How to Bring Your Superpowers to Work– Tip #1: Brag on Yourself
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This is the first of six posts on simple, practical ways you can bring your own superpowers to work, right now. If you missed the introduction to this series, catch it here! And be sure to leave a reply at the end of the article with your questions or comments, or tell us what you think on Facebook!

Tip #1: Brag on Yourself

To bring your superpowers to work, it’s time to learn to put the right words in your mouth. It’s time to brag.

“Ewwww,” you might be saying, shocked at this suggestion.  Well, you wouldn’t be alone. Even the most accomplished, proud, and articulate professionals I work with hesitate, saying, “I was taught I should never brag–and besides, I don’t want to seem too full of myself.” (This phrase always kills me–so many others would give their right arm to be as full of talent as you!)

So when did “brag” become a four-letter word? It’s amazing how even the most articulate and confident people have been brainwashed that bragging is a bad thing, like chewing with your mouth open or belching in public. But if you don’t brag, how will we know all of the unique, special, and amazing things you’re doing? How will we notice when you’re wearing your (metaphorical) red cape? How will your boss/colleagues/peers/next employer/community/world learn more about you—the best of you–and realize “Hey! It sounds like that guy/gal has an answer to the problem I’m having over here. Let’s go talk to him/her!”

(If you’re worried about seeming arrogant or cocky, just remember this distinction, from Thomas Leonard, the founder of modern coaching: “Confidence is knowing what you do well. Arrogance is covering up what you don’t.” Or, as baseball great Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”)

What’s true about you? What are you proud of, excited by, succeeding with? To really bring your superpowers to work, you have to put the right words in your mouth about who you are, what you do, and what you bring to your work and the world. Staying quiet won’t cut it.

How to Start

Since we’ve been programmed for years not to brag, it may take a bit of experimentation for you to get the right words in your mouth. Here are some questions to help.

  • What’s the one project or accomplishment you’re most proud of right now? How did your unique superpowers make a difference to the outcome?
  • If you weren’t worried about what anyone would say or think, what do you want people to know?
  • How do you want people to see you in the future? What would you say differently if you started talking as if you were that person right now?

Answer these out loud, and see what comes out. Or talk them through with a friend–maybe both of you need some bragging practice over lunch (believe me, this is a lot more fun than talking about the Bachelorette!)  It’s also really helpful to record your answers on your phone’s app or even in a voicemail to yourself. Listen to it later, and take notes. You may be surprised at what you hear–and learn about yourself!

For more tools, I’m a big fan of Peggy Klaus’ book, “Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It,” which covers creating your brag stories in much more depth.

When to Start

Once you get the right words in your mouth, you may wonder when you can use them.  I’ve found is the best way to get started is not to wait for the big, serendipitous break (believe me, very few of us actually do get stuck in the elevator with the CEO). The best way is to take advantage of everyday situations where you can turn small talk into big talk.

Think about all of the “small talk” situations you’ve been in at work this week, such as:

  • Waiting for everyone to arrive at the meeting (P.S.—using this opportunity should give you more incentive to show up on time if not early—be late and miss out!)
  • Dialed into the conference call and giving the last few stragglers “just another minute”
  • Walking to or from the parking lot, lunch room, coffee station, or break area
  • Waiting for the elevator
  • Leaving the bathroom (not my favorite place to talk, but somehow, people do strike up a conversation!)

Each of these times creates a “small talk” opportunity that, with the right words in your mouth, you can change into a “big talk” opportunity!

How It Works

Here’s a real-life example of how it works. My client Greg worked as a copywriter in a mid-sized advertising agency. After pushing it behind him for a number of years (a bad internship experience did the trick), Greg rediscovered his superpowers of sales and business analysis, skills he wanted to now add to his ad writing ability. He ideally wanted to move into a larger role developing business for his company, but felt his bosses saw him as “just a writer.”

Greg started changing what he was saying in “small talk” situations to better reinforce his superpowers and create a new, different impression of who he was and what he did. So whenever someone asked the always-present small talk question, “How are you?” Greg switched his typical answer of “Fine” to words like:

  • “Great! I just noticed our client’s sales went up this month—looks like what we’ve been creating for their campaign really generated some business.”
  • “I’m really good, thanks—I was proud to hear that client X renewed their contract. I know how challenging those negotiations can get and what it takes to close the deal.”
  • “Great—I’m working on the client Z account, and starting to do my own research about what’s driving their bottom-line. It reminds me of a case study we did at Kellogg when I was in B-School. Have you been involved with their business?”

In the course of seconds—really, just seconds—Greg’s listener gets the opportunity to learn something totally different about Greg—that he thinks about the business results of campaigns, that he pays attention to the client renewal processes, that he went to a top-level business school, etc. (And as a sidenote, Greg started to remember how much he enjoyed talking and thinking in this part of his superpower space, and that gave him the confidence to ask for a shot at new responsibilities. He got the chance.)

It worked for Greg because all of these words in his mouth came from a place that was honest, true and real to him. What you can’t read on the page is his tone of voice, his genuine enthusiasm, his pride of sharing these observations and thoughts. When it feels real, it’s not bragging.

To bring your own superpowers to work, what do you need to brag about today? What words do you need to put in your mouth? Try them out and tell us about it by replying below or sharing on Facebook!

Know someone else who should be bragging on themselves more? Someone who has awesome superpowers yet  doesn’t always know it?  Share this article with them using the buttons below–they belong in the Red Cape Revolution!


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