“If you don’t toot your own horn, don’t complain that there’s no music.”
Janet Asks: I feel like my accomplishments go unnoticed at work and I’m not comfortable bringing them up. I want others to see my strengths and achievements, but I don’t want to come across as bragging. What should I do?
Joel Answers: No one wants to sound like they’re bragging about their own accomplishments. You want to be noticed, but not for being egotistical. However, there are plenty of ways to toot your own horn in a way that people admire and respect.
- Figure out what makes you interesting
Think about what makes you stand out at work. Do you have any hobbies most people don’t know about at work? Have you overcome any major challenges to get where you are? Figure out what aspects of your life make good stories. Sprinkle these tidbits of information into conversations at work, so coworkers see a richer picture of you.
- Create a compelling hook
Prepare how you’ll introduce yourself to new people. How can you summarize yourself in a sentence or two in a way that leaves others eager to hear more about what you do? When they have to coax more details out of you, no one will perceive you as bragging. However, don’t be too shy about opening up—when they ask, tell them more.
- Speak about recent accomplishments
When others ask what you’re doing at work these days, it’s the perfect opportunity to toot your own horn. Be prepared for those moments by mentally reviewing your latest accomplishments and current projects. Focusing on the work (rather than speaking directly about your strengths) will help you relax and start gushing about your achievements.
- Talk about your team
If you’re a manager, gushing about your team’s accomplishments shows you’re a great leader. Having pride in your team is a virtue for any leader. You won’t feel as self-conscious while focusing on them, though you’re actually speaking to your own leadership skills.
- Announce successes to organizational leaders
When you announce your successes to your boss or other leaders, no one will perceive it as bragging. They want and need to know what you’ve accomplished. In fact, it would be unprofessional not to tell them. Drop by your boss’s office; send higher-level leaders an email or give them a call, if the accomplishment seems important enough to announce to them.
- Believe in the importance of your role
When you truly believe in the positive impact you have every day, you’ll exude confidence and charisma. The enthusiasm you show for your work will draw others to you naturally. You’ll get boundless invitations to talk about how you do what you do. If you’ve gotten in a rut with your current job, reignite your passion for it by reminding yourself what you love about it and making small changes to liven up your routine.
- Get others to toot your horn
As you clue others in to your skills and achievements, they’ll naturally start tooting your horn as well, and your visibility will increase at work even more. However, it helps to ask for the support of people you trust. Cultivating relationships with advocates in your organization will build your credibility and help leaders take notice of you. Keep your advocates apprised of what you’ve accomplished, and if you’re after a promotion, tell them. People often take pride in helping others succeed.
If you were feeling awkward about tooting your own horn at work, these ideas will help those conversations feel more natural. Others will think it’s completely natural to share your achievements in these ways!
“Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.”
Natalya couldn’t believe her company hired an outsider rather than promote her to the position she was vying for. She knew she had everything it would take to succeed in that role. She decided to reach out to an executive coach who was referred to her – I was the person she called! “It sounds like you are producing a tremendous amount of value for your company,” I said. “Now you need to learn how to promote yourself at work (and your actual impact), so others will appreciate and recognize your value.” Here’s the plan we created together.
- Track Your Accomplishments
When put on the spot, it can be tough to remember all the things you’ve done over the past year. Instead of relying on memory, keep a file of all your accomplishments and current projects. At a performance review, meeting with executives, or introduction to a new client, you’ll have just the right examples of particular skills or competencies you want to highlight.
- Write a Success Story About Yourself
Create a short “success story” about yourself so you’re always prepared for high-stakes conversations. The story is created by identifying the problem, determine the actions you took to help solve the problem and the overall results that you ultimately achieved. You’ll now know exactly how to promote yourself when talking to organizational leaders.
- Expand Upon Compliments
When someone gives you a compliment, view it as an invitation to say more about the work they’re praising. This will feel less awkward if you share a piece of quantifiable data to sum up what your accomplishment did for the company. Rather than sharing a subjective opinion (e.g., “I’m brilliant”), you’re sharing something objective. And by focusing on results and outcomes, you’re giving them information that can help guide decision-making.
- Promote the Work of Others
When you promote others, you give them positive feelings about you in turn. This encourages them to speak highly of you as well. It’s like cultivating alliances within your organization, only there’s nothing devious about it. You’re simply working toward your mutual success and building a culture of showingappreciation for good work. Likewise, when you lead your team to success, speak about what “we” accomplished rather than centering yourself. Your boss and team will know you showed great leadership, and they’ll see you as a great morale-builder when you share the success.
