When you think about brands, what springs to mind? It’s likely to be a range of companies and products, or perhaps even your favourite social media influencer (if you have one).
Seth Godin writes about how a company’s brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, when considered together, determine the reason why a person chooses one product or service over another.
Whether you like it or not, in the context of your career, you have a brand.
I often ask clients – ‘Do you know what your leadership/personal brand is?’ On many occasions, the answer is no. Many people find it challenging to articulate their brand. Mostly, it’s because they haven’t thought about it before or because they don’t like the notion of thinking of themselves as a brand. It feels artificial or fake in some way.
Understanding and building your brand isn’t about cultivating something false or inauthentic. It is about knowing how others see you.
Essentially, your brand is what springs to mind when people think about you. It comprises words, feelings and sentiments. It’s created by what you say and do and how you make other people feel. It is also what you are known for.
For me, it looks like this:
For career success, you need to cultivate your brand consciously.
Identify the current state
It starts with being clear on how people currently see ‘you’ and how you see ‘you’. The only way to do this is to ask people and dig deeper into how you see yourself.
Once you have those details look at the responses and reflect, considering:
- Where is the commonality?
- What most surprised you?
- What do you think this is telling you?
This analysis helps you understand the gap between your perception and reality.
Analyse the gap
In reflecting on the answers to those questions, the next step is to understand how that gap impacts you.
Are you known as the person who gets things done? Are you a strategist or a deep thinker? Are you the person who is known for building fantastic teams? Are you the technocrat? Are you seen as difficult but innovative, or are you seen as collaborative but indecisive?
The challenge arises when what you are known for doesn’t align with what you’d like to be known for. For example, if you’d like to be the visionary leader who builds awesome teams, but you’re viewed as a technical expert, there is a significant mismatch.
A mismatch will likely result in your career aspirations being unfulfilled.
If that’s you, then it’s time to get real, dig deep and consciously devote effort to reshaping your brand.
This effort is still about you being you – but the best version of you and not a carbon copy of anyone else. And just like the Pantene shampoo commercial with the iconic Rachel Hunter line – It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Build Credibility, Presence and Impact
Enhancing your brand involves three core elements – building your credibility, elevating your presence and having a healthy impact.
1. Credibility – focuses on building your expertise and knowledge by having a learning approach and growth mindset and living your values. Ask yourself:
- What new insights and knowledge can I glean?
- What more do I need to know to build my expertise?
- Where is my profession heading and how to stay ahead of the curve?
- What do I stand for?
- How do I best guard my integrity and live my values each day?
- Am I sidestepping my values?
2. Presence – focuses on how you show up every day, including your energy, composure, grooming, and demeanour. And yes, it shouldn’t matter what you wear or how you show up, but it does. People judge – we all do. How you turn up each day conveys a message to the people around you – regardless of whether that message is true or not. This means that self-care matters because you can’t be your best when you are tired, stressed or ‘hangry’. Ask yourself:
- How is my energy?
- How am I turning up today? Am I focused or distracted?
- Am I prepared?
- Was I mindful or mindless in my interactions today?
- Am I spending enough time on self-care?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I giving myself time and space to reflect?
3. Impact – focuses on communication, connection and influence. It’s about what you say, when you say it and how you say it. It’s influencing outcomes, knowing your audience, listening and elevating others. Ask yourself:
- Do I know my audience?
- Am I listening – really listening – to what people are saying?
- Am I seeking to understand what other people need and actively supporting my network?
- Do I know when to talk and when to listen? Do I use the art of pausing and silence?
- Do I connect and engage effectively?
Answering these questions is just the start to helping you build a plan to elevate your positioning and brand. The best results arise when you focus on this every day. Small and incremental measures, consistently applied lead to the best outcomes.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.