Sandra Sims-Williams is the chief diversity officer for the advertising behemoth Publicis Group. But before she made it to the C-suite, she learned hard lessons about the importance of receiving feedback and getting the right advocacy in order to get promoted.
Early in her career, Sims-Williams was overlooked for a position she thought she was perfect for. She says she realized at that point that the deciding managers either misread her or were not comfortable with the perception they had of her.
âMy HR background has taught me this,â she recalls. âWhen it comes time for reviews and career planning, and when [senior-level managers] know you, theyâre going to speak for you [even] when youâre not in the room.â
So how do you get recognized? Williams offers the following tips:
Have regular conversations with your boss. Donât wait for review meetings that may only happen twice a year. Schedule regular conversations with your manager to let him or her know what youâre doing and what youâre learning that could be beneficial to their objectives.
âBecause Iâve now been in the room and heard them, I now understand what that conversation sounds like. What they do is talk around you, meaning that they will say that, âSo-and-so is doing a good job. We like what sheâs doing,'” Sims-Williams says.
“And thatâs the end of the conversation. Thatâs not good enough,” she adds. “That being the end of the conversation means that theyâre not talking about her trajectory, her next move. âSheâs good, keep her over there.â Thatâs what they’re saying. Now, thereâs nobody in the room who can explain or give context.”
Develop relationships with other members of senior-level management. Itâs not easy or natural for many women to develop the relationships that can help bolster her profile, but Sims-Williams says that there are a variety of ways to connect. âI am not telling people to be phony. You have to bring your genuine self,” she adds. “People will read through this. If you donât know what to say or you donât feel totally confident to express ideas, be curious, so that people understand that youâre really trying to figure out how [to grow].â
Asking for help also signals that you have a certain level of respect for their position. âIt doesnât mean you have to drink all of their tea, but you respect people for where they are and understand the game they had to play to get there. Integrity is very important. Trust is very important. You donât have to take them home for dinner, but you have to make sure theyâre in the room to give a thumbs-up on your project.â
Talk to your boss even if you donât think heâs/sheâs your advocate. Itâs important to be less personal and more strategic at work. Unless youâre planning to leave your company, you and your boss—whether you like it or not—will have to maintain a relationship that you can influence.
âYou still have to make the boss look good, even if you have to help them understand what they have to do. That means we supply her with enough information so when she replies to the CEO she looks good. Stop with the personal stuff. You have to make sure they get what they need to do. Be personal with your families and your friends, not here. Be personable, but donât take it personal. You want to be successful, so if your boss is not successful, I can assure you that thatâs going to run downhill.”
Sandra Sims-Williams will be sharing her knowledge at the 9th Annual Women of Power Summit. To REGISTER, visit BlackEnterprise.com/WPS.
CELEBRATING 10 YEARS! Join us for the landmark 10th AnnualÂ Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm,Â March 2â4, 2015, at Fort Lauderdale Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, FL. This exciting, one-of-a-kind executive leadership summit is designed to train, equip and encourage women to becomeÂ industry leaders, learn career strategies, and discover proven workâlife balance techniques. Register Now! http://www.blackenterprise.com/wps