Could you take a micro-moment to reflect on that question, honestly? What's really stopping you from being truly visible?
We see everyday that every single one of us has barriers to visibility, and there are some common ones we hear regularly. You know your career and leadership needs visibility, but you don't have time. You're not sure YOU really have a story to tell or a valuable opinion to share. You believe your hard work is going to create enough of its own visibility. You're afraid of what might be possible if you step out. When you get to the next level / role / step, you'll do that visibility thing then. Your visibility gets put to the bottom of the priority list even though you know it's central to all your goals and impact. We hear you. Often we are you! True story!
The great thing is, when you're able to sit in a safe space with other purposeful people with huge potential, you get to hear that everyone has these hang-ups. We mean everyone.
There are some simple ways to overcome these barriers - some of them relate to mindset and wellbeing; others, to practical tools and pathways that we can step you through.
Here are some of the most common ones we hear, and what to do about them:
Yes! We get it. Unfortunately, many of our ideas about visibility are based on patriarchal ideas of arrogance or shouting from a megaphone. You can let these outdated notions go. If you are someone who wants to do good work, solve important problems or help people, we know you can find ways to show up authentically, share your story strategically and mine the value your visibility can bring. If just one person’s life was improved because you spoke up, showed up or shared your story, would it be worth it? You bet your bottom dollar it would be.
This is a big one. You don't feel like you have time. But do you have time to not invest in the visibility of your work, leadership, strengths, ideas and contributions? The reality is that being intentional about your visibility takes a bit of time. Not as much time though, as being scattergun and invisible! By being clear on the purpose of your visibility and who you need to engage with, you'll SAVE time - by putting your energy where it’s going to have most impact.
Ha yes - the old “I like being invisible” trick. Sorry to say - whether you like it or not, you ARE visible. You already have a reputation. You are seen, known and have a personal brand (much as we hate that phrase!). The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to be intentional about your reputation, relationships or visibility. You can still be a behind the scenes person - you don’t have to be all out there in some inauthentic way. But you can cultivate your reputation as a trusted advisor, safe pair of hands or backroom activator, in order to have greater impact.
Sorry to say this but the good work will only take you so far. And in many environments, unfortunately, someone else will be claiming that good work for themselves. Our brains are wired for stories - and in those stories, characters are what we connect with best - to make information memorable. That means - if you want people to connect with your work, they have to connect to you.
We love you for that. But trust us, it doesn’t serve your team, or anyone else, for you to be hiding in the shadows. By not sharing your story or contributing to the conversations that influence the spaces you’re in, you deprive others of learning, cultivating new relationships and frankly, the value that only you can bring because you are YOU. Everyone has a story - try writing yours in language a 6-year old can understand. You might be surprised what you find.
This is a deep one - the dark side of visibility. You might feel - genuinely - that it is safer and easier for you to stay invisible. That strategy might also have worked for you in many ways over time - to keep you safe or small. There is no question that visibility can feel and can legitimately be risky for some people in some contexts; there are structural, systemic and real barriers that can make you feel vulnerable and expose you to risks. Every person needs to weigh this up according to their own circumstances. Some questions that can support this process are: what do I think might happen if I'm more visible? Is that outcome likely? Is there only one way to be visible? Do I feel seen, heard and satisfied enough to continue my current visibility approach? How could I ask for support or create the conditions to support greater visibility and impact?
Know you're capable of more but hitting a wall? We're launching our next program for leaders of all genders, Playing Bigger, in February 2023. Click here to find out more, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.