Positioning yourself in a company

FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT: Dealing with your superiors as equals, but with suitable deference, smiling a lot and focusing your mind all the time on the person you are talking to and not at all on yourself and how you appear will stand you in good stead as you position yourself in the company. FILE


    Mar 25, 2014

    Positioning yourself in a company

    WHERE do you sit in your company? You have a job description, a boss (possibly several), and a place to work. But do you know where you really sit in the business?

    I once felt very lost in a company I worked for: uncertain about whether I was doing - or could do - the job I had been assigned, unhelpful superiors who knew even less than I about it. I was like in a sinking ship with no radio to call for help.

    I bet you know that sinking feeling too, thanks to superiors who are scared to consult and playing at ostriches, with their heads in the sand.

    Then a surprising thing happened to me.

    A mentor boss saw the potential for a job of the sort I needed at the time, created it and put me in it.

    It was a life-saver for me and a necessary development for the company. Win-win, as they say.

    What was needed for this to happen? Two things juxtaposed. First, an observant, sensitive and creative boss. Second, an employee who was not afraid to step into an unknown (not yet created) job. Two risks.

    What if your boss isn't sensitive, generous and creative? Plenty are not. At least, that is the picture you get from talking to people about their bosses.

    However, all bosses are human beings. If they behave roughly and bully you, it is because they are insecure. You can help them become more secure and less brutal. That is how to get promoted - or get treated decently.

    Positioning yourself in a company requires courage, imagination and a reasonable sense of style or stature.

    You will need to do things others would hesitate to do. You will need to display some visible confidence to make your place in the company clear.

    Here are some tips for doing that:

    First, re-set your mind to this thought: I am dealing with people who are senior to me, older than me, possibly cleverer than me and certainly more powerful in the organisation than me.

    BUT I am going to deal with them as equals.

    Politely, with suitable deference but not with subservience.

    I am not going to kow-tow in anyway at all. They are my equals.

    Second, you are going to smile a lot. Smiling is disarming.

    It can be warm and engaging. It can be enigmatic - meaning that it can make the other person wonder what you have in mind.

    No harm in that. Being transparent is good; being just a little mysterious is even better.

    You are clever, of course. No reason to pretend you are not. Smiles are seductive in the best possible way. Use them generously. A by-product of smiling is that you become a happier person.

    Third, you are going to focus your mind all the time on the person you are talking to and not at all on yourself and how you appear. Paradoxically, the best positioning of yourself is done without thinking about yourself.

    Your confidence will grow as you learn to "read" the other person. We call it "mapping" them. If you cannot already do that easily, engage in role-plays with people who know how to do it. You will catch on very quickly.

    Authority is hardly ever given, even when grand titles are bestowed. It is usually grasped. Often the best way to grasp it is to break the rules. This has to be done with skill and tact - you can read about it in the next article, "Breaking the Rules".

    There is an expression seldom heard these days when a chairman leaves a business and the board members are in disarray as to who should succeed him or her. Just occasionally you will see the announcement "Mr/Ms X assumed the chair". The rule-breaking involved in that is real positioning. You have the confidence to assume that everyone will agree.

    Believe me, they always do.

    The writer is the chairman, CEO & Founder Mentor of Terrific Mentors International (, a group of career mentors and coaches.