Without the courage to show your work, you’re doomed

201512-heart-heartRedWhiteAt work today, a colleague of mine showed me a cool analytical tool she built. It helps her estimate project durations.

Projects can be broken up into multiple stages. Let’s define three stages: planning, executing, and debriefing. Each of those stages has an estimated duration, along with some uncertainty in that estimate.¬†If you know the estimated duration, and can quantify the uncertainty, of each stage, you can make broader statements about the project.

In the past, people would casually offer their estimated project duration, say 25 days, without accounting for any uncertainty. Then, when the actual project took, say 29 days, people would get upset. But the uncertainty practically forces the estimate to be wrong.

My colleague was trying to decide what to do with the tool she built. My recommendation was to use it as part of her day-to-day work. Have it become so ingrained in her work routine, that she couldn’t imagine her work life without it.

Then, after some time passes, she’ll be asked to speak about her work. When she speaks, she’ll explain, there’s no way she could have the success she has without using this tool she built. The value of the tool will be obvious.

Then, management will demand that everyone use this tool, or something like it. Her good idea will spread. And she won’t have to force it down anyone’s throat. It’ll organically win over the organization. And her reputation will continue to grow.

I’m not arguing you should forgo self-promotion. When you do cool work, share it. Be proactive. You don’t have to wait to be called on.

With that said, invest some time in making sure your work is as good, and as useful, as you think it is. Demonstrate it, rather than lecturing about it. Demonstration is powerful. It’s a visual form of story-telling.

All of these results are predicated on having the courage to show your work. My colleague needed the courage to show me what she built. She needed the courage to talk to others on her team about it. She needed the courage to share this work with the people around her, which no one had asked her to do.

She had all of that courage, plus some. She’s really, really good at what she does. She’s smart, focused, and driven to find the right answer, even if that answer takes a little extra time to craft.

Learn from her. You can do work no one explicitly asks you to do. Maybe this added work helps you. Maybe it helps someone else. Maybe it helps everyone. But do that work, and then share it. Embrace it.

Find, and exercise, the courage you need to broadcast your success. If you keep all your best work to yourself, you’ll be doomed. You won’t show the capability to take on new challenges. You won’t show the initiative you have to solve problems others haven’t even yet articulated.

Showing your skills and capabilities is an essential component of making your career switch. Courage is the foundation of these demonstrations.

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