Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Gaining Your Boss’s Support for Industry Association Engagement

Here is a more in depth look at how you can help ensure that your boss’s mindset regarding your participation in industry association events is a hurdle rather than a roadblock:

  1. Be open with your boss. Your participation in an industry association should not be a secret. In order to reduce the stress that your boss or your organization may create due to your membership in an industry association, be open with your boss regarding any industry affiliations. Share with your boss that while you anticipate it will be infrequent, you will be interested in attending an industry meeting or conference that might occur during a workday. Confirm with your boss that you will let her know immediately so that your attendance is not a surprise.
  2. Ask for support. Once your boss is aware that you might attend an industry association meeting or conference during the workday, ask for his support. Ensure he understands that the meeting is work-related, and remind him of the benefits, including the following:
    • You will network with other business professionals in order to identify talent for key open positions in your department.
    • You will network with industry experts who might have insights on how to plan and implement a big project that is scheduled to start next year.
    • You will learn and bring back to the organization best practices that can help the organization achieve its short- and long-term goals.
    • You will accelerate your professional development, increasing the value that you provide the organization.
  3. Plan for your absence. Once you are committed to attend an industry event that occurs during the workday, ensure that you plan for your absence. Often, you boss will feel less angst if she knows that pending work is being completed while you are away. Delegate key tasks to your subordinates, and ask a peer to act as a “point-person” for your team in your absence. This way, you ensure that the work you are responsible for gets done. By identifying a peer to act as your point-person during your absence, you also reduce the risk of drowning in a flood or emails and phone calls from subordinates, clients, and bosses.
  4. Deliver on your plan. In order to ensure that you can attend future events during the workday, you must deliver on your plan. Nothing will shoot down a future request to attend an industry event during the workday faster than the memory of a debacle that occurred during your last absence. Assuming your plan worked, ensure your boss is aware that your team rose to the occasion.
Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: How Do I Balance Work and Industry Association Engagement?

Balancing work and industry association engagement in your busy organization is not easy. Engaging with industry associations can become harder if your boss does not support the concept. Your boss may feel that industry association meetings are just social or networking events “dressed-up” to look like a work-related event. Your boss may believe that engaging with your industry is not a productive use of time. Your boss may think that any industry related activities should be done “off-the-clock.” If your boss has any of these perspectives, his lack of support can be a significant hurdle to your efforts to engage with your industry.

In order to ensure that your boss’s mindset is a hurdle rather than a roadblock, follow these steps:

  • Be open with your boss.
  • Ask for support.
  • Plan for your absence.
  • Deliver on your plan.

Next week, we’ll take a more in depth look at how you can ensure that your boss’s mindset is a hurdle rather than a roadblock.

Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Will My Boss Think I Am Looking for a Job?

When you work to raise your visibility in your industry, many of you may feel you are at risk of creating an impression with your boss that you are looking for a new job opportunity. Many industry events are advertised as networking events where you meet colleagues from within your industry. Your boss may feel that you will meet a new colleague who will lure you away to a new opportunity with promises of wealth and fame.

The best way to minimize this perception is to always be engaging with industry associations, not just when you urgently need to do so. What is the impact of engaging with an industry association proactively versus reactively? In the early stages of the banking crisis that reached its peak in 2009, an area of interest for banking regulators was a financial institution’s record retention program, and specifically, the bank’s strategy for shredding information. If the financial institution had a long-standing record retention program which included a shredding schedule (proactive), the bank regulators applauded them. If the financial institution did not have a records retention program and suddenly began shredding information upon the arrival of the regulators (reactive), the regulators eviscerated them.

What lesson can you apply to your participation in industry associations? If you are a recurring member of your industry, your attendance at an industry conference or your participation at an industry meeting will not raise suspicion. But, if you suddenly start to participate at industry meetings, your boss will become suspicious. By always participating, you do not create distracting or unfounded suspicions.

