Earlier this year, I taught my popular webinar, “Mastering the Art of Bragging: What Today’s Professionals & Other Humble Leaders Need to Know” for alumni of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
The full webinar is private to their group**, but here’s a short video that shares of my point of view here (2 min, 19 sec):
And of course, there were questions.
I mean, how can you talk about something as incendiary as “bragging” without getting questions?
As I read through the questions, I realized that the answers would be useful for many of us, even if you weren’t on the webinar or have never heard me speak on this topic.
So, I’m sharing the questions and answers here with you.
**Want me to bring a webinar or in-person workshop to your company or professional organization? Schedule a chat here to tell me more about what you need, and I can tell you how I can help.
Mastering the Art of Bragging: You Asked, I Answered
I’ve grouped related questions on the same topic together, separated by a |.
1. Is it [the big lesson] really about bragging about me, or is it about educating others about the value I bring?
Okay, you got me. The exercise of “mastering the art of bragging” is NOT about you showing off.
It’s about making sure that you’re showing up—that you’re communicating your value to your world, so that those in it know who you are how you help.
It’s about no longer hiding and “waiting to be picked,” as author Seth Godin says in his book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (as well as in his podcast Akimbo and elsewhere around the interweb).
So, instead of thinking about “educating others about the value I bring,” think about it as “serving others by letting them know how I can help.”
After all, if you had a magic acorn that could help someone struggle less or stress less, wouldn’t it be selfish of you to keep it hidden away?
The world needs you, and all the acorns you can share.
2. What are the best practices for bragging on social media, while keeping personal and professional separate but without having to create separate new accounts/profiles? | How should bragging differ on LinkedIn vs. Facebook vs. Twitter, etc. | How much of the art of bragging should appear in our bio/summary within LinkedIn?
I answered this during our webinar–listen here (2 min, 47 sec):
This is a biggie, so let’s go deeper.
Basically, the same rules apply to bragging online as they do in real life—pick your spots.
Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck (known as Gary Vee) talks about this in his book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. While his examples are about brands, it works for us too.
Right hooks are those sales pitches–the “asks” or the “offer.” Jabs are the smaller offerings of value all along the way where we’re engaging others, telling stories, and creating an emotional response.
However, in my work with clients, I see even the smartest professionals being so afraid of making that “right hook” that they never do.
And that’s a shame, since when you hold back, you’re cheating others of the opportunity to know how you can help them soar.
So make the ask. Pitch the offer. Ask for the meeting. After all, someone out there needs you.
3. Is a pride point one of your strengths, or a specific example of a time you displayed a strength?
That’s a great question. In this situation, since we’re looking to tell short stories that show us in our best and honest light, you want specific examples.
So, you’re not just saying “I’m excited that I’m organized,” you’re saying “I’m excited that I just consolidated the merger files in half—now we can find what we need more quickly.”
When we get specific and talk about work we’re proud of, we help people connect the dots and bring us more opportunities that look similar.
4. Should I attempt to match my pride point with the person I am talking to?
Once you’ve built the muscle of bragging more often, you can and should think more deeply about who needs to know more about a particular side of you.
Here’s an example.
I worked with a client whose job was in the creative department of an ad agency. He perceived that some of his leaders only saw him as a “creative” and didn’t view him as very strategic.
So, in meetings, he intentionally started sharing more frequent comments that were connected to the business results of his clients—results that happened through his creative work:
- “I was excited to learn that client x increased same-day store sales 10% after we launched the ABC campaign.”
- “Just finished an analytics webinar that really helped me see a few places where we can measure Client B’s progress better.”
Over time, he began to engage in bigger conversations about the business, and changed the perception that he was just a “creative guy.” That led to more promotions and a more satisfying role in his agency.
So yes, match your pride points to your audience–as long as it’s true.
5. How do I find my superpower? | While wanting to find your superpowers is great, a lot of times it’s difficult to articulate even in your own mind what that is. Where can we look for examples of superpowers?
To dive in deeper to discover your superpowers, here’s my free mini-training (about 28 minutes).
Don’t have time for that training right now? Think about these things.
What are the scenarios where you feel like you’re wearing that red cape—like you’re soaring through whatever you’re doing?
Freeze frame. What do you see yourself bringing to that situation? What’s your unique perspective or approach?
Here’s a secret: it’s typically not what you do, but how you do it.
(And don’t get hung up on the word “unique.” It doesn’t have to mean that no one, anywhere in the world ever has the same characteristics. Because, really, how do you know? But look at it as “unique to your world.”
If you’re not sure, that’s okay. It’s totally normal that it’s hard to see the label from inside the jar.
This is where an experienced mentor or professional coach can help you get clear on who you are and what you want right now. They’ll ask you bigger, better questions–maybe ones like this:
6. How do you recommend handling a situation in which someone appears to be dismissing or not acknowledging your expertise?
