How to Get Noticed and Why It Matters
Several years ago, I went to meeting (without the ubiquitous nametag), sat down, and was asked where I worked. “The Chamber of Commerce,” I replied, to which the questioner then asked, “Oh, do you work for Christine Michaels?” When I had to reply, “I am Christine Michaels,” I had to ask myself why I was not being thought of as the leader of the organization. A great amount of introspection ensued. Was it the way I was dressed? Was it because I looked young for my position (yes, of course I did), was my ego not filling up the room in suitable fashion? For guidance I turned to the self-help aisle at the bookstore.
I happened upon two gems: Lions Don’t Need to Roar, by D.A. Benton, and 5 Steps to Professional Presence by Susan Bixler and Lisa Scherrer Dugan. All are career coaches with years of executive counseling under their belts. For less than twenty bucks apiece, I figured there might be some wisdom in there for me. Some of the advice was hard to swallow – I had been raised not to toot my own horn, that humility was its own reward, that a woman in business did not have to “act like a man” to be given respect, actions speak louder than words, yadda yadda.
Making the First Impression
Apparently, getting noticed is a combination of physical, emotional and intellectual energy. You have to use your entire physical being in the process and be aware of all three simultaneously. And according to Benton, if you can do that for at least the first four minutes of any encounter, you’re golden.
Of course, you have to have the knowledge of the job, the skills, the ideas and the work ethic. Those who don’t get found out fast. But you can psych yourself into feeling confident, projecting a good mood, and dressing the part you’re auditioning for. An interesting note on apparel – they recommend dressing at the level of the people you want to influence, plus of course be neat and clean and dressed appropriate to the activity.
Benton, in essence, recommends an acting job – to act the part you want to be. Turns out my time spent in high school drama club might have been the best fallback for implementing what the books recommended. Step one: Make an Entrance. A “purposeful pause” is what Benton recommends – “nervous, self conscious people hurry; confident people pause.” It gives you time to size up the situation, identify those with whom you want to interact, makes you look relaxed and nonverbally announces your presence. Even if you’re late, don’t rush in full of apologies – walk in confidently (but not disruptively), sit down and get down to business. Same for your voice – not too loud, not too soft, or too slow, and remember to breathe!
Adding to Your Presence
Indeed, not roaring is another way of getting noticed, and Benton is a fan of the adage, “Silence is Golden.”
“Purposely being quiet, and deliberately listening,” she says, achieves many things, like minimizing foot-in-mouth disease, not escalating situations, and controlling the direction of the conversation by not commenting on what you’d rather not discuss. It adds to your presence and mystique, she says. And it makes whatever you do or say seem more important and thoughtful.
We can’t, of course, leave out the all-important people skills. Be open and approachable. Take a genuine interest in others. George Profetis, PhD, management consultant and coach, advises that “social skillfulness basically means listening carefully to others, putting yourself in the place of others, authentically acknowledging their thoughts and feelings, finding common grounds, and making them feel understood (from this point of view, social skillfulness more resembles empathy and emotional intelligence than extroversion)” – good news for the introverts out there!
Try using the concept of “soft power.” Harvard Business Review defines soft power as “resting on the ability to shape the preferences of others. In the business world, smart executives know that leadership is not just a matter of issuing commands, but also involves leading by example and attracting others to do what you want.”
The above, is a distillation of hundreds of pages of advice, articles, and hours of self-reflection. So what was my takeaway? Next time, wear my nametag!