There’s No “I” in Team

27307322_s“How can I find the time to promote my work and accomplishments when I’m so busy just getting things done?” That’s a common question among my clients.

I get the dilemma. I find that the more clients I have, the less time I have to market my services.  If I don’t market, eventually my client work will fall off, and I’ll have to frantically market again.

While it isn’t exactly the same scenario when you are in a corporate organization, if you don’t promote your work, you’ll find that your career stalls. It would be great if your superiors would notice your hard work and promote you accordingly, but it doesn’t usually happen that way.  Your boss has the same dilemma. She is putting out fires and trying to promote her work as well.  No one will highlight  your value better than you can.

Here are a few points to keep in mind to make self-promotion something that you do on a regular basis.

Think like your husband

While my husband helps out around the house, I would say that I still do a good portion of the day-to-day home maintenance. For instance, I get up in the morning put the dishes away, make breakfast and clean up the breakfast dishes. I’ve had this routine since my daughter was born and she is now eight years old.

On days when I’m rushing to get out the door, I’ll leave the dishes in the sink and plan to deal with it later.  Typically my husband will clean the kitchen at some point during the day, if I don’t get to it first

Now here’s the thing . .  invariably, without exception, when I come home to a kitchen that he cleaned, he’ll let me know that he cleaned the kitchen.  Not only does he let me know, he asks for recognition and appreciation. I find it stunning.  I don’t ask for applause every time I clean something, but maybe I should!

Men regularly talk about what they’ve done and why it matters.  If you haven’t noticed this, spend the next week observing this behavior.  Actually, whether they are busy or not, they don’t forget to mention their value.

Start telling stories

Not sure how to tell someone how great you are?  Tell a story.  Let’s say you came up with a new way to handle a chronic issue at work.  The next time you’re talking to your boss,  share the story of how you came up with the solution AND the result once the solution was in place.

Remember that all stories have a beginning, middle and end.  It’s a simple three-step process. Start with the problem and its negative effects  (1); transition to your “aha” moment when you understood the root of problem and came up with a solution (2); finally, explain how you solved the problem and highlight the result (3).

When you use stories, you don’t have to worry about bragging or sounding pompous, because you are simply explaining what happened.  The best thing about a story is that it is often easily remembered and retold.

Take credit

Storytelling is a wonderful tool, except woman often tell a story using “we” instead of “I.”   If you had a great idea that your team implemented, you shouldn’t  say “we” when telling people about it.  Instead, say, ”I came up with a great idea which I shared it with my team. Together we were able implement my plan and get things back on track.”

I learned this lesson the hard way.  Many years ago, I was interviewing for a high level position at IDEO.  I was the finalist, there were no other people competing for the position.  As I  talked with the CEO I kept telling him how “we” built and started the office of the firm at which I was then employed.  We did this and we did that.  I just knew he would be blown away by all of my accomplishments.

I didn’t get the job. They decided to wait and find other candidates.  Why?

They didn’t think I was seasoned enough to handle the responsibility of working on my own.  They thought all that I accomplished was because I had the support of a team and other people in the firm to help me get things done.

I was stunned, it was so far from the truth. I always said “we” because I wanted to give credit to my team, but I was the generator. Projects were completed because I envisioned, led, directed, and motivated.  I mistakenly hid it behind the accomplishments of my team.

I believe in collaboration, but collaboration is overrated when it comes to articulating your value.  You have to be able to identify and elaborate upon your specific skills, expertise and contributions.

This isn’t taking undue credit or throwing people under bus; it’s being honest about the role you play in your success.

Finding the time

Whenever you speak, it can be used as a time to share your worth. Time isn’t the challenge; the challenge is preparation.

Develop a habit of writing down what you accomplish each day or week.  When I work at the school, I have a notebook devoted to my priorities and accomplishments.  At the end of each day, I note what I’ve done.  When I check in with the head of school, I bring an agenda.  Many of my agenda items are an update on things that I’ve accomplished.  There might be collaboration on some items, but I separate my individual contributions from that of the group.

It’s so simple, and he appreciates that I’m clear, organized and to the point. It keeps us both abreast of how I’ve spent my time, and what I am contributing.

Your homework

Pick one of the points above and start to implement it this week.  Watch for opportunities to share your worth.

No one can promote or position you better than you.  When you’re authentically telling people what you do well and why it matters, it has so much impact.  Stop letting opportunities pass you by.  If you need help getting started, leave a comment, and we’ll work through it together.

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