You've heard me make the case for "tastefully tooting your own horn" as a way to build your personal brand. Well, recently, I got a chance to take this to a whole new level for myself – one way outside my comfort zone. At the tail end of 2014, I found out I was a finalist in four categories for the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Initially, I didn’t even consider going to the awards ceremony in New York, and the thought of stepping into that kind of spotlight made me really uncomfortable.
But then I had a change of heart during a conversation with my executive coach. As we talked, I realized the importance of raising the visibility of my personal brand. People who know me well know how much I care about having a bigger impact – to reach more people, give them valuable resources and make a difference. I realized that this would be an important step in that direction. So I bought a plane ticket and headed for New York.
I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt about the whole thing. After all, in a situation like this you are being evaluated by a panel of judges and compared to your peers. And not everyone goes home with an award. So, it was a big deal for me to show up at the awards ceremony, and it was an even bigger deal to take a friend along. I went into that evening figuring I had no chance at gold, and certainly no need to prepare an acceptance speech. The Stevies drew 12,000 nominations from more than 20 countries.
Early in the evening, though, things began to unfold differently than I had predicted: I won a gold award! By the time the whirlwind of an evening was over, I had two gold awards: Mentor and Coach of the Year-Business and Female Entrepreneur of the Year for businesses in my size and category. I also came away with one silver award and one bronze. Because I was seated with honorees from PepsiCo and AT&T, two of my clients, I had my own cheering section. By the end of the night, I was excited — and drained (in fact, too drained to go and celebrate that night in NYC)! When I got back to Dallas, my executive coach laughed out loud when I told her I “survived” my awards ceremony.
This story might surprise you, given how often I’m in the spotlight speaking and presenting and successfully coaching others on tasteful self-promotion. But being in this kind of spotlight was really different, and stretched me in new ways. I am so glad I went, and I urge you to find opportunities to step out, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Here's why:
We all need to acknowledge and celebrate success. As high performers, we often push ahead to the next project without pausing to notice the impact of what we've already done and how many people we've affected. As I reflected about my company’s growth and performance, I realized how many lives we have touched and in what way. If I didn’t have to find a way to fit four awards in my luggage, I’m not sure I would have really noticed in the way I did that night.
Increasing your own visibility can help others. To tap into your knowledge and strengths, people have to know what you have to offer! Look for opportunities to showcase your value, impact, and skills so that others can leverage and learn from them, and you can make a bigger difference.
Being open to the possibilities can take you to places you never expected. I had to really stretch to put myself in a situation that might not have gone as well as I'd hoped. It has taught me lessons that will benefit me and my clients.
If you normally shy away from the spotlight, think about how you can step out more in 2015. Maybe it's applying for an award; maybe it's taking on a high-visibility role or project that scares you. Get motivated with my videos on self-promotion as a way to build your personal brand or the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet "Strategically Standing Out." And remember, small steps can lead to big results.
P.S. Check out the full list of Stevie Awards for Women in Business winners.