People often view self-promotion negatively, for good reason. As one leader shared with me “self-promotion feels loud, ‘all about me’ and maybe even unnecessary.” Everyone would agree this type of self-promotion is both annoying and unproductive. 

So much of our discomfort with getting noticed at work comes from how we have defined self-promotion. If you think of it as owning your story – and you can include others in that story – self promotion can actually be a more positive experience for everyone. Your story is, in part, made up of how you lead people, the hard-earned success you have and the relationships you build. If you don’t manage and share this story, no one else will - and don’t you want to own your story?

Think of it, instead, as being the owner of your story. If you don’t manage and share this story, no one else will.

There are many reasons people don’t own (and share) their story. Many successful people suffer from the imposter syndrome - an inability to internalize accomplishments out of fear of being “exposed” - leaving their work undervalued and underrepresented. It is estimated that 70% of people face this challenge. In my coaching of managers and leaders, one solution to this issue has been finding authentic and natural ways to take ownership and self promote.

Here are 4 ways to break the cycle and take control of your story authentically and elegantly.

  1. Know when to use “I” and when to use “we”. Some people automatically go to the place of “we”. If you were accountable for and owned a process, deliverable, relationship or perhaps discovered a really great insight in your research - don’t be afraid to say “I” and own it. This can always be balanced by emphasizing what the team, collectively, accomplished, but don’t shy away from owning your piece. I find this especially common when coaching individuals through career transition where authentically self advocating is especially important in order to stand out. I always want to know, “but what did you do?”
  2. Emphasize the work and results. Focusing on what you and your colleagues did, and the results will draw attention to the work itself rather than you, but you’ll still get the added benefit of having it positively reflect on you. If you show energy and pride in your work, you are self-promoting in the most authentic and impactful way.
  3. Bring others into the conversation. Showcase what you're up to. You can do this by hosting a brainstorm, asking someone’s opinion or bringing colleagues (managers or others leaders) and leaders into the conversation. You’re able to share your work, get great ideas and feedback, and get noticed for what you're doing, authentically.
  4. Talk someone else up. As Nelson Mandela said “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front”. True leadership is the ability to let others take the reins and then them give due credit. If part of your brand and story includes strong leadership and developing of others, you can illustrate this well by spotlighting a colleague. As with emphasizing the work (see #2), it will reflect positively on you.

It's no accident that all of these natural ways of self-promoting include other people. That is the secret to doing it authentically and tactfully. 

It’s no accident that all of these natural ways of self-promoting include other people.


The ability to self-promote - literally, to advocate for oneself - is just a part of how the professional world works, at least until something like Holacracy becomes more understood and adopted. Until then, advocating for yourself will always be an important part of how you own, manage and share your story in the workplace. Remembering that it's not an independent pursuit will make you more successful and likable. 

Where can you own your story more? What would it look like to manage your brand better while authentically self-promoting?

To learn more about how I help you be more fulfilled and successful in your work and career, schedule a consultation with me.