Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Ways to Act More Important Than You Really Are


I have a gut feeling that this post is going to rub a few people the wrong way. Why? Because many, if not all of the items on the upcoming list are grounded in some degree of reality. Readers may point to any one of them and say “Hey wait a minute, I do that, and here’s why…”.

Many of them are come right from well-meaning articles on how to be more confident, smart or assertive. A few I’ve just observed myself. To a degree, following this advice is OK – as long as you don’t overdo it. Attempts do “act” important (or smart, or powerful, or whatever) will backfire and make you look like you have small dog syndrome (sds), especially when you don’t have the substance to back up your annoying little yips.

Improving your self-confidence is a perfectly OK development goals – leaders need to have a high degree of confidence, command skills, and presence. However, as my friend Scott Eblin points out, too much confidence, like any strength overdone, can turn start to look like arrogance or hubris.

So, if you’re more concerned about looking important than actually being important, then here’s 10 tips for you:

1. Never show up to a meeting on time.
Seriously, I’m not making this up. In fact, I just heard about someone that actually makes sure she always shows up at least 20 minutes late to any meeting. That way, people will know you’re important.

I can’t help but imagine how this belief plays out in meetings involving lots of important people. What do they do, all hide around the corner waiting to see who gives in first?

2. Name drop.
I’ve also heard this technique referred to as “citing your sources”. It’s a way to back up your opinions, look smart, and if you’re wrong, you can blame it on your sources.

3. Have the biggest chair in the office.
Corporate pecking orders are established by chair size: there’s the secretary’s chair, manager’s chair, and the big old fat executive’s chair. Just test it to make sure your feet can touch the ground. Complete your important office d├ęcor with a huge desk with little guest chairs facing the window and sun behind you.


4. Pose like a peacock.
There’s actually research to back this one up. Practicing those power poses can actually make men and woman feel more powerful. You know the type - they strut around like peacocks fanning their tails or chimpanzees puffing their chests to assert their hierarchical rank.

5. Have a lot of LinkedIn connections.
Link up with everyone you meet, or better yet, just send out invitations to strangers you’ve never me just to reach that important “500+ connections” badge. Heck, anyone with that many connections must be uber-important. Or a recruiter or salesperson. (-:

I’m waiting for LinkedIn to come up with a “5000+” designation.

6. Keep a lot of very important books or periodicals on your desk.
Any serious executive or executive-wannbe just has to have a copy of the WSJ or HBR under their arms at all times, right? Just be sure to wrinkle a dog-ear a few pages.

7. Talk really loud and don’t worry about listening.
My wife and I were waiting at the bar for our table last weekend and we had a chance to experience this first hand. I could only assume this guy was really important, because we and everyone around us could hear everything he had to say and the poor couple he was talking at never got a word in edgewise. Given we live in New Hampshire, it could have been a presidential candidate. (-:

8. Pretend you enjoy the arts.
Pronounce your fake appreciation of the arts in response to co-workers or friends that bring up last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars” or “The Middle”. To sound really important, you need to say it in a way that makes everyone else look like idiots.

9. Never answer your own phone, emails, or schedule your own appointments.
Yes, I know, there are some positions – like CEO and Governors – that have to have minions to handle this stuff for them. But for the rest of us, come on, if we're all on a conference call together, do we really need to have an assistant contact everyone to schedule a follow-up call? In these days of tech-savvy employees, I just find this to be so old school, but it’s still rampant. It's not that they can't - it's that they won't.

10. Use a lot of letters after your name.
Listing your credentials may be appropriate for certain professions – higher ed, doctors, accountants, or insurance agents – but please, do we really need to tell people we have a B.S., MBA, or every little certification we earned by taking one course and passing a test?

How about you? What are some other annoying ways people try to make themselves look important but when overdone come across as hopelessly arrogant?

8 comments:

Troy said...

I'm kind of happy that the only two problems on this list I have were items 1 & 2. Fortunately, when I am late, (or have to leave early, which is way worse) it's because I am booked in over-lapping meetings. The name dropping is related: "Sorry, I do have to go now, because 'so and so' has a meeting I'm needed in now". Always try to avoid that, or reschedule, but sometimes it was unavoidable. So I would add my input to the one, and have a secondary cover the rest while I was gone.

I have a bit of fear that now people think I was just trying to act important, instead of the reality that my time was in high demand.

tl;dr: your post rubbed a little bit the wrong way.

Dan McCarthy said...

Troy -
Sounds like a pretty humble self-assessment and no signs of overblown self-importance. (-:
So I had to look up what "tl;dr:" meant - really? Oh well, thanks for the feedback.

Mike said...

Interesting blog post and very thought provoking actually. In the end, if your really want to be important, make yourself important to others. Your not really important until you are important to others.

Access Employee Database said...

After all, its still really important for others to find you important. In the work place, you must be indispensable.

Ryan said...

You really do need to believe your important or critical to the succes of your company before you do anything. Then once you have that belief in yourself you go out and work hard to prove the value you add to the success of your company or client.

davidburkus said...

Love this list, but I have to disagree with the biggest chair item. Since the Aeron chair, don't you think that having the best designed, most fashionable chair is the route to pseudo-importance. I hope so, I have a fake Aeron in my office.

Dan McCarthy said...

Mike -
Thanks, well said!

AED -
Very true, thanks.

Ryan -
Good advice, thanks.

I like how all three of you have framed this: believe your yourself and be important to others. Much better than trying to fake it.

David -
Thanks, funny! I think you are well on your way to importance with that chair.

sudan said...

Stop pretending and start acting. You might be able to impress quickly but how is that helping to build your relationship and getting things matters. This post is a must read to corporate america. Good evaluation!