'I'll take that as a compliment': how to progress in 2014
A view from Sue Unerman

'I'll take that as a compliment': how to progress in 2014

I watched TV for Britain on Christmas day. I spent hours sofa-bound, doing my best to improve my average hours viewed to somewhere near the UK average.

I didn't manage to watch all the UK's biggest shows, however. I missed Strictly Come Dancing (don't understand it at all) and the Queen. Non-consolidated ratings showed Mrs Brown's Boys won the night battle and I skipped that, but I did sample Sky's Little Crackers (what a treat), Dr Who (incomprehensible), Call The Midwife (maudlin) and Downton Abbey (a return to superb form).

But my preferences don't reflect the nation's favourites, as Mrs B achieved 35 per cent-plus share with 9.4 million viewers and Dr Who built its audience year on year to 8.3 million (I hope they all followed the plot, because I didn't), while Downton achieved a respectable seventh place on the night with seven million. Downton won the night in my household, and it is advice from the inimitable dowager countess that forms the basis of this blog.

The following exchange between the dowager countess and her friend and critic Isobel Crawley sums up her attitude to life. The DC is bemoaning that she must travel to London on the train without her maid. IC offers to assist her with her bags instead, as she never has a maid with her when she travels.

DC: "Can't you even offer help without sounding like a trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground?"

IC: "And must you always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?"

DC: "The queen of Naples was a stalwart figure. I take it as a compliment."

IC: "You take everything as a compliment."

DC: "I advise you to do the same – it saves many an awkward moment."

The beauty of this advice is not just that it will save you an awkward moment but that, in reality, it is sometimes the things that you are criticised for that can be the most distinctive things about you.

As Dave Trott opined in his advice to his younger self, one of the biggest barriers to your career advancement and your next promotion is that no-one has heard of you, no-one thinks about you. It's crucial to stand out. Will conformist behaviour – sticking with the norm – get you noticed?

Look over your last 360-degree review. Whatever position you hold, there's sometimes feedback that can knock your confidence. Well, don't let it. Take them as compliments instead of criticisms. How would that change what you do? Would that get you noticed?

For example, are you too assertive? Try turning it up, not down, but adding a portion of charm and goodwill. Have you been told that you don't challenge enough? Perhaps your point of difference is to be the man or woman in the room who makes everyone feel comfortable and happy.

Too much ego? Although researchers from the universities of Harvard, Michigan and Duke suggest that this is bad for teamwork, not everyone agrees. The current issue of Fast Company says you can't have too much ego, both for your own good and the good of those around you. A sizeable ego helps with risk-taking, bouncing back and, of course, dealing with criticism in the first place. 

You still have to be great at what you do, but you also have to be noticed and, to do that, take the dowager countess' advice in 2014. Take it as a compliment.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom