Lead with Your Value

19160839_s“My pride won’t let me ask.”

Elizabeth kept repeating that statement every time someone tried to encourage her to ask to be on the building project.  She couldn’t bring herself to do it.  If they couldn’t see what she had to offer, she wasn’t going to ask them to let her join. From Elizabeth’s perspective, her qualifications were clear because she took part in a large group meeting a few weeks ago and shared well-thought out and clearly articulated ideas for the project.

This exchange took place at a dinner party where I had just explained to Elizabeth and a fellow architect, Ben, that I work with executive women and help them build a career strategy that brings autonomous, interesting and lucrative work.

After listening to Elizabeth’s refusal to ask for inclusion in the project, Ben turned to me and said, “Ah, this is why you do this work.”

Ben wouldn’t hesitate to ask. In fact, he did ask to be involved in the same project and he didn’t see it as an issue of pride. Ben explained to Elizabeth that the head of the team has a dozen responsibilities at her feet and may not realize that she is interested in the project.

Elizabeth’s solution was to ask Ben if he would approach the committee on her behalf.  While he was happy to do it, I saw it as a missed opportunity for her.  No matter how earnest his recommendation, she’s missed an opportunity to convey her passion and ideas directly to the source.  Elizabeth has a chance to build a relationship that could pay dividends in the long run, and instead, Ben will get the credit as a relationship builder.

Having managed a large number of people in the past, I can truly say that regardless of how well-meaning, I couldn’t remember the accomplishments of everyone on my team when it came to annual evaluations.  In order for them to get the best evaluation, they needed to share their strengths, skills and accomplishments over the past year.  It was truly a team effort.

I share these examples because even when we think we are demonstrating our worth, nothing compares to directly communicating our value and what we want.

Nothing – not your bright ideas that you share with your colleague, not the hard work you do by yourself, and not indirect self-promotion.

How and when you articulate your value takes practice and a bit of strategy.  If you prepare in advance, when the time comes, you will be ready to promote your work and ideas.  Otherwise, you let pride, fear or lack of preparation block you from exciting projects and fulfilling work.

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