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Authors: Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It

Tags: #BUS012000, #Interpersonal Relations, #Psychology, #Business & Economics, #General

Peggy Klaus

The incidents described in this book are accurate, but the names and other identifying details have been changed.

Copyright © 2003 by Klaus & Associates, Inc.

All rights reserved.

Warner Business Books

Warner Books

Time Warner Book Group

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

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The Warner Business Books logo is a trademark of Warner Books.

First eBook Edition: May 2004

ISBN: 978-0-446-55031-4




CHAPTER 1: Bragging Myths We Live and Die By

CHAPTER 2: What’s So Good About You?

CHAPTER 3: The Business of Bragging In and Out of the Office

CHAPTER 4: Techno-Brag: Tooting in the 21st Century

CHAPTER 5: Job Interviews: Bragging Your Way In the Door

CHAPTER 6: Performance Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

CHAPTER 7: When You Don’t Have a “Real Job

CHAPTER 8: When You’re Out on Your Own

CHAPTER 9: Brag Nags

CHAPTER 10: A Confession and Twelve Tooting Tips

Praise For

“Go ahead, make some noise! Brag master Peggy Klaus can show you how.”

Working Mother

“Klaus’s approach is radical.”

—Lynn Scherr, ABC TV’s 20/20

“Always on target.…Klaus provides solid advice.”

San Jose Mercury News

“Like a talk-show host, this petite powerhouse of a woman … is a show-don’t-tell kind of teacher.”

Christian Science Monitor

“Klaus blows away the myths on bragging. …She gives practical, hands-on advice. …An indispensable book.”

Texas Lawyer

“Simple-to-understand, real-life concepts.…Her advice is golden; it provides the polished style and refined substance needed to climb the corporate ladder. Of all the books I have ever read, I found Klaus’s to have the most grace and the most overall, long-term impact.”

— Myshelf.Com



“Klaus’s persuasive writing style and authentic tone combined with real-life anecdotes show off the transformative effect successful bragging can have on a career.“

Publishers Weekly.

“Klaus shows you how to self-promote by sharing your passion and vision with grace and dignity, an all too rare occurrence in today’s corporate environment. Packed with smart advice, BRAG! is a refreshing read for anyone at any level.”

—Dr. John C. Maxwell, founder, The INJOY Group, and bestselling author of
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Thinking for a Change

“Klaus briskly removes bragging from the list of deadly sins and sets it squarely among the corporate virtues. With pithy anecdotes and insight, she invites us to communicate our identity through well-timed, intelligent, and artful bragging. If this book jolts you into the recognition that bragging is necessary for survival, it is worth the price.”

—Harry Kavros, associate dean, Columbia Law School, and former COO, Global Economics and Fixed Income Research, Credit Suisse First Boston

“BRAG! will change your life.…It did mine and so many others in our organization of successful female professionals.”

—Dana Hall, managing director, CFA Lighthouse Partners, LLC, founder and president of the board, 100 Women in Hedge-Funds, Inc.

“When it comes to developing personal publicity, BRAG! is a must-read.”

Detroit News

“Peggy Klaus, I think you’ve convinced a lot of us.”

—Ann Curry, NBC TV’s
The Today Show

For my clients, who have shared with me their best selves.

And for Robin, who had so much to brag about.


If someone had told me a year ago that I would write a book, I would have said “Oh, right, and I’m also going to dance with the San Francisco Ballet.” At forty-eight and 5 feet 2 inches, it just wasn’t going to happen. But then, life took an odd turn. Almost before I knew it, I had become “the Brag Lady,” and people began asking for a book. So I wrote a proposal, found an agent who liked it, who found a publisher who also liked it, and suddenly, I was writing

From the very beginning, putting this book together was a team effort. I could not have done it without the help of two women, the very embodiment of the phrase “grace under pressure.” To Jane Rohman, collaborator and publicist extraordinaire, my gratitude for your laserlike focus, constant creativity, and for “getting my voice” from the day we met. To Molly Hamaker, my collaborator in all things creative and corporate, my love and appreciation for letting me into your life at a time when you didn’t have room for one more thing. Without you, neither this book nor my business would have taken shape. Thank you for being my guide, my friend, and my “sister.”

To my parents, thank you for giving me the passion and the skills to make my way in the world. To my sisters and best friends, Kathy, Mary, and Nancy, thank you for being with me from the very beginning of my journey. Steve, Jeffrey, and Nelson you have added so much to our family, not the least of which has been six beautiful nieces and nephews. Ross, Zachary, Zoe, Max, Jacob, and Ani, thanks for being who you are and for sharing yourselves with me. I am so proud to be your aunt.

A big hug to my wonderful friends: the Elkins Park gang, the LA Winers, the Philly pals, and my West Coast “family.” Amy Eisman, you are an angel for insisting that
! was the book I had to write. And Mary Mattson, thank you for knowing that Jane and I had to work together. You were brilliant, as always. Lois Barth, Melinda Leudtke, Robin Dorman, Bobbie Roth, Bob Riskin, Lynne Broadwell, Jonathan Bricklin, Trena Cleland, Tal Harrari, and my favorite father-in-law, Gerry Keyworth; you made me think I could do it. Thanks.

To Jamie Raab, an old friend long before she became my publisher, and her sweet husband, Dennis Dalrymple, thank you for feeding me home-cooked meals along with loads of encouragement to “write the damn book already.” Had it not been for your nudging, I would never have even thought about writing a book.

To my agent, Jim Levine, thank you for having the courage to work with another Klaus. Not only are you brave, you’ve got great literary taste as well. To Rick Wolff, my very patient and reassuring editor, thank you for taking on this first-time author riddled with literary insecurities. I would love to work with you again, but can I please have a four-month deadline next time? And to my fabulous copyeditor, Anne Montague, thank you for your sharp eye and great suggestions.

