If you’re truly interested in working your way up in your career, one of the best things that you can do is get in management’s good graces. But as with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Raving about a dish that a certain executive brings to the office potluck or forcing outrageous laughter every time they tell a joke probably won’t get you very far, for example. And it’s no wonder, really — if you want leadership to have a positive view of you, you need to highlight your professional skills, not your flattery skills.
But how exactly can you do that without coming off as arrogant or seem like you’re sucking up? Try these six tried-and-true strategies.
1. Focus on Results
The easiest way to make a positive impression on leadership is to simply excel at what you do. But in order to do that, you need to first thoroughly understand what it is that you should be doing.
“Discuss with [your boss] what success looks like in your role, then exceed those expectations. Make sure that your boss gives you very specific expectations that are both quantitative and qualitative,” says Natasha Bowman, Chief Consultant at Performance ReNEW and author of the book You Can't Do That at Work! 100 Legal Mistakes That Managers Make in the Workplace.
Once you have those goals figured out, it’s time to execute on them. “Put your head down and focus on the work without worrying about being noticed” at first, recommends Foram Soni Sheth, Co-Founder and Career Coach at Ama la Vida. “Make sure it’s a pattern of you reliably delivering results so that when you speak with leadership, you’re able to demonstrate your value through actions.”
2. Share Your Accomplishments
Once you’ve racked up some impressive achievements, don’t be shy about highlighting them. Higher-ups won’t always have the bandwidth to proactively check in on you, so occasionally communicating your wins could be the only way for them to see how much of an impact you’re having.
“Setting up regular communications to keep your manager in the loop lets you periodically share what you're working on including recent accomplishments. Most managers like to stay informed, so this benefits both of you,” says Mikaela Kiner, Founder/CEO of UniquelyHR.
And don’t worry if it feels a little bit uncomfortable at first.
“Once you make a habit of sharing wins along with other information, you won't feel like you're screaming ‘Look at me!’ every time something good happens that you want to share,” Kiner says.
3. Reach Out to the Top
Again, proactivity is going to be the name of the game when it comes to getting noticed by leadership. If you don’t work with them on a regular basis, it benefits you to find ways to do so.
“You may be in a position where you spend a lot of time with your manager, but little or no time with his/her peers and superiors. There's a risk when it comes time for raises or promotions that people will be on the fence if they don't have first-hand experience working with you,” Kiner says. “Ask your manager if there are ways to present important updates at a staff or leadership team meeting. Giving senior people visibility to your work goes a long way.”
4. Go Beyond the Job Description
You may be taking on all of the responsibilities laid out for you in your job description, but to really stand out, you often need to go above and beyond.
“Those who meet their job description to the tee are doing good work but not noticeable work… to really stand out, go beyond your job description,” Sheth says. “Take the initiative to do more such as mentoring new employees or putting in the extra time to finish a deadline for your team, not because someone asked you to do it, but because you wanted to. People will quickly take note of you going above and beyond and this will catch the eyes of the leadership team without you having to bring it up.”
Not only does this make you look good — it can also unlock new opportunities for you.
“By volunteering for projects outside of your scope of work, you are demonstrating to your boss that you are open to growth and development within your organization,” Bowman says.
5. Contribute Culturally
If you’re looking for specific projects to take on at your company, you can’t go wrong with internal efforts.
“Leaders most commonly worry about two things in the organization: 1) Revenue & 2) Its people,” Sheth explains. “Find ways for you to contribute internally to the organization such as improving outdated processes which can help the employees save more time or perhaps you start internal networking for employees to get to know each other, or you create a group to solve a business problem.”
And to really drive home the value of your efforts, “ask to speak with a leader of the organization to share your thoughts, why it’s important for you to lead this initiative, why it would help the organization and ask [for] their support. This will help you get directly noticed by a leader and they’ll have a direct hand in helping you build your internal initiative,” Sheth suggests.
6. Take Charge of Your Development
It’s great when companies offer classes and training, but it can still be a relatively rare find. So if your company does provide you with one of these programs, make sure to take advantage of it. But even if they don’t, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself grow professionally.
“Develop yourself by furthering your education and completing a certification course in your area of expertise. Stay abreast of current trends and developments in your field and send your boss links or copies of articles that are interesting and could be beneficial to the success [of] your organization,” Bowman suggests.