Go Ahead and Brag

You are awesome and it’s time you let everyone know it. 

Yes, we get it. No one likes a braggart. Maybe the idea of tooting your own horn feels a bit overwhelming. Maybe you worry about striking the right balance between excessive boasting and the more subtle humble brag. You’re not alone in this conundrum. In fact, a 2019 study highlighted in Harvard Business Review found that women are substantially less likely to self-promote than their male counterparts. And that’s a problem. Why? Glad you asked. To quote the study’s authors Christine Exley and Judd Kessler, “This self-promotion paid off: workers who rated their performance more highly on the 0 to 100 scale were more likely to be hired and offered higher pay.” 

So now you know why you should talk yourself up, but you’re still not sure how to go about doing it. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips to get you moving in the right direction. 

Be Bodacious

Skip the humble brag. It’s a backhanded compliment that undercuts the positive in an attempt to feign humility. Sometimes that humble brag works too well – in other words, no one really appreciates your success story because they missed it buried deep in your epically humble delivery. Other times it comes off sounding more like fake-humility which is almost worse than boastful bragging itself. Be bodacious, which yes, can mean embracing a little bit of audacity in a way that’s considered admirable. 

Focus on Facts 

Self-promotion doesn’t begin with, “I am [insert adjective here.]” Yes, you are awesome. You are talented. You are even, perhaps, the best whatever-it-is-you-do to grace the halls of your office. This isn’t about that. This is about what you’ve accomplished. Focus on the outcomes. Use objective data. 

Telling folks,“I am the best finance leader” is boastful. Instead you might say, “In reviewing our financial records, the cost saving measures I outlined earlier this year have saved us $3.4M.” This highlights the actions you took and the results you achieved. Everyone else will draw their own conclusions about how awesome you are from there. 

Own It

Self-promotion isn’t just about what you say. It’s about how you respond to the good things other people say about you. When your boss (or her boss!) says, “Great work on closing the deal with our big new customer!” don’t slip into humble mode and mumble something like, “Oh, anyone on our team could have pulled that off.” Even the seemingly innocent “Oh, it’s no big deal” can be self-defeating. Own your accomplishment. A simple, “Thank you!” may suffice. However, if you’re feeling confident and really ready to own your awesomeness, try, “Thank you! I’m proud of that one! I’m looking forward to applying what I learned from the experience to close my next deal!” 

Spread It Around

Don’t just toot your own horn. Make sure you raise others up too. One easy way to strike the right balance of healthy self-promotion is to make compliments and highlights of others actions part of your natural conversation, too. That big deal you just closed and your boss complimented you on? Let’s continue the conversation. After you say “Thank you! I’m proud of that one! I’m looking forward to applying what I learned from the experience to close my next deal!” highlight your support staff. “I’m also looking forward to working with Jennifer again. She did a great job with the engineering side of the proposal. Her network diagrams and explanation of the tech that would be needed really helped me better explain the solution we were proposing to the customer.” 

There’s always space for a team player in self-promotion. It doesn’t take away from your accomplishments to highlight another as long as you’re not downplaying your part to do so.

Make It a Habit

As a leader, make raising up success stories and praise a regular habit for your team. Got a weekly staff meeting or time set aside for project reports? Create space each time you meet to celebrate wins. Ask your team to share a success story from their week. It may simply be that they got the hard-to-reach client on a live voice call after days of leaving messages, or it may be as awesome as finding a solution to that hard-to-figure conundrum you’ve all been working on. The degree of awesomeness doesn’t matter. Normalize celebrating success among your team members.