PM Tip #73: The “Be More Visible” Sham

One common message PMs get from their managers is to “be more visible” (I know I have given that feedback myself) .  The manager often says it this way: “Billybob, you are doing great work, getting the right things done on time, but you are not being visible enough about it so no one knows it”.  This is a sham!  It implies there is some inherent value in showing up to meetings, sending lots of email, doing slick mulit-color status reports.  There is not.   Of course all of these things can be good tools toward some other end, but they are not the goal in and of themselves.


This exhortation to “be more visible” also leads the employee to think they are doing the right stuff, and it is others fault for not noticing.  This is likely not true either.  There are very few PM jobs where work in a dark office not talking to anyone is a key element of success.  It is more likely the feedback from the manager should be “you are not doing the right things, because you are not having an as much of an impact on others as you should be”


The key to most PM jobs is leading and influencing others.  So, rather than thinking about how to be more visible with what you are doing, ask yourself: “what is the best way to lead and influence others? “ Think about people in your workgroup, people across the company, people up the management chain, and people across the industry.  What tools can you use?  What communication channels are most appropriate to drive your agenda?


Some good and bad examples to get your gray-matter churning:


-       I have personally been influenced by a status mail when it clearly highlighted an important issue… I have also deleted tons of status mails that present impossible to parse, white-washed, meaning-free data.

-       I have seen a well placed word in a hallway conversation between 2-3 people have a profound effect on our product direction and I have personally wasted hours in meetings with no focus, the wrong people and no results.

-       I have greatly benefited from folks that link-blog or forward interesting data with their own color-community highlighting and drawing implications about the relevant points and I have been burned by not having the data someone on my team knew but didn’t find a way to pass it on to me.


How about you?  Have you heard the “be more visible” advice?  Have you given it?  What is good or bad about it?


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