I have been working from home for many years. During this period of remote work I have been promoted and given greater responsibilities and had my salary increased significantly. This article is intended for the ambitious remote worker who wants his or her career to accelerate while working from the home office.
I have a few tried and true techniques that I deploy which have helped me. I want to share these with you. Ultimately you will need to manage your own career; the guidance below is not a catchall or the equivalent of an MBA. Rather, these are simple, effective, and results oriented behaviors to increase your impact. If you demonstrate increased impact over a sustained period of time, you will be recognized for it.
Firstly, let me provide some context as to my credentials and background. Here is feedback I received during my last performance review cycle:
“I want to add thoughts about Fred and his executive presence, beyond the parameters of his core work. Fred has a warm and thoughtful approach to communication which helps him on his virtual calls; he is open and energetic, a deep thinker, and passionate. I find my interactions with him both inspiring and motivating. He always shows a bias towards action and a willingness to roll up his sleeves and lead meetings. He can move things internally at a rapid pace because he has strong connections within the firm. Even though his network is virtual he excels at bringing people together. His attitude and approach reflect favorably on our team.
Moreover, Fred is a terrific colleague and his impact internally is just as profound as his external work. He is skilled at influencing across levels, both internally and externally; he demonstrates thought leadership, and is frequently engaged in discussions that drive value for our team. He is a very high performer and a pleasure to work with. Fred is liked and respected by his peers; he takes into account competing priorities and objectives, is flexible, and makes decisions on which goals should be prioritized. He is particularly strong at verbal, 1:1 based feedback. He generously applies his time to help his newer teammates drive projects forward. Ultimately, he adds value.”
This article is not about me. It’s about the techniques I use and how you can leverage them as well to be celebrated at work. What this celebration entails – a raise, a promotion, new revenue for your firm, a new title – I can’t say. But I believe if you adhere to the following 4 point blueprint you (and your firm) will be well served.
- Have regular 1:1s with your peers and adjacent stakeholders
- Openly communicate
- Practice active listening and be present
- Demonstrate your value
I am always looking for ways to increase my internal thought leadership, presence, and advocacy. Sometimes this is particularly challenging as I am full time remote. I seldom see my colleagues in person (once a year for a team offsite) and many other remote staff cycle in and out. During an offsite four years ago, I was surprised by how many of my peers didn’t fully understand the work that I did or how I added value. I left that offsite determined to change how people saw me and my work. I wanted them to easily connect the dots and better understand what I did and why. This led me to a thought: I should invest 5-10% of my time working with, advocating among, and evangelizing the work that I do with internal stakeholders.
As a long serving member of our team, I am uniquely positioned to lead and to help our cross-functional peers understand what we do and why our work matters. I have specific goals in mind when doing this internal networking. I want all of my peers and management to be able to answer a simple set of questions: What is Fred working on and why? How does this work align with our strategy? How does our strategy align with the needs of our clients and product?
Ultimately I want my peers, without much effort, to answer these questions in a favorable light. Pause for a moment and think about a peer you might not view favorably. Ask yourself, why? Is it because of the quality of their work? If so, perhaps their actions and activities don’t enable you to see how their work aligns with strategy formulation, alignment, or execution. You don’t want to be in the same boat. So change your behavior.
Don’t allow your colleagues to think that you are incapable of matching external market demands with your team’s resources to assume business objectives. This is what I want (and you should want) your colleagues saying about you as you increase the frequency and depth of your 1:1 communications: you display a lot of initiative in relationship building meaningful relationships and always make sure to keep me updated on the progress of key initiatives.” Simple, right? You bet.
I will now cover how you can add value as a remote worker. Sometimes this means doing your job well – more often than not it means going above and beyond. I once had a remote colleague who brought a low-key, focused, and sober approach to communication. He was not only very sharp but able to leverage his past experiences to better our team and make important contributions. He added value by explaining how certain ideas might unfold and by challenging us to use a virtual whiteboard to probe assumptions and explain clearly how a product launch would unfold.
My interactions with John are always rewarding; he showed a bias towards action, got to virtual meetings on time with his camera on, and rolled up his sleeves to help me and others. By bringing new and fresh ideas to the table he added immediate value and demonstrated thought leadership. Listen thoughtfully and wholeheartedly; especially as a remote worker you need to listen to the language you hear on the phone or via online conference calls with great precision. It is oftentimes harder to pick up on body language cues via Zoom because you can’t see how people enter or leave a meeting. You can’t feel exactly how they are sitting or the intentions behind their words.
So you need to be aware of this blindspot to practice more active and engaged listening. Don’t multi-tak during meetings or view other open tabs on your computer. Don’t look at your phone. Really and actually pay attention.How else can you add value? It depends on the nature of your work. If you are in sales, perhaps you can make introductions between your client and other quota carrying reps with products you have for them to procure. If you are an engineer, perhaps you can review more lines of code or make code edits to help other programmers. If you are a designer, maybe you can create useful mock-ups for teams that are working on projects you can influence.
In conclusion, if you are an ambitious remote worker who wants his or her career to accelerate while working from the home office, you can follow these steps – or others like them – to add value. If you want to earn great responsibilities or increase your salary, you will need those that work with you to trust your guidance and instincts and respect your impact. This article provides you with concrete actions you can take to manage upwards and laterally to win new friends and influence people. Working from home presents new challenges and opportunities to exercise these skills but the results will be worth it in the long run.