Many women report concerns about lack of visibility at work. There are lots of reasons why women may struggle to be seen for their contributions. Some things are out of our control, for example, others’ unconscious bias.
But there is one thing you do have control over, and if visibility is a concern for you, it is worth asking yourself.
Are you hiding in plain sight?
When I was an HR leader, I was asked to facilitate a roundtable discussion about career development. A senior leader asked me,
“Can you maybe just give tips for people who want to increase their visibility without leaving their comfort zone?”
The truthful answer? No, not really.
I get where she was coming from, though. If something feels like it is too far out of our comfort zone, we may never take the chance and leave it. And it may feel distasteful to be in the spotlight—showy or attention-seeking.
So, the real question is, how can you make leaving your comfort zone more habitual, and less terrifying or seemingly self-aggrandizing?
There are lots of tips out there to help you get out of your comfort zone and become more visible.
But you may only need this one to make a big difference in your career:
Detach yourself from the feedback and opinions of others.
Girls and women are very perceptive about others’ views of them. They tend to adapt themselves in response to that feedback. And so, women can get a little hooked on positive feedback. And conversely, criticism can be overly devastating.
What happens, then, is that we gravitate toward work situations where the likelihood of praise is high, and the likelihood of criticism is low.
Welcome to your Comfort Zone. It’s comfy in here.
But to really grow, we need to take a step outside of that space. And so, escaping the grip of feedback is the number one tool to leave that Comfort Zone, and be seen.
To detach yourself from feedback takes practice. Here are a few tips to help you build this useful skill.
Three Things to Help You Increase Your Visibility and Practice Detaching from Feedback
1) Speak up. Got a dumb idea or question? Let’s find out! Wasn’t it Confucius who said, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question”? Whoever said it first, you have heard it before. Your question probably isn’t dumb. But what if it is? So what?! Say it! Ask it! If you get crickets or puzzled looks, you will survive, and so will your career. It’s worth the small risk.
Pro tip: If you are one who shies away from speaking up and you need more coaxing out of your shell, try this experiment. Start tracking your unsaid ideas and questions, and then check, over time, how often they come out later as valid, important, or even game-changing thoughts. Probably, it is way more often than the times they turn out to be clunkers.
2) Make a habit of asking for feedback. This may sound contradictory to the goal of detaching from feedback. But getting more feedback helps normalize it. Feedback isn’t so big and scary when you ask for it consistently. This is partly because you have taken some control by being the one seeking it, and partly because the more you have of it, the more likely you are to get different opinions and to remember that they are just that: opinions, and not facts.
3) Remember this: feedback doesn’t tell you something about yourself. It tells you what is important to the person who gives it. Now, with that in mind, ask yourself if the feedback will serve you. If so, use it. If not, let it go.
Detaching from feedback may be a lifelong journey, but could also be the single most powerful thing you can do to step outside your comfort zone and make good use of the feedback you do receive.
Wendy Hultmark, ACC, CPC is a leadership coach who helps women flip the script for today’s changing world and define success on their own terms. Learn more and book a call at www.wendyhultmark.com.