When I talk about the importance of self-promotion for women, I get a lot of head nods. Intellectually, everyone seems to get it. We have all read the research that validates the necessity of promoting oneself in order to establish the credibility and visibility required in the workplace today for advancement. We get it but we don’t do it. At least we don’t do it very effectively.
It’s hard to talk about oneself without feeling like we’re bragging. We have been so conditioned to take the back seat and wait to be recognized. So we often have this inner argument about how to proceed with authentic self-promotion. We know we should do more of it. We know we should be better at it. But at the same time, it’s much more comfortable to stay focused on doing our work.
I’ve often discussed in this blog that once you understand your value proposition and how you contribute to the organization, self-promotion takes on a different purpose. You are letting others know of your accomplishments and your value proposition and offering to help in ways that benefit the organization. Self-promotion is a leadership skill. It is your responsibility to talk about what you and your team have achieved, not only for your own benefit, but for the team and the company. It’s how you create influence. It’s how you sell your ideas across the organization.
Taking the time to actively and strategically spread the word about the work you and your team have accomplished is critical for your career success. It is necessary in order to establish your leadership potential across the organization. The only way this is going to happen is if you put time aside each week to meet with key people in your department and in different business units. Let them know what you’re working on. Ask them what challenges they have and offer to help. What possible solutions might you have that have worked in similar situations? This helps you and your team and helps the organization move its initiatives forward.
Shift your mindset that self-promotion is all about YOU. Yes, you benefit. But so does your team and your company. In its absence, the organization cannot build on your success. They can’t use your ideas to further their initiatives. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. How did you and your team make that project successful? What types of solutions did you develop? What was your thought process?
Self-promotion is a leadership skill and when you promote yourself and your team across the organization, everyone wins including the organization.
Women excel academically. We are currently earning almost 60% of college degrees, about 50% of doctorates, and roughly 45% of MBA’s. We are more prepared than ever to assume leadership roles in business. Yet just 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. So why hasn’t women’s academic success translated to more leadership positions in the workplace?
The answer lies in the fact that different skills are necessary to succeed in school versus the workplace, and this is vitally important for women to recognize if they have any ambition to advance to leadership roles.
In school, success is based on industriousness. You work diligently and you are rewarded with good grades. In the workplace, however, the rules of the game are not so simple. Although hard work and good performance are important, often promotions are based on the ability to work the politics and promote oneself with intention. Women shy away from this type of self promotion, and as a consequence remain invisible and often passed over for promotions.
A recent article in The Atlantic commented on this:
“Just as important, the behaviors that school rewards—studying, careful preparation, patient climbing from one level to the next—seem to give women an advantage academically, judging from the fact that they get higher grades in college than men do. Yet these behaviors aren’t necessarily so helpful in the workplace. Out in the work world, people hire and promote based on personality as much as on formal qualifications, and very often networking can trump grinding away.”
Also, it is important to note that gender bias still exists in the work place. Often women are left on their own to battle the discrimination that is often subtle and hidden.
The Atlantic article further states:
“Women begin to fall behind the moment they leave school. Even controlling for their college major and professional field, they wind up being paid 7 percent less than men, on average, one year after graduating, according to a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women. One reason is that they take fewer risks right out of the gate: they are much less likely to negotiate their first salary—57 percent of men do this, versus 7 percent of women. Compared with their male peers, women also set less ambitious goals. A McKinsey study published last April found that 36 percent of male employees at major companies hope to be top executives, compared with just 18 percent of female employees.”
Once again it comes down to making an intentional choice to embrace your ambition and set a strategic plan for your career. Understanding what it takes to be successful is the first step!
Learning how to effectively promote yourself and navigate the workplace politics is vital for your success.
How serious are you about moving your career forward? Once you can say to yourself with commitment that you have higher career aspirations, put a strategic plan to get to reach your goals. Understand what it takes and learn the necessary skills to make it happen.
I facilitated a workshop this past week for women executives from ADP at The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. Before the workshop, a survey was sent out by The Athena Center in order to determine some of their barriers to advancement.
The results were not surprising and are representative of professional women in general. 82% of the women responded that they were “heads down” and focused on their work and managing their team’s success. 50% of the respondents also stated that they believe their performance will lead to promotion.
This is troubling! There is no such thing as a meritocracy at ADP or anywhere else for that matter. It takes more than talent and hard work; more than a track record of great performance to get ahead. But here is our comfort zone: doing the work and focusing on the tasks at hand.
How long will it take us to get with the program? We need to look to our male counterparts for clues on how to improve our career status. Men traditionally spend 80% of their time doing their work and 20% letting everyone know what they have accomplished. Women still insist on spending 100% of their time doing the work and believe that performance will lead to promotions.
Do you fall into this trap? Is this your comfort zone as well?
Let’s get with the program! In this current business environment, people are far too busy to go out of their way to notice and recognize you. If you are ambitious and want to move your career forward, it is your responsibility to let others know of your achievements.
If you are ambitious, it’s time to bust out of your comfort zone and take responsibility for your career.
If you are ambitious and have difficulty in this area, please contact me. I can help you promote yourself effectively so that you can achieve your career aspirations. Don’t waste another minute thinking that one day someone will come along and tap you on the shoulder for the next big job. It not only takes hard work, it takes strategy and planning.
Are you “leaning in” or hanging on?
That’s the question addressed in this recent New York Times Article. According to the article, many women (and men) with children under 18 would much rather have flex time and/or work less hours than have the corner office and more responsibilities.
“Unaccounted for in the latest books offering leadership strategies by and for elite women is the fact that only 37 percent of working women (and 44 percent of working men) say they actually want a job with more responsibilities, according to a survey from the Families and Work Institute. And among all mothers with children under 18, just a quarter say they would choose full-time work if money were no object and they were free to do whatever they wanted, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.”
Where do you stand on this issue?
What’s clear to me is that we have different priorities at different times in our lives and that career advancement is not necessarily a linear process. It’s more of a hopscotch! There are many times during the course of our careers when our family takes precedence, and it’s extremely difficult to focus all of our efforts on moving up the ladder. Even my clients with stay at home Dads or full time help find it challenging. It’s quite natural that we want to be present for our children and be a part of their young lives as much as possible.
That being said, unless your company has flex time policies it’s not always easy to get the opportunity to work remotely. You have to earn it and be seen as a trusted top performer to be granted the privilege as the article points out. Once you receive the option to work from home you must continue to prove yourself and do outstanding work as unfortunately you may be judged differently than your colleagues.
Continue to let others know your achievements.
Continue to build and leverage relationships to gain and maintain your visibility and credibility.
You may not want the corner office, but if flex time or working from home is important to you, make sure you are protecting your status.
Do you play to win or do you play not to lose? According to my guest today, Heidi Grant Halvorson, co-author of Focus, understanding your focus gives you the power to motivate yourself and influence others. Today we’re going to learn about whether or not we are prevention or promotion focused and how this information can help us to position ourselves in the workplace and influence others.
Heidi Grant Halvorson is a social psychologist and Associate Director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center. She is the author of the best-selling books Succeed: How We Can Reach our Goals and Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Her new book, with Tory Higgins, is Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence. Heidi also writes about motivation for The Atlantic, 99u, HBR, WSJ,Huffington Post and Psychology Today.
Many women I coach have said to me I can’t self-promote because I’m an introvert. I don’t know how to build relationships within the workplace and therefore it’s challenging for me to get the visibility I need to advance.
My radio interview with Jennifer Kahnweiler last week was an eye-opener. Jennifer is the author of Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference and an expert on introverts in the workplace. Our discussion focused on leveraging the strengths of introverts to build influence and strong relationships.
Introverts have, in reality, many of the skills necessary to build strong relationships. They listen and observe well and this is a critical component of effective communication. Often this is missing with extroverts who are busy talking and not paying attention to their audience.
The best way to build influence with others is to understand what they want and need. You need to understand what value you contribute but also what is important to the other person. Otherwise, whatever you say could land on deaf ears. No matter how great your message, it will not be well received.
Where to start? Once you identify people across your organization with whom you want to build relationships, do your research. Observe them. Listen to them. What do you know about them? This knowledge helps you to communicate effectively.
This is an exercise that I often do with my clients. Ask yourself these questions about the person:
- How do they communicate? Are they direct? Do they use phone, email, in person meetings?
- What type of responses resonate with them? Are they willing to listen? Are they results oriented and just want to hear the bottom line?
- What is their style? Are they passive, passive aggressive, aggressive, assertive?
- Are they an introvert? Extrovert?
- What is their relationship to their work? Is it ego-driven? Team oriented?
- What are their personal interests? Family? Sports? Volunteer activity?
- What type of people do they seem to like? How do they relate to them?
- What seems to frustrate them or give them anxiety?
- What seems to make them happy?
- What is your current relationship?
Taking the time to use the more “introverted” skills of observing and listening before jumping in can help you better position yourself with others. Once you get the answers to the above questions, you have enough information to create powerful communication and relationships.
Executive presence is important for anyone who is seeking to move to a leadership position. Why? because people need to see you as a potential leader; as someone who has the potential to take on more responsibility and grow professionally.
What you may not know is that you have control over the way you are perceived. You don’t need to leave it to chance. Once you decide how you want others to think of you, you can create that professional image.
Here’s how to start:
- Write out at least 10 descriptors of how you want to be perceived.
2. Look for a female role model within your company who has achieved leadership success. How does she communicate, behave, manage and lead others, motivate others. What does her body language say about her? Does she come across as confident? How does she demonstrate that confidence? Write down your observations.
3. Ask trusted colleagues at work to give you honest feedback about how they currently see you. Then share your intentions for how you want to be perceived and ask permission to check in with them to see if they see any changes.
4. Make sure you are dressing the part. Take extra care to look professional and polished.
5. Pay special attention to your verbal communication so that you are not sabotaging your efforts by using minimizing language.
Keep the list of 10 descriptors posted where they are accessible and visible. Look over the list before you go into important meetings or even before you start your day as a reminder.
Over time you can change your professional image and support your advancement efforts.
Introverts may feel powerless but they can successfully influence others in the workplace to affect change and inspire others. Some may think the way to get things done in business is by being the loudest or the most charismatic, but introverts can be highly effective influencers as well when they use their natural strengths instead of trying to act like extroverts.
My guest , Jennifer Kahnweiler, is an expert on the subject and an international speaker and executive coach. Her new book, Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, helps us to understand the qualities that introverts possess and how they can leverage these strengths to be successful.
Jennifer specializes in developing and coaching introverted leaders. She holds a doctorate in counseling and organizational development from Florida State University. She has also written articles about introverts in the workplace for Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week and The Wall Street Journal. Her first book, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, has sold more than 20,000 copies and has been translated into multiple languages. You can learn more about Jennifer at her website, www.jenniferkahnweiler.com and via twitter @JennKahnweiler.
I’m sure most of us are unaware of how often we make assumptions. We make assumptions every day about how other people think and feel, and these assumptions then lead us to behave in ways that sabotage our relationships, our careers, and erode our self-confidence. We make assumptions based on gender and race. We make assumptions and judge people based on their background, education, religion and age.
Have you ever thought about how dangerous it is to make assumptions?
We certainly don’t want others to make unsubstantiated judgments about us, right? We don’t want the decision makers in our company to assume that because we are women or that we are mothers, that we are less competent or less committed to doing the job or taking the promotion. Yet, how many times do we sabotage ourselves because we ourselves make false assumptions?
Here are the top 10 assumptions that can prevent you from getting ahead.
- You assume that people understand how valuable you are to the organization even if you don’t tell them.
- You assume that people will recognize and reward you even if you don’t let them know what you’ve accomplished on a regular basis.
- You assume that you will get promoted just because you are talented and work hard.
- You assume that if you are assertive people won’t like you.
- You assume that it’s important that everyone like you in order to get ahead.
- You assume that embracing the workplace politics is just for men.
- You assume that networking means connecting with people you like and know.
- You assume that the salary or raise you are offered is the best final offer.
- You assume that if you negotiate for a raise it will be viewed negatively.
- You assume that opportunities will surface solely because of your excellent track record.
Are you guilty of making any of these assumptions? Which ones?
These assumptions are sabotaging your efforts to accelerate your career!
Take control of your own career destiny and make it your intention to let go of these assumptions and do the work to move yourself forward.
I was dumbfounded and perhaps a little embarrassed when in an interview last week with Sharon Sayler, body language and communications expert, she said that to look more intelligent we should breathe through our noses. Who knew I was coming across as stupid when my cold forced me to breathe through my mouth? I felt lucky just to be breathing quite honestly!
The lesson here is not to dwell on my recent cold, but to make the point that there are many ways that our body language influences the way we are perceived by others.
There has been much talk lately of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and her new movement. I happen to be a fan of the premise of the book that as woman we can learn much about how to better position ourselves for success. Certainly our awareness of not only our communication patterns but body language is a great place to start. In fact, leaning in, is literally one way that you can communicate to others that you are engaged and ready to listen and take action.
You can listen to the full interview for more great tips, but the take-away here is that we already know that we need to do great work to be recognized. Of equal importance is positioning ourselves in the organization as confident and capable of taking on more responsibility and challenges. Confident and competent women are much more likely to be considered as having leadership potential.
Another pointer that I picked up from the interview with Sharon Sayler is that keeping your chin up helps you to look more confident. Can you fake confidence until you feel it? Apparently so! Keeping your chin up is one way to demonstrate confidence. Try it before you head into a meeting or make a presentation. Lifting your chin actually feels powerful and does give you a feeling of confidence.
Maintaining eye contact during conversations and presentations also contributes to the perception that you have confidence in what you are presenting or discussing.
Try some of these simple tips and see how you feel. Even when you make small changes in your behavior it changes the way others think of you. Ask a trusted colleague or mentor for feedback as you continue to try new approaches to your communication and body language.
Lean in. Chin up. Step up into your own talent and power and demonstrate to others that you have the potential to move up.