Do you feel ignored and taken for granted at work? How much of it comes from unconsciously giving away your power? Do you forget to take credit for your ideas, praising the team instead? This is very common. Tune in to today’s episode as Elizabeth Bachman shares some actionable steps you can take to market yourself and translate all of your good work into the kind of career you want. She also touches on how women sabotage themselves without even realizing that they’re doing it.
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Are You Erasing Yourself From The Picture?
Don’t Give Away Your Power
Do you feel ignored or taken for granted at work? How much of it comes from unconsciously giving away your power? Do you forget to take credit for your ideas, praising them instead? This is very common. For those of you reading the first time, I’m Elizabeth Bachman. I’m an International Opera Director and Presentation Skills Trainer. I’m the CEO of Strategic Speaking for Results and the host of Speakers Who Get Results show. As an International Presentation Skills Trainer, what I do mostly is work with high-level women who are hitting a glass ceiling and not being taken seriously, not showing up at work.
There are many reasons why women are taken for granted or ignored in meetings, and much of it might have to do with the people who aren’t listening. I want to talk about the part that comes from the inside, where women aren’t showing up. I’m especially passionate about this because I wasted years waiting to be recognized for my good work. I did well, I shown. In my opera career, people knew me as someone who created good, solid, well-done productions, but it didn’t translate into the kind of career I wanted because I didn’t market myself right. That would be bragging and good girls don’t brag, at least that’s what my mom told me. I want to talk a bit about how women sabotage themselves without even realizing that they’re doing it.
This is particularly top of mind for me because I’ve been working with a client named Evelyn, that’s not her real name. Evelyn worked for a famous company. Several years ago, she saw the opportunity for a partnership deal with another famous organization. She convinced the people at her company that it was possible. People didn’t believe it at first. She and her team worked for five years to pull it together. This summer of 2020, the deal was launched. She’d worked all this time. It was her idea, it was her baby. The problem is when it came time to do the speeches and all the media interviews for launching this, the PR team sent the media to someone at her company who had only been there for two months, who had nothing to do with the project but had a title. They forgot to ask Evelyn. That’s when Evelyn called me and she was furious. She said, “Here’s this thing I’d given five years of my life to it and they’ve taken me for granted. They’re not listening.”
What we realized when we started working together is that she had done the good, expected thing of constantly talking about how great her team was. Everything about how wonderful the team was, the team did this and the team did that. She never reminded people that it was her idea and that she was leading the team. When the time came to do the media interviews, she expected that she would be the person who was called on because she knew she was doing it right. She knew that she was the point person, but the PR team, the marketing department forgot about her. She was blended in with the team.
What we finally did was we worked on ways that she could talk about this project once it had launched by making 1 or 2 little, tiny changes to what she did. We worked on ways that she could say things like, “I’m glad that deal went through. This is going to be a huge benefit for everybody. When I had that idea several years ago, nobody thought it would happen. I’m glad that the team who worked for me did well.” For a lot of the new people because her company had a lot of turnover, she would say, “You weren’t there when I first had this idea and propose this idea, but people didn’t believe it was going to happen. I’m glad it’s come through because everyone’s going to take it for granted now that this is what we do. We are the pioneers for this. I’m glad to have my team. It’s such a great team.”
She mentioned that it was her idea. She went on to credit the team for all the work they did. The key was she told the story. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there. If you’ve been working on something and you’re putting in extra hours and in the back of your mind, you expect that you’re going to be rewarded for all the time you’ve put in and all the hard work you’ve done and yet, when it comes time to publicize it or give raises and promotions, nobody notices you. This happened to me. It happens to a lot of women.
I even remember back in the ‘80s, there was a flyer that I saw in many an office wall, in many a copy room that talked about the six phases of a project. Phase number six is praise and rewards for the non-participants, because think about it, if you haven’t talked about it in the right way, then there will be praise and rewards for the non-participants. That happened to me in my years in the opera. I learned this the hard way and I never could figure out why and what happened. It wasn’t until now the work that I’m doing now that I see what I should have done. What can you do? Some of the things that Evelyn talked about, we talked about little ways of mentioning that was her idea.Play the politics. Doing a good job and having everybody love you is not going to be good enough. Click To Tweet
The other important thing is to make sure that the right people hear. She went to the marketing department and said, “This was my project. I’m wondering why you gave all the media interviews to the Chief Marketing Officer who has only been here for two months?” They didn’t have a good idea. They didn’t have a good answer. She said, “This is my baby. I would like to have some of those interviews.” She also talked to the Chief Marketing Officer to give her credit, “This is your thing. You’ve been working on this for five years. I don’t know why they sent this to me. I don’t know anything about this.” She got a buy-in from the Chief Marketing Officer.
I’m happy to say that there was a big announcement, an industry group had given an award to Evelyn’s company and the company that they partnered with for this new way of doing a presentation. There was a TV special on it. There she was, the spokesperson for her company. It did work out finally, after a lot of pain. You may be thinking, “How can I improve my visibility without bragging, without being obnoxious?” It is a tight rope, I get it. Especially for women, if you’re thought of being self-promoting, arrogant, there’s a much higher penalty for that for women than there is for men. I like what Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that makes people want to join you.”
