One common objective shared by many of our leadership program participants is to increase their visibility in their firm. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small firm or large firm or what segment you’re in, if you want to be elevated, those who will be advocating for you and ultimately voting on your future need to know you to support you. It’s difficult for someone to vote for you when they don’t really know you.
That’s where internal networking comes in. When we teach personal marketing strategies, the most overlooked activity is internal networking, yet it is the easiest, lowest-cost activity to invest in and it pays dividends. Investing in internal networking will increase your personal brand and it will potentially develop internal referral sources for cross-selling. After all, can someone give you a referral when they don’t know you?
Start with six easy internal networking activities to build relationships with those in your firm outside of your current service line and industry – and deepen your current relationships within your own industry or service line, too:
- Ask partners and other senior leaders who will may be your future partners to breakfast, coffee or lunch. This may sound simple, but many people don’t invest enough in the simple activity of enjoying a meal with someone they don’t know or don’t know well. If you’re in a multi-office firm, you can also schedule a 30-minute video call. Sometimes, we resist extending these invitations because everyone is so busy, or we feel uncomfortable figuring out what there is to talk about. When you extend the invitation, let the other person know that you would like to get to know them better, learn about their clients and favorite part of their job. Your invitation could be, “Dave, I’m interested in learning more about our firm’s advisory services and how you have progressed in your role. I think it would help me understand more about the firm and the resources we have available for team members and clients. Could we schedule a time to meet over coffee or lunch, so I could learn more?”
Just like when you meet a potential client or referral source for the first time, your objective is to build rapport and have them do most of the talking so you can learn about the other person’s interests, passions, and challenges. Ask open-ended questions, such as “Tell me about your progression at the firm.” or “What clients do you most like to serve and why?” Then listen with genuine interest. Be prepared to share similar information with them and invite them to ask you questions, too, so it feels like a meaningful two-way dialogue. You might even find a way to help them by sharing a resource with them or introducing them to someone in your network!
- Take on new client engagement responsibilities. Deepen your relationships with those you work with the most and increase your exposure by identifying new tasks or responsibilities you could own on current client engagements. Look for the low-hanging fruit where you could help a partner by learning and taking on a new task. Take the time to understand their approach and expectations first before innovating new ideas for tackling it. This will help you establish rapport and trust with the person who is passing the baton to you. By taking on these new tasks and responsibilities, you will increase your value and technical competence and elevate your client service delivery, too.
- Participate in firm committees. Learn about the different committees that exist in your firm and then find one or two to join. If your firm doesn’t currently publish a list of the various committees and their purpose, ask around. Ask your career advisor, HR Manager, or other partners. This is another perfect topic for your lunches with partners or peers!
Participate in a committee that you’re passionate about and may want to drive change around, such as recruiting, technology or process improvement. If you’re already on a committee, find ways to take on a leadership role within that committee. For example, you could own a specific initiative or plan communications strategies for your committee’s initiatives.
- Speak at team meetings. If you are an introvert or don’t actively participate in meetings now, start by asking a question, validating something someone is saying, generating an idea or solution, or sharing a success. This is a key strategy to increase your visibility. Many partners tell us that they know their future leaders have something meaningful to contribute, yet they are perplexed as to why some of them are mute in meetings. You have something of value to contribute and they expect future leaders to do so!
For more ideas about strategies for speaking up, ready my partner Jen’s Speak Up! blog.
- Provide training or updates on new standards or trends. A (slightly) more advanced way to speak up in meetings is to offer to provide training on an agreed-upon topic. This elevates your visibility and develops your confidence in public speaking, increases your technical expertise because of the research and preparation you’ll do, and positions you as the “go-to” person for that topic.
Start engaging in these internal networking activities with your engagement team or segment within your service line. As you gain confidence with practice, you can expand your audience to the entire service line, firm, client events or associations and your State Society.
If this particular idea for increasing your visibility generates some fear in you, know that you’re not alone. This is another great topic for your lunches to learn how others developed their meeting facilitation, training or speaking skills! And, you can ask to co-facilitate with someone whom you admire as an experienced speaker or trainer. You can explore ideas for overcoming this fear by reading my colleague Michelle’s blog, The Mother of All Fears.
- Ask to attend a client, prospect or referral source meeting. Sometimes, your partners and business developers don’t invite you to meetings for the same reason you don’t invite them to lunch – they’re worried that you’re already busy and don’t want to pile more on. Express your interest in shadowing a client or prospect meeting to several appropriate individuals. Check out your partners’ or business developers’ calendar to identify meetings they might have scheduled and flag those that work within your schedule. Then, let them know you’re interested in learning more about that particular client or industry, studying their style for facilitating the meeting and handling questions, and understanding the challenges and opportunities your clients and prospect face first-hand. Offer to write the recap and facilitate any follow up, which will justify the investment in your attending.
Pick one of these strategies to start developing – or deepening – your internal network. You will increase your visibility AND your value to your firm! Let us know how you do or other strategies you employ to increase your visibility in your firm. We’d love to hear from you!