Bragging rights: celebrating your own achievements

Woman with cone symbolising bragging

“I know words. I have the best words.” Donald J. Trump

Nobody likes a boaster, the kind of person who brags about their connections and drops names at every turn, without giving their claims any kind of substance.

It’s is when people use a tenuous connection to make themselves appear more important. It may be that they drop in a name, followed by a pause to allude to the weight of the relationship; or mention a place, such as an educational institution, exclusive restaurant or holiday destination.

The most ludicrous example I’ve witnessed was when I heard a senior University figure asking a first-year student if they’d ever eaten at a certain award-winning eatery. It was clear that this was his way of establishing his status and making small talk within his own circles. He was at a loss when it came to creating connection with a broader audience.

Why do we downplay what we’ve accomplished?

In a desire not to be seen to be bragging, we often go too far the other way and downplay our achievements. Being too humble isn’t helpful when you’re looking to secure business – clients need to understand the value that they will get from working with you. They’re not mind-readers!

In some cases, it’s because we’ve been brought up not to be boastful. Family members, especially parents, feel the need to take us down a peg or too. This is their way of protecting us, but can be damaging for our progression. It’s difficult to ignore feedback from the ones we love, but we are seeking validation from the wrong quarter if we do listen too closely.

My dad is 84. Even when I worked as a Director at a quango in what he knew to be a well-paid job, he simply didn’t ‘get’ what I did for a living. Nor did switched-on relatives. Some thought I worked for the Council, others that I worked in translation. So why would I expect them to understand what I do as a self-employed professional?!

However, I did exactly that! Dad often tells me (out of love and a wish to keep me ‘safe’) that I should get a nice comfortable job in the Council. He didn’t even listen when my big sister from the States. When she last came to visit, she told him that I was the last person he should be worried about, I’m on my path. You’d think he’d have given up by now…

Our old friend, Imposter Syndrome….

I’ve written many times about imposter syndrome. It’s where people ‘internalise their accomplishments and [have] a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Love, it’s not bragging if it’s true!

You should become comfortable with owning your achievements, if they’re relevant to the dialogue and especially if they form part of your skills portfolio. Endorsements, reviews and testimonials are powerful tools that should support your personal branding mix. Please don’t be afraid to ask for them. If you’ve done a good job, clients are usually more than happy to be asked.

Celebrate your achievements – without bragging

You can’t change what people say to you, but you can change the way you hear process their advice. Hear then out, then take a step back and decide whether accepting it would be useful to you.

When you start believing in yourself, you radiate confidence and this is when work starts to flows better.

A great way of putting together your pitch, LinkedIn/CV profile or website introduction is to ask at least one person who has worked with you to review it. A supportive friend who understands your work can help you to distil your offer.

Try it out. Here’s an example of how I work with organisations. You can use the text in bold to help you with your own structure.

I work with clients who want to develop an engaged and productive workforce by improving their employment practices, because I love to see people thrive. I’m best at creating connections and ‘translating’ complex information into meaningful briefings.

I’ve helped clients such as first direct and ITV, as well as smaller organisations, create employee engagement and diversity initiatives. I’ve spoken internationally on this subject, learning and sharing good employment practice from diverse organisations.

To find out more about my work, check out the rest of my website or connect with me on LinkedIn.



The ‘Trim Tab’ Effect: What every campaigner should know

Being an Effective Campaigner requires Quality, Team Spirit, Fairness and HonestyToday, I’d love to illustrate how integrity, fairness, professionalism and the right connections can create huge momentum behind social action, where force and protest may not.

I’ve experienced the ‘trim tab’ effect in my own work as a campaigner. Sure, I had advantages, such as prior experience of working with policy-makers and MPs; and being trained in public speaking and media handling. I now teach these skills. Approach is everything though…


Here’s just one of the anonymous testimonials I’ve been blessed to receive:

“I don’t know Anj Handa personally, but she’s the person who got me write to Theresa May regarding the deportation… I’m almost 5o and have never written in protest before, but someone has to say “This is wrong.”

In a digital age with ease of access to information and protest, where so many causes, so many voices and so much noise dilutes rather than engages, I have found Anj Handa to be a model of information who cares about people and their rights.

Anj Handa is a modern day campaigner. She speaks from a place of positivity and the belief that she can create change. She has been a consistent force for changing attitudes…”

What the heck are ‘Trim Tabs?!’

I was delighted to have found (via the Facebook page of a campaigner that I respect) a great analogy by WWI US Naval Officer, Bucky Fuller.

In a 1972 Playboy interview (honestly!), Fuller talked about momentum and the “trim tab.” These are small surfaces that are connected to the trailing edge of a larger control surface on a boat or plane. Trim Tabs counteract hydro- or aerodynamic forces and gently stabilise the craft without the operator needing to constantly apply a controlling force. Just as an effective campaigner will do.

Want to be a great campaigner? Take note!

In Fuller’s interview, he was asked the following question: “How we can live with a sense of the individual’s impotence to affect events, to improve or even influence our own welfare, let alone that of society.”

Many of us would love to know the answer to that. Fuller’s reply was perfect:

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab.

Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”

The truth is that you get the low pressure to do things, rather than getting on the other side and trying to push the bow of the ship around. And you build that low pressure by getting rid of a little nonsense, getting rid of things that don’t work and aren’t true until you start to get that trim-tab motion. It works every time. That’s the grand strategy you’re going for.

So I’m positive that what you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count. To be a real trim tab, you’ve got to start with yourself, and soon you’ll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you’re dealing with really great integrity.”

A bit about me:

I led a high-profile, award-winning campaign in 2014 to help an asylum seeker and her two young girls on the grounds of the risk of Female Genital Mutilation. You can read the press releases here.

The public’s support was incredible. Almost 128,000 people signed my petition, enough to get the national and international media interested in the story. We got MPs to speak out and even found a legal team to submit applications on her behalf.

Many letters were sent to Theresa May, including one supported by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and around 20 directors, playwrights and performers. Thousands tweeted Virgin Airlines boss Richard Branson and stopped the first scheduled deportation.

If we all do a little, it can lead to major change. If I can become a recognised campaigner and bring about a movement like this, me – with no training, funding or existing experience – so can you! With a growing number of amazing women, I’m creating a movement called Inspiring Women Changemakers. Join us!

Nervous about public speaking? Here’s how to hook your audience

Microphone for public speaking

Although I’m experienced at public speaking, it’s always useful to learn new skills, so I was delighted to be invited to meet Chris Davison, public speaking coach and author of Hear and Now book.  In his book, he states:

“Nearly three quarters of American women – and over a half of British women – believe that at work, their voices aren’t treated as seriously as a man’s…Clearly a problem of such magnitude needs solving urgently. It’s damaging to those involved and damaging to the greater economy…

…learn how to tackle the dictatorial and overbearing communication style that’s become the corporate norm. You’ll be able to create a happier and more productive working environment, based on greater collaboration, arising from better relationships and a greater level of trust.”

Chris’ findings support the messages I have been giving to the business clients that I work with; namely, that more women should be represented in the boardroom; that they should be encouraged to use their authentic voice, and that their different approaches can make for highly effective stakeholder engagement.  I’m pleased to be able to help beta test his new forum.

A large part of my work focuses on coaching people on how to step up and speak up in their workplace and in their personal lives.  As an experienced Board member who happens to be female, of an ethnic minority background and often younger than my Board counterparts, I’ve had to find my voice and make sure that I use it, especially when it concerns a matter of importance to me.

Too many women, even at a senior level, still don’t, for reasons including imposter syndrome, being talked over/down to, or even a worry about being perceived as too ‘soft’ by favouring case examples (stories) over hard data.

I know that many people, men and women alike, are anxious about public speaking.  Despite my experience, there are still times when I too feel nerves.  Sometimes larger audiences of several hundred feel less daunting than a group of 30 or so peers.

Tips on public speaking

Managing anxiety: There’s a lot going on within our brains and our bodies, especially when we’re feeling nervous.  Have you ever wondered why your knees knock, your voice falters or your hands shake when you’re presenting?

It’s due to Mother Nature.  Adrenaline is flooding your body, putting it into fight or flight mode.  Focusing on your breath can help to bring nerves back under control, and don’t focus too much on your trembling either, as this will only make it worse.

Public Speaking -slidesLoosen your grip on slides: Many presenters are lazy, using their slides to do the talking for them.  Your slides should illustrate the story that you are telling.  They are not to be confused with handouts! Here’s a poor example from a conference I attended earlier this year.  I was seated at the back and couldn’t read these even if I’d wanted to.

Avoid information overload: Don’t bombard your audience with facts.  You should ideally cover three to five key points.  Ten top tips is fine for blogs, but not for talks.

Brain training: Did you know that when you are surprised, your brain is trained to pay attention?  This also activates pleasure responses.  Knowing this, you can figure out ways to enrapture your audience.  Storytelling is an effective way of connecting with your audience if you make it relevant to the subject.

Show your vulnerability:  Your audience will warm to you when you are authentic.  I recently shared a story about how far one of my coaching clients had come and I was trembling as I told her story.  I explained to the audience that I was feeling emotional because I was so proud of her.  When I was done, I got a number of hugs – and a potential new client.

A creative approach to teaching

Over summer, I’ll be delivering public speaking training to eight groups of year 11 and 12 students through the National Citizen Service programme.  I will have 70 students in each and will definitely be kept on my toes, so my programme has to be playful as well as informative.

I’m currently developing creative resources to keep their attention.  Training adults is a breeze in comparison, but I’ve very excited about the materials that I’m developing.  Props, artwork and sound will be brought into play to help them learn how to develop their talks.

P.S. I will be holding Open Workshops in Leeds over summer for small groups of adults too.

Book here

About Me

I’ve spoken at conferences in the UK and abroad.  My coolest gig was speaking at the Actiris anniversary conference in Brussels – the king of Belgium was in the audience! Most recently, I spoke to 200 A’ Level students about Female Genital Mutilation at the exclusive Rodean School in Brighton and at a series of ‘Women in Broadband’ events in Leeds.