One my most successful and influential bosses once told me he, "...tried to introduce at least one new or innovative concept at every major presentation." That boss was respected for his intelligence and his creativity -- and you can be similarly respected too by following his advice.
The characteristics, talents, skills and behaviors valued by most organizations vary considerably from one company to another. One of my employers highly valued going along to get along, another promoted people who confronted others and defended themselves well when confronted, another valued people who were willing to put in long hours. There were probably greater differences between the firms than there were similarities.
But there was one universal value -- they all wanted smart people to fill the critical roles of their organizations. And I'm talking book-smart here -- high IQ -- not emotionally intelligent, which is an entirely different subject. Intelligence was valued in and for itself -- in what must be a bit of blind faith that if you put a bunch of smart people together, the whole would add up to more than the sum of the parts.
In fact, I can't think of a single organization I've ever dealt with where being smart wasn't a get out of jail free card, at least to a degree. Senior Manger number one: "He can't seem to get that project to work." Senior Manager number two: "Yeah, but he's so smart -- if he can't figure it out, it must be impossible". Many of you have probably witnessed similar behavior.
So how to you become known as Smart in your organization? I think there are two things you need to do. The first one barely bears mentioning -- don't do or say stupid things. Its not hard doing this most of the time, but doing it all the time is challenging. Most of us have a slip now and again, and our peers and superiors judge us harshly when we "don't get it", or misread a situation. I don't know how to advise you to avoid making dumb errors, other than telling you to take your time and make sure you know what you're saying before speaking.
The second thing you need to do is bring some new ideas to the organization. This helps you in a couple of ways -- first, you're seen as having a degree of expertise in the area in which you are introducing the idea -- and you better have it in reality, so bone up on your subject matter before presenting it. It might be a new way of looking at old data. It could be an improvement method, or just an improvement project. Whatever, it should offer insight and opportunities that are new to your bosses.
The judgment of others will come a little at a time -- at first they may think you are simply a one trick pony, but repeatedly coming up with new and innovative ideas will help your image tremendously.
And now for a little secret -- the ideas don't have to be a world beaters. They don't have to be far-reaching in impact. In fact, they don't even need to be implemented or lead anywhere. It is the introduction of the new insight -- causing that "ah-ha" moment in the audience -- which makes all the difference.
So do your research, put your imagination to work, and show your subordinates, peers and superiors just how smart you are.