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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