Did you know that it's really common for women to talk down their achievements and undervalue themselves when working in a successful group alongside men? Well according to research conducted by Michelle Haynes & Madeline Heilman of the University of Massachusetts, we do.
My own observations were very apparent in committee meetings when it came to receiving compliments. A woman would say something like -
"Oh it was nothing, I was just doing my job. The whole team was involved. And did you see the project nearly came undone in February? ...... But we got there in the end. Thanks."
Whereas a man was far more likely to simply say,
"Thanks. Yeah, it was great wasn't it?".
Why is this important?
This is important because of perception. And perception is reality, whether you like it or not.
If you keep on giving out the message that you don't think you're particularly skilled, or that the work was nothing special, other people will start to believe you. Worse? You'll run the risk of starting to believe you aren't good enough yourself.
But what happens if people think I'm bragging?
Somehow the stereotype for women and achievement is for us to act demure, to be humble and to downplay so as not to be seen as bragging - especially around men. But we don't need to. In fact, our workplaces and business in general will be far better off if we don't - and both the Lean In and gender diversity arguments are predicated on this.
Prevention is better than cure
The best way I've found to prevent yourself from feeling like you are bragging is by doing the work and finding the evidence. And in this case the work consists of quantifying and qualifying your wins and achievements on a daily/weekly basis until it becomes habitual for you to think this way.
- Activity: At the end of every day list all your wins, the things that went well.
- Activity: At the end of every week make a ritual of documenting your achievements once again with a 'what, how, how much and why' approach. If you can qualify please do, and if you can quantify that's even better.
- What was the achievement?
- Why you? (expertise and personal qualities)
- How much? Can you quantify (or qualify) the value of the project?
- Why? Why should this be important to the success of the business overall?
(Note re activity 2: Imagine how easy your 6 monthly CV upgrade is when you quantify and qualify your results on a weekly basis? And imagine how invaluable this would be in a meeting where your contribution was being dismissed?)
What does it look like?
Here are some examples to inspire you
- What? Identified exciting new business opportunities for the organisation
- Why you? Expertise: technical qualification, continuous professional up-skilling, negotiation. Qualities: persistence and willingness to take a risk
- Value? $300mil+ over the next 5 years
- Why? Contributes to revenue KPIs around profitability and returns to shareholders
- What? Updated Ts&Cs for a customer facing business unit and it reduced the numbers of customers ringing the contact centre to clarify or complain
- Why you? Expertise: root cause analysis, emotional intelligence, data analysis, customer care. Qualities: persistence, ability to cut through the clutter
- Value: Reduction in call volumes contributed to contact centre being able to spend more time building engagement with the customers who did ring and increased CSat scores by 10%
- Why? Increases customer satisfaction ratings throughout the business, prevents customer churn and reduces inefficiencies as part of our broader customer and productivity strategies, and we know that it costs 8 x more to purchase a new custoemr than retain an existing customer
- What? This week I helped five women articulate the value they add, why this is important and to believe in themselves again (this one was mine)
- Why you? Expertise: coaching, career development, leadership, executive branding. Qualities: active listening, emotional intelligence, clear communication and absolute dedication to my cause
- Value? Priceless!!!!
- Why? My mission in life is to help women to play a much bigger game – change the world if you will – and do so with big ideas, big vision and big, audacious bucket loads of confidence.
Why is this important?
We're bridging the gap between perception and reality. When we provide others with evidence of our contribution in measures they understand, it's pretty difficult for them to dismiss, bypass or dispute. Plus the small voice on your shoulder has far less influence and you're far more likely to lean into those stretch opportunities where you truly get to make a bigger difference.
"Compliant and Conscientious" or "Making a Bigger Difference" Executive Brand?
As with everything, you get to decide. You can embrace a complaint and conscientious Executive Brand that does things well, rigorously, thoroughly and properly, but the opportunities will likely remain limited. The alternative is a bigger, bolder and far more courageous Executive Brand that delivers results and adds substantial value. And I think you can guess which one gets to make the bigger difference.
The next step is yours. You can think about an apple, you can study an apple, but until you eat the apple you don't really know what an apple is. So build this practice into your daily/weekly habits until it becomes part of your blueprint.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Drop me an email and get in contact. Better yet, send me one of your achievements in the above format!
Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing