Self-praise holds the key to success

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 June, 1994, 12:00am

THIS is the story of a yellow rubber band and a bottle of perfume. It is the story of two behavioural scientists from Dallas who, after years of research, found that these two objects held the key to success and recognition.

Put thus, the tale of George Dudley and Shannon Goodson sounds an unusual one, implausible even.

Yet in the bizarre world of United States' motivational gurus this smiling duo is at the normal end of the spectrum, and has earned a reputation for down-to-earth theories and practical advice.

The duo's starting point is uncontroversial enough. It is that the people who are the best in their jobs do not necessarily get promoted faster or, to put it in their words, ''the cream doesn't rise to the top''.

''If you want to make money, you not only have to be good at what you do, you need to make sure that others know how good you are,'' Mr Dudley said.

Most people were brought up to think it was immodest, too forward or downright pushy to promote themselves.

But the world has changed and he argued that self-promotion was the most important thing not taught in school.

Madonna has learned it, and so has Ross Perot. They shine less for their innate abilities than for their outstanding flair at self-promotion.

Mercifully, Mr Dudley and Ms Goodson stop short of promising that we can all be Madonnas or Perots. But they do claim that everyone can overcome their reticence and be a little more successful.

To help them, Mr Dudley and Ms Goodson have written a book, Earning What You're Worth, which promises to get over what they describe as ''call reluctance''.

Practising what they preach, the pair were in Britain recently promoting themselves and their book to a group of bemused British managers.

They introduced the managers to 12 different sorts of call reluctance, the results of 23 years of painstaking research.

Everyone had an average of two of these traits, they said. I had barely opened my mouth before Mr Dudley suggested that my poor self-promotion might be due to ''role rejection'', a curious trait found in people who feel their jobs are a disappointment to someone close to them.

Other types include ''yielders'', who are so preoccupied with never offending anyone that they can barely bring themselves to act at all.

Then there are people who suffer from ''hyper-professional'' behaviour. This type is too busy dangling the Rolex to pick up the telephone.

Companies as well as people can suffer from these disorders. Mr Dudley diagnoses IBM as suffering from a classic case of hyper-professional call reluctance. ''If you need someone in our sector you will come to us, because of who we are'', is how he characterises the IBM malaise.

His own problem, which he shares with Ms Goodson, is that he over-prepares.

''We are people who cope with discomfort by insisting on more information. We feel it would be a cataclysm if someone asked a question and we didn't know the answer,'' he said.

For each of the 12 types the remedy is different. One that works well for one type may be counter-productive for another. Over-preparers do not respond to words and arguments.

''We need stronger medicine. This behaviour is habit-based, and we need something that would interrupt the habit in sequence,'' he said.

This is where the rubber band and the perfume come in. On Mr Dudley's wrist, he wears a big rubber band. ''Every time these feelings hold me hostage, I snapped them with the rubber band. It is the only thing that gets through to me,'' Mr Dudley said.

To help overcome his fear of standing up in front of big audiences, he sprays some Windsong perfume under his nose. This, he says, reminds him of a happy time in his adolescence, and this smell makes him feel good during the presentation and leaves no room for fear.