One of the things I enjoy doing the most is creating communication seminars for my clients. I teach about how to speak up, communicate clearly and get noticed. I recently had the opportunity to create a seminar specifically for women in the workplace. I know what you are thinking. Is it really that different for women? The answer is yes and no. It really depends upon the industry. There are many where there is truly little difference because women have been building careers there for a long time- examples might be public relations, marketing, sales and some manufacturing. There are, however, industries that have been typically male-dominated – the building trades, engineering, and some technology sectors.
One of the communication areas where I find a difference is in the ability of individuals to “brag” about themselves. Prior to every seminar I send out a self-assessment. This is an opportunity for me to get to know the participants and also for them to think about their strengths and weaknesses. I have noticed that the women tend not to “brag” about their accomplishments- even when I blatantly ask them to do so. In fact, many don’t even try and leave that section blank. If a woman does achieve something of terrific value, she will often downplay it and talk about those who helped or supported them, or say they were lucky or that they worked really hard. They essentially fade away because they don’t want to stand out and take credit.
Truthfully, that can be a problem for both men and women. Individuals may not apply for promotions, recognition, or awards that might put them in the spotlight because they don’t want to be seen as boastful or conceited. It’s great to be humble but recognition is important if you want to be known as an expert in your field. And who doesn’t want that?
We all want to do business or work with innovators, those who continuously improve and push the limits. So how do you get appropriate bragging rights? Get noticed for your work? Generate positive word of mouth and establish your “brand promise?” Here are a few ideas.
What to brag about
One of the best things to brag about is results. What have you done that has achieved results for your team or your company? Have you created a new program? Developed a new product or service? Is it something that is avant-garde? Have you managed to find a simple solution to a complex problem? Have you found a way to cut costs and improve quality? Are you starting or defining a whole new industry? You get the idea. You want these to be tangible results. And the more specific the better.
Another idea is to consider milestones. Personal ones can be length of service, number of customers reached, or programs developed. These milestones give you further credibility.
How to brag
This is the tricky part. How you brag is important. You can tell when someone is “puffed up” or arrogant. This is not what I mean when I say it is OK to brag. There is a way of noting your accomplishments and still being humble. This is where the ability to tell a story is critical. Here is a little formula for developing that story.
- What was the challenge? Or the issue?
- How did you approach it?
- What did you develop to solve the problem?
- Who helped you? Give credit to others and it helps build the case.
- Did you face any struggles along the way?
- What was the result?
- What did you learn that you want to share with others?
Where to brag
There are often opportunities within the workplace that are ideal for sharing good news internally. Connect with communications or marketing leads in your organization- they are always looking for good stories. Some will be best shared internally; others are for an external audience. The richest stories are those that resonate with both audiences.
For internal audiences consider asking for time during a team meeting to share a story. If your company has a newsletter, digital communication or a podcast you can offer to contribute. Many companies have quarterly or annual town halls. There is often a segment dedicated to good news or updates. This is an ideal place to brag because it gets you noticed by a wide audience- including those at the upper levels of the company.
For external audiences today social media and online communities can help spread the word. But it is not just going to happen. You need to have an established social network and an understanding of what you want to be known for in advance. You can blog or share content you have aggregated on relevant communication channels. Be sure to check your company’s guidelines on what can be shared and if prior approval is needed. If you do win a big award, get promoted or get noticed, people will share that news on your behalf. Be sure you make these announcements in a timely manner and thank the organization that recognized you.
Individual and company awards
One thing that is great for your bragging opportunities is winning awards. Let’s say that you have been nominated yourself or been nominated (even better) for an award. In a recent post I wrote for Entrepreneur.com I offer ideas for awards that build credibility. I like the ones that demonstrate business results. For example, I sit on the board of Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MSCB), a 501c3 that awards the 50 Companies to Watch. These are high-potential, second-stage companies that demonstrate excellence and support the economy. Other examples of awards to consider in your state or region are “Businessperson of the Year” or “50 Most Influential Women” or “One of the 100 Best and Brightest Companies” or “Great Places to Work.”
Industry or supplier awards are also impressive. These awards are usually sponsored by an industry group or professional organization. They show, when compared to your peers, the work is excellent and noteworthy.
Finally, there are community awards. Many non-profits recognize individuals and companies that “do good” and help advance their programs or mission. Using your skills and the resources of your company for these non-profits can provide visibility. However, I believe this should not be your goal. Give without expecting anything back and don’t do it unless you really care about the organization. If you are honored for your efforts accept the accolades humbly.
Content that gets you noticed
Before you apply for any award do your homework. Here are a few tips for making your award application stand out. Avoid boring, typical information. No one cares about detailed historical information. Instead, focus on what others will consider remarkable. Be creative and, as we talked about above, tell a story. It takes time and attention to apply for awards. I spend as much time writing an award application as I do on a client project. Sure, it’s lots of work, but it is also a fantastic way to showcase what you can do and be recognized as a leader. If you aren’t going to do the demanding work it takes to win, don’t bother.
My company was asked to apply for, and won, Woman Owned Small Business Supplier of the Year from Siemens in 2018. It was a great honor. Over the years, we have won five Telly Awards which “honor excellence in television and video across all screens.” In 2023, we won our sixth Gold Telly for a documentary titled A Story to Remember about a woman’s dementia journey. These awards, and many others, have helped our team be recognized for work that we love to do. (See, that is how you brag.)
One thing to note- an award is not an award is not an award. Some are just vanity awards. This past year I was told I could be “An Inspiring Woman Leader” for $1800, an “Admired Leader” for $1500 or a “Top 10 Influential Leader” for a mere $900. I know individuals who do take advantage of these promotional opportunities and I do not judge. However, I like to stick to awards that have substance. Not those that are pay-to-play.
The bottom line
It is important to be clear about what you bring to the workplace and for what you want to be known. If you have accomplishments, you want to be recognized for them and use them to position yourself for your next adventure or simply solidify your current role.
Be sure to keep a list of “wins” or accomplishments because it is easy to forget some of the great work you do. And finally, know what opportunities are available to “brag” and then go for it.