Despite the fact that most women understand the importance of self-promotion for their advancement, they do not intentionally use it. We have been conditioned to take the back seat and wait to be recognized. As a consequence, we often have this inner argument about how to proceed with self-promotion. We know we should do more of it. We know we should be better at it. But at the same time, it’s much more comfortable to stay focused on doing our work.
We have the mind-set that self-promotion is self-serving, and therefore distasteful. Even if we attempt to talk about our accomplishments and take credit for our success, doing this with confidence and conviction is challenging.
It is important to see that self-promotion is a leadership skill. It is your responsibility to talk about what you and your team have achieved, not only for your own benefit, but also for the team and the company. It’s how to create influence. It’s how you sell your ideas across the organization. It’s the basis of building relationships with key stakeholders and gaining access to the power networks.
From this perspective, self-promotion takes on a different purpose. You are letting others know of your accomplishments and your value proposition, and you are offering to help in ways that benefit the organization. Everyone wins. Your team benefits from your promotional efforts. They receive recognition for their efforts and success. You benefit as the team leader who spearheaded the project or initiative, and the company wins as well. The company can use your accomplishments to initiate other projects or ideas across the organization. They can use your success metrics as an example for future company cannot leverage your success in other areas.
Self-promotion is not just about you. It’s about you, your team, and the organization.
Betsy Myers, former senior advisor to Presidents Clinton and Obama, has always been an advocate for women’s issues. She demonstrated promotion as a leadership skill when she aligned her skills and passion for women’s issues with President Clinton’s reelection campaign. Betsy ran the office for women business owners when she worked for the Small Business Administration (SBA). She recognized that women business owners were a potential Clinton voting bloc. Women had elected him the first time and they would reelect him. Women voters were thus very important for his reelection.
So Betsy began working her relationships and promoting herself and her ideas for the benefit of President Clinton’s reelection: “I started to go over to the White House and meet with different people to say, ‘Hey, what can we do to make sure we harness this voting bloc and these women out there? They’re the fastest-growing segment of the business economy.’
“I went over there to alert people to what I was doing; the conferences out there where I was speaking that were potential opportunities for the president or someone else to speak at; these statewide conferences on women. And that’s where I developed my reputation as someone who was an expert on a particular issue of women entrepreneurs; passionate, supportive of the president and his reelection. And then, when the president decided to create an office in the White House on women’s issues, I had made a name for myself and was appointed director of this department.”
This was a win for Betsy, for President Clinton, and for women entrepreneurs. This is a great example of using promotion as a leadership skill.
It is possible to use promotion to enhance your credibility by aligning yourself with business initiatives. Demonstrating your leadership and highlighting your team’s efforts increases your visibility and benefits your company. Once you are seen as a credible leader, you will have more influence in the organization and can therefore gain access to the informal networks and relationships you need with stakeholders. You are viewed as someone who adds value to the business. You have political capital.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting others know what you are accomplishing.
How do you do this?
Betsy Myers learned how to strategically inform other stakeholders of her ongoing efforts and successes from her boss, Erskine Bowles.
“Erskine Bowles, who was head of the SBA, was really strategic. Every week, he had the chief of staff of the SBA put together a very concrete simplified version of the contributions he made that week to support the President’s goals. It was delivered to the White House, to the chief of staff, deputy chiefs of staff, the president, first lady, and vice president. And within sixteen months, Erskine went from being head of the SBA to deputy chief of staff in the White House.”
Betsy says, “That’s how guys do it. The president was trying to get health care done. The president was trying to do these different things, and Erskine was working really hard. And at the time, he wasn’t a member of the Cabinet. But later, in the Clinton administration, he became a member of the Cabinet. So, how was he getting information in? How do you do that? How do you let people know? We get so busy and so caught up in what we’re doing that we forget to brief the people above us or the people that we’re helping.”
Betsy’s point is well taken. How are you helping? When you tell others what you and your team are accomplishing, you are letting them know how you add value to their project or initiative. You build a reputation as a leader.
Self-promotion is a leadership and political skill that is critical to master in order to navigate the realities of the workplace and position you for success.
To learn more about how to advance in the workplace, follow me on Twitter. My upcoming book, The Politics of Promotion: How High Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead (Wiley, March 2015), is now available on Amazon.
This article was written by Bonnie Marcus from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.