I owe Joann Lublin a huge thank-you, because it was her article about me in the
Wall Street Journal
that spurred all this interest in bragging.

To everyone at K & A: Eric Strelneck, Tasha Bigelow, Janie Rose, Jennifer Rodrigue, a big hug and many thanks for putting up with me.

A special thanks to my many clients and friends whose stories have been included in this book. (Don’t worry: I’ve changed names and details to protect your privacy.)

And finally, to my sweet husband, Randy Keyworth; you believed in me long before I learned to believe in myself. For that and so much more, my deepest love, now and always.


Lessons from My Father and Hollywood

I will never forget when I was nine years old and won a tennis match against an older neighborhood boy, a star on the junior-high tennis team. I whooped and hollered, telling anyone who crossed my path about my big victory—until one day, my father overheard me. He pulled me aside and said, “Peggy, don’t toot your own horn; if you do a good job people will notice you.” It was to become a caution I heard often from my father while growing up in Philadelphia, enjoying a fair amount of success from my various pursuits. He had a tremendous influence on me, especially given that he was raising four girls on his own after our mother died. I took my father’s message to heart and never tooted my own horn, not even casting a vote for myself for senior class president.

Then I grew up and went to Hollywood, the bragging capital of the world. All hell broke loose.

As I interviewed for jobs in the entertainment business, I quickly discovered I wasn’t very good at talking about my accomplishments or myself. In fact, I had become my father’s words. I was exceedingly self-deprecating, lacking the confidence and bravado others seemed to display so effortlessly. When put in the spotlight of explaining myself, I became racked with self-doubt. It was painful. In Hollywood, not only did you have to
you were the best, you had to be able to
it. And I
it when people did.

One rejection followed another. My fear of becoming a bag lady was quickly replaced by the challenge of becoming the brag lady. How could I talk about myself in a way that felt natural and comfortable? How could I do so without coming off as arrogant, self-aggrandizing, or sounding like “one of them”?

We all have experienced “one of them”—those people who are walking billboards, flagrant self-promoters: a boss, a co-worker, your next-door neighbor, that guy at the cocktail party, or the kid on the playground so many of us remember. The ones who always elbow their way in, reminding you they are harder working, more accomplished, more deserving, and downright better than you. And then to really add insult to injury, they get ahead.


In retrospect, the way I overcame my reticence during interviews was quite simple: I started putting together what I now call a bragologue. It began by my writing down on paper a litany of everything I had accomplished, both personally and professionally. I then took the best parts of my life and wove them together, creating the Peggy Klaus Story. I practiced delivering my tale with the same enthusiasm I used when telling friends about a recent adventure. I knew instinctively that if I couldn’t get excited about my accomplishments, no one else would. There were just too many stories around competing for airtime.

When I started selling myself using this subtle and storylike approach, the results were immediate and amazing. Suddenly there was a real difference in the way my audience—agents, managers, casting directors, network executives, even my competition—responded. They sat up with ears perked. They not only wanted to listen to me, they asked for more. As my confidence grew, I found too that I didn’t have to abandon my personality. I could toss in a little dry humor and even a few self-deprecating remarks. I didn’t have to stop being myself. I could be warm
strong. I could have style
I could brag and get away with it!

My newfound ability to promote myself, without becoming “one of them,” helped me land a job. And although I went on to enjoy many more successes as a producer and director, that first Hollywood lesson was never lost: Success meant selling myself in a way that was not only persuasive, but uniquely me. During my stint in the entertainment industry, I found that many who failed to master the craft of self-promotion also failed to get the best parts. Called over after a phenomenal audition, the vast majority of actors turned into shrinking violets. When asked to tell me more about themselves, they found it hard to quickly articulate their achievements of the last year or so, much less from the span of a career. They didn’t know how to weave their accomplishments into a convincing bragologue.


In 1993, I left the entertainment world to start my own communication consulting business based in Berkeley, California. When I began coaching professionals and executives in presentation skills, I was shocked to find that they, too, were also weak at self-promotion. People on all rungs of the corporate ladder—from entry level to middle management, from heads of divisions to heads of companies, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street—had a hard time talking about themselves. Most found it easier to display passion about their organizations, their products and services, their teams, their hobbies and families, or other individuals. In short, they were more likely to talk with enthusiasm about
anything but themselves
. When forced to take the spotlight, they tended to robotically recap their résumés like some PowerPoint presentation, relying on techniques learned from previous workshops or from well-meaning professors in “Presentation 101” college classes: “Just the facts, ma’am” or “Never put your hands in your pockets.” Instead of being able to tell a client that they were responsible for doubling sales from $4 million to $8 million in six months, my clients spoke of their accomplishments in the vaguest of terms. Their fear of coming off as braggarts denied them the opportunity to relay the very information that would impress a prospective client.

Over the years, as my communication consulting expanded from platform skills to management and career issues, I started to cover self-promotion in my workshops and in one-on-one coaching sessions. My clients responded to me as if I were a dentist who had accidentally struck a raw nerve while drilling.
was clearly seen as a four-letter word. And by extension, the whole notion of self-promotion was excruciatingly difficult for professionals to embrace, even if they knew it was critical for their own survival. I made it my business to change their minds. Promoting ourselves is not something we are taught to do. Even today, we still tell children “Don’t talk about yourself; people won’t like you.” So ingrained are the myths about self-promotion, so repelled are we by obnoxious braggers, many people simply avoid talking about themselves. Two extremes. No happy medium. The problem (and the solution!) lies in our interpersonal communication skills. Not only are we uncertain about
to say about ourselves, we don’t know
to say it with grace and impact in a way that’s inviting to others.

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