Category Archives: Communication

Tootin’ your own horn

Do you toot your own horn? Maybe you should.

We’re taught early in life to not brag or boast about ourselves. And in general, that is excellent advice. Tootin’ our own horn – telling folks about our accomplishments – is bragging, no doubt about it. It turns others off and makes us look self-serving.

Sometimes though, it is entirely appropriate.  In the work environment, it is not only appropriate, but necessary.  As the old saying goes, “If you don’t tell them, who will?”

Why toot your own horn in the work environment?

Let’s start by defining today’s workplace. It’s different from the industrial environment where work was clearly measured by output and time. In today’s knowledge and service environment, much work goes unobserved. We work independently, and chances are the only time our boss hears anything about us is when we mess up.

And we will mess up – that’s how we learn. But it becomes only one half of the equation. Who is going to balance the equation with all of the great stuff accomplished?

That’s where tootin’ your own horn comes in.

Let’s be very clear. This is not about bragging. Bragging is self-serving without a greater purpose.

I’m talking about qualitative data, the kind that contributes to an overall awareness of what is being worked on, how the work is progressing, and the results that have been achieved. It isn’t about finding superlatives to describe how great you did. Instead it is about being factual and adding to the knowledge and awareness of those in decision-making roles, e.g., your boss or other decision-makers.

There are three important steps in tootin’ your own horn. They can be boiled down to 1.) tell ‘em what you’re going to do, 2.) do it, 3.) tell ‘em what you did. And do it all factually and clearly linked to a business result.

Tell ‘em

Those of us in professional positions make decisions every day about what we will work on. Sure, there are goals and objectives, but we spend time (probably a lot of time) on setting the stage for goal accomplishment. That could be reinventing a streamlined process, building a relationship across business unit lines, talking to employees about what they need to succeed.

This is important work, but no one may know what really went into achieving that goal unless you tell them.

I don’t mean a formal presentation. It can be as simple as this:

“My department and the [X] department are having a small conflict over [X] process. I don’t want you to do anything, I just wanted to let you know that I am working with the department manager to resolve. I’ll keep you posted.”

This does three things. First, it brings the topic into awareness, so that your boss can provide any additional information you might need to resolve the issue.  Second, it demonstrates that you are a problem solver, and that you value business relationships.

Additionally, it forces you to clearly understand and articulate the work to be done, as well as the expected result.

Do it

Execute on your plan, whatever it might be.

Tell ‘em what you did

Circle back and let your boss know that you have resolved the situation you spoke with her about.  Your result may be a better working relationship, a collaboration that resulted in a better process, or an improvement you made to your team’s process that they requested, and how it will improve productivity.

The point here is that, any of these things are almost routine and rarely rise to visibility. That said, they are also a large part of the work you do.

If you don’t highlight your work, it will probably go unnoticed.

That’s probably not something you should leave to chance.

Being factual and clear that your update is simply FYI will go a long way toward creating the aura of your professional work ethic.

Thanks to my business partner for this lesson.

The subtleties of gender bias

In the eighties, I worked on a project that required me to travel with a team to a site where we had to sign in and wear badges. We went there about once every month for over a year. It drove me crazy because the security guards (both male and female) would hand me my badge and say, “Here you go, Carol,” and then hand the male team member his badge with, “Here you go, Mr. James.”

Today, thirty years later, the same thing happened. A receptionist called me “Carol,” and my husband, “Mr. Anderson.” Dang. Wouldn’t you think we would have evolved, given all of the focus on diversity and inclusion?

In the nineties, I headed a diversity initiative for a bank. One of the elephants hanging around the room in those days was the chatter among female executives who were learning to play golf because they were tired of having business discussion occur on the golf course when they weren’t there. Continue reading The subtleties of gender bias

Parlor Games

lets-playI just saw a “game” on Facebook that got my attention.  It said “Each of us possesses different types of personality that fall in the certain category. There are basically four types of people in this world. You can only fit into one of these four personalities; which one is it?”

The call to action was “Let’s play.”

Okay, I just can’t let that go.  Granted it is Facebook which makes no claim to the authenticity or veracity of anything posted. And it is Facebook where we go these days for our news and opinions.

And it is kind of fun to see where you fall out in these “games.” Perhaps we learn a little something about ourselves, which helps us feel comfortable in our own skin.  Learning and comfort can be a good thing.

So why did this get my attention?

Because it stereotypes, and stereotyping limits. Continue reading Parlor Games