There may be no greater career jet fuel than building a broad base of advocates and igniting them to ply their trade on your behalf. Research indicates that 43% of top performers have 10 or more advocates, while only 23% of their peer group (nearly less than half) has a network that big. It’s evident that building your advocacy network can have a marked impact on your career path.
So how do you build such a career-coaxing, broad base of advocates?
You already know the obvious ways: bringing your “A” game on big game days, crushing big presentations or meetings, nailing your first 100 days, always going the extra mile and always performing beyond expectations. All well-known ways to create advocates, and all easier said than done, of course.
But you might not know that research reveals a set of much less obvious, but just as powerful ways to create raving fans and shareholders of You Inc.
Here’s 7 surprising ways to instigate and ignite a rash of new advocates (up, down, and across your organization):
1) Give feedback…better than anyone else – We are genetically programmed to stink at giving feedback, so when someone stands out in this difficult pursuit, they really stand out. People appreciate thoughtful feedback (so rarely given), and they never forget truly potent feedback. I’ve gotten thank you’s from people for some well-framed, pointed feedback I gave them, 10 years ago! Ever been disappointed by a co-workers half-hearted attempt to give you quality feedback you could grow from? Of course you have. Now, do you remember when you were given a particularly powerful, helpful piece of feedback? Of course you do. People will remember if you take the time to thoughtfully help them grow. And as such, these people are well on their way to becoming an advocate of yours.
2) Conduct High Quality On-boardings and Off-boardings – People and projects transition all the time. How you do so can leave a lasting impression on future potential advocates. Flinging a binder at someone coming into your shop and calling it a transition certainly sends a message, but not the kind you want. Taking the time and effort to do a thorough and thoughtful job of on-boarding someone or off-boarding out of your own role can make a remarkable impression. And believe me, it’s a small business world – those you transition to or from quite often stay in or re-enter your work bio-dome, many times. So you may as well increase the likelihood they’ll be your advocates by excelling at something virtually no one does.
3) Treat the “crevice” job like a crucible job – You can imagine how you’d pile up advocates if you were in a crucible role (a role that’s high profile, high impact, and high interest). Less obvious is the advocacy building potential for when you aren’t in a crucible role, but you’re instead in a “crevice” role. A crevice role is one of those odd-duck, often non-traditional jobs that’s not exactly a priority or high profile, but is work that nonetheless needs to be done – work that feels like it lies in a crevice in the company. Odds are in your career progression you will come across a stepping stone job such as this. Odds are those more senior in the company will recognize it’s a stepping stone job. The employee will be remembered for how they handled it and what they did in that role perhaps as much as for what they did in a truly critical, crucible role. The net is, making any job great makes mountains of advocates.
4) Ensure your character resonates in times of adversity – You never, ever forget when someone acts like a miscreant in times of adversity. Even with someone who can be counted as an advocate, the fact is all bets are off if they see you acting poorly in an adverse time or situation. And in the opposite case, people never forget if you act admirably in such times. Plain and simple, adversity yields extremely rich veins of advocacy.
5) Build your AND – Unfortunately, in the world of advocacy building, great performance is just the price of entry. You really differentiate yourself when you are a consistently great performer, and you have an AND – something you are known for that is above and beyond the day to day associations with your work. Maybe you become known for your coaching of others, your volunteerism, your extra-curricular speaking and teaching you do outside your department, your thought-leading innovations you consistently bring to the table, or your continual and visible support/presence at community building events. You get the idea. Becoming consistently associated with an AND that’s important in your company helps you stand out and builds advocates from near and far.
6) Feed an aura of kindness and positivity – People want to help people that help people. Watering everyone else’s flowers invites others to water yours. And why not build the constant of a great attitude into your aura? People remember and are drawn to positive energy. Why not increase the potential to make every moment with potential advocates a positive one? Let Karma be your kindred here.
7) Inquire as to what makes you worth advocating for – Our co-workers (across disciplines) can be our greatest advocates. But how often do we ask them what makes us worth advocating for? Here’s an example I share with folks that work with me in the financial function. This is my definition of what makes them worth advocating for:
What Makes a Finance Partner Worth Advocating For?
- Thinks/acts beyond their function (are true all-around business partners)
- Wants/strives to become my “right hand woman/man”
- Balances: risk & reward, top & bottom line, short & long term
- Initiative Igniter (makes every initiative bigger on the top and bottom line)
- The Co-Enforcer (helps play “the heavy” from time to time)
- The P&L Professor (takes time to teach the ins and outs of Profit & Loss management)
- Historian (knowledge repository of past successes, failures, approaches, facts)
- Helps see around corners
The point is, have the conversation with your peers and find out what makes you worth advocating for in their eyes. There’s nothing wrong with being upfront about asking this, and it will only heighten your interpersonal IQ.
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