Looking for Recognition in All the Wrong Places

“Do you think a hot dog is a sandwich?”, one of my colleagues asks me today. My response: “well, it depends on how ‘sandwich’ is defined.”

Put a pin in that.

I enjoy being a manager, more so than I ever realized until a recent revelation. However, for me, the hardest part of being a manager is the lack of recognition. Being a manager no longer means “look at this awesome thing I built”, it’s “look at these awesome things my team built.”

“But what about what I did behind the scenes to help make it happen?!”, thinks Individual Contributor Ashley. “What about my public congratulations in front of the whole company?”

As a manager, I was looking for recognition in all the wrong places. I needed to change how I define recognition. I can’t redefine Webster’s definition of a sandwich, but I can redefine Ashley’s definition of recognition.

I was in a 1:1 meeting the other day and the person I was meeting with said “we’ve never officially met, but your presence is definitely felt around here.”

Fast forward to my peer feedback: “Ashley is probably one of the most successful digital marketers at the company.”

Fast forward to another conversation: “Ashley has been here for some time, we need to hire the next set of Ashleys so we can get her out of the weeds”

Individually, those conversations were a blip, brush strokes, in my recognition radar. But in aggregate, those brush strokes paint a picture of who I am as a leader, colleague and employee. I wasn’t lacking recognition, I was defining it in the wrong way.

I’ve come to the conclusion that recognition, at this stage in my career, is not people patting me on the back in public. It’s the private conversations and kudos, it’s building and maintaining a strong and well-respected team, it’s the things that are said about me when I’m not in the room…though, let’s be real, I’m sure there are some not so great things said about me at times. 🤷🏾‍♀️

Maybe it’s just another layer to this mess that is executive presence. It’s not only being able to present your thoughts in a clear and concise manner, it’s your presence being felt when you’re not around. It’s having a well-respected personal brand.

I am far from perfect, as we all are. But I’m also not as flawed as I think I am. Understanding what makes you tick, what makes you shine, is an art. I often tell my colleagues to lean into themselves. Your shine is different than my shine and vice versa. And that’s the reason the conventional definition of executive presence doesn’t hold water.


And, btw, a hot dog is technically a sandwich.

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