I suck at self-promotion. I think most of us do. We teeter between talking too little about ourselves or coming across as a flaming narcissist. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot--the subtle art of promoting yourself that invites others to take notice.
Here are some tips on how to get to that sweet spot.
Let your results speak for you.
People care about what you've done, not what you're going to do. Who hasn't heard this a bazillion times? There is nothing quite like good old-fashioned results to get people's attention. And I'm not even necessarily talking about a robust bottom line. What problem have you solved? What movement have you started? How have you led others to achieve something great? Accomplishing something of value is how you earn the right to promote yourself.
One of my partners, Ted Alling, is a master at promoting other people. He is eager to tell people how founders in our incubator are crushing it or how Chattanooga is evolving into a vibrant ecosystem where entrepreneurs are flocking.
What he won't tell you is how he inspires scads of people to think bigger than they thought possible, how he is leading a start-up movement with grit and tenacity, or how he is one of the most determined and passionate people you will ever meet.
He doesn't have to.
The more Ted talks about other people and their successes, the more confident and connected to him they feel, and the more they endorse him.
Ted is a living example of Maya Angelou's great quote, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." He rarely talks about his own accomplishments. Yet, he is one of the most respected and catalyzing figures in this city.
People will promote you if you promote them.
Talk about what you believe.
"I believe in creating jobs and empowering people to feel useful at work every day" is very different from "I've started three manufacturing companies, employing 200 people." It's subtle, but do you hear it?
Talking about what you believe gives a nod to your accomplishments without explicitly saying what they are. If people are really interested, they'll ask.
Admit your failures.
Admitting failure is a sign of vulnerability, which is one of the greatest leadership skills there is. Failure humanizes the path to success. And when we feel connected to another person on a human level, we are much more likely to advance their cause.
Logic and intellectualization can only get you so far. Authenticity and a little humility can take you farther.
Decide what you want to be known for.
Hone the skills that differentiate you from the pack, then let others brag on you. If you are too much of a dilettante, people will be confused about who you are and how to promote you. Instead, they'll just say nothing.
Your job is to figure out your super power--what sets you apart--and do it better than anyone else. If you're really good at something, people will flock to you for that skill. It may not be verbalized to you, but it will be evident by the sheer number of people you have knocking on your door.
Put yourself out there.
Then there are times when you just have to brag on yourself a little bit. If you do something really great, talk about it. Just talk about it to the right people and make sure it is, in fact, remarkable. The right people will be energized by your success, not turned off by your obvious self-promotion.