Here’s how to find winners and take an interest in them for your mutual benefit:
Befriend loners. Career advancers identify the loners on their team and make an effort to spend time with them. Just because certain people keep to themselves doesn’t mean they should be treated like outcasts. In fact, many of these quiet types crave recognition just as much, if not more, than those who boast loudly about their accomplishments. Your ability to draw out the shyer employees can help them come into their own on the job and help clear the way for you to take on a lot more responsibilities.
Open career doors. Introduce underdogs to key contacts. Left on their own, unsung heroes can toil in obscurity and miss out on the benefits of networking. You can help by arranging for them to meet influential colleagues in a casual, unstructured way. Examples: Invite them to lunch with a group of managers, or flag down executives who walk by as you’re talking with an underdog. During your introduction, mention how well the underdog has handled a certain task. That reinforces your role as a gracious, enlightened manager.
Train for gain. Teach underdogs new skills. By giving them the tools to grow, you allow them to prove their value in new ways. Better yet, you can benefit from their newfound talents. Example: Teach an underdog a new spreadsheet program. Once she masters it, put her in charge of preparing your weekly production reports. This way, you have no doubt about the accuracy of the reports, and you expose the individual to new, higher-level projects.
Announce exceptional achievements. Send e-mails or memos to your co-workers and bosses whenever underdogs come through with major accomplishments. Salute their contributions and encourage other employees to recognize them for their efforts. Host a lunch or a social hour in their honor.