I was recently helping my kids with applications to leadership clubs at their respective new schools. With a big history of volunteering and involvement, they had plenty to brag about, but their initial reaction was that they didn't want to sound too 'bragadocious'....apparently that's a word now. My advice was the same I give to all the colleagues I mentor, "If you want to stand out in the crowd of resumes and applications, you can't be afraid to brag a little and highlight what makes you successful."
It's the same at work. For communication professionals, especially those in internal communication, we feel that we should remain in the background. We didn't sign up to lead this often under-valued area of communication to be front and centre. We love internal communication because deep inside, we know that what we do connects the dots between strategy and employee delivery. We feel strongly that informed, engaged employees will help deliver bottom-line results. We know that connecting leaders with people can help inform and inspire our workforces. We know that every day, telling our stories, helps recognize employees and builds pride.
Several years ago, a leader once asked me why I didn't take more credit for my work and the impact I had. I proudly told him that I was an internal communication professional. I was there to make the organization and its leaders look good. I was meant to be behind the scenes to be successful. He laughed at me. "You're not behind the scenes," he said, "You and your team are integral to every initiative run by this organization. And in some cases, they wouldn't be possible without you. Own it."
It was one of the most eye-opening conversations I had ever had. Heeding that conversation meant a change in behaviour that helped me navigate that organization successfully and grow my team. It also helped me create some standard procedures for 'bragging' that I still use today.
Share your plan
After a briefing with an internal partner or client, I always create and share my plan. In the plan, I articulate the business results and the communication strategy and tactics I will employ in order to help deliver those results. A plan that connects the dots takes you from tactical doer to strategic partner. It allows for discussion with your business partners and articulates a connection to the business in a way that can be measured. As a consultant now, it's always great to see clients nodding heads when they see that I understand their business problem, their goals. and have a solution to help.
Provide regular updates
During a project or program, I arrive at meetings ready to share what the team has accomplished and what needs to be done next. If there is measured success, these numbers are shared as well in order to show progress. Your business partners should be aware of the work that's been done and the impacts of that work. For those communicators who want a seat at the table, having a meaningful report to share will encourage partners to invite you there more often. If you haven't been invited, proactively ask to come in and present progress once in a while. Trust me, the more they are aware of what you do, the more they'll want to hear from you.
Every project requires a debrief. What did you deliver? Were you successful at accomplishing your goals? How and why did you believe the communication plan played a role in success? What would you repeat and what would you do differently next time? I also took the time to highlight team members and their accomplishments or make a pitch for improved processes, support and tools in the future. With clients, I go back to our original goals to evaluate whether we met expectations successfully.
Communication professionals are like the shoe-maker's children. We're happy to promote our organizations and our leaders, but hesitate to promote ourselves and our impact. Learning to brag, as long as it's connected to results and supported by fact, will help you earn the respect you deserve.