Many of us are great at putting ourselves down, telling others what holds us back, and in general, discussing our weaknesses and gaps.
A core part of my work in assessing and coaching leaders is providing feedback - both positive and negative. I cannot tell you how many people go STRAIGHT to their development opportunities and want to simply gloss over or completely ignore their strengths.
"I already know what I'm good at - can we get to the opportunities?"
"Yes, that's a strength, but it can also be a downside, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, thanks - I appreciate the positives, but it's not what I really want to focus on."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the strongest performers tend to be the worst offenders. These are the people who have a list of powerful and differentiating skills that support their leadership and yet, I have to push and challenge them to recognize and discuss their strengths.
My line is often: "this is WHY you have come this far in your career. Without these strengths, you could not have achieved [insert something amazing they've done]. And, these skills are what you'll use as a foundation for continued growth."
That usually works, but not always. While there’s value in discussing and remaining aware of where we could improve, it’s also incredibly important to reflect on our accomplishments, strengths, and proud moments. Often we quickly forget these aspects of our lives and spend our energy ruminating on things that didn’t go well. We may have a pretty fantastic conversation, meeting, or presentation and afterward, we center in on the one thing we said that we wish we didn't. This leads to self-effacement, and minimizes what went well.
"Ah, I know that went well, but I wish I hadn't said 'X'."
"Gosh, I almost ruined it with that comment at the end."
"Did you hear when I stumbled over my words? How embarrasing."
I've been there. A LOT. I can guarantee you that you're the only one thinking about that one little thing you said or did. Most of your observers either (1) didn't even notice, or (2) forgot immediately and went back to focusing on themselves and their priorities.
Research on self-promotion suggests that women are particticularly likely to struggle with it because of the fear of social backlash. Specifically, while self-promoting behaviors may lead to perceptions of increased competence, it can negatively impact perceptions of warmth or niceness (which are traits that are stereotypically expected of women).
To counteract this potential backlash, we have to make this behavior for normative, especially for women. This means that we have to get more comfortable self-promoting, celebrating successes, and patting ourselves on the back. There's a time and place to be humble, and there's a time and place to talk yourself up.
Every Sunday here at The Female Leader's Edge (+ on Instagram and Facebook), as we close out the weekend and begin to prepare for the week ahead, I am going to challenge you (and myself) to pause and reflect on 1-2 things that went really well in the past week. These can be work-related or personal; the only rule is that you MUST recognize your worth and self-promote WITHOUT minimizing what you did.
I don't want to hear: "I had a great presentation but I could not have done it without my team" or, "I met my workout goal, but I could have have pushed myself harder."
No minimizing language.
No giving the credit to others.
Claim YOUR success and YOUR role in your achievement, no matter how big or small.
I’ll go first: (1) I’m proud of myself for launching this blog/website. I’ve been thinking about it for at least a year, and I let myself be held back by a fear of what others would think + it's not perfect, so oh my gosh, what if people think I'M not perfect too. My mindset now? Well duh, it's not perfect because I'm not perfect (no one is) so why would I have that expectation of myself? (2) I had a really amazing coaching session with a person I’ve been working with for about 6 months. He’s been struggling to step out of the weeds and truly lead his small team, and he had a huge victory — he allowed a direct report to take full ownership over a project (which he would have never done in the past) and it was a success! I’m proud of myself for providing him with support+challenge to help him get there.
Believe me, I recognize that this can feel super cheesy, awkward, and unnatural. I'm right there with you. With regular practice and encouragement, we'll start to feel more comfortable and it will become a habit. Remember: we're in this together. Together, we rise.
YOUR TURN: What are you proud of yourself for?
Where did you excel and show up at your best?
Where did you just absolutely kick-ass?
Stay humble, yet recognize your worth,