You didn´t think I´d recommend a Reading Room (see March 13, 2006 post) without recommending a few books, did you? Here´s one that´s out in paperback. It´s an easy and enlightening read and tends inspire a little controversy. It´s called Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It. Author Peggy Klaus, a Fortune 500 communication coach, was quoted a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal. She talked about the importance of speaking up for yourself in business. I got in touch with her, because she was saying exactly what I was looking for as I completed a chapter ("Know the Answers to "Who do You Think You Are?´ ") in my third book (oh, here´s another title for your reading room collection . . . ), Wish It, Dream It, Do It: Turn the Life You´re Living into the Life You Want. Anyway, I was able to interview Peggy who offered some real-life advice that I´ll share here, something you can impart to your employees. Peggy believes that people must learn to talk about themselves, their ideas, and their accomplishments with pride, conviction, and a sense of delight. "Job interviews, promotions, bonuses, and referrals-just to name a few critical career builders-are determined not just by your performance but how you tell the story."
Boy, does she have that right. And here´s the thing: what your people learn about promoting themselves can be directly applied to the way they promote your company. Yes, it´s an attitude, but developing an attitude takes practice. Have you ever noticed that the best speakers are the ones who tell a story? They might start out with a stack of notes, or worse, a word-for-word script of their presentation. You´re ready to nod off, but then something miraculous happens. They take off their glasses, look up at the audience, and begin to tell a story. Usually, it´s something they´ve just thought of. Improv at its best (and I´ll be writing about that in the not-too-distant future), a personal anecdote that, surprisingly, resonates with a majority (or nearly) of the audience. Even after the presentation-on your way back to the office or on your way home or even a week later while you´re on the phone listening to a vendor or your mother-you think of something the presenter said and, sure enough, it was part of a story not the notes the presenter spent weeks preparing.
But guess what-stories, too, can be scripted so that the telling of them appears spontaneous but perhaps even more important NOTICABLE. Here´s a story within a story from Peggy Klaus. But first a little background: when she was growing up she won a tennis match against a star neighborhood boy-not only a boy but an older junior high boy. Peggy was pretty excited until her dad pulled her aside and suggested that she refrain from tooting her own horn, because people might notice. So early on, she received a message that said you shouldn´t call attention to your success. She grew up and went to Hollywood, a place she calls the "bragging capital of the world." Well, you guessed it: she wasn´t very successful at the bragging part. After all, she´d been trained not to brag.
After receiving rejection after rejection she shifted her approach. Here she describes her "ah-ha moment":
In retrospect, the way I overcame my reticence during interviews was quite simple: I started putting together what I now call a bragologue. It began by my writing down on paper a litany of everything I had accomplished, both personally and professionally. I then took the best parts of my life and wove them together, creating the Peggy Klaus Story. I practiced delivering my tale with the same enthusiasm I used when telling friends about a recent adventure. I knew instinctively that if I couldn´t get excited about my accomplishments, no one else would. There were just too many stories around competing for airtime."
Consider your own bragologue and those of your employees. Think for a bit about the best parts to include. I´ll write more about this the next time.
To those who have taken the time to write to me and ask for information on specific topics, first, many thanks for your questions and comments. Second, I´m getting to it and look forward to more email. Thanks again. Now, get started on those bragologues.
And remember, Peggy´s fabulous book, Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It is in paperback from Warner Business Books. Here´s her Web site: http://www.klausact.com.