Monday, June 14, 2010

Gentle self-promotion: Is it OK to "toot your own horn?"

Sometimes speaking up means speaking about yourself.  But can you avoid the tag "shameless" if you're promoting yourself? In "The Toot-Your-Own-Horn Gender Bias," investment adviser Whitney Johnson looks at how self-promotion backfires for women, and puts it this way:
Point to your accomplishments — you're self-promoting. Don't point — get fired. It's a conundrum. Historically, our society has encouraged women to be the support behind achieving men. Unfortunately, as women have moved into the professional ranks, we are hard-pressed to change this paradigm. Further, when women follow the lead of successful men, we do so with limited success.
Johnson suggests some good tactics you can use in meetings and even in formal speeches and presentations to promote yourself gently, but effectively--and avoid that backlash, including:
  • Working in your "I did this" remarks as part of a team credit that lets you start with "we," while enumerating "'she did x, he did y, and I did z.' Society is comfortable with women who acknowledge others," Johnson notes.
  • Keep your own list and validate your accomplishments to yourself.
  • Get in the habit of sharing your accomplishments, so it feels less awkward to you. Share your news at lunch with a colleague or friend on a regular basis, for example.
  • Get help from your manager, who can do much to recognize you and call attention to your accomplishments in front of the team and where it counts, in your review.  (A nice touch would be getting your manager to introduce you before you present, working in some accomplishments of note.)
To learn the art of gently promoting yourself in public speaking situations, check out my list of tips for those times when you have to introduce yourself, and see how many you can apply to everyday meetings for this purpose.  What do you do to (gently) toot your own horn? What reactions do you get?

A hat tip to Daria Steigman for pointing me to Johnson's post.

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3 comments:

Bobbi Newman said...

Thank you for posting this. Tooting my own horn is an area I know I need improvement in yet its hard to find resources to help. I'd love to see more.

Daria Steigman said...

I have to say I read the original post with some frustration, because I think much of the fault lies with women for not standing up for themselves more -- not with the men in the workplace who are having trouble making the adjustment.

I realize a lot of women need this advice, but it's still sad that we're advising women to tout their accomplishments with their girlfriends at lunch. I was taught to speak up for myself; I might not always get the results I want, but at least I always feel better for standing up and demanding to be counted.

Denise Graveline said...

Thanks, Daria. I read that advice a bit differently--that women who don't feel encouraged to speak up about their accomplishments should practice doing so with a trusted friend, not limit themselves to that sphere.

As for who's to blame, I work very hard here not to blame the women who are looking for ways to speak and speak up. There are lots of different experiences in the world, including yours. Looking to cover as many aspects here as possible--and based on what readers and researchers tell me, this is still an issue.