Standing Out Above the Crowd: How to Toot Your Own Horn

Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo, self-improvement author and speaker.

When I was young and first heard the term “human resources,” it took me a while to figure out what it meant. I wasn’t used to thinking of people and their experiences, educations, and abilities as “resources,” in the same sense that energy, materials, and supplies are resources. But looking at the equation from a hard-nosed business perspective, that’s exactly what people are. In fact, personnel represent the most important part of any business equation, though we sometimes lose sight of this fact.

As with all resources, smart businesses want to maximize the return on the investment they’ve made in you; this is why you’re occasionally sent to training courses, quality management seminars, conferences, and the like. Now, it may seem crass to apply the term “Return on Investment” to a human being, but like it or not, your human talent and experience are resources. Unlike all other resources, however, you can make a conscious effort to improve your ROI, to make yourself more valuable to the company by refining your best qualities until you stand out above the crowd.

The standard ROI for most workers runs about three times your annual salary: in other words, that’s how much you should earn your organization. That’s easy if you handle big corporate accounts; you just have to land one to more than meet your ROI. But if you work in HR or manage a manufacturing division, it may not prove as easy to demonstrate your ROI. You can, however, measure your worth by the extent to which you improve the organization, or by how much the good hires you’ve made or the members of your team have accomplished. Once you’ve weighed all that, you can decide how to improve your PROI, and what to focus on.

Consider these five things while doing so:

1. Pay for it yourself if necessary. If your organization won’t pay for your PROI “upgrades,” do it yourself. Invest your own money and time to show your willingness to improve. Even if it’s not taken seriously where you work now, it will benefit you in the future.

2. Focus on what you’re best at. This may seem counter-intuitive, since most self-improvement gurus advise shoring up your weaknesses rather than honing your strengths. But beyond achieving competence in those things you’re poor at, there’s not much point in improving weaknesses. You’re better served improving from excellent to superb on a skill than going from abysmal to mediocre.

3. Emphasize what makes you special and distinguishes you from your peers. What can you do that your teammates can’t? It’s nice to have some overlap, but managers typically hire for diversity. Master all aspects of your specialty that you can, especially if it’s a narrow one. Obtain proficiencies and certifications in the subjects that no one else has covered but you’re good at, and make sure your leadership knows you’ve done so.

Side note: Figuring this out can help you find out exactly what your unique role is in your organization, based on how your strengths match your responsibilities. I have a great video on the subject here – Video: What is Your Personal ROI?

4. Consider how can you best move your organization forward. As you hone your PROI, don’t just focus on yourself. Think about how your actions will benefit your organization. If your PROI upgrade helps only you, you’re not using your time, energy, and money in the most productive way. Fill in the blanks that will help you excel at your current job first.

5. Recalculate your PROI occasionally. Everything changes over time, including your job description. Even if you have an excellent PROI rating, it may fade if you don’t maintain it. Regularly re-examine your PROI, being both realistic and creative while you’re assessing yourself. Document how you’ve earned the organization money; and even better, how it would be worse off without you. It makes the most sense to perform this exercise just before your yearly performance evaluation, so you can kill two birds with one stone.

Putting Yourself on the Line

Many of us learn as kids not to toot our own horns, but in the business world, that’s a practice we have to unlearn. You needn’t aggrandize yourself at every turn, but you do need to know your own worth and how valuable you are to your organization—and how to prove both at a moment’s notice. Always be aware of your PROI as a “human resource,” and never just rest on your laurels (← Click to tweet). You don’t have to always be doing something to improve your PROI, but regular PROI-honing is vital for anyone who’s going places.

© 2017 Laura Stack.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

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