Most of us have a desire to fit in at work. Fitting in can provide acceptance, support and friendship among our colleagues. There’s a nice warm feeling of safety that comes with that.
At the same time, though, most people don’t want to be viewed as average and replaceable or to be unknown or feel invisible. And, importantly, to access growth and advancement opportunities requires us to differentiate ourselves.
The purpose of this article is to provide a 7-element strategy to enable you to stand out, in a positive way. It’s a tool to help you to be better known, noticed, recognized and well-utilized for knowledge and skills you bring to the organization.
The 7 elements that make up this strategy are designed to help you to hit the ground running in building your identity, your personal brand, as a member of your organization. We recommend that you adjust this strategy to fit the role you have, your development needs, and your work requirements. While launching this strategy is the start of a self-development process that will continue to evolve into the future, it’s also one that we believe can well support you in reaching a number of shorter-term goals.
The 7 Elements
- Demonstrate trustworthiness.
- Perform each task of your job at your very best every day.
- Understand how you come across to others.
- Strengthen your identity as a person of substance.
- Display quiet self-confidence.
- Think strategically.
- Apply excellent oral and written communication skills.
These are skill-sets that we all can master. There’s more than one skill within each of the 7 elements, so let’s spend a moment on each one, to make sure you have a complete understanding of what each includes and involves.
- Demonstrate trustworthiness. We want to know that people we work with, especially those we look to for help or leadership, have strong integrity. One of the questions we all ask of one another, silently, is this: Can I trust you to care about me, my success, my well-being, to do what’s right? Think about behaviors you’ve demonstrated yourself or observed in others. Which behaviors show trustworthiness? Which behaviors can weaken or destroy trust? If you want to stand out positively, trustworthiness is a measure you can apply to each action and word, in a momentary thought, before you speak or act. This skill of thinking before acting and speaking is a key component of Emotional Intelligence called self-regulation. Master this.
- Perform each task of your job at your very best every day. This is a secret to becoming a high performer. Over-deliver. Do more, always go the extra step, and always meet deadlines and commitments. Do whatever it takes, whether it’s working harder or continuously improving your knowledge and skills through training and practice. Do this with enthusiasm, a positive attitude and without complaining or pointing this effort out1. Use assertive language such as I will — not I’ll try. This, and your willingness to help others without taking credit, will help you to become a Go-to Person for colleagues and managers.
- Understand how you come across to others. Listen to yourself speak. Look at yourself. Stand up straight. Sit up straight. Manage your body language, including how you walk. What’s your style? Never allow your appearance or body language to be a distraction. You are always making (and reinforcing) impressions. Dress appropriately for the setting and the company culture, in a way that is a little more polished than your current role requires.
- Strengthen your identity as a person of substance. A person of substance adds value. They create objects, thoughts or emotions. They accomplish things, either through thought or action. They are present. Be prepared and early for meetings, seated towards the center, not in the back. When you’re a person of substance, you also form effective work relationships; you make others feel good about themselves, you’re available to help others, you give credit to others for their ideas, and you are a visible contributor.
- Display quiet self-confidence. Self-confidence with humility is what we’re talking about. Self-confidence is not the same as arrogance. It doesn’t include bragging. It is not developed or displayed by making others feel small. It’s internal, rooted in a solid sense of self-worth and it’s demonstrated through calm, effective ways of dealing with people and situations. It is developed and made visible by being the best you can be, including actions such as communicating well, adding value, continuously learning, and helping others.
- Think strategically. Learn the company’s mission, vision and goals. Use this knowledge to find ways of improving your own work and work processes to ensure the way you perform is aligned with these. Check in with your internal customers and internal suppliers to see how you’re doing at meeting their needs. This is part of being a team player to help the organization to succeed. Unleash your curiosity in ways that matter most to the organization. Use it to find ways to improve your methods and improve your performance results; discuss ideas and suggestions with your boss to come up with ways you can help meet the organization’s strategic goals in the way you do your job.
- Apply excellent oral and written communication skills. You need to be an excellent communicator, electronically and person-to-person. There is a wide range of communication skills. Develop your knowledge and skills in giving constructive feedback, soliciting feedback for your own improvement, accepting criticism, resolving conflict or disagreement, negotiating, making presentations, and Emotional Intelligence. Learn proper grammar and punctuation and proofread thoroughly. These skills will help you to build credibility as someone who cares about doing things well and correctly. Become an excellent listener. Give people your full attention and ask good questions. Be concise in your speaking, removing the ums and ahs, avoiding rambling and speak with clarity. Speak up, humbly and respectfully. Offer people help without taking over their task or responsibility.
These 7 elements include many skills and knowledge areas that take time to develop. Take your time and work on them gradually, in any order you choose. This is a self-development guide that can help you to be a high performer with strong skills in communicating and working with others. You can, you will, and you may already be thinking of additional elements that will help you to stand out as an employee. Keep going! We are convinced that following through with the 7 elements will help you to stand out, while also helping you to fit in.
One thing we’re certain of is this: The best project you’ll ever work on is you.
1If your current job is classified as non-exempt (you’re paid by the hour) you’ll need to discuss working any overtime with your manager to obtain approval. In that case, we recommend you follow your company’s policies; however, other than obtaining the required approval, we recommend not discussing your extra effort, as doing so often comes across as bragging or complaining.
Please share your thoughts, opinions and ideas below. We’d love to hear from you.
Copyright August 26, 2021 by Rosanna M. Nadeau
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