Another example of proactive versus reactive behavior exists within LinkedIn. Nothing will arouse the suspicion of your boss faster than a sudden increase in your frequency of updating your LinkedIn profile (even if you turn off the public notification functionality). Had you always had an updated profile (proactive), your updates would seem like a natural and recurring behavior. A sudden surge in updates on your LinkedIn profile due to being passed over for a promotion (reactive) will draw suspicion faster than a cat with a mouth full of feathers standing next to an empty birdcage.

Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Always Have Business Cards

I attended a team coaching conference in Washington D.C. for four days this past week. When I got to the conference, I realized I had forgotten to bring business cards. It was a big miss!

Even business leaders who talk about the importance of raising your visibility can forget business cards now and again. Keep in mind that business cards are not for you; they are for the other person you are meeting. Even if you hate having them, business cards are the most professional way to share your contact information with a new colleague, prospect, or business acquaintance.

There are two simple things you must do to ensure that you always have business cards for every meeting and conference you attend:

  • Ensure you have business cards in your wallet or purse. Regardless of what you wear each day, you almost always have your purse or wallet. Prior to my trip to D.C., I removed my business cards from my wallet as I was interviewing a handful of people for a client’s 360 assessment and I wanted to give each of them a business card. I forgot to put them back in my wallet. Big miss!
  • Ensure you have a supply of business cards in your car, luggage, and briefcase. Since you almost always travel with one or more of these, you will always have a back-up supply of business cards when you need them. You should keep them in a small plastic sandwich bag to keep them clean. I did not do this prior to my trip to D.C., even though I used both my luggage and my briefcase. Another big miss!

So, avoid these big misses. Ensure you always have access to a supply of your business cards and you will never be empty handed.

Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Reasons to Engage With Your Industry

It is important to think about and identify your reasons to engage with your industry. Engaging with your industry without a compelling reason will not be sufficient to muster the energy, support, and time needed to do so. You can engage with your industry for a variety of reasons including the following:

  • Identify talent. Due to changing demographics, the employment marketplace continues to be highly competitive. Your organization’s fast-changing technologies make some skills instantly obsolete, and some skills inordinately valuable. Your organization’s fast-changing business model requires talent in new locations across the globe. Your organization’s strategic growth demands that a talent pipeline exist at all times, not just when a need arises. While talent is easier to find due to technological advances (i.e., resume readers) and social media (i.e., LinkedIn), talent is harder to land as everyone else is using the same technology and social media tools. Industry associations provide rich reserves of talent that you can tap to help you and your organization fill the pipeline. Some of these individuals may be between jobs, while others are actively and happily employed. Regardless of their status, you will meet many experienced colleagues who can fill current or future needs through industry associations.
  • Hear best practices. Industry associations provide services to their members that focus on building community, providing education, and creating opportunity though:
    • Meetings. Industry associations host member meetings on a recurring basis. These meetings may include opportunities to raise your visibility with colleagues, discussions regarding the industry, or presentations by industry experts.
    • Workshops and Webinars. Industry associations host workshops and webinars for members, usually with an external speaker or facilitator, to help members build their skills and learn new information.
    • Panels. Industry associations host panel presentations comprised of industry leaders (maybe you!) to share information and create dialogue.
    • Conferences. Industry associations host one- to three-day conferences designed to bring together thought leaders and vendors to showcase the very best the industry has to offer. The downside is that industry conferences are usually located at beautiful destinations, held in gorgeous conference centers, and surrounded by luxurious accommodations. Not a bad downside.
  • Introduce best practices. Perhaps you are attending an industry event during the workday. Perhaps your organization has paid for your industry association dues or registration fees. If you are attending industry events where information is being shared, it is expected that you introduce best practices back at your workplace that will help your organization achieve its goals. If you don’t share what you are experiencing at an industry event with your boss or introduce best practices to your organization, your boss may begin to question the value of your participation. Many of your colleagues have heard about how to implement a Six Sigma process improvement, how to integrate changes to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and how to transition to a WordPress website at an industry meeting. Hearing about these best practices is interesting – introducing them back to your organization is priceless.
  • Meet experts. You have a lot going on at your organization, and a key asset to accelerating your progress is meeting someone who has already done what you are doing. Whatever you are attempting to introduce or implement at your organization, there is someone who has “been there, done that.” Industry associations are fantastic places to meet colleagues who can provide you valuable insights, compelling lessons, and meaningful recommendations to ensure your success. In some cases, the experience of a colleague pays for your membership many times over.
  • Demonstrate openness. Your fast-paced organization demands your attention and effort 100% of the time, but your fast-paced industry also makes it challenging to stay current. By engaging with your industry, you demonstrate to your internal clients and colleagues that you are not satisfied with the status quo. If you want to keep your organization on the cutting edge, you have to stay sharp. Industry associations are a great place to sharpen your edge.
Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: What are the Reasons to Engage with Industry Associations?

