Communication & Leadership

with Peggy Klaus

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Consider brag as a skill to cultivate and practice instead of a 4-letter word to disdain.

Peggy Klaus

Communications & Leadership Guru

Lessons Learned

We are in the age of the entrepreneur.

We have lost the ability to be proud of ourselves without arrogance.

Can you talk about yourself with pride and confidence in an interesting way?

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Lesson: Communication & Leadership with Peggy Klaus

Step #1 Brag: Consider brag as a skill to cultivate and practice instead of a 4-letter word to disdain

I have to credit my father as the inspiration of the book. He repeatedly told me, probably as soon as I came out of the womb, that I was not to toot my own horn. That, if I was doing a good job, people would recognize it and I would be justly rewarded. Well, that didn't really prove to be the case when I went to Hollywood to be a producer and director.

But the two aha moments that really led to me writing the book-the first was taking a cross-country flight from New York to San Francisco and sitting next to a lovely gentleman. We were chatting away and after about 20 minutes I said to him, "So what do you do?" All of a sudden, it was like Dr. Jekyll had appeared in the seat that wasn't a charming, delightful, loquacious person. He answered me in a four-word answer, "I'm a management consultant."

So I continued with my questioning and I said, "Oh, who do you do it for?" And he said, "A very large management consulting firm." I said, "Well, what is your specialty?" And he said, "I'm in telecommunications." At that point, I realized I didn't want to force this out of him anymore and I reached over and got my book and I said, "It's lovely to talk to you."

But as I had my book open, I realized, "You know? He missed a huge opportunity." First of all, I work for the company that he works for. So, we would have had a lot in common. Number two, he didn't know that I wasn't some big CEO who could have hired his company for consulting services. So, that was my first big aha.

The second big aha was when I was working for a very large company that merged with another very large company and they called me in to look at their marketing materials and campaign. I was very honest with them because I found it extraordinarily boring. There was nothing about the marketing materials that popped out, that said anything special about the firm. It was very vanilla. It looked like no difference between them and their competitors.

So I told them this. Then I broached a question. I said, "So, tell me about you. Individually, tell me about you and what you do here at the firm." To a person, their response was even worse. It was even more boring. The light bulb went off and I said, "Oh my gosh. These people cannot talk about themselves with pride, with confidence, in an interesting and entertaining way. They can't brag about themselves."

I went back. I started to think about this, think about my own upbringing that I couldn't even vote for myself for senior-class president because that was considered bragging. So, if I had this problem and these people had this problem, this was a real problem.

I think there are a lot of what I call "myths", societal, cultural, religious, familial. It starts from, "humility is a virtue". "It's a sin." "Pride cometh before the fall." "Nice girls don't do it." "If you don't make the man the center of the conversation, then you will never get a boyfriend or a husband."

In different cultures like Asia, the tallest male gets hit first. In Australia, it's known as "the tall puppy syndrome", so that there's a row of puppies and if one's head gets bigger than the other puppies they come and whack it off with a machete – which is a really difficult image to deal with. But we have these and so many more myths that we deal with.

Yet, because of where we are economically and socially, even putting aside social media, we have to be able to talk about ourselves with pride. Often, when I say to people, "If you don't like the word 'brag'", which I primarily use because it really does get people's hair standing up on end, "If you don't like that word, use the word 'pride'".

It's something that we teach our kids to have in themselves. We're proud of them. We're proud of our siblings. We're proud of our partners and spouses. We're proud of our parents. Yet, when it comes to us, we can't be proud of ourselves. That's very sad to me.

So there is a way, through this bragalogue, and doing it in appropriate situations where you can brag, that actually and truly invites people to want to know more about you.

I so believe this, that we are in the age of the entrepreneur and really have been for the last 10-15 years. That even what I see in corporate America, that even if you are a junior person or even a senior person, that you are responsible and accountable for a piece of the business. People are looking at you to speak up, to say what's on your mind, to give your ideas, to then be the one where the buck stops. Isn't that what an entrepreneur has to do as well?

What they've also found through studies is that the need to self-promote in a corporate setting is just as important as when you're an entrepreneur. If you're in that corporate setting, you rely on people within that setting to know who you are, what you're doing, your accomplishments, the successes you've had and the obstacles you've overcome. If you don't self-promote or brag in a really good way, people won't know and you will not get promoted.

If the recession taught us only one thing, it is that we have to self-promote because our jobs aren't secure, promotions aren't a given, certainly bonuses aren't a given. If we want stretch assignments, people have got to know about us. If we are entrepreneurs, we are our own marketing campaigns. We are our own walking billboards. If we don't do it well, then who do we think is going to do it for us?

I think that a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of corporate people think, "Oh, I'll just throw money at marketing, at the ad campaign." Your marketing and ad campaign can be wonderful, but if you go in and you're talking to investors or you're talking to the press and you're talking to shareholders, they want to know – they want to hear it from you and it better be interesting and entertaining. So, you'd better be able to talk about your value and the firm's value in a pithy, entertaining and interesting way, that really invites people to want to know more about you.

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