How to Increase Your Self-Promotion Intelligence, or SPQ

A colleague crows at you in a self-congratulatory tone, listing the mountains of achievement she’s climbed and minimizing yours as molehills. She uses “I” to punctuate the start of each sentence. She namedrops to further raise her status—and lower yours. Another colleague is the brains of the organization, but he gets drowned out when he pipes up at meetings. So his less gifted colleagues get the recognition and the compensation that he deserves.
You’ve heard of IQ and you may have heard of EQ, or emotional intelligence, too. Now for a new term: SPQ, or self-promotion intelligence. The term is definitely pop and meant to be fun, but your SPQ is also serious business when it comes to your career (even though the acronym also stands for Sweet Potato Queens!).

I’d like to share some tips for you to adjust the dial on your own self-promotion intelligence. No need for a formalized test at this point. However, if you’d like to know where you are on the scale between being a total blowhard and completely invisible, you can take a free bragging quiz I included in a prior story. Right now we’ll take a deeper dive to consider all things SPQ so you can take steps right away to get you where you want to go in your career.

Stating the facts versus puffing them up
Unlike that braggart who spouts off her self-aggrandizing blather, you with the higher SPQ just state the facts. You say what you’ve got that your employers, clients, and other stakeholders need. You target all your self-promotional statements and actions to their interests. You enlighten your boss, colleagues, and clients, share your knowledge, and generously make introductions for them. You seek and receive recognition in the process—so you mutually gain. Now we’re talking high SPQ.

Introverts and the spotlight
If you’re an introvert, you may dwell more behind the scenes and avoid the glare of the spotlight. However, what impact does that have on your career? I’m not suggesting that you become an extrovert, which is a silly and undesirable pursuit. Instead, I am suggesting that you embrace your personality and attain the visibility you need to achieve your career goals. You can do that using your quiet gifts.

“We” versus “I” 
“Think about when to use the we versus the I word,” shared an IT client of mine at a major investment bank when I interviewed her for my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®. “It doesn’t come naturally to me because I like to give credit to my group,” said the client, an introvert we’ll call Amy Jacobs. “However,” she continued, “when an idea is truly mine, instead of saying we came up with the idea, I’m learning to say that I did.” In fact, that awareness paid off—Jacobs recently got a highly coveted promotion. She did it by building strong relationships throughout her organization, positioning herself as the “go-to” person in her areas of expertise, and inspiring the team she manages to achieve more than anyone thought was possible. That’s three points for her SPQ. How can you get the credit you deserve?

Prompting questions about your wins
Studies show that we do better when we talk about our successes in response to our conversation partners’ questions than if we come out, unprompted, about how we scored the big one. Even though we’re conveying the same information in both scenarios, we’re likely to be received more positively when we avoid outright bragging. So should you make leading statements to get your conversation partners to ask you questions that prompt you to promote yourself? Beware of the manipulation aspect. However, err on the side of sharing positive things about yourself rather than putting yourself or others down.

SPQ and you
What do you do if you want to get ahead, but without jabbing anyone with your pointy elbows? And how do you do that as an introvert, or someone who is happier in the world of deep thought than frequent chatter? Take a look at what people with low and high SPQ do.

Low SPQ can entail going too far, like calling yourself a thought leader or highly sought after anything—even in your written communications. I’m sure that’s not you. However, it can also entail not going far enough, like passing up opportunities to get introduced to important contacts or mumbling your name when you introduce yourself. Here are more examples:

  1. Focusing so much on how others judge you that you lose sight of important cues in networking situations, at job interviews, and during critical negotiations.
  2. Allowing yourself to get drowned out at meetings.
  3. Not asking your boss for a well deserved raise or a promotion.
  4. Not including a signature line in your e-mails or your name on your reports, proposals, and other important documents.
  5. Not having and carrying business cards.
  6. Sending mass e-mails with all of the recipients’ e-mail addresses visible and without an unsubscribe option.
  7. Speaking in a monotone—especially when it comes to talking about your offerings on a job interview or in a sales situation.
  8. Answering the phone in a blah voice.
  9. Dragging yourself to a networking event even when your social energy is already tapped out.
  10. Not following up on strong leads.

High SPQ
High SPQ means being authentic and consistently demonstrating your value to your stakeholders by doing the following:

  1. Creating a consistent personal brand by emphasizing something special about your offerings that is important to your stakeholders.
  2. Using your abilities to listen attentively and ask good questions (which sometimes you can prepare in advance, introverts!) to your advantage.
  3. Gaining visibility by writing about your areas of expertise.
  4. Asking people whose trust you’ve earned to write testimonials and recommendations about your work; be generous about doing the same for your colleagues.
  5. Introducing people, even if you’ve just met, and telling them something they may have in common (e.g., “You’re both rooting for the same soccer team.”). You’ll be seen as a connector, which increases your networking clout.
  6. Giving presentations and facilitating meetings (an efficient use of an introverts’ social energy).
  7. Showing your face at social events rather than trying to stay all night and talk to everyone.
  8. Co-hosting events is a great way for an introvert to position herself as point person without having to reach out to a lot of people (they come to you!).
  9. Preparing a question or two to ask at the Q&A at the end of a presentation. You’ll learn more and gain visibility too.
  10. Having a simple opening line at the ready for networking events. Something as ridiculously simple as “Hello, my name is Nancy” along with good eye contact (cultural considerations notwithstanding), a smile, and an extended hand is usually all you need.

It’s fun to brainstorm these examples—quietly and in writing if you’re an introvert. Feel free to add to these lists. More importantly, pick a few items from the high SPQ list and put them into action. Right away.

Tal-Or, N, “Bragging in the Right Context: Impressions Formed of Self-promoters Who Create a Context for Their Boasts,” Social Influence, 5 (1), 2010, pp. 23-39.

Lynn Carol Miller, Linda Lee Cooke, Jennifer Tsang, Faith Morgan, “Should I Brag? Nature and Impact of Positive and Boastful Disclosures for Women and Men,” Human Communication Research, International Communication Association, 1992, vol. 18, issue 3, pp. 364-399.

Copyright © 2010 Nancy Ancowitz 

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