Making Your Team Work

Practical advice on how you can change your team for the better.

Quiz: Are You Making These Promotion Killing Mistakes?

12 things that make you look too junior for a promotion.

A client of mine called me to ask for some advice.  She’s young and has done very well in her career, but she’s starting to feel that she’s plateaued. 

She was looking for some ideas and any help I could provide on how to be perceived as more senior, more “executive” by the people above her in the organization.  I asked her to be honest with herself about a few things.  How would you answer these questions?

  1. I enter a room without making eye contact
  2. I sit in an inconspicuous seat, such as in a corner or in the back row
  3. I take up as little space as possible with my body (crossed arms, head down)
  4. I take on the note taking responsibility for others
  5. I tend to ask questions and seldom assert my point of view
  6. I never speak first or last on an issue
  7. I am consistently friendly and supportive of others’ ideas (without critical thought)
  8. I defer to those who are more senior than me
  9. I talk only with people of my level during breaks or on the way in/out of a meeting
  10. My clothing is more/less formal than that of my superiors
  11. I use wiggle words: maybe, sort of, possibly, might
  12. I use too many words and speak too quickly

How many of these were true for you? If you agreed with a few of these statements, it’s no wonder people aren’t seeing your potential.  You’re giving off many signals that you’re not promotion material. 

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The good news is that all of these things can be addressed.

Change how you look: Start with what you wear.  Match your style of dress to your superiors.  If the boss wears jeans, stop looking like a dweeb in your suit. If suits are the style, invest in one good one and wear it when it counts. 

Change how you show up: Walk into a room with your head held high and make friendly eye contact.  Sit in a visible seat.  Sit comfortably with your arms on the arm rests. To take up more space, spread your coffee cup and your pen out just a little past the width of your body.

Change what you say: Have an informed point of view and share that point of view succinctly and confidently. Find opportunities to disagree firmly and politely with others.

Change who you talk to: Use the casual time on the way into or out of meetings to chat with those who are senior to you. Ask their impressions of the discussion, share an interesting tidbit from the news, or just engage with them socially—human to human.

You might feel that your superiors are unfairly seeing you as junior.  But if you were to look at yourself, what would you think? Are you sending the wrong message? It’s worth giving it some thought. 

Liane Davey, Ph.D., researches team effectiveness. She is the author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done.

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