4 ways to be a trailblazer at work
Why being a trailblazer is better for your career
Do you find yourself compliantly watching in meetings? Find out how to make a presence and be heard.
Picture yourself in a meeting. How often would you say that you make a comment, ask questions or provide suggestions?
If your answer is something along the lines of: sometimes, on occasion, or rarely, then here’s why being bold and brave is integral in the workplace.
AIM facilitator Amy Stewart says being bold may have gained a bad reputation in the past, perhaps associated with being outspoken or brazen. For example, having controversial opinions or being candid and forthright. Being brave may have been considered daring and career limiting, especially when choosing to speaking up when everyone else is quiet or ‘calling’ someone on their behavior.
“We now tend to see these qualities more aligned with being curious, confident, trailblazing, risk taking and asking the questions that no one else is asking, yet absolutely need to be asked,” she explains.
Bold and brave litmus test
Here are some examples of what bold and brave might look and feel like. Can you relate to any of these?
- I ask questions no one else is asking, out loud
- I let questions be asked of me
- I make it safe for people to make mistakes
- I know my true strengths and communicate them to others
- I have someone else’s back and will speak up on their behalf
- I ask for feedback and take on what I hear
- I am comfortable in receiving AND providing constructive feedback
- I am kind to myself e.g. l leave ‘loudly’ to attend a child’s assembly or take a family member to an appointment
- I actively make connections with others beyond my immediate team/floor/region
- I walk the talk
- I take considered risks
- I demonstrate courage when faced with risk
- I am authentic and true to myself during work interactions (learn more about your own Authenticity via completing your very own GENOS assessment as part our AIM Emotional Intelligence workshops)
- I always give credit where it is due
- I take full accountability for my actions
Why trail blaze?
“In order to embrace risk and thus extraordinary possibilities, such as unlocking that one brilliant idea that solves so much, or hanging out in De Bono’s Green hat - ‘what if’ and creativity space), everyone needs to feel safe to speak up,” says Stewart.
“We are continually learning that the ‘gold’ is often hidden within the questions that no else is asking,” she continues.
However, that is where the challenge lies.
As leaders, colleagues and peers, we need to be particularly attuned to who may have preferences for introversion (e.g. those who may need more time to gather thoughts than just within the meeting or may not feel comfortable sharing out loud) or extraversion individuals who can think out loud or be super energetic in sharing their ideas.
So why aren’t we speaking up?
Further to the concepts of introversion and extraversion, Stewart says
there are many reasons why individuals may not feel comfortable trail blazing. Collective cultural norms, hierarchy-based workplace environments as well as negative previous experiences are some of these.
“I’ll always remember the time I was shut down by my own people leader in a team meeting for suggesting a new process we could try,” Stewart says.
“It was along the lines of, ‘we tried that before you joined the team and it didn’t work’.
“I recall feeling wounded by this and as a result, I chose to keep quiet for the next few meetings until my confidence was restored.”
4 ways to be a trailblazer
Although being ‘burnt’ in the past or feeling unsure of how to speak up can be intimidating, Stewart says she once heard an executive share some great advice with a team of new starter.
“Even if you feel like you have nothing valuable to add in a meeting or other forum, always say something,” she advises.
“Don’t be silent. You will be lost and potentially forgotten. This doesn’t simply mean saying ‘anything’ for the sake of it, it’s more about showing that you are present.”
Here’s how to do just that:
- Ask a question e.g.: “I would love to understand more about…”
- Reaffirm what has been said e.g. “I echo Jane’s thinking on the potential solution.”
- Or simply acknowledge what value you have gained from being there e.g., “I’ve gained an added layer of insight into the project which now gives me so much more to work with, thank you”
- Seek feedback from other meeting attendees on how you come across and how you continue to come across.