The Power of Self-Promotion

My reading list is starting to grow again.  I’m currently enjoying Nina DiSesa’s “Seducing the Boys Club:  Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top”.   This insightful, challenging and witty book describes the events that shaped DiSesa’s career, including the lessons she learned and strategies she implemented along the way.  There are moments of the book which actually make me laugh out loud.  DiSesa is an irreverent and courageous story teller.  Now as Chairman of McCann Erickson New York, she’s sharing her wisdom.

One story in particular is my favorite.  DiSesa had a co-worker who worked diligently and fulfilled all requests going above and beyond her duty but she never received the accolades.  She did not garner the clout DiSesa did so shortly after joining the same firm.  She didn’t make it known how hard she worked and thus no one knew.

This brought to mind a workshop I attended several years ago.  At the time, I was a young professional seeking to define my own identity in a large consulting firm.   I was in New York for a two-day conference and chose to attend a workshop by Peggy Klaus, author of the best selling book:  How to Toot Your Own Horn without Blowing It.  Klause was dynamic and engaging.  She did not allow workshop participants to sit quietly. The group was directed through several interactive exercises.  Here are a few.

Back-to-Back:  In this exercise, we paired off and were instructed to stand back-to-back.   When Klaus blew the whistle, one person was to turn around, introduce themselves, and list 3 accomplishments for which they were most proud.   The outcome of this exercise was very interesting.  Most of the women in the class were not comfortable talking about pride or their own accomplishments.   There was mumbling, blushing, and very little eye contact.   The women in the group were much more at ease discussing someone else’s accomplishments.   We repeated the exercise three times with some improvement towards the end.

Over the top:  In this exercise, each person was instructed to be over the top in their communication.   Yell, jump, and wave their arms to communicate what excites them about their job.    Klaus’s logic is that if we aim for levels over the top, we will eventually find our pitch.   A tone of voice that is strong, clear and confident.

Look what I can do:    This last exercise was to have members of the group introduce themselves to someone they did not know and describe their job.   Not in an over-the-top way but in the ideal voice in which we would like to be heard.

DiSesa wrote “One of the only advantages of getting older (other than the fact that you haven’t died yet) is that you appear to have all the answers.  Still it took a long time for me to fully appreciate the psychology of business.  Until I saw the light, I always believed that if I simply put my nose to the grindstone and worked hard, my efforts would be appreciated and I would be noticed.  I believed that I didn’t have to toot my own horn.  I was not shrewd.  Even worse.  I was a sucker.

But somewhere along the way I had an epiphany:  Perception doesn’t just trump reality, in most cases, perception is reality.”

It’s generally known that women are more likely not to communicate their accomplishments to peers or leadership.  Not only that, we are often too accommodating, which results in our efforts being taken for granted.  Let people know you had to make sacrifices to accommodate them and they will value you more.

If people want you to do something you don’t want to do, they have to know that it will be a sacrifice and a hardship.  You don’t want people expecting the above-and-beyond, because soon they will think it is their due.  When that happens, you get “slave” status.  It’s a pit more women fall into than men, and once we’re in that hole, it’s hard to climb out.  If you are a woman, I will bet money that you are far too accommodating.

Snap out of it!”

Boasting can be positive and productive.   Depending on family, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds, different connotations are applied to speaking about one’s self.  This can put some at a severe disadvantage.  Especially in extremely competitive environments.  In some cultures it is seen as being prideful, arrogant, loud, etc.    The key is to find your own style.   But by all means, toot your own horn and let your contributions be known!!

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Categories: Professional Development

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2 replies

  1. Sherry – This blog is very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing. I am looking foward to reading the book!

  2. Sherry, I love the blog post. It was the right thoughts for the right day for me!! Keep them coming : )

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