How Women Rise – Claim your Achievements (Habit #1)

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Habit 1 – Reluctance to Claim your Achievements

Imagine your boss comes to you and says one of the following statements: “Your attention to detail and creativity that you have applied for this project was outstanding.” or “I’m impressed by your work results in the last few months and how you managed the challenging times” or “How do you always get it right at the first time and I never have anything to criticize?”
Did you cringe a little bit when reading these statements, blushed, brushed it off or thought that this wouldn’t be something somebody would say about you? If you did not react this way, it would be interesting to know if you are male or female?
Whilst not all women would have reacted as described, it is a fact, according to Marshall Goldsmith, that women are likely to deflect praise when singled out instead of accepting compliments and owning their wins. Of course, not all women are alike, nor are all men and this is simply one factor that determines how people respond.

If you read the statements and cringed that is ok as well, because you just learned a valuable lesson, which is: you are reluctant to claim your achievements. What is important now, is to question, whether this is working well for you or rather hindering your progress as a working professional. Some might think “I’m quite happy to be ignored for my achievements as I have no desire to behave like a jerk and celebrate myself publicly”. Taking this conscious approach will work for you if you are happy where you are, you are appreciated by your peers or boss or if you are getting recognition in other ways. There are two problems though with this approach: one, your qualities are potentially not used as much as possible and two you hinder your own development as you are settling in your comfort zone.

Let’s explore that a little bit more and imagine Amy, who is a senior project manager working at an arts foundation. She has worked tirelessly together with her co-chair Mitch on a fundraising project and after exceeding everyone’s expectation on the amount raised both are separately interviewed. Mitch talks about his great part in the project, whilst Amy highlights all the other members of the team and misses out her own part in the fundraising success. This story is from Sally Helgesen’s book “How Women Rise” and without continuing it, this is the scenario that happens to many successful women. Failing to speak up about your individual contribution and detailing why, in this case Amy, was a crucial puzzle piece in the team. Would she be offered the co-chair next time? Maybe they will rather consider one the team members or Mitch to manage the project on his own. How would any decision maker know of Amy’s contribution, if she doesn’t share it? And secondly, how will she challenge herself and her contribution if no one can attribute responsibilities to her and provide her with feedback?

You may now feel that it is beneficial to talk about your achievements and wonder how to start. The good news is that starting to talk about your achievement is a behavior, that lies within your control as it requires you to start paying attention to how you to about yourself to others and yourself. Here are some tips for you to explore a new habit of talking about your achievements:

Tip No. 1:
Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen suggest in their book to simply start by saying “Thank you”. Gratitude is one of Marshall’s favorite piece of advice to his clients, which is “to be radical fundamentalists when it comes to thanking”. Very important though, after thanking the person make sure to not add deflecting comments such as “it was easy” or “I was lucky” or other minimizing comments. If you feel awkward not adding something else to your ‘thank you’, try to elaborate on your contribution to success. This could be anything from “it was a lot of fun to be involved in managing the whole fundraising process” or “I’m pleased to see that huge amount of cash being contributed to a very good cause”.

Tip No. 2:
In executive coachings as well as workshops for teams, leaders and women in the workplace delivered from the ameliorate group a common statement to change a thinking that is not helpful is “How else can you look at this situation?” or “What would change your thinking?” The idea is, to understand what leads you to the belief, that you shouldn’t claim your achievements? Do you want to share the success with others? Do you feel that your part was not important? Do you think you are more liked if you share your own success? What motivates this habit of not claiming your own achievements? Understanding your motivations, often provides you with a strong check-in on your drivers and maybe this ends up you realize, that the habit really suits your personally.

Tip No. 3:
Learn to talk about yourself and practice, practice, practice with this tool from the ameliorate group: ‘Reality Check’.

Download tool:

Article written by Melissa L. Schlimm-Managing Partner, Executive Coach and People Developer at The Ameliorate Group. Content inspired by the book called “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen-12 habits that hold women back from being successful in their careers-as well as my own experience as executive coach when coaching senior leaders in the workplace.

The Ameliorate Group, Learning Partner with Women@Work, is a leadership and corporate coaching consultancy offering a range of bite-sized learning solutions to long-term development programs incorporating executive coaching to achieve organizational goals. The Ameliorate Group aims to superpower your teams and individual capability beyond what you thought was possible.

Women@Work Coach -
07 Apr 2020
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