“I don’t want to appear arrogant.”

“My work speaks for itself.”

“I don’t want to toot my own horn.”

These comments represent how the majority of women leaders feel about discussing their accomplishments, sharing their achievements or communicating the results of their efforts to their managers, teams or even family members. As a result, most key stakeholders around women have very little idea about what they have actually produced. When leadership does not have a full picture, women are not fairly represented in talent reviews and calibrations. 

Another  negative consequence is that women do not own their greatness: by not speaking up, women withhold from others (and themselves) the pride and celebration they rightfully deserve. It is critical for women to take responsibility for others knowing what they have accomplished because it not only represents an accurate picture of the woman leader, it also inspires others around her.


We all know the type: she rants about her accomplishments, everyone thinks she is arrogant and no one wants to engage with or include her. It is ingrained in our society for women to withhold talking about themselves, though they can rave about others and it is considered being a generous peer, parent or friend. 

The definition of brag is to say something in a boastful manner. Boastful means showing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions or abilities. By removing excessive, to brag means to have pride and satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions or abilities and to share it responsibly with others. Speaking boastfully is completely different from communicating unpretentiously. How we share determines if we appear vain or modest. The sweet spot is to disclose with humility. 

When we allow ourselves to feel pride and satisfaction,
confidence (having trust in ourselves) has the space to emerge. 

In BOLD cohorts, we start each session with The Humble Brag, and everyone has an opportunity to share, no matter how big or small. Examples include: I got promoted; I lost seven pounds; I allowed myself to be sick without working; I went to Disneyland with my family and didn’t take any work calls; I nailed a big presentation; etc. None of these sound arrogant. Instead, these comments opened up the space for people to reflect – and own – what they have done. This surprised many when they took stock of how much they had actually accomplished. Participants became role models to and inspired each other as a result of their sharing which, in turn, motivated them to continue to create incredible results.

BOLD leaders allow themselves to be BOLD,
feel remarkable and share generously.


A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 57% of people prefer constructive feedback to positive praise or recognition. We are wired to look for bad news. Notice how women typically respond to receiving acknowledgment: I got lucky; I was in the right place at the right time; I have a great team; if I can do it, anyone can; it was no big deal; I just threw it together; etc. 

When other people take the time and effort to recognize us, don’t unconsciously throw it away  in a careless manner or one where you shrink yourself. In a virtual meeting in front of fifty people, I “set the table” by telling one woman I was going to acknowledge her, and she immediately withered. She lowered in her chair, tilted her head down to reduce eye contact, crossed her arms and looked like she stopped breathing, which she later admitted she had. Before I ever spoke the words, her body language screamed, No! I don’t want to hear it!

Here are three steps to being an excellent receiver:

  • Breathe – Deeply: Always start here. Pause and center yourself.
  • Say – Thank You: Short and simple. Resist the desire to deflect your discomfort with minimizing comments. 
  • Think – It’s All True: Acknowledgment triggers Vicious Voices. Prioritize your Guiding Voice in your Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. By thinking It’s All True, you train yourself (with humor) to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable and receiving anyway. 


Seek ways to acknowledge people around you from peers, direct reports, and other key stakeholders to family members, the waiter in a restaurant and anyone else whom you appreciate. Notice what happens to how you feel when you acknowledge others.

  • Recognize frequently: When you recognize people around you, you will inspire, motivate and help others build confidence. Most people are stingy. They provide criticism or say nothing. Make it a habit to be generous, especially with people you care about the most.
  • Share specifically: Saying “good job” is too general. Describe WHAT and WHY: What they did (actions, behaviors, results) and why it matters (the impact and how it made you feel). Thank them. If you are genuine and present, they will feel it.
  • Celebrate regularly: Most people and teams do not celebrate enough, especially lately. It may be harder in a virtual environment, yet it is more important now than ever before. Rituals create meaning and belonging. Celebration, no matter how small, builds cohesion, connection and community by seeing each other and being seen. One great example – a client in the food business sent their new pitas, dips and sauces to all team members for a virtual town hall. The reaction was tremendous; people cherished the appreciation that created belonging, connection and fun. 

Ask Yourself:

  • How much do I communicate my accomplishments? What gets in my way? What would I need to shift in my mindset to share humble brags?
  • How do I react when I receive acknowledgment? What would it take for me to accept acknowledgment openly?
  • Where can I encourage celebration at work and at home?

      Please reach out and my team if you’d like to connect about how to apply these ideas, to help members on your team navigate these conversations, or to discuss the biggest current challenges you are facing today.

      Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health.

      Remember to find resources to inspire you here.

      Yours in practice,


      If you are interested in exploring how to unlock the potential of yourself, your team or the women in your organization, contact us for a complimentary discovery conversation.