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The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

When you consider the fears that are holding your teams back, there’s one in particular that is particularly prominent within Australian organisations.

Able to be traced back to 1864, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is the leveling derision of any Australian that assumes that he or she is better than any other Australian. The issue: it’s more often twisted into a corrosive derision of any stand out individual success.

This results in two critical and all too common fears within our workplaces:

  • The fear of standing too tall and being ‘cut down’, and
  • The fear of being left behind, and so, engaging in cutting others down.

The result: stifled innovation, low work engagement, diminished productivity. This infectious culture is a difficult mountain to surmount for any leader.

So this week I’d like to give you another tool for your project toolbox:

‘Blow Your Own Horn’ sessions.

A Blow Your Own Horn (BYOH) session is a regular (I recommend weekly) opportunity for your teams to meet together and safely discuss the achievements they are most proud of that week.

Anyone working on a project already engages in an impersonal alternative to this when participating in lesson learned reviews – but these usually end up too focused on ‘what went wrong’, rather than ‘what went right’. The rules for a BYOH session are simple:

  1. Only one person speaks at a time.
  2. Everyone must share at least one thing they are proud of that week. It doesn’t have to be work related.
  3. They should speak boldly and be free to boast. Storytelling and hyperbole are acceptable.
  4. These are not feedback sessions, successes are celebrated not refuted.

Depending on the size of the team these will take no more than 30mins a week. There will be an initial awkwardness over the first few meetings as people adjust to the new self-promotional norm. This is where you, as a leader, must lead by example. Be candid and bold with what you share.

BYOH sessions attack the tall poppy syndrome within your teams by providing social permission to grow

Use this tool as often as you need to create the cultural shift from individual to collaborative, and watch your productivity, engagement and innovation grow.

Your Action Plan:

Schedule and run a BYOH session.

Remember:

  1. Book 30 minutes to start with, you may end up needing far less.
  2. Only one person speaks at a time.
  3. Everyone must share at least one thing they are proud of that week. It doesn’t have to be work related.
  4. They should speak boldly and be free to boast. Storytelling and hyperbole are acceptable.
  5. These are not feedback sessions, successes are celebrated not refuted.
  6. Be candid and bold with what you share.

The benefits go beyond tackling tall poppy. These sessions help your team learn how to be self-promotional – a crucial skill in today’s highly competitive workplace.

Need help? Contact us. 

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Brendon Baker

Brendon is a leading expert in strategic framing and inside-out change. He has led and guided over $11 Billion in transformative projects and programs, from transformations to teddy bears. He is the author of the best-seller Valuable Change, and niche top seller Creating High Value PMOs. Brendon now spends his time helping leaders cut through the noise to focus on what matters; working with them to create new realities.

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