Putting Yourself Out There

I have a confession. Years ago, early in my career, I raised the need for an interdepartmental working group to review a host of issues.

People agreed and I spearheaded the working group's efforts.

However, when it was time to share the findings and recommendations with senior management, I allowed others to lead significant discussions even after my manager said I should give myself more of a starring role. I didn't.

As Julie Roberts' character Viv said in the movie Pretty Woman:

"Big mistake. Big. Huge."

It is critical that we own our thoughts, ideas, and accomplishments - and put them out there. If you don't, no one will attribute them to you.

Here are 3 ways to become more comfortable with putting yourself out there and showing everyone what you bring to the table.

Chunk it Up

You don't have to go from handing out documents to taking a lead role all in one jump. You can do it in phases.

If you are uncomfortable raising your ideas in a group, you don't have to take over or run the meeting.

You can start by committing to raising one idea at each meeting and not letting anyone usurp it.

Or rather than doing a presentation yourself on a topic, you could do it as a panel. Ask if you could present one part of the proposal or lead the discussion on one topic.

The idea is to take on a more significant role from where you are now and to become comfortable with that process.

The more you do, the more you realize you can do.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The old joke is, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is practice, practice, practice. People are under this misimpression that senior executives and partners don't prepare and practice. They do. That is why they are where they are.

One senior executive, "Peter," told me he comes in each morning early – before anyone can bother him. He goes through his meetings for the day and prepares. Peter makes sure he understands the background reading and knows what he is trying to accomplish at each meeting (how he will add value) and how to get there. And if Peter has a presentation - he goes over his presentation a few more times, making sure it meets the audience's needs and that he can answer any questions.

He was right. You must invest the time in preparation and practice. That way, you are comfortable and confident presenting yourself and your ideas. You know your worth and you show it.

And if, by some chance, your input could have gone better. Learn from it. That is what successful people do. They are self-aware and confident. They know that they can and will improve when they invest the time and have the information.

Focus on the Positive

Many of us imagine what will happen if we put ourselves out there and fail. We don't think about what success could mean for ourselves and our careers.

When those negative thoughts come out, it is best to recognize that your brain is protecting you and then tell yourself that those thoughts are not valid.  

Then, you need to imagine the positive - what it would look like if you killed that client presentation or if the business loved your approach or idea.  

One of my clients, "Sally," always raised with her senior person her ideas but no one else. That person did use them, but no one else knew they were from Sally. And even if they did, they would wonder if Sally could handle the next level if she could not be comfortable and confident raising them.

So Sally began to imagine what her career could look like if she could raise these ideas and how she would like to be at meetings. Slowly, she began to speak up and raise her thoughts. And what Sally found out after she started doing this was that she was "suddenly" in more demand and getting more robust and positive feedback.

To achieve the credit and opportunities that you deserve, people need to know your value and what you are capable of. That is not possible if you keep it hidden. It is possible to step out of the shadows and shine if you "chunk it up," practice and prepare, and focus on positive outcomes.

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Sheila Murphy

Founder of Focus Forward Consulting

For over 20 years, as a former senior legal officer for a Fortune 50 company, I successfully developed, coached and transformed talent in corporations and law firms, as well as...