Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Blow It Already

"I don't want to blow my own horn," seems to be the most popular response whenever I mention the need to market ourselves. I've heard it before; I've even said it before myself. The trouble is, it's a myth. There are several factors that contribute to this. Which are your weak spots? I know I have mine.

Here are the Top Ten Reasons that I've seen why people mistakenly believe they don't need to provide status updates. Or can't. Or shouldn't.

  1. MYTH - Only brown-nosing suck-ups try to make themselves look good.
    REALITY - No one's advocating being a sycophant. Never could stand 'em myself. I'm only suggesting that you let people know what you're up to and how it's coming along.
  2. MYTH - I won't be mistaken for a brown-nosing suck-up if I don't talk about what I'm doing, because I won't be marketing myself.
    REALITY - WRONG and WRONGER - If you're going to get hung up on brown-nosers, then think about it logically for a moment. Sycophants are out to make themselves appear better than they are, usually at the expense of others. That's how you tell the difference, not by whether they talk about what they've accomplished. It's how it's done that makes the difference. As for marketing yourself, if you're not letting people know about your achievements, you're just depriving them of the good news about what you're doing. You're still marketing yourself; the trouble is, it's more likely to be in a negative way.
  3. MYTH - I'm being humble by not telling my boss about my achievements.
    REALITY - Bullsh*t, plain and simple. Really now - who are you fooling? You don't tell anyone what you've done? How about some of your buddies or your peers... the ones who you think are smart enough to get it and appreciate it? The truth is, we tend to tell only the people we think matter. It'd be nice if your boss was on that list.
  4. MYTH - If what I have to share mattered to anyone, they'd ask.
    REALITY - Face it, sometimes they don't even know what to ask. They're busy too and sometimes other folks won't even know enough of what you're doing to know that they might be (or should be) interested. That includes your boss. Remember, the idea is to educate people more than it's about trying to convince them you're great. That ought to make you feel better about #3.
  5. MYTH - They're too stupid to understand or care.
    REALITY - Don't make the mistake of confusing lack of knowledge or expertise in a particular area you consider vital to the human race with stupidity. That makes you look like a moron. Most people are intelligent in at least one area; presumably the person you believe to be a know-nothing dork is actually pretty knowledgeable and experienced in some aspect of what they've been hired to do. The fact that you don't understand it or think it's worthwhile is more likely an indication of your own ignorance than that of their/your boss. Or maybe they just need to educate you more about what they're doing, if you'll let them.
    You could be right of course (see #6), but statistically speaking, if your place of employment is still in business, chances are better that you're wrong on this one.You'll do yourself a favor in the long run if you get over it and start accepting the fact that yours is not the only worthwhile form of intelligence. If they still don't care, you might try doing a better job of educating them. And yes, that's still marketing.
  6. MYTH - My boss is an idiot.
    REALITY - See the explanation for #5. I shine a light on bosses apart from everyone else for a specific reason. It's one thing to work with people we think are stupid. It's quite another to work for someone we think couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. Your boss may be more intelligent than you give the guy credit for (as pointed out above), but if you can't bring yourself to see it, it may be time to ask yourself if it really makes sense for you to work for the idiot - even if his idiocy is purely a figment of your imagination. How well can you work together under such circumstances?
    And even if you find a way to put up with it yourself, do you really think your disdain doesn't show? Most people don't much care for being looked down upon so if this one applies to you, you might consider whether it might not be better to find yourself some position that suits you better before your boss helps you out the door. Landing on your butt when you thought you were sitting down in a comfortable chair hurts a heckuva lot more than simply sitting down on the floor.
  7. MYTH - My boss doesn't ask for a regular report.
    - You don't need permission to provide a status update. Sure, the best leaders do ask for this information. You can benefit yourself in the long run by regularly supplying it anyway and helping your boss to become a better leader.
    Cover the highlights in your 1-1 meetings or send an informal email. It doesn't have to be a formal report requested by your boss. While you're at it, copy other people who might find the information useful (just make sure it's written with them in mind - edit as necessary to make it relevant to them); if the other people are department heads for other parts of the organization, it might be smart to check with your boss about this one.
  8. MYTH - Providing updates is too hard.
    REALITY - Status updates don't have to be difficult. The process is much easier if you work with a template.
    Prompt yourself to write something down about a few basic categories - successes you and your team have had recently, challenges you've faced and what you've done (or are doing) about them, what help you could use (in addition to the steps you're already taking, of course), patterns you notice that could influence business, etc. so you don't forget the sort of highlights that are helpful to provide.
    Just make sure your update isn't a litany of complaints. Branding yourself a whiner is not the sort of marketing we're encouraging here.
  9. MYTH - I don't have enough time to write a big report.
    REALITY - It doesn't have to be a big report. Jot down a little bit each day and roll it into something you can use at the end of the week or the end of the month and that's all there really is to it. It should take 5-10 minutes max each day and maybe a half hour to clean it up prior to delivery. Providing a status update on a weekly or monthly basis can make a significant difference because then everyone who needs to know understands better what's going on. For an added bonus, when you take all of the information together, you'll have most of the foundation you need for a ready-made self-evaluation or resume should you ever want or need that.
  10. MYTH - By the end of the month, I can't remember everything worth writing down.
    REALITY - This one's probably true. That's the other reason for writing things down on a weekly, or even daily basis. The more frequently you make a couple of notes, the better recall you will have for the significant points worth including in your update. It'll also save you time overall in compiling your report.

Hopefully some of these thoughts and ideas make the whole notion of self-marketing a little less scary. With a fresh start to a whole new year, they're some worthwhile ideas to try out. Really. And hey, if you are still sure I'm wrong on this, we could always turn it into an empirical test: give it a try and let me know the results.

As always, you can send them (along with any other thoughts or observations you may have about why it's such a heinous task to provide status updates) to me at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and we'll see where we go from there.

What is one thing I can do to make this year even better for myself than last year?