Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn

Over the past three years, my most requested presentation has been Tastefully Tooting Your Own Horn. It may surprise you to know that individuals at all levels of organizations struggle with self-promotion. Many find self-promotion draining and difficult but absolutely essential - yes, a necessary evil.  I don’t like it any more than you do, but I learned how to do it over the years because I had to. At Deloitte, I worked on consulting projects all over the country, where the partners and directors who made decisions about my pay and promotion often had no direct visibility to my work. So, I had to find ways to talk about my results and accomplishments and arm others with that information – in a way that worked for me. Today, I help my clients do the same. To get you moving in the right direction, I want to share three common roadblocks to self-promotion and how to move past them.  

1. “My good work will speak for itself. I don’t have time for these games.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this phrase. It’s usually from talented individuals who do great work but detest political games (i.e. affectionately called “the heads down” worker”).

If this sounds like you, recognize that most people are way too busy to notice all the ways you add value - even if they want to. I’m guessing that your boss has several direct reports, her own boss, and other key stakeholders who demand her time and attention. On top of that, she has her own goals to meet and distractions to manage. How much time does that really leave her to focus on you?

So, it’s up to YOU to make it happen – to take the initiative to give visibility to your work, to get recognized for your contributions and open up new possibilities for yourself. Your good work alone won’t get you there - and unfortunately you can’t win at a game that you won’t even play. Start by making a decision to get in the game.

2. “I don’t want to come across as obnoxious or full of myself.”

No one likes to listen to someone whose head can barely fit in the door. Yes, we’ve all met at least one of those people in our lives! The good news is that those negative experiences can give us clues about what NOT to do. So, if you don’t want to come across as arrogant, think about how you DO want to show up. To get started, come up with three words to describe the type of impression you’d like to leave about yourself when you are telling others about your accomplishments. If you have already defined your personal brand, use that as context as well.

Remember that having clarity about the imprint you want to leave on others will help you develop strategies that work for you.

3. “I’m bad at it. I just don’t know how to do it.”

You’re not alone if you feel ill equipped to tastefully toot your own horn. If you feel this way, think about how you can share information about your results and accomplishments in a way that is relevant and helpful to others.

I’ll give you two examples to think about. First, consider that someone else in the company may be faced with a challenge similar to what you just successfully overcame. By taking the time to share what you did and how you did it, you can help them tremendously.

Second, keep in mind that your boss has to make decisions about your performance, pay, and development (to ensure that you can continue to contribute to the company’s goals). Providing information to her on a regular basis will allow her to make those decisions easily, and will serve you and the company well. Remember that she will be held accountable for your results.

Finally, to give you more clues about how to tastefully self- promote, look for others around you who do it well. Simply notice what they do and say. You may find that you can adapt some of their strategies to fit your own style.

By recognizing what’s holding you back from self-promoting, you can determine how to move forward. Start by defining an action step you will take this week. Also, if you haven’t read it, take a look at Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn.