Friday, July 1, 2011

From the article archive: Learning the Fine Art of Self Promotion

Question: What are ways to make my accomplishments visible without being seen as bragging?

Jo Miller answers:
I know far too many women who hold back from promoting their accomplishments, for fear of being seen as someone who brags too much. We’ve all known a colleague who overdid the bragging to the extent that they became a strutting, self-promoting peacock.

Many of the women I speak to say that their fear of becoming like that person holds them back from self- promoting at all — even when appropriate or necessary.

If you fall into this category, your finely tuned “B.S. detector” will prevent you from turning into an obnoxious over-promoter. You do need to seek out a healthy level of recognition, because in today’s corporate culture, that’s what gets rewarded.

Many women fall into the trap of thinking that getting recognized at work is like doing well in school, where working hard and getting good grades will guarantee recognition. But when you take this approach in the workplace, you’ll only get buried from view under a pile of work. Worse, your reputation as a “hard worker” will only attract more hard work!

As an example, I once coached a woman who was hired into her team just before an 18-month hiring freeze. For those 18 months, she was viewed by others as "the junior" on the team, or, as she put it in her own words "I was low man on the totem pole". Being an eager team player, she quickly built a reputation as “the fixer”, the one willing to dive in and address any problems that arose. Being somewhat humble, she never bragged or called attention to what she was achieving. And because she was so good at accomplishing her work effortlessly, no-one else was aware of the sophisticated problem-solving and change management skills she was using.

After toiling away un-noticed for those 18 months, she realized that she wasn’t building a brand as an achiever or leader or expert. In her own words, she was known only as “the pooper-scooper.”
Every time there was a sticky problem that no one else wanted to deal with, she was called in to fix it.

The solution was to reflect on her recent accomplishments, select those that best positioned her as a leader, then get the word out. Here are the steps she used:

Step 1
She listed out all of her accomplishments.

Step 2
From the list, she selected the ones that reinforced the brand she wanted to build. (Leaving out the pooper-scooping!)

Step 3
She promoted those accomplishments.

And, here are three ways she promoted her accomplishments and ways you can do the same without feeling sleazy.

Create a “soundbyte” or concise one-sentence description for each accomplishment. When someone asks “How are you doing?” don’t just tell them you’re fine. Take that opportunity to include a soundbyte: “I’m doing great. I just got nominated for the customer service award!”

When a customer or colleague sends an email praising you, forward it on to your leaders. All you need to add to the message is “FYI.”

When a significant project or milestone is accomplished, ask to present a report in your staff meeting and to other groups that may benefit from what you’ve learned. Volunteering to present brown bags works well, too.

Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.

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