It seems like every time I turn around there is someone speaking or writing on how to develop, maintain, and foster a ‘personal brand’ in your career and life. In fact, I give talks on this myself – which have been enthusiastically received over the past few years. Yet, as with so many things, these discussions can become complicated, complex, and just “one more thing” to remember when we are already inundated 24/7 with voice mails, emails, deadlines, and other pressures at work and at home. So, how can we keep this concept simple and still relevant? A few initial thoughts on this concept, as we start this new month:
- First, we need to simply determine what we want our brand to be. What do you want folks to think, say, or do when they meet you, interact with you, and when they speak of you to others? This is important. You may want to talk to other folks to get their insights. And most importantly: be authentic.
- Secondly, write down the descriptors and actions which represent that brand. Everything from the length and type of emails you send, to how you dress, to how you “show up,” etc. These are the metrics and measures by which you will then be judged against that brand. This is what you will stand for and how you will be referred. Write it down; say it when describing yourself to others to cement it further – then do what is on that list consistently. Consistency is the key.
- Finally, hold yourself accountable to that brand. In fact, after you have written the descriptors of how you want to be referred – then “assume that position.” For example, if you are faced with a challenging situation and are not sure how to respond, think of how someone like who you have just described would behave – then do it. This is a great way to continually grow into your brand, and build your skills and poise over time.
For those of you who mentioned to me, “I don’t know if I even have a brand,” the answer is yes you do, even if you don’t realize it. And, if you are unhappy with your brand, the answer to the question “Can I change it?” is again YES. It just takes conscientious self-awareness, authentic definition of how you wish to be thought of, and discipline and attention to making that consistently real to others.
So, now that we have the ‘big picture’ – what are the next steps? Here are 4 key steps to think about and embrace:
- Write (and tell) your own story….in the absence of a story, one will be written.
- Consistency is the single most important aspect. We HAVE to be consistent in how we ‘show up’…..otherwise it is episodic behavior, which does not build a brand.
- Congruence and Alignment – we have to be TRUE to ourselves. Putting on a mask to create a ‘brand’ we want – is not sustainable. Thus, the reason why the first step above is so key. We have to determine what WE want to be…..and be AUTHENTIC to that.
- Executive Presence…. that means something
- Who are you and how are you perceived? How do you ‘come off’?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What is your value proposition? Why should anyone care? Tie it to the stakeholders success factors….make YOUR role and value RELEVANT to them personally.
- How to ‘stand out’?
- ‘Current’ is the new currency – from every perspective (Dress, knowledge of current trends, geopolitical matters, technology adoption, etc.)
- Preparation – to a new level (current, relevant, and when unexpected)
- Knowledge – be the subject matter expert in something
- Doing your job – is just average – (I will be focusing MORE on how to stand out in our next article in June…..these are just the highlights!)
- Confidence – backbone is everything
- Embracing fear is a good thing. Fear can be the ultimate catalyst: move forward and take risks. Swing for the fences.
- Stretch – never let them see you overwhelmed.
A few parting thoughts: Simon Cowell and his hefty team of judges had a reality show a few years ago, entitled The X Factor. This got me thinking: what is the ‘X’ factor in business? That is what we are talking about……and we all know there is one – it is that “thing” that successful executives and leaders have that simply sets them apart from the pack. It is more than just solid performance, track records, and business acumen. It is that extra “something.” It goes without saying that doing your job well – in fact, better than most – is the ticket to entry for a successful career. It also is a known reality that who you know and how you connect is also a critical success factor. So what else factors into making up that “x-tra” something that defines you as a leader? A few final thoughts:
- Substance – to me, this is all about sharing what you know, what you have experienced, and what you believe in a powerful, credible,and GENEROUS way. This is not to be mistaken with arrogance, smugness, or even overzealous bearing. This is having an inner backbone and a sense of being centered in thought, word and deed. By having this gravitas, one communicates in a way that conveys confidence and instills confidence in others.
- Style – this is all about carrying yourself in a way that is undeniably YOU. And frankly, this is also about how you actually look. Of course, I am a believer of not judging a book by its cover; however, in the business arena, how we “show up” can absolutely define how others perceive us. Our dress, our hair, and even our accessories are all a part of our personal brand and how we are remembered. In addition, how we talk, our mannerisms, our etiquette, our voice, our accent, and our approach – all can be differentiators. Think about Lady Gaga – it is not enough that she can sing and play the piano; it is how she “shows up” which is totally and 100% unique to her. That is what has made her a star. Period. The same is true in business. I am not suggesting pink hair or naked body suits; however, I am suggesting creating a style which is uniquely your own and represents who you are. Then, be consistent with it. This is how you “show up” and people will remember you.
- Authenticity – I have written a lot about authenticity over the years, as I believe this is one of the single most powerful leadership attributes. Being real – down to your core – is the ultimate factor in the ‘x’ factor. You can read more about what I mean by this in these two prior articles: Authenticity 2.0 and Authenticity: the New Buzz Word or the Real Deal?
Finally, being in alignment – in mind, body and spirit – is the absolute, non-negotiable, and required fuel for the ‘X’ factor. It is not enough to have substance, talent, smarts, style and even authenticity if all of YOU is not in alignment through your mind, body and spirit. Simply put: aligned individuals and leaders are unflappable, and motivated by a deeply felt purpose. As Oprah Winfrey offers: “The secret is alignment: when you know for sure that you’re on course, and doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, fulfilling your soul’s intention…when your life is on a course with its purpose, you are your most powerful.” Regardless of whether you like or hate Oprah……who can argue that Oprah Winfrey does not embody the ‘X’ factor and have an undeniable brand?
THAT is how and why we need to build our own personal brand…..if we don’t, a brand will be written and attached to us and we may not like it!!