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OWNER'S MANUAL

The Best Promotion Is Never Self Promotion

Once you've been in the spotlight, it's really hard to step back into the shadows--but you should.

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Promoting yourself is easy. All it takes is a little guts, a little determination, and in extreme cases, very little self-awareness.

We all try, to some degree, to promote ourselves. That's why we're all experts at picking out the self-promoters, shameless or otherwise. And that's why self-promotion is rarely effective.

There's a much better way. Here's a story told by the comedian, actor, and author Albert Brooks in Vanity Fair about an appearance on "The Tonight Show:"

There was always that last two minutes where Johnny was asking people, "Thank you for coming--what do you have coming up?" And during the last commercial break Jack Benny leaned over to Johnny Carson and said, "When we get back, ask me where I'm going to be, will you?"

So they came back. Johnny said, "I want to thank Albert. Jack, where are you going to be performing?"

And Jack Benny said, "Never mind about me--this is the funniest kid I've ever seen."

And it was this profound thing. Like, Oh, that's how you lead your life. Be generous and you can be the best person who ever lived.

You have the same ability to promote with your employees, your customers, your vendors--basically anyone--but it's easy to lose sight of that when your primary focus is on crafting a business image, building a personal brand, or just protecting your professional turf.

Entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to glory hogging since early on a small business is a reflection of its owner and its success often depends on the owner's ability to build a reputation for knowledge and expertise. Once you've stood in the spotlight for a while, it's really hard to step back into the shadows.

But it can be done. And it's easy. A couple examples:

Instead of blogging about your company's success, talk about a customer--but don't make it "salesy."

Instead, share how a customer did something smart. Share how a customer took a different approach to an old problem.

Helping others by promoting their expertise or success is reason enough to do it. But if you need another reason, the fact that you work with such smart and savvy people reflects well on you.

Instead of leading an implementation meeting, turn it over to the employee who spearheaded the project. Don't be tempted to somehow include yourself in the introduction; just say, "Next week we're rolling out our new scheduling system, so Mary will walk you through the process." Turn it over to Mary, sit down, and shut up.

Everyone already knows you're in charge; the fact that your employees get things done reflects well on you.

Today, promote someone else.

Then they win--and so do you.

Last updated: Dec 13, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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