What serves your career better: self-promotion or praising others?
Don’t read on. Stop. Really answer that question first.
While the answer is both, this was not meant as a trick question. Your answer probably says something about what your career needs. If you answered self-promotion because that’s what you do, it may be that you will really benefit from bolstering your colleagues.
If you answered self-promotion because that’s what you aspire to, then you may in fact need more of that.
And of course, vice versa for promoting others.
Doing great work isn’t enough. You need to self-promote to cultivate advocates for you within your organization. But exclusively self-promoting (a common male malady) will create a reputation of self-centeredness and selfishness. Likewise, only talking about others (a common female malady) will gain you a reputation for being nice but not exceptional.
So the real question isn’t the theoretical one I posed above. The real question is the specific one for you. What will better serve your career: self-promotion or praising others?
It comes down to a simple formula: Comfort + Momentum = Sale.
Sales begins with relationship. We want to agree with people we like. We want to be around them. We want to buy what they are selling. We buy what we are comfortable with.
But we are also distracted. We have too much stimulus. Too many things vie for our attention. So we also get lazy out of necessity. And we buy what is in front of us – that which has the momentum at the moment when we are prepared to ink the deal.
So if you are selling or think you might someday, build relationships early and often. Maintain them. Cultivate them. Deepen them. And when a sale is anywhere in sight, even off in the far distance, keep at it. Stay present. Don’t be afraid to push.
After all: Comfort + Momentum = Sale.
We all play the role of teacher sometimes – with actual classrooms or with colleagues, our kids, family members, etc.
Where I see people (myself included) get in trouble is when they get into a mode of teaching. I.e., imparting knowledge, providing the path, viewing the learner as a receptacle for knowledge.
Where I see people creating the greatest good is when they serve their learners. I.e., seeking to understand their journey, their desired destination, their vantage, viewing the learner as the owner of their own education.
When you say, “You should . . .” you imply
- You are smarter than me
- You understand better than I do
- You have better judgement
- You have moral authority
- You have the right to direct me
You may not want to imply any of those things. And I may not hear those things. But I might.
When you say “you should” you risk spurring the other person’s defenses. And there are other phrases you can choose instead.
- I can see value in making this choice . . .
- The risk I see is . . .
So I don’t really want to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. After all, I know no better than you what is best for your situation. But I certainly see value in choosing words other than “you should.”
If we were really smart about conversation, the order of priority in our thoughts would be:
- What can I learn from what is being said?
- What question should I ask when it is my turn to speak?
- What comment should I make next?
Unfortunately we spend most of our time in the least important priority.
Lessons From Retreat Series (1, 2, 3, 4)
It’s not that I’m great, it’s that I was told I was.
I often write about the power and importance of positive feedback. At my author retreat I spent four days with sixty people who share this conviction. And not by design but rather out of habit we all spent a great deal of time telling one another how wonderful they are. Four days of sixty people telling you you’re great does something to you.
It gives you a feeling of greatness.
Greatness makes you believe you can achieve, solve, resolve, persevere, improve, attract, engage, win, entice, intrigue and lead.
It makes you believe you can change yourself and the world. And believing is the first step toward doing.
That’s the feeling of greatness. Who are you giving it to?
Call this my Lessons From Retreat series.
I recently returned from 4 days with 65 authors from my publisher whose mission is “Creating a World that Works for All.” This is a caring, compassionate, activist, spiritual, world-changing, amazing community.
Linda Stout, whose work is getting people from opposite ends of political divides to engage in civil discourse, taught me there are three ways to approach polarized discussions, only one of which works.
- Knowing. We come in with certainty about who the other person is, what they believe, why they are the way they are.
- Wanting. We come in with desire to change the other person, to shift them out of their mistaken views to our superior way of thinking.
- Learning. We come in with curiosity to listen and understand the needs and hopes of the other.
Hopefully it is self evident that the third path is the effective one – and much needed these days.