It's not only what you know. It's who you know. And more importantly, who knows you. Too often, when I first start coaching high-performing executives, they wonder why they are not moving up as fast as their colleagues.
They observe key influencers in their organization, but they don't reach out and engage them. They might even be in meetings with these influencers, they might even talk to them — but when the meeting is over, they're a past memory.
It's frustrating. They work hard and they deliver the goods every day — but for some reason, they are not invited to the inner circle. The worst part? Colleagues who rarely do anything of substance, have express access to the inner circle. It's so unfair.
So how do you break into the inner circles of business? How do you get key influencers to notice you, respect you, and invite you to their table? It comes down to three simple and effective steps:
1. Be Visible.
Don't hide in the shadows and don't lurk in the corners of the room. Sit your butt right down next to them (if possible) and introduce yourself. Ask questions during the meeting — don't feel as if you can't. Make the question powerful and allow informative branching to other opportunities. Take notes, sit up, and pay attention to everything going on around you. Show them your best.
2. Be Assertive.
Make your presence know — talk to them about what they CARE about. Show them you know all about it and you have a few ideas on how you can solve their problem. Tell them about your accomplishments — BRAG — don't hold back. Be proud of your track record and let them know about it.
3. Be Persistent.
At the end of the meeting, try to engage them and see if they'd like to catch lunch or coffee so you can talk more. Try to bump into them in the hallway and introduce yourself again. No one ever hates enthusiasm. If you go about it in the right way and are empathetic of their feelings, you can easily make this a win-win for all concerned.
These techniques might seem scary at first — but if you do them in the right order — magic will happen. If you are still wary, you might need a coach.
P.S. Many years ago, I was hired at a company to launch a new site and product. My first day, my new boss and I were walking to a meeting with the development staff and we were passing the new CMO (who was also hired a few weeks before). We all stopped and my boss introduced me to the new CMO. Many people would have shaken hands, engaged in 30 seconds of small-talk, and moved on. I took the opportunity to inquire about the CMO's first few weeks and then I asked him if I could run the initial site layouts to get his feedback. He was pleased to be involved and asked his assistant to set up a meeting. From that point on, we were great friends and we worked closely on a number of projects. It's that easy.