Do you know what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room? Do you know what they think of your performance, your presence, your purpose and your personality? Rather than being unconcerned about what others think, it’s important to ensure that their perception of you aligns with how you want to be perceived. Because the answers to these questions are part of your personal brand.
Glenn Llopis describes personal brand as “the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader.”1 It’s your promise that you will do what you said you will do. It’s your reputation that attracts others to you, or pushes them away. Establishing and managing your brand is an ongoing process fueled by continual behavioral inputs that remind others of who you are, what you do, and how you can support them. Leaders must develop their brand so that it validates their work and provides a platform to connect with others and accomplish their goals.
Managing your personal brand shouldn’t be confused with self-promotion. It isn’t calling attention to yourself simply for personal gain. Instead, it is clarifying your contribution and value to others and maximizing your potential so that you can work as complementary parts of a larger body to advance an agenda. It’s about the team. You are part of a whole.
Brands connect people to things that they value, and are a means for identifying people with whom you want to work or build relationships with. Developing and managing your brand is an investment in your future.
It’s All About Leadership
As a leader, here are five areas to focus on in developing and managing your personal brand.
Leadership Presence – How do you “show up” in the room? Like it or not, looks do matter, but it’s not about mere physical attractiveness. It’s about conveying the inner confidence and capability to accomplish the challenges in front of you. That means your composure, your demeanor, your body language should all align. Your attire must connect with your audience, whether it’s a hoodie or a suit. You must be aware of the positional and personal power you hold, and be willing to use it appropriately in your role. Your communication style must be clear and compelling to influence those around you.
Leadership Purpose – This forms the “why” of your leadership. It requires thoughtful introspection to understand the impact you want to make on your environment, and to identify the areas of your work that fuel your passion. It results in focusing less on work that is assigned to you, and instead engaging in work that aligns with your passion. There’s a saying that the two most important days in your life are the day you’re born, and the day you find out why. So it’s important to recognize the specific things that you are uniquely gifted and purposed to accomplish.
Leadership Strengths – This includes the capabilities and critical success factors necessary to operate in your purpose. Review feedback from performance reviews, mentors, leaders, peers and coaches to clarify your strengths. Sometimes others see us quite differently than we see ourselves. Focus your career pursuits on roles that enable you to display these strengths, because that’s where you’ll be most successful. And while you need to understand your weaknesses, the goal is simply to make sure they don’t derail your career. Learn from them, but don’t try to force yourself into a position that requires you to be very capable in those areas.
Leadership Learning – This sets the stage for you to work effectively in a changing environment. Are you open to learning and receptive to feedback? Can you adapt to a variety of leadership styles based on the situation? Learning derives from on-the-job experiences, coaching, training, reading, and openness to diverse perspectives. Learning agility, or the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to perform successfully under new or first-time conditions is an important factor.
Leadership Personality – Your leadership personality is your unique pattern of feeling, thinking and behaving that defines you. It is a preference that is generally stable throughout your life, and when you understand yourself as a leader, you’re better equipped to manage your style to optimize your team’s productivity in the context of your environment. Assessments such as DiSC or the Myers Briggs Type Inventory can provide a descriptive explanation on your leadership personality and style. And other assessments of emotional intelligence provide helpful feedback on your level of self-awareness that impacts your relationships.
Think for a moment about someone who you know very well. Describe them in the context of their presence, purpose, strengths, learning and personality. These characteristics are likely the things that attract you to this person, and solidify your relationship. You know what to expect when you interact with them, and you depend on them fulfilling their brand promise.
Brands Require Action
So now that you know what a personal brand is, and you know how to grow it, here are the action steps to demonstrate your brand to others.
- Market Yourself– Build a network of colleagues inside and outside your organization. Don’t work with your head down just focusing on your projects or current environment. Keep your head up, always aware of what’s going on internal and external to the organization. Interact with people who are as smart or smarter than you to debate ideas, discuss trends and generate learning. Use social media to communicate your brand, and make sure you know what comes up when you google yourself.
- Learn To Dance– With the fast pace of change these days, you must be flexible to quickly adjust to shifting demands in your environment, shifts in meeting discussions, and the rush-pause of projects. Learn to flow with the ups and downs by making sure you have a toolbox of skill sets, and that you know how to pull out what you need from it in any given situation.
- Be Authentic– Don’t pretend to be someone else or adjust your personality just to fit in with the crowd. The disconnect will show up pretty quickly as you fail to establish valuable rapport with your colleagues. It will also be stressful for you. If you don’t value the same things as your colleagues, and you don’t share similar strengths or interests, maybe you’re in the wrong place. Find an environment that complements your personality and support you in your goals.
- Establish Boundaries– Know what you value, and what behaviors are acceptable for you. Communicate this to others by proactively sharing stories in advance with others on those values that are important to you. In this way, individuals with a different value set will understand that they can’t cross your line.
Finally, your brand must be a good fit in the right environment or target market. It should connect with others in a way that meets their needs and adds value to them. So make sure you know what others are saying when you’re not in the room.