Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

Q: People describe me as quiet and unassuming. I want to get ahead but feel I won't be noticed. How can I promote myself?

A: Make the most of being yourself. I'm afraid that if you are quiet and unassuming it is unlikely that your excellent hard work will speak for itself. I know this will go against the grain, but you must now develop a plan to promote yourself.

I have noticed that Acevo members have consistently great communication skills. Good leaders must have excellent communication and networking abilities - this is core to the job of any top leader. Unless you are looking to be appointed head of an academic faculty or think tank, it is not the quality of your written work or your analytical skills that will get you to the top.

Not noisy, but noticed

I suspect you don't feel comfortable in putting yourself forward. But remember, you don't have to be brash or loud - you don't need to make a lot of noise, but you are going to have to look at how you can get noticed.

So out with the pencil and paper and make a list of the things you are going to do.

First, start going to meetings of your professional association and make a contribution. Then write a letter to Third Sector (saying, just as an example, how much you like Bubb's coaching articles).

Then think of articles you might place in relevant newsletters, and look at seminars and conferences you can attend - and make sure you ask questions.

You will certainly want to draw up a list of all your contacts and then develop a plan for connecting with them. People need to know about you and what you are up to. I suggest you phone at least five people on your list each week.

Where could you stretch to?

You are clearly well motivated and ambitious. You're probably very good at your job, so talk to your boss about stretch - where you could do more work or contribute to a project. Help develop one of the boss's key ideas where he or she has been looking for help.

You will need practical advice and support in this task. Do you have a mentor or coach? If not, get one. Also, get hold of a good book on networking, such as Only Connect - A Leader's Guide To Networking, written by me and Hamish Davidson and available from Acevo. There are others.

My last piece of advice is this: get over being shy. One of my former members, Harry Caton (who is now the Patients Tsar) once told a networking seminar for Acevo: "Be shameless about introducing yourself to people; remember, you are not trying to be liked - you are trying to be known."

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