Even very successful people may have trouble with self-promotion. They can market their company, product or service but themselves? Quelle horror! Their attempts can be just as awkward and ineffective as a new college graduate, though more painful to watch because you’d think they know better. Think again.

Here is a short list of what can help and one to be avoided since it will merely get you branded as desperate or arrogant.

1.    Give up being an expert.

Whether you are an expert in finance, technology, risk management or anything else–do not spend your energy establishing your technical credentials. Be matter of fact about your background then move on.

2.    Describe what value you add, not how you add it.

Talk about what outcomes and results you have contributed to. Results are impressive – methodology isn’t.  Further avoid traps such as identifying yourself as a “devils advocate” or a “good read of people.” These are hollow and no matter how sincere you are, adopting a rigid role will eventually irritate your colleagues.

3.    Craft a bio that contains stunning outcomes.  

Even very smart people struggle with writing a compelling, one page biography. Get help if you need it but don’t spend hours editing your own. Do not hire someone to help you because they are a good writer. A bio is a marketing tool. The help you need is from someone who writes well and who can clearly describe your incredible value.

 4.    Become a student of governance in formal and informal ways.

Director colleges are everywhere these days. Some are good, some aren’t.  Find one with a reasonable reputation and go. Then, if you are not already on a not-for-profit board, get on one so that you can exercise your knowledge and influencing skills with your colleagues.

5.    Don’t listen to unsolicited feedback.

Most of us have friends, colleagues and seatmates on airplanes that will give us an opinion on virtually anything – often unsolicited. Avoid listening to unsolicited feedback – it’s usually given for the benefit of the sender. Do not ask people who are not successful themselves for advice about how to succeed in achieving this goal – or any other for that matter.

6.    Build relationships. 

Boards are groups of human beings working to achieve a common goal. They form relationships with one another. Who wants to have a member or several who are difficult? As one director said to me – “no turkeys allowed.” Blunt for sure.

Avoid this all too common behavior 

Indiscriminately handing out your biography or expecting people to help you is not networking and does not build relationships. Ask yourself what’s in it for the other person. This is no different than any other business transaction. Treating people like they owe it to you to help is not networking, but it does make you memorable.

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