Be More Relevant

Many people are asking me how
to become more relevant — how
to stand out and be seen as more
central and critical to their business. 

If you want to increase your
relevance there are a few key
realities to consider:

 1. No one cares what you do. 
The sooner you accept that reality, the faster you can be more relevant.  Relevance is about being relevant to the things that others care about, not making others care about what you are doing.

2. Everybody is fighting dragons.  If you are finding that no one is embracing whatever it is you are talking about  (which is you fighting your dragons), step back and consider what dragons they are fighting. 

You need to either help them fight their dragons first, or show them why they can stop for a minute without getting killed. 

Say you are a program manager.  You go into a team to propose something strategic – a change of course that is much better for the business.  No one listens to you.  The reason is that they are already working hard to deliver commitments they are on the hook for (their own dragons).  They simply can’t care about your dragons while they are currently engaged in battle with theirs.

Your only choices are to either help them fight their dragons first , or make sure their boss calls off the current dragons. If you do neither, your strategic mission will not be relevant to them.

If you are the boss, and it’s your team that you need to change course, remember to explicitly show them that you have made the world safe from the old dragons so they can stop fighting them, and that they need to start fighting the new ones.  People do not naturally or easily give up their dragons, once they are in battle.

If you are selling your idea upwards, make sure you understand what dragons your management is fighting, and show how your proposal helps that particular fight.  You can’t be relevant unless they think it’s important. 

To make them think it’s important you are much better off to start with something they already think is important, than to try and educate them on something new.  To the next point…

3. Don’t try to educate people about your function – remember point #1. they don’t care.  Instead find out what is important to them and translate everything you say into THEIR vocabulary — not yours. 

For example:  If you are trying to educate a business unit about your brand campaign or data center investment, or vertical market program, remember they only really care about their business unit.

Trying to educate them to the value of what you are doing in your terms will waste time and annoy both of you.  Instead learn about their business and translate everything you say about what you do into their language and the specific benefits for them.  Your “data center investment” becomes “improve customer service for your specific products”.

4. Put the business in the center of your thinking and conversations.  If you always talk to the CEO only about your function, you will not be building credibility and relevance to the business.  If you are only ever advocating about your plans, your budget, your functional objectives, you are not being relevant to the business.  You are being relevant only to your function. 

Your conversations should be centered on business initiatives like quality improvement, customer loyalty, geographic expansion, channel optimization, etc.  If what you are really talking about is needing more computers, investing in a partnership, doing demand generation, etc.  keep those terms within your function and translate your language to the vocabulary of business initiatives when you communicate external to your function.

5. Be the voice from outside the company.  You must keep educating yourself, watching for examples of how others do things, and learning from customers.   Bringing the external voice of the real world back into your business sets you up as highly relevant.  But make sure there is a point to it.  It’s not just about sounding smart.  It’s about bringing high value, real world input into the business that causes positive action – so connect it with what the business cares about before you talk about it.

6. Deliver your work AND Do more.  Deliver excellent results — that is a must.  But don’t expect that alone to make you relevant.  Doing your job keeps you from getting fired.  What makes you stand out, and makes you highly relevant is finding additional ways to add value to the business over and above what is in your job description.  Otherwise you are just one more person doing what is expected of them.  

I will be writing more on why you need to do a bigger job and how to do it in my next blog post. 

Also you can join this month’s member webinar/podcast on Relevance and Personal Brand

Now more than ever it is time to stand out build your value and increase your relevance.  There is no better way than to keep the business in the center of your thinking, stay focused on what other people care about, and help them with their dragons.

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