name comes up in conversation.

Become a "good" finder and a good "reporter," talking up the great things your boss and peers are doing. Senior executives want to hear that their grand ideas are working. When you get that shot at a thirty-second conversation in the elevator, have your talking points ready.

Using words and phrases from the Big Kahoona's own lexicon, let it be known that your boss and other key players (especially if they're your direct reports) are busting moves that are promoting the corporate strategy, as the Grand Poobahs have publicized it. Don't lie and make things up. Report the real news by studying how and where the strategy is being served, as well as how you're involved; that is, why you're so on top of things.

Don't leave any mysterious or confusing gaps in the story. Leave the distinct impression that a mega effort is being made to support the mucky-muck's hero status and that people are out their crossing every T and dotting every I. You don't need to invent information that doesn't exist or paint a picture that's necessarily rosier than it is. Just let these policy setters know that you've heard them and you're a company player.

If you stand on the sidelines, outside the political fray, their assumption will be that (a) you're not paying attention, (b) you don't care enough to get involved or, worst of all, (c) you're part of the conspiracy they always assume is afoot to sabotage their careers.

You're the owner and operator of your own story. Make sure it's buttoned up, complete and leaves your power audience feeling confident and comfortable. Sing the praises of everybody but yourself - and make sure it is all portrayed in the context of the strategy your corporate royalty is standing on. Never let it be said of you on the golf course, "I just don't know about (your name here). I don't a strong sense that (your name here) is fully on board."

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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