There are a number of reasons to engage with industry associations in your effort to raise your visibility. As Chief Executive Officer of NEHRA, the largest human resources association in the Northeast with over 2,000 members, Tracy Burns knows firsthand how industry association engagement can raise your visibility, positively impacting you and your career. “It is very clear to me that the key differentiator for professional success today is building relationships with colleagues you meet through industry associations,” says Tracy. “I have seen dozens of highly-qualified human resources professionals who don’t know what is going on in the industry, don’t stay current on best practices, and, quite frankly, don’t know their colleagues.

I took a different route. By engaging with industry associations early in my career, I benefited in endless ways. Through my relationships with colleagues, I’ve been connected to job, teaching, and speaking opportunities, introduced to my master’s program, and provided invaluable professional advice – on and off the record! By engaging with industry associations, I always felt that I had career options.”

It is important to think about and identify your reasons to engage with your industry. Engaging with your industry without a compelling reason will not be sufficient to muster the energy, support, and time needed to do so. You can engage with your industry for a variety of reasons including the following:

  • Identify talent.
  • Hear best practices.
  • Introduce best practices.
  • Meet experts.
  • Demonstrate openness.
Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Blending Organization and Industry Visibility

Your professional success rests with the degree to which you raise your visibility in your organization and industry. You could spend all of your time being visible within your organization at the expense of industry visibility. However, when you are only visible in your industry, you miss opportunities for professional development and opportunities to build richer relationships with industry colleagues. Over time, you feel less connected, less active, and less relevant. Or, you could spend all of your time being visible within your industry at the expense of organization visibility. However, when you are invisible in your organization, you miss opportunities for advancement, and your voice is not sought out to help shape decisions and strategies. Over time, you feel less recognized, less engaged, and less relevant.

Maximum visibility resides in a combination of organization and industry visibility.

The blend of organization and industry visibility differs from person to person. Whether the time you spend raising your visibility in your organization and industry is divided 50%/50% or 90%/10%, the percentage of time you spend cultivating your organization and industry visibility is significantly less important than cultivating both.

If you are like most of my clients, you spend little time raising your visibility in your organization and industry, and your invisibility comes back to haunt you. One day, you arrive at work to find out that a colleague was promoted to a position you coveted. Another day, you come back from lunch, and your boss unexpectedly stops by, closes your door, and tells you that your position has been eliminated. Many of my clients were invisible in their organization and industry, and never attempted to raise their visibility until their lost their job. If you are waiting until you need to engage with your industry versus engaging now, it is already too late.

Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Engage with Industry Associations

In addition to raising your visibility within your organization, it is more important than ever to raise your visibility outside of your organization as well.

Your desire to attend an industry association meeting probably feels like a dream. Your ability to attend industry meetings during your workday, after your workday ends, or on the weekend is compromised in the following ways:

  • Lack of energy. You are so exhausted by the demands of your job that the thought of getting excited and energized for an industry activity, especially after your workday ends, is beyond your capacity. By the time the clock strikes 6:00 pm, you are physically tired and mentally tapped-out.
  • Lack of time. You have too much to do! So many of your colleagues are depending on you to do your job that the idea of taking time away from work seems impossible. How can you find time when your calendar is double- or triple-booked? Your fear of the volume of work waiting for you when you return from being away for the office is a major disincentive.
  • Lack of information. You are so deep into the activities, tasks, and requirements of your job that you are not even aware of industry activities that are going on around you. You are more focused on joining a conference call or getting to a conference room than you are on attending an industry conference. Even if you wanted to attend an industry event, you would not know where to start.
  • Lack of support. Even if you register for an industry meeting or event, your attendance is at risk due to last minute “issues” at your organization. An urgent phone call from your boss politely asking you to alter your plans is more likely than you attending the industry event. Or, your boss believes that engaging with your industry is something you do after the workday ends or on the weekend. If you do attend an industry event, you are distracted due to an onslaught of emails and phone calls from work. While it is nice to be needed by your colleagues, you wonder why your colleagues can’t seem to get along without you, even for just one day.

