How to talk about why you’re uniquely awesome

At every transformation, I ask volunteers to brag for a second. “Tell me what you’re great at doing. Tell me why you think you’re awesome,” I say.

Unlike the audience members, I can usually see the faces of the volunteers on stage with me. It’s a rare day when I see confidence and clarity in them. Most often, I see worry and confusion.

Why? Because “What makes me uniquely awesome?” isn’t a question we ask ourselves very often. Some of us have never asked that. And also, we learned growing up that no one likes a braggart. So we stay away from any activity that even remotely resembles self-aggrandizement.

But how can others know what makes us uniquely valuable if we keep ourselves—and others—in the dark?

I think it’s time to remedy that.

Come along now. I’ll get us started with a quick exercise. This process will help you share your value in a way that the judgment monsters won’t come out to play.

STEP 1: WRITE DOWN ALL THE SKILLS THAT ARE STANDARD REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR ROLE — THINGS LIKE GETTING PROJECTS DONE, COMMUNICATING IDEAS, SOLVING PROBLEMS, AND STRATEGIC THINKING.

Guess what? Nothing on this explains why you’re uniquely valuable. Imagine you didn’t do any of them. What would happen? My guess is that your boss would ask you to leave for an “opportunity that might fit you better.”

Sorry. I know. This truth bomb always shocks people.

STEP 2: WRITE DOWN ALL THE THINGS YOU DO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE AROUND YOU. 

Yes, it’s brag time. No one else is looking. Seriously.

Are you still feeling a bit uncomfortable? It’s okay. I am, too. So we’ll be uncomfortable together and take this step anyway.

STEP 3: NOW ADD ANY SPECIAL SKILLS YOU ACQUIRED OUTSIDE THE OFFICE WALLS. DO YOU SPEAK A SECOND LANGUAGE OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT? ARE YOU GOOD AT A PARTICULAR SPORT? DO YOU DO ANY VOLUNTEER WORK (YES, PARENTING COUNTS)? ARE YOU HANDY WITH A PAINTBRUSH?

You’re not a robot. You’re a multidimensional human. Let’s make sure that’s not lost in this unique value picture.

STEP 4: NOW, LOOK AT THIS NEW LIST. (I HOPE IT’S A LONG ONE.)

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Take each item—including the outside the office ones—and write down how these skills color the way you think about solving problems and accelerate ideas in your role.

Need examples?

  • There isn’t a musician on the planet who isn’t quick at seeing patterns and when ideas can make harmony.

  • I’ve yet to meet a parent who isn’t filled with empathy and consideration for the “customer.”

  • Some brilliant humans apply the scientific method to a creative venture.

STEP 5: PICK ONE OF THE ITEMS ON THE LIST. AND GO AND TELL SOMEONE YOU WORK WITH, PREFERABLY YOUR BOSS, ABOUT YOUR UNIQUE VALUE.

No way, I’m especially not telling my boss, you say.

Yes, way. You can do this. Here, I’ll even give you a script to prove you can:

“Hey, (fill in the person’s name). Can you help me with something? I did this exercise the other day about where I add value to the team. As part of the exercise, I’m supposed to tell someone. Can it be you?”

Now pause for them to say yes (because they’re going to say yes.) Now say:

“By bringing (fill in your unique skill here) to projects, it means I’m able to bring (insert value) to the organization.”

Now ask the question.

 “Do you see this value in the work I do? Do you agree this is valuable to our team?”

Okay. It’s time to stop talking.

I have NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that this question will open up a discussion about the value you uniquely bring to the table in your role. Both parties will put language around your unique value.

Pro Tip: if the person starts talking about any of the “That’s just your job” skills like “You’re great at getting things done.” Say, “Thanks, but that’s what I get paid to do. I want to discuss the value of my thinking, not just my doing.”

You need to be able to talk about your value. More importantly, the people you work with need to understand it.

Let’s go back to the confused and worried faces I see on stage. Some of the transformations happen with teams and companies. In these situations, the volunteer’s manager is in the room. If that’s the case, I turn to the manager after landing on this person’s unique value language and ask, “Did you know?”

100% of the time, the answer has been no.

I know the challenge I just gave you is probably making you nervous. But that statistic is proof that you need to embrace this challenge. Today.

You are awesome. And people need to know why.