Let’s start with a quick quiz: True or false — “If your work speaks for itself, you shouldn’t have to.”
Okay, you probably already guessed the answer is false. Even when your work is stellar, even if you’re one of the most talented leaders in your company, your skills and successes might go unnoticed.
Some self-promotion might be in order. But not everyone is comfortable with self-promotion. Many capable and talented leaders feel like self-promotion is bragging or sucking up. Self-promotion doesn’t need to be viewed in a negative light though.
Actually, when self-promotional behaviors are done well — matching style with substance — they are usually interpreted as something else: effective communication, managing up, networking, information-sharing, or relationship-building. All very positive and respected skills for a leader.
Self-promotion is important and it is more important today than in years past. Here’s why:
- Talent doesn’t equal recognition. Many high-performing individuals and groups are overlooked.
- In times of layoffs, it’s dangerous to rely on the leadership to make the best decisions about people’s worth to the organization. The most visible but not necessarily valuable employees are often the ones who make the cut.
- Long gone are the days when “just doing my job” translated to success.
- The boss can’t know everything.
- Face-time is limited. People are busy, organizations are dispersed, and technology is changing how we work.
- Everyone is doing more with less. People need to be in roles where they are most efficient and effective.
- Success requires many relationships. Keeping only your boss informed only goes so far. Many people need to know who you are and what you have to offer.
- Lean organizations need to employ and keep the best performers — not the best show-offs.
If you’re convinced that now is a good time to do some self-promotion, here are 5 points you need to keep in mind:
- Self-promotion doesn‘t have to be painful or over-the-top. Ignore the braggarts and suck-ups. People who promote well understand the importance of publicizing the work done by themselves and their groups, and there are many ways to do it: speak up in meetings, be clear about successes, improve communication with your boss and peers, volunteer for visible roles. Don’t be obnoxious, but don’t be overlooked, either.
- Effective self-promotion isn’t about being someone you’re not. In fact, your efforts will be more accurate and better received if you are genuine, and even imperfect. Authenticity is an important skill to foster a healthy and collaborative workplace. Without it, credibility is strained and trust is hard to come by. So be real, be yourself.
- This requires that you know and understand yourself, which is our next tip. Get clear on your strengths and why they matter. If you try to self-promote and are off the mark, then you come across as either pathetic or having delusions of grandeur.
- Be careful that you don’t inflate yourself at others’ expense. What might seem like a win at the time will cause damage to your reputation and limit your ability to work well with others. Plus, it’s just not nice.
- Deliver what you promote. Back up your claims with real accomplishments, skills, experience, or knowledge that deserve recognition and acknowledgment. If you tout yourself as detail-oriented, then crunch the numbers, plan the minutiae, and uncover the mistake. Have unmatched people skills? Put them to use resolving conflict, coaching others, and building a great group.
Don’t expect others to notice your work without your efforts. Doing a job and doing it well doesn’t ensure that others will appreciate and value it. Self-promotion is needed in some way to connect the dots between what you do and why it matters.
The decision-makers in your organization won’t always make those connections by themselves. You can and should toot your horn in a way that is authentic, honest, and good for both your career and your organization.