Harvard Business School professor shares four tips to find your ‘edge’


Courtesy Laura Huang(NEW YORK) — Whether it’s getting that promotion, that raise or a new opportunity, success hinges not only on how hard you work and your strengths, but also on how others see you.That’s the focus of Harvard Business School professor Laura Huang’s body of research and her new book, Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage, in which she argues that success hinges on your ability to shape others’ perceptions of you — your strengths and also your flaws.

Huang, who has been studying bias and stereotypes for over a decade, says the key is learning how to flip those negative perceptions to your advantage, which she’s dubbed finding your “edge.””As I was writing, who I was picturing was those people who have gotten knocked down time and time again, people who keep putting in the hard work and thinking that their hard work will speak for itself, but then they realize that it’s about something else,” Huang told ABC News’ Good Morning America.”Edge” is an acronym she created which stands for enrich, delight, guide and effort.”E is for enrich. It’s about how you provide value. D is for delight, showing something that’s surprising or counterintuitive so that you get the opportunity to show how you enrich. G is for guide because you wanna be guiding those perceptions, that once you have that opportunity and E is for effort. Effort and hard work come last,” she explained. “If you know how you enrich, and how you delight, and how you guide, your effort and your hard work actually work harder for you.”Read on for tips from Huang to unlock your own “edge” below:Ask any woman the secret to her success and she will inevitably mention hard work. But she may also be thinking, “And I’ve had to work twice as hard for half the results.”This sentiment is not necessarily limited to women. Many of us sit back quietly, hoping that our hard work and effort will speak for itself — only to be left frustrated and discouraged. Or we try to force ourselves into the mold of someone we think is “successful,” stifling the creativity and charm that make us unique and memorable.I’ve experienced both. I’ve had to constantly find ways to turn adversity into advantage. As a professor at Harvard Business School, I have spent my career studying how perceptions and stereotypes lead to disparities in who gets to be successful — who receives the plum job assignments, who is considered for promotions, who gets funding for startup ventures, and even who gets access to adequate health care. And I’m now determined to bring my research and experience to the table to advocate for an inclusive workplace, inoculate against unconscious bias, and empower people to take control of how others perceive you — so that you can find your edge.I often get asked: What can I do when people underestimate me? Are there strategies and tactics that I can use to level the playing field?Here are a few ways to find and gain your own edge:1. Embrace all your ‘selves’Start by looking inward. We often give the advice, “Be yourself.” If someone is interviewing for a job, we say, “be yourself.” If someone is giving a big presentation, “just relax and be yourself.” Going on a date? Just “be yourself.” But this is not ideal advice. There are so many different versions of yourself. Instead, embrace all the complicated and varied versions of yourself.I often liken self-perception to a diamond—there are so many different angles to a diamond, and so many ways that it will shine based on the lighting, or the context, or that angle. When you know all the different way that your diamond shines, that’s when you’re best equipped to have the brightest, most enriching interactions with others. You have to know how your diamond shines before you can show others your value. Get in touch with your strengths so you know how to tap into each facet of yourself in different situations.2. Don’t feel the need to pitch or sell; instead elicit questions that will allow you to shineIn my research, I’ve found that when we feel that we’re at a disadvantage, we tend to come on most strongly and aggressively, putting ourselves in convincing-mode and trying to present our best arguments.Instead, take stock of the situation and find opportunities to delight and surprise your counterparts. That’s when they’re most likely to engage with us in a richer, more authentic fashion, and will be less likely to feel the need to be confrontational.For example, I often see individuals trying to assert all their credentials up front, and providing a plethora of technical details, in an effort to gain legitimacy and credibility. Instead, direct the conversation to highlight what you want to display. Insinuate that you’re working on something state-of-the-art or that you have a special skill set. Others will ask about it. That’s when you can showcase information about your strengths and talents — to a receptive audience.3. Practice guiding and redirecting impressions and perceptionsI often hear people say that it feels strategic, or even manipulative, to manage impressions. The fact is, however, that people will be perceiving you and making judgments and attributions about you regardless of what you do.They will have a first impression of you regardless of whether you help them with that first impression. It’s actually much less strategic, and much more authentic, when you guide the perceptions of others to who you authentically are.You can do this by thinking back to each facet of your diamond and showing the side of you that will shine the brightest to your counterpart. When people start to engage with you in a way that feels like they have made the wrong judgment about who you are, help guide them to who you actually are. And know that people are not only making attributions about your qualities and traits, but also your trajectory—where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what kind of potential they see in you.Guide them to where you think you’re going and where you want to go.4. Leverage doubts and constraints to your benefitWhen others express doubts in you, that is not the time to cower and hide. Instead, see it as a unique opportunity to flip the perceptions and stereotypes that others have against you, in your favor.Acknowledge the constraints, and then use it to reframe the situation. If someone criticizes something you’ve done in the past, reframe it as a source of inspiration and a failure that you’ve taken forward.Emphasize, for example, how similar failures and adversity made others bitter, but it made you better. Use it to strengthen your narrative, and cultivate your edge.Hard work is critical. But when you’re able to embrace all the ways in which you enrich and provide value, delight and shine in both your eyes and in the eyes of others, and guide people to who you authentically are, that’s when your hard work works harder for you.That’s when you have an edge. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.