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5 Steps to Standing Out Above the Crowd at Work

Do you feel like one in a million at work - and not in a good way? When you run into your boss in the hallway, do you get the impression she isn't sure who you are? Are the juicy projects always going to someone else?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you need to raise your work profile. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Listen more than you talk. If you offer an opinion, suggestion, comment or question at every opportunity, soon people will run away when they see you coming. Remember when you were in college and there was always one smart-aleck who, when the class was asked, "Are there any more questions?" would shoot his hand in the air and hold the class up? Don't be that student in the boardroom. If you listen carefully and confine yourself to intelligent and to the-point remarks, you'll end up looking smarter than most of the people in the room. And when you do have something to say, everyone will listen.

2. Meetings aren't for airing dirty laundry. If you have a problem or gripe with someone, bring it to his or her attention privately. When you point fingers or air departmental problems in a group setting, you (a) blindside the person you're complaining about, and (b) have just about ruined your chances for a peaceful resolution. Besides, the next time you make a mistake, that person will fall all over himself to make sure to bring it up in a large meeting just to watch you squirm.

3. Try to catch people doing something right. Whether boss, co-worker or subordinate, people love to be told they're doing a good job. You don't have to turn into Eddie Haskell to be aware of opportunities to compliment someone. Keep it short, low-key and honest. It's even better if you can pass the compliment to someone else. "Hey, boss, Jim was a huge help to us on the Acme project - he made some suggestions that should save us $20,000." What are the chances that the boss is going to mention it to Jim the next time he sees him? Pretty good.

4. Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Pick your battles. If you've made the best case you can for doing something a certain way and the boss decides to do it Sally's way, smile and go along (unless doing it Sally's way is going to send you to jail). If your way really is better, people will remember that when Sally folds like a cheap card table. When you do decide to keep fighting to do it your way, make sure it's something worth fighting for and not just because you can't stand to lose. If you only start a war when the stakes are high you have a better chance of coming out on top than if you try to fight every low-level skirmish like Sherman going through Atlanta.

5. Don't hide your mistakes. As soon as it becomes apparent that something has gone wrong, take it to your boss and be upfront about what happened. Have a plan laid out to correct the problem and limit the fallout. You should be able to tell the boss that you've already put the recovery in motion and exactly what the final outcome will be. The key here is to accept the blame without hand wringing or whining and pointing fingers at your subordinates or other departments. You take the responsibility, and then you take the lead in fixing it.

Looking for more career advice?

Joan Schramm is a career, executive and personal coach with twenty years experience in management, training and coaching. Joan can work with you to figure out exactly what you want from your life and your career, and how to get there without a lot of detours.

For more information about Joan, or to talk about what's going on in your career, e-mail, or go to - Sign up for a free monthly newsletter, "Angular Momentum" and take a free Job Satisfaction Assessment.

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