2010 Career Challenge: E = Edify

By Skip Lineberg

By nature, most of us are either internally driven (ego) or externally conditioned (family, school, athletics, dating, etc.) to focus on making ourselves look good. But how much time do we spend making others look good? Honestly, very few of us spend any time on it at all. However, we should …if we truly desire to reach our ultimate level of success.

Here’s how it goes: When I spotlight (or glorify) myself, one person might benefit. Me. (Maybe.) But when I shine the spotlight (or edify) a colleague, two people benefit: both my colleague and I.

Here’s an illustrative example. Say my co-author Emily Bennington and I are meeting with a potential new client. He’s looking to hire someone to conduct a full-day seminar on professionalism and teamwork for his first-year employees. At the meeting, I could spend time pontificating on how great I am – or – I could shine the spotlight on Emily. I could talk about Emily’s education and her leadership skills, citing examples such as the young professional’s group she led. In a very sincere, genuine manner, I would also talk what a great communicator Emily is, both as a writer and a speaker … making certain to mention her wit, her world travels, and her love of literature. I would likely wrap up by discussing how much time Emily spends recruiting and advising young professionals in her work for a large, national accounting firm…adding in praise for how she manages to achieve so much while balancing her responsibilities as a mother, wife and community leader.

Do you think it’s more credible and convincing for him to hear about Emily’s accomplishments from me, rather than from her? You bet. Plus, the conversation not only makes Emily look good, it’s also gratifying to her ego. This might bolster her confidence, elevate her mood and increase her positive energy—thus improving the chances for a great meeting. Finally, this approach makes me look good too, as someone with Emily’s talent and credentials would not have a slouch as her business partner.

In short, to edify is to uplift. It is the act of shining a spotlight on the talents, skills or qualities of another in a manner that builds faith and confidence in that person. This is a subtle yet very powerful skill and, because it is so rarely practiced, it is huge opportunity to differentiate yourself and win respect from others. Try it!

Note: This is Part 5 in a series called the “2010 Career Challenge: Becoming a Rock Star from A to Z” by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg, co-authors of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job.

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