Recently I have been spending a lot of time writing references, quotes and feedback for colleagues. And I found it easy to talk about their achievements, to praise their outstanding qualities and to describe how they made a difference. It’s easy to do when it’s for someone amazing, it’s easy to do when it’s not yourself you’re writing or talking about, I find.
But then I read something others or I write about ourselves, about our own achievements and what we have made happen and the tone is completely different. There are whole sentences of qualifying statements, there are plenty of “I feel that…” and “I may argue that…” to soften the tone. There are references to other people and their work, acknowledgements of contributions and so forth. Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, plenty of us struggle to find a way to give ourselves the credit we deserve (self-promoting egomaniacs need not read on…) . And whilst I obviously do not advocate taking credit if you don’t deserve it, it is important to be able to accurately recognise the importance of your own work and its impact on order to develop more mature, reflective professional practice.
In my experience that’s not a gendered phenomenon, and can definitely apply to high achieving individuals as well. Plenty of brilliant people find it hard to accept praise, argue their own cause or believe in their achievements.
Since I was awarded CMALT, I keep writing updates to my portfolio and as part of that process (and beyond it) I am trying to improve how I apply this in my own practice and I have come up with a couple of rules for myself:
Acknowledge contributions: in my case nearly everything is a shared undertaking. So I start by giving credit to my collaborators, to everyone’s who has contributed and say thank you.
Mention my own role: once I have acknowledged what others have done, I also describe my own work, what I made happen, what I achieved.
Reflect on impact: whether it is good or bad, I reflect on the difference what we or I did has made. It’s a useful opportunity to ask for feedback, to acknowledge lessons learnt, to bring achievements into perspective.
Accept praise: genuine praise can be hard to accept, particularly from people whose opinion you value. Some people love being applauded, others don’t feel they deserve the credit. Accepting praise is a skill like any other and I find it is important to remember that sometimes others can see more clearly when we deserve it. If they make the effort to bestow upon you, accept it.
Hopefully this approach will help me find the right balance between sharing credit, celebrating what I do well and getting and giving others the professional recognition we deserve.