The 5 Greatest Leadership Visibility Lessons I’ve Learned
A pivotal feedback conversation with my mentor led me to find a way to create authentic visibility for myself, my team, and clients — eventually leading to the birth of my book, ‘The Visibility Factor’. By writing it, I wanted to ensure that no leader had to be invisible anymore. I wanted to help them show their value in their own authentic way. This November, my book turned one. Between then and now I’ve learned many important lessons about leadership and visibility.
Lesson #1: Don’t regret anything you do, because, in the end, it makes you who you are.
I remember standing in front of a large audience at a conference and being so nervous. It was in the middle of the conference hall and not in a private room which is where all of my other speeches had been. There were no chairs for people to sit on. It was like speaking in the middle of the shopping mall and everyone was wandering around. People were standing in front of the stage to watch, and others were coming and going or walking by. I was used to everyone coming into a room and sitting down to listen. This was a very different experience.
I know I didn’t say everything perfectly and I am sure that I spoke too fast which can happen when I get nervous. But I got through it and I learned how to focus even when there are all kinds of distractions happening. What I shared with the audience still helped them learn and they had no idea what was happening to me on the inside. It was uncomfortable, but it taught me how to roll with the situation no matter what happens…as they say, the show must go on!
Every situation that we go through teaches us what we need to prepare for the next experience we will have. We become stronger and more resilient. When things happen, we have a choice. How can we avoid self-blame and regret, and leverage the experience for learning and growing instead?
Lesson #2: Whether you are leading a team or mentoring someone, you have gifts that you can share.
I can think of several leaders throughout my career who made a difference for me. To them, they were just doing their job and what they thought was right for me. For me, I would say there were 5 key things that they did for me. They:
- Stretched me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to take on high-profile projects to gain exposure and visibility.
- Had complete belief in me (even when I didn’t have it).
- Publicly talked about what I had done and stood up for me in private conversations with leadership when needed.
- Made it safe for me to make mistakes that taught me so much.
- Set a great example as a leader and shared advice when I asked for it.
Some of the leaders were my managers and others were my supporters. I can see now that they were my teachers and what they did made such a difference for me.
Whether you are leading a team or mentoring someone, you have gifts that you can share. Sometimes, all someone needs to hear is that you believe they can do something big. That you can see their potential.
Lesson #3: Leading well takes time and energy. You have to care about helping people grow.
Leading well means tapping into your emotional intelligence and leveraging it each and every day. In “5 Qualities of Emotionally Intelligent Leaders”, Joel Garfinkle highlights five qualities that inspire people to work for you and do great work. The 5 qualities are being: empathetic, self-aware, positive, considerate, and authentic.
In the simplest of terms, it is connecting with people, caring about what is important to them, and being true to yourself. Think about your interactions with your team.
- How are you connecting with them?
- Are you inspiring and motivating them to do their best?
- Have you asked them how you can support their development in a bigger way?
- Do you know what their career plan is?
If you don’t have the answers, this could be an area to focus on so you can get to know your team on a deeper level.
Lesson #4: It’s okay to ask for help.
This wasn’t something that I believed for many years. I saw it as a negative thing. I thought you had to do it all yourself and if you couldn’t then you were a failure. I know that this isn’t true now, but back when I was still learning about being a leader, it felt true. What I didn’t realize is that it is actually a sign of strength to ask for help, not a weakness.
One of my directors helped me see that asking for help was a good thing and that it was something that he did when he had challenges. I felt like I had received this amazing permission slip when he shared that with me! If my director could ask for help, why couldn’t I? I could ask for help when I needed it, and it wouldn’t be held against me.
This is a lesson that has stuck with me all these years later. I now help clients see that it is something that they can do too.
Lesson #5: No one can do everything on their own.
Even though I knew this to be true, in my head I still tried to do it all. If you have a challenge that you are facing and you are trying to hide it from others, ask yourself why. Are you fearing judgment, or that others will think you aren’t smart enough or that you “should” be able to do it? Know that those are all stories that you are telling yourself to stay safe.
Here is a suggestion to try that can help you move forward. Give yourself a solid 30 minutes to work through the issue and if you can’t figure out an answer, then it’s time to find a way to get help. You may think a half hour isn’t long enough, but sometimes it helps to limit how long you will give yourself instead of dragging it out for hours or days.
Stop hiding to stay safe and recognize that you can choose to ask for help which creates good visibility for you. Here is some example language to use when asking someone for help, “hey I have been struggling with this issue, would you have a few minutes to help me see what I may be missing?” All you need to do is ask, get back on track again and help people see that you are a leader who is confident and strong.
And if you need my support to help you with any of this, just reach out. Sometimes it just takes a single conversation to help you see what you may be missing and get you on the right track!
Susan M Barber, Author, Podcast Host, Former Fortune 500 IT Director, turned Certified Executive Coach helps business leaders to play bigger, increase their visibility and finally, shine a light on their leadership strengths so they can elevate their position in the workplace. She brings a depth of business knowledge to her coaching from her 25+ years of leadership experience at Kraft Heinz. As the author and podcast host of The Visibility Factor, she is creating a visibility movement for leaders to show their value and be seen for their true talent. Susan is married with three children and lives in the Chicago area.