- Take on a High-Profile Project
Look for a high-profile project that others can’t help but notice. Outline exactly how you’ll devote time to this project while keeping up with our current workload. (Hint: Delegate as much as possible, which willalso show your leadership skills!) Taking on ambitious projects will build your visibility in the organization, preparing you to exert greater influence.
- Sing Your Own Praises to Superiors
Tell your boss, and your boss’s boss, what you’ve accomplished. Phrasing the news in the form of a “thank you” can make it feel less awkward—for example, you could say, “Thanks for the encouragement to pursue project X. I’m thrilled about the results.” In doing so, you’ll be strengthening these relationships by making others feel connected to your success. Then sum up what the project did for the company—again, citing measurable outcomes. Take a big-picture approach, focusing on how the achievement benefits the company. This not only feels less awkward but highlights your commitment to the organization’s success.
Look for opportunities to connect with higher-level leaders in your organization as well. If you hear about a meeting of organizational leaders and you feel you have something to contribute, ask an advocate if you can attend or send your input with him. You have little to lose by showing some ambition, and at the very least, you’re likely to put yourself on their radar. This is an excellent way to promote yourself at work.
You now have six tactics for promoting yourself that feel more natural. With these tricks in your pocket, it will feel easier to promote yourself at work. Joel can help you implement these tips and do what is necessary to get that promotion you feel you deserve. Email executive coach Joel Garfinkle now with the area you want to work on.
“Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.”
~ Gore Vidal ~
Nathan felt it was time to raise his visibility. He knew he needed this just to keep his job in a tight market. He especially needed to get recognition if he hoped to advance. But no one likes a show-off or a know-it-all. So Nathan struggled with how to accomplish good self-promotion in the workplace without coming off in a negative way?
He decided to use three simple ways to let other in the workplace know of his good work. It’s self-promotion without sounding like your tooting your own horn.
- Share your accomplishments
You’d love to have your work speak for itself. After all, it’s good work. But merit is determined by people— by human judgement. That’s a blend of information, viewpoint, and emotional filters. In order for the person who determines merit to appreciate your work, several things have to happen, including sharing of your accomplishments.
- They have to know about the work.
- They have to know that YOU did the work
- They have to understand the time, effort, intelligence, and skills it took to accomplish the job
- They need to see how it benefits the company
They can’t get all this by osmosis. Someone needs to at least get them the “Cliff’s Notes” of your involvement in the job. You can do that several ways
- Send a brief report to your boss or the influencer about the job. It could be in the form of a question. “I did this, and this and this…am I on track? What would you like next?”
- Ask a mentor or senior in your organization to publically or privately pass on recognition of your accomplishments.
- Request a co-worker write a letter of recommendation about your efforts on the task.
Nathan read that studies show it’s not the most competent that gets promoted, it’s the most visible. No one likes a boss that is less competent than they are. It’s not good for you or for the company. In self-defense, Nathan needs to have his competence shine. Decision makers need to know of your abilities.
- Speak up in meetings
- Offer to present material
- Check with your boss or others and share what you are working on
- Come to your review process prepared to show and explain your part in the work and in strengthening the company’s bottom line
When you promote others, you often promote yourself as well. Nathan has been producing excellent results for his company. But he had not done a very good job of self-promotion. He hadn’t been sharing wins and accomplishments in his workplace.
He decided to write an email that outlined five specific things his team had done in the past month. He made sure each point had measurable results. He said, “I’m very proud of the work this team has done and wanted to take a moment to highlight their accomplishments.”
Notice it does not look like self-promotion since Nathan is giving accolades to his team. Yet it still reflects well on him.
The CTO wrote back, “Thanks for pointing this out and congratulations to the team. The quiet success of these accomplishments from you and your team has not gone unnoticed. The CEO and senior leadership were much appreciative.” He encouraged Nathan to keep them informed about their work and the value they bring. The CTO recognized that sometimes work that goes well goes unnoticed, yet, he said, “It is important we educate the business on the value we bring.”
Self-promotion, well done, can build your visibility and lead to advancement. It helps management do a better job of recognizing who are their truly skilled workers. It also helped Nathan feel more valued and gain more satisfaction from his job.
If you need to increase your visibility and promote yourself in your workplace, first evaluate your visibility.
What have you done for self-promotion? Has it worked? Has it come off brash, or confident?
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”
~ Jim Rohn ~
He knew good managers want to see their employees move up the ladder. So he decided to approach his boss. What did he think was necessary for a promotion? Were there things Bob was… or wasn’t doing that would merit that raise?
Bob scheduled a meeting to discuss his performance and his future role with the company. At the same time, Bob decided to assess his value to the company in a specific, factual way. He looked at the projects he’d covered in the past. He checked with co-workers for their assessment of his strengths and weaknesses.
