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The Supporting Cast


There are many professionals who do not wish to seek the spotlight when it comes to their careers, and that is perfectly fine.  In fact, being “behind the scenes” is a place where many people are quite happy to function, and it can lead to a long and successful career.

However, despite all of ongoing efforts of professionals working within the background, it is quite often only the “star(s)” who receive the accolades when it comes to projects and high-profile endeavors in the Corporate World.   These “stars” can be the project leaders and/or others who are in effect the “face” of the overall endeavor.   But unlike the Oscars, there is often no award for the “supporting actors” of the business world.

How does this happen? Well, where Management often fails is that they forget (many times on purpose) about a very simple truth. That is – without the support of everyone behind the scenes, (who almost always do the majority of the heavy lifting), those people actually standing in the spotlight would never have been successful.   Which brings up another point that Management often fails to remember – being behind the scenes often carries more pressure than being in the actual spotlight!

For example, a movie director virtually never appears onscreen in their film, but without directors working behind the scenes, (along with all the individuals involved in sound, stage & lighting, hair & makeup, costumes/wardrobe, etc.) movies would not turn out nearly as well, if at all. Another example would be an Administrator or Administrative Assistant for virtually any business or corporation.  They handle a large number of day-to-day tasks, which would overwhelm an Executive or Manager if they tried to do everything themselves.

So, if you find that your contributions are not getting the respect they deserve just because you are working in the background, don’t despair as all is not lost. Remember that you do have a measure of control, and in situations like this, it is of the utmost importance to be proactive and not reactive.

As long as you take the proper steps, you can help to ensure that your contributions are not forgotten, reduced, or brushed aside.  So, when the time comes, make it your highest goal to give your job’s leadership the necessary “gentle reminders” about the importance of the tasks that you get done in the background.

Here are some steps you can take to accomplish that:

Tips & Techniques: Shine On!

  • Connect the Dots

Many Managers & Executives have only a general understanding of how everything fits together. The details of many activities are just not on their radar screens, which can be understandable in some cases. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you demonstrate to them how things flow, and specifically how your tasks are connected to others.

This can be done very simply, so don’t worry about having to make fancy charts or presentations all the time (save those for the big moments!).

Simply illustrate for them that if “A” is not completed properly (and/or on time), then “B” will either be delayed, or not even happen. Flow diagrams are very useful in these situations, so become familiar with the techniques involved with them and use them to your advantage. Also, be prepared to show supporting documentation of critical activities involved to give a greater perspective of where breakdowns were prevented and challenges overcome. This will demonstrate “big picture” thinking on your part, which could help you in the future.

  • Sound your Trumpet (but don’t forget about others)

Everyone should make the effort to demonstrate the value of their contributions. So where appropriate, don’t be afraid to state your contributions to ongoing and/or completed endeavors.

However, it is also of the utmost importance that you give equal mention to those who also had a hand (or multiple hands) in the overall success. But always remember that it is extremely important to not overdo it. Good judgement must be used to ensure that you don’t gush. Keep it straightforward and to the point, otherwise you run the risk of sounding self-serving and arrogant.

Lastly, by promoting the contributions of others, you demonstrate the value of the team as a whole to Management, which has the added beneficial effect of reflecting well on your character.

  • Take One for the Team (when necessary!)

If something goes awry, keep your cool and don’t throw others under the bus. Put blame where it should be, but don’t exaggerate things, don’t use half-truths, and don’t allow personal feelings to enflame the situation. Actions like that will only come back to bite you, sometimes severely.

However, it is also important to be aware of the flipside. If something did go wrong, and it is legitimately not your fault, don’t allow others to gang up on you and lay the fault on your doorstep. When negative things happen, the survival instinct can kick in, which can cause team cohesion to go right out the window. So, don’t let yourself become a doormat or a target.

  • Keep Accurate Records

While this may seem like a very obvious thing for a professional to do, it is a fact that a large number of individuals don’t take the time to do this activity properly. So, be certain to document your accomplishments. For example, keep emails of gratitude that you may receive from others in separate folder/location so that they can be easily retrieved when needed. Always remember that without the proper documentation/proof, you cannot hope to influence those who hold the power to grant raises, bonuses, and of course, promotions.

By keeping things focused, you will demonstrate that you are an effective, clear-thinking professional, and other people will notice that, and it could bring you much greater rewards down the road.

  • Helping Hands

Remember that you must stand up for yourself, as no one is going to do it for you. However, you must also be aware of the flipside. Which is that not everyone has learned that lesson yet, or they may lack the confidence to do so for themselves. This is the point where all individuals must realize that they have a responsibility both as human beings and as ethical professionals to stand up for others.

So, if you become aware of someone else who is not getting the recognition they deserve, help them out by doing something supportive.  This can be accomplished by sending an email to Management, a simple thank you note, a casual mention to their leadership, or any number of other possibilities.  Just be sincere and keep it to the point.

Final Thought – Be Mindful of The Present & The Future

You must always be conscious of the fact that your co-workers, suppliers, clients, etc., are all right there in it with you, together. No one can do it alone. Lastly, you never know when someone you helped and/or impressed will come back around into your life, and this time around, it just might be you who needs their help.

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