Why Women Avoid Drawing Attention to Their Workplace Accomplishments

Marty Lundstrom, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for MP2 Energy LLC, a Shell Energy North America company and 4word: Houston leader, talks about the moment she realized she (like many women in the workplace) shied away from putting a spotlight on her accomplishments, and shares two practices any workplace can implement to encourage self-confidence in their employees.

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Tell our readers a little bit about yourself!

My life verse is Psalm 27:14 – “I am confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, wait on the Lord, have courage and wait on the Lord.” I am a Jesus lover, wife, daughter, sister, and friend and am so blessed by my friends and family who also love Jesus and love me. My sisters in Christ at 4word have been such an encouragement over the years. I am honored to have been a part of this organization since its inception in Houston in 2014. I am currently the Senior Vice President and Interim General Counsel of a Shell Energy North America subsidiary. I have been an attorney for almost 20 years and I married the love of my life, also an attorney, in 2015. When not at work or with my family and friends, I love traveling and long-distance running. 

Most (if not all) women will battle with a lack of self-confidence at some point in their lives. Which instance of “lack of self-confidence” in your life sticks out the most to you?   

Two battles stand out to me, especially in the workplace. The first is a lack of self-confidence around my personal accomplishments. I have always thought of putting the ‘we’ ahead of the ‘I’ in the workplace—to my detriment at times. I think women often do not acknowledge the hard work they have done for fear of standing out too much. I am not sure where I got this thought, but it’s deep somewhere in me that I should not stand out…and this is a lie from the Devil. This is not to be haughty or proud but I believe we should have great accomplishments because if we work for the Lord, and not for man, God says He will ‘establish the work of our hands.’ I love the New Living translation, “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” Psalm 90:17.   

To illustrate this lack of self-confidence around my personal accomplishments, I read aloud one of my personal annual reviews to my husband as I was spot-checking my submission. He was actually the first person to point out that I was not giving myself credit for the work that I was doing but that I made it all seem like a group effort. He then read to me his own annual review and there was a stark difference that shocked me. I don’t know if this is a woman/man thing or just a lack of self-confidence personal to me but without pride, my husband laid out all he had done that year. I needed to be more bold in claiming what I had done and own it—the good and the bad.  

The second battle based on my lack of self confidence is around ‘boldly asking’ in the workplace. I often just wished people would promote me, or hoped they liked my work well enough to get me to the next level. But I never made a proactive plan to ask for what I needed or wanted in the workplace. I failed to ask for the things I needed such as a flexible work schedule, so I burned out. I failed to ask for the promotion and the raise I felt was deserved based on my work and market compensation, so I stayed status quo. I failed to own the plan for my career and relied on hopes and dreams to get me there. As someone who is now a boss of others, I can tell you this ‘hope and dream’ plan I had was not a plan. I cannot read the minds of people and what they may need or want in the workplace, and I am sure the same was true of my bosses when I kept mum on these topics. Do excellent work, make yourself indispensable, and then ask for what you need and want in your career with confidence, knowing you have done what it takes to deserve it.  

As we discuss redefining inner strength this month, it’s very apparent there is a strong tie between loving yourself and being internally strong. What is one piece of advice you follow (and would share) which helps you focus on self-love during difficult times?  

I learned this mantra from a volleyball coach in high school:

“What is the only play that matters?” 

“The next play.”  

This mindset has served me well in life. I need to learn from mistakes but not dwell in them. I need to keep my eye on the next thing God has for me and do that with excellence—’as working for the Lord and not for men.’ I have made a lot of mistakes in my career (reference my self-confidence battles above!) but this mantra has always helped keep my eye on the prize. It allows me to get better, be more confident, and move onto the ‘next play’ in my life. This mindset is Biblical – Isaiah 43:18 -19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

Our God is never done with us and He is always working all things together for our good. 

For anyone in leadership: what elements or practices need to be instilled in a work environment to encourage self-love and self-confidence?   

Vulnerability—I think vulnerability in a leader is a great quality because it makes you relatable. You are not ashamed to not know an answer or pretend you always have it figured out. Vulnerability makes you someone with whom others feel confident sharing their concerns. In turn, you have your pulse on the needs of the organization you lead. You can lead an army, but they may starve along the way if you don’t get to hear what is really ailing them. Vulnerability has been a great tool for being accessible in the workplace and allowing space for others to feel confident enough to talk to you about their needs.  Vulnerability allows you the opportunity to encourage co-workers in response and coach them to self-love and self-confidence.

Feedback—I think feedback is important and telling people how you are evaluating their work constantly. I don’t believe once-a-year reviews are that useful; that is too long of a time gap to get results. Encourage behavior you like frequently; I have found that continues to foster confidence in the work people are doing and, consequently, in themselves. I love this quote by Robert Allen: ‘There is no failure. Only feedback.’ When you approach feedback with this mindset, it encourages greater self-confidence and self-love in your workers. 

Any final thoughts you’d like to leave readers with? 

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. God made you uniquely with your gifts and talents for a reason—shine His light by using those gifts well. 

Marty Estelle Lundstrom is an experienced professional with major law firm and large public and private in-house counsel experience. She currently serves as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for MP2 Energy LLC, a Shell Energy North America company providing power from renewable sources and other energy solutions to large commercial, industrial and residential clients throughout the United States. She is also responsible for the regulatory, insurance and data privacy/security functions for the company. Ms. Lundstrom started her career at the Haynes & Boone law firm in business and environmental groups and has had roles with increasing responsibility at Hess Corporation (both upstream and downstream), Charming Charlie and Spark Energy. She is currently or has been a board member/director with several non-profit companies and institutions, including 4word: Houston, Night Court (an annual fundraising performance benefitting a number of Houston charities), the University of St. Thomas Alumni Board and Westminster United Methodist Church. Ms. Lundstrom holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas, a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and a M.B.A. from the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.