Lots of smart people believe they shouldn’t have to say how good they are — people should just get it; their results should speak for themselves. Many of these same folks can’t stand the idea of touting their accomplishments. It seems like bragging to them, completely self-serving and unnecessary. And besides that, it takes time and effort and with so much to do already, why spend any extra on this?
I get this kind of thinking, but at the same time I also know that smart, strategic people need to communicate their successes in a way that feels authentic to them and has relevance and connection to their listeners. Remember from PR 101: if you don’t tell people what you’ve done, others will simply create their own story about you?
The fact is, many of us need to get better at telling our story in a way that has meaning for our listeners. A good process for starting is to clarify your unique value and contributions in terms of what matters most to you and others in your organization. Next, you need to use language that allows others to connect with your story. For instance, it sounds very different when someone talks about how proud she is to be on a team that has accomplished XYZ versus simply saying she did XYZ, or how honored she is to be invited to serve on the CEO Task Force versus simply saying she’s on the CEO Task Force. People are attracted and connect to words that generate energy, excitement and emotion. People are turned off by language that is self-serving and not meaningful to them.
There are lots of opportunities to tell your story. My recommendation is to take advantage of everyday work situations to turn “small talk” into more “business relevant talk.” Think about some of the small talk situations you’re in every week, including waiting for people to arrive at a meeting or join a conference call, or the chance meetings coming and going from the office or getting coffee. Each of these simple connections can provide an opportunity to create more meaningful talk about something you’re excited to be working on that is relevant to the organization. Are you familiar with the elevator speech? Through careful preparation and the right choice of words, you can use your elevator time more effectively by telling your story in a way that has meaning and purpose for you and your listeners and goes beyond just small talk. For more information on telling your story, including how to do it in the virtual world, check out Peggy Klaus’ book “Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.”