Have you ever stopped to really think about what you’re telegraphing in terms of your body language, how you dress, how you speak, how you communicate and the impact this has on your leadership opportunities?
I think women, in general, like to downplay the importance of this is because it is easier to believe in the idea that it’s a meritocracy, or it should be a meritocracy, and therefore it’s all about how you’re performing and how hard you work.
During the early years of my corporate career, I was adamant that the value I contributed to the organisation would be evident through my deliverables and work ethic. As I started to progress in my career I recognised there was a missing piece. You see I loathed networking for self-promotion but in retrospect, I wish I had found a happy medium as there is a need to an extent to "self-promote".
Nowadays we all work in open plan office environments. Gone are the days where you could walk straight into the office and hope that no-one would notice you arrive.
Now, more than ever, we are on DISPLAY.
You could potentially talk with at least 5-10 people as you make your way to your hot desk which happens to be in a different place every day. No longer do we exclusively work in project teams or departments.
Now, that's not such a bad thing in terms of networking and building your reputation across the organisation.
There’s an old adage, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” When you’re evaluated for a promotion, it’s unlikely your boss will sit in a room alone and contemplate your potential. They will rely on others to assess your ability, which means you need supporters across the organisation — people who are aware of the work you’re doing.
Here's a look at KPMGs new office layout at Barangaroo.
So why is it important to look and act like a leader long before you are one?
When it comes to opportunities for promotion, you never know which senior executive could be scanning the floor wondering who she/he would like to promote to this new role. You can begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion.
So let's evaluate ways you can look and act like a leader long before you are one.
1. Your Visual Image
Does your image signal you're leadership material, that you have what it takes, that you're ready for that next big opportunity?
Every style decision you make is an opportunity to express a quality of your leadership image.
If your role requires you to be creative then why not inject colour and print into your business outfit. If on the other hand, your role requires you to have a high attention to detail, then a well thought out look from top to toe could demonstrate this. Here are two examples.
2. Your Experienced Image
This is where you’ve been able to harness all your people and communication skills, etiquette and social skills to produce meaningful and lasting relationships.
This doesn't mean you have to be a brilliant public speaker or writer. It does mean you have to express yourself well, whether it's writing a well thought out e-mail , persuading others with a concise and compelling speaking style or just being able to calmly explain to a team member what you need.
LinkedIn recently surveyed 352 HR decision-makers from large companies in the Asia Paciﬁc region, 84 of them based in Australia or New Zealand. They found that the number one reason organisations ﬁnd it hard to recruit leaders is the candidate’s lack of soft skills and leadership competencies. Here's the complete article
So how are your soft skills? Is there room for improvement?
Some final pointers
1. Look for people who have the roles you want and study what they do — how they act, communicate, and dress. Pick someone at the next level, someone similar to you, and find a way to work with them.
2. If you find yourself walking down the hall with the most senior person at your company, be prepared to answer the question, ‘So what are you up to?' Don’t take lightly any interactions that may seem informal. Treat every situation as an opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring to the organisation and your knowledge of the business.
3. Every morning, as you get dressed for work, think about how you can signal a quality of your leadership style.
4. Planning now will help you develop the necessary skills and leadership presence. It increases your chances of getting the promotion because people will already recognise you as a leader. The key is to take on opportunities now, regardless of your tenure or role. “You can demonstrate leadership at any time no matter what your title is.
If you are a professional woman who would like to learn more about how to craft a leadership image click here to learn more about our workshop: "The Art of Self Packaging For Success".