The people who have the power to make big decisions often have their own beliefs and assumptions about how to do business based on what has – and has not – worked for them in the past.
This reality can mean junior staff often feel overlooked, especially in organisations where working from an office is not as common as it once was. Research suggests many workers feel as if they're not empowered to make decisions and their roles lack purpose. The end result can be bad news for everyone: under-pressure bosses take on too many tasks thanks to a flurry of digital transformation projects, while junior members of staff start to feel ignored – and the business begins to stagnate.
So, how can professionals – who might have limited experience of how the world of work operates – prove their credentials and get noticed at work? Four business leaders give us their top tips.
1. Grab ownership of a project
Lee Cowie, CTO at Merlin Entertainments, says the best way to impress is to be prepared to take ownership for an initiative.
Cowie is leading a global programme of technology projects and he needs people who can help deliver a range of initiatives across Merlin's range of resorts, hotels and attractions.
"I think ownership is absolutely critical and that's what sets the really great people apart from the less good people. It's all about those individuals who really take a problem to heart, make it their own – and own it," he says.
"And it's OK if they struggle along the way and they ask for help. I'd much rather somebody came to me and said, 'I've got this problem and I'm really stuck. Can you help me solve it?' than somebody who says, 'That's too difficult. I'm going to wait for the next person to pick that problem up'."
2. Be prepared to take the strain
Ian Rabagliati, product and experience director at Eurotunnel, is another business leader who is eager for trusted team members to step up and take the initiative.
"I think that you've got so many different things and so many challenges to deal with when you're in a leadership role that it's really important to your own success that, when you ask someone to do something, that they take the initiative and deliver," he says.
By taking on new responsibilities, professionals will prove their credentials and show they have the capabilities to lead bigger projects and teams in the longer term. Demonstrating those capabilities helps everyone, including the boss, says Rabagliati.
"I think the success of senior managers is all about the people who are around you. Ultimately, you can never do it all on your own. I think employing smart people is the best thing you can do," he says.
"And that's something I've always done in previous roles. Having smart people around you who can take the initiative is what impresses me. So, I'm looking for self-starters, ultimately. That takes the strain off me, too."
3. Show your integrity
Loïc Giraud, Novartis' global head of digital platform and product delivery, says the best way to impress your boss is to work with integrity. In fact, he says it's a must for being effective in all areas of work, never mind impressing those above you in the hierarchy.
"Not only with a boss, but with anyone, you must work with transparency, vulnerability and empathy. So, if you use these three factors, and you know what you're talking about, I think usually it works," he says.
Giraud says another important factor – especially as you get promoted up the managerial ladder – is to show the people who matter that you have some great ideas and an awareness of how those will create benefits for the business.
"You need to be able to demonstrate you have a vision – where the company is going or where you're going with your team or your department. That's not necessarily about what's going to happen now, but often in two or three years, and then you can bring it back to your current objectives," he says.
"I'll give you an analogy that I present to my team. When you're in a theatre, you have an orchestra and a balcony – ask yourself where you are: are you in the orchestra or in the balcony? If you're in a balcony, you can look forward. If you're in the orchestra, you just execute day-to-day activities. I try to push my teams to be in the balcony more than they are in the orchestra."
4. Think on your feet
Another important characteristic for successful professionals, says Cristiane Muller, digital marketing manager at Midea, is an ability to seek creative solutions to intractable challenges.
"What impresses me is when someone brings out something that is a point of view that I haven't thought of before – a different perspective on the same situation. Or when they are able to bring innovation. That's especially important – when they bring fresh ideas and new ways to go to the market."
Muller says there's often a tendency for people to stick to tried and trusted methods. She's impressed by people who are prepared to think outside the box.
Rather than simply staying within the confines of the department or the enterprise firewall, Muller is impressed by people who seek new connections and collaborations outside the organisation, such as with third-party partners and start-ups.
"Have a space in your agenda to talk to suppliers and to new companies. It doesn't matter if you're going to hire them or not. Let them tell you what's new, what they have to present, what they offer, and what's available to apply in your market. So, when people bring new things, that impresses me," she says.