Michelle Samson

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Is humility and success in the corporate environment mutually exclusive?

In a recent 1:1 meeting with my supervisor, she told me that my work product is excellent, but if I want to go further in the company, I am going to need to learn to sell myself.

I have always held to the assumption that my hard work will speak for itself. In addition, one of my personal goals for 2014 is to practice humility.

So my question to you......can one remain humble and still rise in the corporate environment?

  • Feb 15 2014: Having your supervisor say your work product is excellent is a very good thing.

    Do you wait to get assignments, or do you try and think of ways to increase business, improve products, or somehow use your talents towards accomplishing your company's mission?

    Do you do what you are told at all times, or do you think about what you are being told before doing it? If you can think of a better way, improvement or beneficial suggestion, do you make it? Who to? How is the suggestion documented?

    If you were going to do by yourself whatever your company does, what would you do different? Would you alone have a higher profit margin than you working within the company structure? Why or why not?

    It is possible to push positive ideas and thoughts without constantly reflecting on words like 'I' or 'my'. Just do what you think is right in a proactive way and do not wait to be asked.

    I do not think that believing your work should speak for itself is necessarily a wrong approach. It is self-satisfying. Focusing on selling yourself instead of your work might have the appearance of corporate climbing, but the rules for corporate climbing are so subjective you may not know when you have "over-sold" and appear either fake or more interested in personal success than group success. You should always expect your work to speak a lot about you.

    You might open up new communications channels, such as different professional groups, branches of your company, or with your customers to gain some visibility and understanding of other groups.

    Practice confidence in 2014. Practice innovation and leadership in 2014. Keep your reputation for excellent work.

    When you see an opportunity to take on additional responsibilities that line up well with your skill set, go after them. As your responsibilities increase, so will your organizations dependency on your skill set.

    Self-promotion can go wrong and leave you feeling hollow.
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      Mar 1 2014: Robert...thank you for your response, it is chock full of wisdom. I like your ideas around opening up new communications channels. I just join an ERG (Employee Resource Group) and I am looking for a mentor outside of our work group.

      Practicing confidence is 2014 is probably my greatest area of opportunity. Any ideas?
  • Feb 14 2014: There is being humble or being a wallflower. You can sell yourself and your ideas but sometimes you have to be forceful. Instead of asking a question, make a statement. Do not be the non-participant in meetings - that is a good way to be lost in the shuffle.

    I hate to say this but getting ahead fast means you have to be a squeaky wheel. If you do not mind taking a little longer, being the person that asks the right question (never be afraid of asking a question - even a dumb one) or making a statement. If that is not being humble, than you statement is correct.
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      Feb 15 2014: Wayne
      I appreciate your perspective. Humble or wallflower.....never thought of it that way. Great advice on making statements instead of asking a question.
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    Feb 14 2014: I don't think humility and trying to sell yourself are exclusive? Humility to me just means you don't overvalue yourself, but it doesn't mean you can't value yourself enough to promote yourself.
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    Mar 1 2014: Michelle, Robert Galway offered some great advice. There are so many factors and questions. What level are you calling "success in the Corporate environment"? Is it family run, national, international, ...

    There are "Ring Knockers" in every company/Org. In the military going the the "academy" is a career asset / ticket. I worked at a company where all execs were from Texas A & M. Some places only promote MBAs others like engineers. The fact is that you will go as far as your mentor wants you to go with respect to his/her power in the company. This is called grooming or fast tracking. You can do the research and find out the common factors in all past corproate leaders in your company. The broader your base of knowledge the greater you are as a ssset.

    I recall a movie called "Baby Boom" where a up and comer "inherited" a baby and the company immediately threw her career over the bridge. What sacrifices do the execs in your company make? Are you willing to do that?

    Your question ... Can one remain humble and still rise in the corporate world? .... Most leaders have super egos and have fought their way to the top ... the exception being politics ... political leaders are selected on the ability of the party / shadow governments to control them. Corporate leaders are selected on the boards assumpution that the company will grow and the share holders will profit.

    One way to the top is to transfer to other companies for promotions ... the key being how many and at what level of
    management positions held. Always remember Board members are members of several boards ... hearing your name at two or three other places is a good thing.

    The answer for you is to evaluate what the Supervisor suggested when she said ... "learn to sell myself"

    I wish you well. Bob.