In seeking to quantify his value, he asked himself:
- What results have I delivered to the company? About how much they were worth?
- How has my communication improved with the boss? With co-workers? With clients? Can I identify times I’ve helped things run more smoothly or communicated well?
- What examples can I use to show I’m more efficient than I was in the past? Can I put that in dollars saved the company?
- How has my insider knowledge of the business translated to a stronger bottom line for the company?
- What new skills have I developed? How do they bring value to the company?
As Bob worked on this list, he realized his insider knowledge helped him master projects about twice as fast as when he first hired on. He figure out how much that saved the company in employee costs. He noted times when keeping people informed had prevented costly mistakes.
As he went through this process, his confidence grew and his stress level went down. He decided to make a short document of his achievements. That way, if the boss needed to think about his promotion, he’d have some written material to help him decide.
Bob also researched the industry averages for salary— considering his position and location. He realized he was receiving an average pay for an above average skillset. It gave him even more confidence. He emailed his boss that he’d like to discuss a promotion when they met.
Bob planned out how he would ask for the promotion. With this plan, he felt in control and relaxed.
When he sat down in the boss’s office he first asked the boss his views on Bob’s performance. Then Bob asked what it would take for him to move into a higher position.
The boss commented on Bob’s strengths and then mentioned two things he felt Bob needed to improve in order to be ready for the next position. Bob noted those areas and then shared with the boss his list of accomplishments. It was a good conversation, without stress or fear.
He left the document with his boss. At the same time, he asked if they could meet again in a month to review Bob’s progress on mastering those two areas and see if Bob was ready for the promotion.
The next month, when they met, Bob’s boss said, “I reviewed the performance record you gave me. I’d forgotten about the Jones account and how you helped us out of that AGV account snafu. I believe you’re ready to take the next step.”
Later Bob said, “You know, 80% of the promotion effort occurred before I ever got into the boss’s office. It’s not hard to ask for that promotion when you’ve insured your boss is on the same page. It really took away all the stress.”
Want a promotion… but not sure how to get the “Yes”? Contact Joel for expert assistance to put you into the next pay level.
Talkback: How have you reduced stress when you’ve asked for a promotion?
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“I learned a long time ago that the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”
~ Maya Angelou ~
Melanie is in a total funk. She’s been supervisor in her high tech company for almost three years now. When she first came on board, she was considered somewhat of a superstar, a high potential, high achieving future leader. Lately, however, she feels she’s been fading into the woodwork. She’s not being asked to take on high profile projects. Sometimes she’s not even invited to brainstorming sessions or brown bag lunches—those informal, off-the-record meetings where a lot of new ideas and strategies are being discussed. What could possibly be wrong?
Melanie unburdens herself to a close pal over lunch. Her friend listens patiently for a few minutes and then interrupts the litany of complaints with this advice: “Girlfriend, what you need is an advocate!”
Immediately Melanie begins to research the whole topic of advocates at work. Shortly, she has put together a four-step plan to raise her profile by using advocates. Here’s the plan:
- Advocate for yourself first
- Make your boss a partner
- Look up
- Look out
1. Advocate for yourself first. Before you can ask anyone else to speak up on your behalf, which is what advocates do, you need to know your own strengths and your potential for growth. Start by creating a three-column spreadsheet with these headings:
- What I do well
- What I like to do
- What I need to learn
Once you have a clear picture of who you are now and what potential you have, you are ready for Step 2:
2. Make your boss a partner. Almost everyone loves being asked for advice. Maybe you already have a good relationship with your boss, or maybe the relationship needs a little nurturing. Either way, schedule a one-on-one and ask him/her to help you create a personal development plan. This can include new projects or initiatives you’d like to tackle, courses or seminars you want to take—anything related to your professional growth is fair game. Come up with a timeline and begin to implement your plan.
3. Look up. The best place to find your first advocate is probably somewhere on the ladder above you in the company. Begin to notice people whose style and executive presence you admire. Then use the same technique you developed in Step 2—ask for advice. Over a cup of coffee or in some other informal setting, share an idea or project you’re working on. Ask for their input. Then ask for their help. “Joe, I need someone who knows me and can help me raise my profile a bit. Would you be willing to speak up about my accomplishments to some of your colleagues?”
4. Look out. Use the same strategy to find people outside the company who can act as your personal publicist. It may be a client, or someone in a professional organization, or just a friend who has contacts inside your company. Ask for their input on your ideas; then ask them to look for opportunities to speak up for you.
And above all, don’t forget to say “thank you.”
Three months after she began to implement her plan, Melanie landed a couple of high profile assignments and found that she was back on the company radar screen and moving ahead again.
Talkback: Have you successfully recruited advocates to help raise your profile at work? Share your experience here.
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