In 2018 I went to the PA Conference for women and listened to a speaker by the name of Sally Helgesen. She had co- written a new book called “How Women Rise – Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job” with a man named Marshal Goldsmith. He had written a bestseller a few years back called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – How successful people become more successful “. It was all about the behaviors that were keeping his executive coaching clients from getting ahead. When Marshal and Sally compared stories from their coaching clients, they realized that some of the aggressive and self-centered behaviors males exhibited didn’t apply to women. For instance, instead of claiming credit they don’t deserve, women are often reluctant to claim their successes. Why is that? And what can we do to change it?
The answers women gave generally fell into 2 categories. The first was “If I have to act like that arrogant, obnoxious person down the hall, then I prefer to be ignored. I don’t want to be like that jerk!” And the second, “I believe that great work speaks for itself. If I do an outstanding job, then people should notice.”
Herein lies the problems with this approach.
First, citing the jerk down the hall as what you are not and do not want to become indicates a form of either/or thinking. Either/or thinking doesn’t leave room for the middle ground. It sees no possibility for you to promote your work without being obnoxious and self-serving and so justifies your reason for not doing so. Second, contrasting your refusal to not accept credit for your work with an extreme opposite example can inspire you to feel morally superior to anyone who is comfortable doing so. This is unhelpful because it gives you an excuse for buying into a rationale for staying in your comfort zone.
I will be the first to admit that in the past, I was guilty of both. It took me a long time to realize that these were limiting beliefs that were not serving me. I used to have a coworker who was just like the first arrogant person. This coworker did very little actual work but was the master at promoting themselves. I have watched them get promoted multiple times in the time that I have known them. In my first job, I used to work myself to the bone. When it came time for reviews and raises, my raise would be a lot less than my coworkers. Especially the male coworkers who naturally told the boss how great they were every chance they got. Over time that can amount to a lot of financial losses.
Moving ahead requires bold action. One of the easiest ways to accept credit is to simply say … THANK YOU. And nothing more- that’s it. No Thank you buts… No deferrals, no self-modesty, no self-deprecating humor. Once you get in the habit of accepting praise you can learn to start claiming it.
If you struggle to claim your achievements it will cost you especially at promotion time. Speaking up about your contributions and why you are qualified doesn’t make you arrogant. It sends a signal that you are ready to rise. Are you ready to rise?