Half of Catherine’s team got fired because she thought self-promotion was annoying. But I am already ahead of myself.
Some people call it self-promotion. I prefer to call it “puffing your feathers.” Like a peacock puffing its large colorful plume to get attention.
At work, so many of us are terrified of “puffing our feathers” because we don’t want to brag. Self-promotion, I frequently hear, would feel like pushing a handful of blue and green feathers in someone else’s face.
There are two problems with how we look at self-promotion: First, we interpret it the wrong way, and second, we don’t understand just how damaging not doing it can be – especially if you are managing a team.
Peacocks (only the males) puff their feathers to court a female. It’s not for ego or for show, but for self-preservation. If they don’t procreate, they go extinct.
Okay, we won’t die if we don’t promote our accomplishments, but our career may suffer.
And this leads to my second point: If you lead a team, by not touting your accomplishments the impact may be significantly greater.
Catherine is a mid-level manager in a large international organization. She is a “just the facts” communicator who speaks exactly like we are all told – short and to the point, like bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation. This style works well for her introverted personality.
A month ago Catherine shared that she couldn’t stand it when her peers talk on and on about their accomplishments, especially in the weekly managerial meeting. Catherine did her best not to judge as her peers elaborated on their updates and wasted time as they told stories about their team’s fantastic achievements and challenges.
They were just supposed to provide a team update and instead went overboard and wasted precious time.
Even more annoying, her bosses didn’t clamp the feather puffing; in fact, they fed it. They asked more questions and appeared to be more engaged in the other managers’ updates.
Catherine’s peers are talented and do a good job, but Catherine’s team out-performed them in the quality of deliverables and in end-customer sales. And yet, she did not receive the recognition or attention equal to what her team produced.
Last week, Catherine was called into her boss’s office and was told that the company was making major lay-offs around the globe. The decision had been made that fifty percent (50%) of Catherine’s team would be cut. She was getting transferred out of the department. The other department managers did not have the same level of impact.
In spite of Catherine’s team’s performance, the PERCEPTION was that her team provided the least value.
That blow left a painful bruise. People, people she cared about and who were loyal to her for years, were being let go because she didn’t respect the importance of self-promotion.
It is one thing to lose a promotion or a stretch role. However when you are a manager, the importance and impact of “puffing your feathers” becomes significantly larger.
Now, I know what you are thinking: “There is more to the story and surely self-promotion was not the only factor in the decision.“
Yes, there were other factors at play. But the bottom line was that her peers had deeper relationships with senior management and with that, they were able to “turn the head” of decision-makers BEFORE a critical decision needed to be made.
Each of her peers had someone at the table “fighting” for their cause. Catherine didn’t.
Catherine’s minimalistic, to-the-point updates stunted interest in her team’s work and limited the depth of the relationships she built with key decision-makers. Catherine was well-liked, but she didn’t have strong alliances, sponsors or interest in her work from a broad base.
We like to think that business and decision-making are “all about the numbers” but, more often than we like to admit, perception and likeability take precedence over logical decision-making.
Before the restructuring, Catherine viewed self-promotion as a waste of time and egotistical. Now, Catherine doesn’t see it as a problem, but her duty.
That blue-and-green bruise is metamorphosing to feathers, and she doesn’t give a d*mn if they make her new peers cough a time or two.
Will your self-promotion tale be devastating or empowering?
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