This Strategy Helped Me Jump 3 Job Levels in 3 Years — Twice

If you aren't doing this one thing, you are missing a crucial opportunity

I was teaching Influence to a group of technology industry VPs, directors, and managers last week and I heard a familiar concern voiced by several leaders in the group: I don’t want to have to promote my accomplishments or myself in order to be influential. I don’t want to brag or be viewed as a suck-up. 

They were responding to a strategy we introduce people to when we teach influence – it’s a practical tool we call the sound-bite strategy for getting your work noticed. This tool is not the core of the influence process we teach, but it is a useful add-on; simply put, it’s a formula for generating a short summary of your current projects that you can strategically share in casual settings with leaders above you.

Here’s what I’m talking about: Within the past month, have you had casual run-ins with leaders above you who’ve asked something like, “How are things going?” or “What’s happening?” And your standard response was your version of “Pretty good” or “I am really busy – there is lots going on,” and then you moved on? Or maybe your response was to rattle off everything you have on your plate.

In either case, you’re missing an opportunity. When leaders above you ask how things are going, it’s your opportunity to answer them in a meaningful way that conveys your value and updates them on key projects that matter to the business. It’s your chance to become “sticky,” as in, being more top of mind with senior leadership – and this comes in handy when building your brand, which in turn helps you increase your influence.

Here’s How It Works

Situation: You’re grabbing a snack in the kitchen and Senior Leader X (at your boss’s level or higher) is getting a drink. 

You: Hi, how’s it going?

Senior Leader X: Good, how about with you?

You: Good. I’m leading the work on the XYZ problem and it looks like we’ll have this issue cleaned up completely by next Friday.
Good. I’ve just finished ABC. And with that done, the customer problems we’ve had with this product will now be a thing of the past.
Good. I’m attending the LMNOP meeting in Atlanta next week. I’ll be coming back with their best ideas on how to make our new social media revamp the huge success that everyone here expects it to be.

Ugh… I don’t like promoting myself…

We were discussing in the class how to get comfortable creating opportunities to share your sound bites once you know what you want to say. Even though it can feel uncomfortable at first, being proactive and ready for those opportunities is so worth it.

You Gotta Do It, Anyway

Because here’s the deal: Back when I worked inside in corporate, I was promoted 3 job levels in 3 years by using the sound-bite strategy (among others). And this 3-level jump within 3 years — that happened twice for me.

So, yeah, I’m a big believer in the sound-bite strategy. The sound-bite strategy and my efforts to seize the casual connection opportunities helped build my brand as a leader who was successful at getting projects approved – including budget – when many others were stalled or flat out told no.

Here are a few personal examples of approaches I used to leverage this strategy. It’s one thing to have your sound bites ready for chance encounters – it’s another to actively look for ways to create connection for sharing in an informal setting. If you’re not already doing this, try some of the ideas below and see what happens.

  • Early morning phone calls to a division VP. An opinion leader in the organization, someone I did not report to but had accountability to as one of my many customers. I knew he liked being in the office early before the rest of the team. I scheduled check-in times on my calendar to call and synch up. He didn’t see the times on my calendar but I had them there as reminders to get to him when he was usually distraction-free.
  • Lunchtime drive by’s. Senior VP with a consistent lunchtime routine. I knew she’d be in the cafeteria after certain meetings on a regular basis. I routinely went for coffee at the right time armed with my list of projects and key items to highlight to be sure my team’s results were known AND I took the face-time opportunity to ask clarifying questions without a formal meeting.
  • Logging into phone meetings before they were scheduled to start. Senior Director in a different time zone and usually on phone meetings before many other attendees. I did my best to be on early to connect and be ready to be asked how things are going.

These all require purposeful thought and prep; they don’t require a lot of time but do call for some focus. I found that putting a running list of topics in my notes app on my phone helped me with a quick reference before any on-purpose encounter. And by tracking them I was better prepared for chance encounters, as well.

Having sound bites ready and creating on-purpose opportunities to share them is a surefire way to be noticed and help those above you in the organization be aware of your results.

What’s your strategy for creating on-purpose encounters? Leave a comment below and let’s help build the list of ways to increase your influence without feeling like a braggart.

Photo credit: Tavani

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