Q: My manager is a bit of a glory seeker and focuses more on self-promotion than on recognizing the contributions of his direct reports. How can I be sure I have visibility in the organization so I can continue to advance?
A: Build your visibility on a broader base across the organization, building a network of allies who will endorse your work.
There are managers who forget their primary responsibility, which is to the success of their team. My message to those folks? Recognize that the best reflection on you will come from your ability to develop your team. When your company's senior leaders are looking for leadership talent, they'll focus on people who can help others succeed. Eventually, a self-centered approach will likely come back to haunt you.
If you work for this kind of manager, though, future paybacks aren't much help. Instead, take a practical look at the situation to figure out exactly what you can expect from him. Consider, for example, if there are ways that you can promote him, and gain visibility in the process. While it may not seem like he needs your help in the promo department, it could actually help you — you'll be associated with the accomplishment and he'll appreciate your efforts to build his profile.
Also identify specific ways you'd like him to help you. Make them concrete; for example, ask him to get you assigned to a certain project or introduce you to someone in another area. If you leave it vague, as in "help me get more visibility," he is less likely to follow through.
Now turn your attention to more self-driven success strategies. Make a list of people you've worked well with, then stay connected with them and find ways to help each other. Also notice the people who are most influential and map out connections you may be able to make with them. In the average organization, there are many ways to get linked in with people if you think creatively. For example, there may be employee interest groups you could join — volunteering is a great way to showcase your talents, energy, and organizational commitment. Likewise, taking advantage of internal training courses not only provides new skills, it can build bridges with people you might not otherwise meet.
Take this approach even more broadly, getting involved in professional organizations. As you take your expertise beyond the organization, you build your profile internally, as well.
With both your boss and others, be clear about your hopes and personal vision. If there is help you hope they will provide, be willing to take the risk of asking for it.
You may not get what you're looking for on the first ask, but just the act of asking is an act of power.
Finally, do for others what you'd like done for you. Don't let the poor management you're experiencing become contagious. This is a real risk, and that would be the ultimate fail. Mentor others, be a strong leader for any direct reports you have, and build a reputation as a person with a talent for leadership. In the end, taking a strategic high road will help you achieve your goals.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.