If someone doesn’t see your expertise, then one of two things are likely happening.
Either you’re not demonstrating value based on something they need . . .
They don’t need what you bring.
Do you know which?
If not, it’s a great opportunity to find out.
Set up a time for a quick chat or coffee. Then, you can ask:
“Hey [NAME]-I’ve been noticing something and just want to check in with you about it. I’ve been offering my help to do X, and you haven’t yet taken me up on it. I’m wondering if [the thing you do that you think they need] is being handled elsewhere, or whether there’s something that would help me support you better. Could you give me your thoughts?”
“You know, we started working together quickly on this project and I realize I didn’t take the time I would have liked to make sure I was clear on the things that were most important to you about this work. Can we take a step back and talk for a few minutes about those so that my focus is in sync with yours?”
Then listen carefully.
It might be that they weren’t clear on your intention to help (because that’s what you were doing, right–not trying to show them up yourself?)
Or, it might be that they really aren’t confident in you and your abilities.
7. How do you balance being proud and humble? | How do we brag and come across as being humble and not sound like being full of yourself and blowing your own trumpet?
This question implies you can’t be both proud and humble at the same time.
I don’t believe that’s true—you can certainly be both.
The root of humble is the Latin word humilis, meaning “low.” And here’s where I think we go wrong.
We mistakenly believe that being proud means being above everyone else.
And so we think pride is the anthesis of humility.
But we can be proud and not artificially elevate ourselves. We are just telling our truth.
Being proud of yourself does NOT exclude being proud of others.
In fact, when others see you set an example for sharing your superpowers–and they see the results you get from doing so–they’ll be more likely to learn how, too. And that’s good for all of us.
8. How do you avoid this (the bragging formula) from developing into a competitive or one-upmanship conversation after you ask, “and how about you?”
Easy. Don’t compete.
Allow the other person their pride, their “brag,” and give them the response you’d like to be getting (“That’s great! Good for you! Tell me more.”)
Just because you’re communicating a point that’s important for you doesn’t mean there’s no room for others to do the same.
You can afford to be generous and help create an environment where more people feel safe to talk about their superpower space.
That way, you both win. And it feels great.
9. How do you brag in more humble cultures like Latin America’s?
I’m not a worldwide cultural expert, but here’s what I’ve learned in my experience (2 min, 42 sec):
But let me ask our readers outside the US. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t?
Email me here and we’ll update this post with your recommendations.
10. I am working at a tech co that is very much a sales organization. How can I brag about my Kellogg MBA without sounding entitled or arrogant?
With all due respect to the Kellogg (or any other) MBA, it’s not the MBA that makes you special; it’s what you’re doing with it to serve your organization or clients.
Why not speak about examples or lessons you learned at Kellogg that can apply to your current team’s challenges?
- “This situation reminds me of a lesson I learned while I was studying for my Kellogg MBA, where . . . “
- “I’d be happy to check with some of my Kellogg alumni around the world to see how they’ve handled that problem.”
- “When I had the good fortune to attend Kellogg for business school, I learned . . .”
You won’t want to do this all the time, unless you want annoyed coworkers.
But there’s nothing wrong with passing along the gold nuggets you gained at Kellogg–or wherever you studied–to others from time to time.
11. Women are sometimes penalized for bragging. How can one address or preempt this, especially when issues of culture are not in our control?
Culture is a word we toss around with reverence, but which really is just shorthand for “how we do things here.”
So, if how we do things here isn’t how you believe things should be done, remember that you can start doing differently, no matter what your “here” is or your role within it. More on that here:
And yes, there’s clear research that females can sometimes be penalized for doing the same things as males. As we grow our awareness, we lessen that bias.
But let’s be real–those biases developed over hundreds of years.
So, the real thing to consider if you want to preempt potential bias is this:
You only control three things.
Yup, that’s all.
And here they are:
- Everything you say
- Everything you do
- Everything you think
So, instead of fuming that there may be an unfair bias out there, how can you speak up, or speak differently about it? What can you do? How can you think differently about the situation?
We teach people how to treat us. Control the things you can, and you’ll be a role model for others that helps change your culture for the better, for good.
12. What’s the best way for introverts to brag on social media?
We tackled that question here (1 min, 53 sec):
For more on this topic, check out my interviews with my friend, author and introvert researcher Jennifer Kahnweiler:
Hope you’ve found those answers useful. Thanks again to my friends in the Kellogg alumni community for inviting me to speak on their webinar and sharing their questions with me.
Have more questions? Need more help?
Maybe you’re still not sure how to find your points of pride and brag in ways that others don’t gag. That’s okay. Nobody taught us this stuff in school.
But it makes a big difference in our careers now.
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