When leading a new team or teaching a new group of students, I would ask team members or students to tell me something unique about themselves. My reason for doing so was often two-fold. First, it really helped me learn about the employees' and students' names. Second, I was able to gain insight into who they were as people and what they felt was important. As time went on, I would ask the same team members and the same students to tell me something they had accomplished, tell me about their special skills, and tell me about what made them believe they could succeed.
In my unofficial polling and assessment, I found that these employees and students had something in common. They found it hard to talk about what made them successful as individuals. They were more than eager and able to talk and "brag" about the accomplishments of their families, their friends, their neighbors, their classmates, and their coworkers. However, they were not able to tell me what specifically it was about them that was going to make them succeed.
More often than not, I would get the response of "I am just..." or "I only have done..." or "I don't really..." The reason these phrases are significant is that they are all self-effacing and diminishing phrases. "Just," "only," and "don't really," are all lessening words and phrases. These words and phrases tell the listener that the speaker is somehow less than, undeserving, or inferior to others. I felt like as a leader, a professor, and a mentor that it was my job to show these individuals how to actually brag about themselves.
As a society, we look down on bragging. I even heard a speaker say that people who are "bragging" about themselves are "toxic" or "complainers." Interesting idea, but I disagree. I do not find people who brag about themselves to be toxic or complainers. Rather, they tend to be happier individuals because they recognize their value and self-worth. We live in a world where the negative narrative is so prominent that we should be teaching others to counteract it through the practice of self-promotion.
Self-promotion, or bragging, is important because it is one of the ways people get ahead. How else will the boss know you did a good job if you aren't willing to tell him/her? You should always have several bullet points of how awesome you are ready and be ready to hand that bullet points off to someone else. Employees and students should even have an "I'm Awesome and Here's Why" file. In it should be recommendations, emails showing positive feedback, articles, accomplished goals, certificates, presentations...anything that is worth bragging about to others.
Since so many of the team members and students alike had a difficult time coming up with things that were great about themselves, I developed a tool to help them. It was called "My Brag Book." Although it is a simple tool, it allows the individual to start realizing what it is that makes them special. When shared with a mentor, coach, or teacher, it helps the mentor be able to tap into areas that will grow employees or students into leadership roles.