You are not alone. In today’s fast-paced and fast-changing organizations, it is hard to find the time, energy, and support to attend industry events. However, your professional success rests with the degree to which you raise your visibility in your organization and industry.


Ed Evarts

Raise Your Visibility & Value: Avoid Conflict by Seeking First to Understand

I would estimate that 90% of my clients are avoiding a conflict-based conversation. Who can blame them? Not only are conflict-based conversations uncomfortable, these individuals have experienced ZERO training in how to effectively manage conflict in the workplace.

Most successful leaders would tell you that conflict is good. Respectfully discussing opposing opinions or deficient performance in proactive and healthy ways are good for an organization. Some clients (although only a handful) love conflict! They see conflict-based conversations as a great way to make significant progress in resolving problems and building relationships.

One of the best strategies to manage a potentially conflict-based conversation is to follow Steven Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Most folks go into a conflict-based conversation with their guns blaring. They believe they have an argument to win and they intend on winning it! In reality, the more you know about how your colleague feels about a situation, the better position you are in to handle your differences respectfully.

Next time you have a difficult topic to discuss with a colleague, start the conversation with the following questions:

  • Can you tell me why you feel this way?
  • Why do you believe this is the best way for us to move forward?
  • Are you open to hearing other options that might work equally as well?

I guarantee you will have a better conversation, your colleague will be very surprised by your strategy to understand before being understood, and your will raise your visibility as a leader who manages conflict proactively and respectfully.

What is Meant by Professional Transparency in Your Organization?

Networking while employed and performance appraisals are becoming increasingly ineffective due to the explosive growth in professional transparency. As recently as seven years ago, unless the subject of your search was your favorite movie star, rock star, or politician, your ability to find details about another individual was challenging. This was not due to your faulty research skills – information about an average individual simply did not exist publicly. In fact, information about others was so absent in the not-too-distant past, the thought of seeking out personal or professional details regarding another person would not have even occurred to you.

Today, individuals you have never met, from anywhere on the globe, are instantly finding out more about you than any other time in human history. Whether they are at their desk in a towering glass office building, sequestered in their basement at their suburban home, or lounging at their favorite cappuccino bar, they can instantly access volumes of information about you with only a few keystrokes. Fortunately, some of this information is beneficial to your profile. Unfortunately, some of this information you would prefer to keep private.

Recently, I attended a social media presentation that was hosted by the president of a regional marketing organization. To show the power of Google, one of his colleagues googled the president’s name as the president was speaking, and a lot of information appeared behind him on a screen. Unfortunately, one of the items on the screen was a link to a court document detailing his recent divorce. Although it was in clear view to the audience, this leader never turned around to see the link and his colleague never said a word. I doubt that this is information he would have chosen as a backdrop during his presentation!

At the same time, you are able to tell people about yourself with greater ease than ever before. If you go back a few short years, before Facebook and Google, the ways to share information about your accomplishments and background were limited to a resume. Your primary strategy was face-to-face, one-by-one conversations with others. Transparency was low. With technology like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and YouTube, you have the ability to increase your personal and professional transparency and instantly share information about yourself with millions of people.

At the same time, organizations across the globe are seeking ways to increase employee transparency. Technology is providing organizations the ability to build internal platforms (ala Facebook and LinkedIn) that allow their employees to build a profile and share information about themselves that are critical to the business. Employees can post a picture, and list their competencies, certifications, degrees, sample projects, work history, and interests. Internal decision makers, hiring managers, and colleagues can subsequently mine for talent internally before looking externally.