Peggy Klaus never expected to become an executive coach. She started her career in show business, as an actor and a classical singer, then became a coach to actors, comedians and broadcast talent. But many of her twenty-something friends, who were successful business professionals, began turning to her for advice on how to present and promote themselves and their ideas in a more dynamic and compelling way.
“My friends needed help with media appearances, speeches, and interpersonal communication. I thought, ‘Are you kidding? I don’t know what to tell business people.’ But I gave it a shot and realized that my coaching skills were completely transferrable and that I loved working with bright people who were skilled in areas that were new to me, like finance, engineering, utilities, and retail.”
Here are Peggy’s tips to help you toot your own horn.
Create a “brag bag.” Many of us, especially women, often shrug off compliments. Create a folder on your computer and keep a record of positive comments you receive, as well as your accomplishments. This will prevent you from writing off your successes as insignificant. I met up with a friend recently that I hadn’t seen in a long time. She had lost a lot of weight, and I said, “Cheryl, you look fabulous! How much did you lose?” She answered, “Sixty pounds, but I have 15 more to go.” I told her, “You just lost a third-grader! Be proud of that.”
Start with your talents. Understanding how others perceive you is crucial. I always ask new clients to answer an in-depth questionnaire about their personality traits and communication skills. Write down your top five strengths. Then, figure out where you could improve. Ask for feedback from colleagues, friends and family members.
Have a “bragalog.” This is essentially a short list of bullet points describing your strengths, which you can easily call to mind in conversation. It should be pithy and entertaining. For example, I was once at a cocktail party and a client wanted to introduce me to an acquaintance. She asked me what I’d like her to say about me. I had a response ready and pointed out how it was our work together that prepared her to succeed at town hall events and media appearances.
Respond to “fly-by’s.” When someone asks you, “How’s it going?” you probably answer by saying, “Not too bad.” Instead, take the opportunity to bring up a recent accomplishment. This is especially important when you’re talking with managers. Supervisors constantly ask me, “Why do my team members only come to me with bad news? Don’t they know I want to celebrate their successes, too?” The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, respond with a few quick details about a recent win.
Advice for millennials…
Young professionals often need to overcome the stereotypes that they’re entitled, need constant positive reinforcement, and are disinterested in doing grunt work. From the get go, they need to reframe and defy those preconceptions. This includes talking about their work ethic and can-do attitude, and giving examples.
On working with young people…
I have been instrumental in creating a curriculum for students with disabilities, and it has been very exciting. I’ve had the chance to work with teenagers on a variety of skills to help them navigate college and the workplace.
I tend to be hard on myself and a bit of a perfectionist. When I’m feeling that way, my husband reminds me, “Did you take in that compliment from so-and-so?” It’s good to have a supportive person around.