One of the great ways you can do this is tell concise stories, but tell stories that show how your accomplishments benefit the company. If you only say, “I did this and I did that,” that comes off as bragging. If you phrase it in a way that gives you credit, credits your team and focuses on how good this is for the company, then you can plant the seed in people’s minds that you are a crucial part of the project and should get a crucial part of the recognition.
Secondly, make sure who you’re speaking to. Make sure that the people who need to know hear these things that you’re saying. It’s fine if your team knows that you’re doing all the work, but if upper management doesn’t or the board, you’ve got to tell people. It’s hard to remember to do this. I get it. We get involved in our day-to-day things, it’s hard to remember this. The key to that is find allies. Get 2 or 3 people who are your buddies, either within your company or outside your company, and have them remind you to tell people, put it in your port about the idea you had and how things worked.
This is a big part of what we do in the Visible and Valued Mastermind for Executive Women. We put together a cohort of no more than 8 or 10 women, who can tell each other how great they are. It’s hard to recognize yourself and your own accomplishments. If you have allies and if you have people who remind you to put it on your calendar, to send the report, talk about what you’re doing, or when you’re doing a report to talk about the part that you thought of, then you can do this. Granted, there’s an art to this. It’s challenging. If you’re not quite sure how to do this, please reach out to me because this is a huge part of my work. I do this with a lot of my clients to help them position themselves.
Thirdly, practice your stories, practice the way you’re going to talk about it. Get someone to listen to you so it doesn’t sound too salesy or too arrogant. Make sure that there’s somebody who can give you informed feedback. Not someone who can say, “That was fine,” but someone who knows how to listen, a speaker trainer, me, for instance, or someone like that. Get someone who can listen and give you good feedback so that you can use this as a sound bite. I’ve talked a lot on these about sound bites and how they are best done. The thing to particularly think about is to drop the phrases that you say all the time, drop them into conversation in a way that sounds right. You may have to write it 3X or 4X, say it out loud, polish it, say it out loud, you will hear if it doesn’t sound quite right and practice because you’re going to use these sound bites over and over again.
I learned about all of this in my opera career as a stage director. I was an international stage director. I was constantly doing good solid work where there were productions that hung together, and everybody had a great time with it. They enjoyed it. I pulled the best out of each person to pull them towards their personal best. Over and over on opening nights, the choristers would come up to me and say, “We loved this. We loved this production. We love this process. I hope you come back.” The extras, the stagehands, and the soloist would say this, which was great for my ego but it didn’t get me further bookings. It didn’t get me jobs because in those days, I didn’t understand how to play the politics. I thought doing a good job and having everybody loved me was going to be good enough.
I wasn’t thinking in the terms of a general director until I started running an opera company. By then, I wasn’t directing anymore. If I had known then how to promote myself in a way that was authentic, humble, showed my value to the company, I might still be directing operas. I’m still carrying the pain from those lessons. When I finally learned this, that’s a big part of what motivates me now to be passionate about helping women claim their power and speak up because I didn’t know how to do it. My opera career ended at all. I had to go off and do something else because I didn’t know how to promote myself right. Please learn from my mistakes.The more you're out there speaking, the more credibility you have. The more credibility you have, the more you are asked to speak. Click To Tweet
Here’s one more important thing, ask. Ask to present, ask for the interview, ask to be part of the presentation. Even if you are part of the team and low down on the totem pole, maybe you could present a piece of the presentation, a section. This is why I care so much about presentation skills, the more you’re out there speaking, the more credibility you have. The more credibility you have, the more you are asked to speak, and the more people look at you and say, “She knows what she’s doing. Let’s ask her to do this new thing.” The problem is many women hide behind their computers. They do a good job, they spend all their time taking care of their team, it’s all caretaking. They forget to take care of themselves and they forget to ask for the opportunity. When an opportunity comes around, many women wait until they’re 150% prepared and the opportunity passes them by and someone who’s ready to go for it gets the opportunity instead. Six months later, you’re wondering why you’re never asked to give the speech.
I talk to conference managers and podcast hosts all the time from all over the world. Especially if it’s a business podcast, I will look at the list of the guests and I’ll say, “How come you’ve got 90% men and only 10% women as your guests?” Over and over, the answer is it’s because the women don’t raise their hands. The women don’t reach out and say, “Yes, I want to.” Please, I beg of you. If anything else, ask for the opportunity to present, ask to be the person who speaks, put yourself out there. The more you do it, the easier it will be for other women to see that as possible for women to do this, the more it will be easier it will be for men to see that women have power and a voice. This is important, something that I am passionate about. This is the tiniest piece of a large subject. If you’re interested in more, reach out to me here on social media or to Elizabeth@ElizabethBachman.com. I can help you talk about what it is that you want to do. Please, don’t erase yourself from the picture.