Just days ago I had the opportunity to speak at the Grace Hopper's Senior Women's Summit and one of the burning topics that came up was personal branding. I asked for a show of hands of how many had a brand and less than a third of the women out of a hundred raised their hand. Then I asked for those that had a brand if they were intentional about showing up and ensuring key stakeholders were aware of their brand. Only a handful raised their hand.
Having a brand that defines your value and differentiates you from others is key for people knowing your thought leadership and plays a critical role for achieving your career goals and aspirations. One obvious example is the current presidential election campaign. As I watch the presidential debates, I'm hearing a lot of conversations about how each candidate needs to "show up" in order to be seen as "potential presidential material." I think people are actually talking about what we call in business today -- creating or recreating your personal brand.
We all know that companies spend millions of dollars branding themselves because their brand -- and people's perception of that brand -- is their livelihood. They will build their brand, nurture it, protect it, and defend it. And when necessary, the company will re-brand itself to respond to changing times and the need to change perceptions.
In the same way, our personal livelihoods depend on our own brand. The perception that our colleagues, boss, and customers have of us plays a large role in the opportunities and promotions that come our way. If at this stage of your career you've got the brand you want, congratulations! But if you haven't gotten it just right, you need to re-brand yourself. This can be challenging, as long-held beliefs about you can be difficult to change, but -- with some hard work -- you can shake things up, change those unwanted perceptions, and create a new personal brand that will help you reach your goals!
When we coach smart and accomplished women leaders and work with participants in SHAMBAUGH's WILL Program on this topic of branding, we ask them the question: What do you want people to think and say about you and how do you need to show up to achieve that impression? If you don't already have a brand or if you are considering changing it, here are a few tips to get you started:
1) Define and Own Your Values. Values represent what is most meaningful to us. They drive our intrinsic motivations, help shape our priorities, and provide us with focus. One of my top values is service, which for me, has evolved into helping people to realize their fullest potential. This value has also transformed into a core mission for SHAMBAUGH, which is providing the best coaching and right programs to further the development and advancement of business leaders. In my book, It's Not A Glass Ceiling, It's A Sticky Floor, I reinforce the Idea that knowing and living your values not only helps to shape your brand but also provides you with a keen sense of self-empowerment. Our values help shape our authentic self, which is essential when you are creating and living your brand.
2) Identify Your Signature Strengths. It's important to incorporate your unique strengths in your personal brand. These strengths are things that you are really good at and that you love doing. Ideally, they positively differentiate you. It's important to identify ways to leverage these strengths to capitalize on potential opportunities in your organization. This may call for getting out of your comfort zone and working with different people on new projects. You might even consider extending these strengths outside of your company by working on non-profit boards or by leading volunteer projects in your community. We all have signature strengths. The key is taking the time to identify them and then intentionally building them into your brand campaign.
3) Learn More About Your Current Leadership Brand! Get feedback from others. It's helpful to learn how others perceive you to see if their perception is in alignment with what you ideally want your leadership brand to be. Reach out to several people that you respect and you know will give you honest feedback. Consider this feedback as a gift to broaden your personal brand awareness so that you can change how you are showing up if others don't view you as what you want your brand to be.
4) Be Consistent with Your Brand. Your brand shows up in many different kinds of work situations, such as: in meetings, on the phone, in emails, during your business presentations, in one-on-one conversation, and even when you are riding in the elevator with someone! The key is to be intentional about your brand. The more consistent and authentic you are when you show up, the better able people will be to recognize and describe your signature strengths and your unique value.
5) Find Opportunities to Leverage Your Brand. You can't operate in a vacuum and then expect that people will know who you are and recognize your unique qualities. Look for opportunities where you can socialize your brand. Find people who can help you become recognized as your brand. Ask for their assistance in getting to know others in your organization and in having others know more about you as your brand.
Weeks after the presidential debates we won't remember much of the substance of what was said, but we remember the impression the candidates created. Certainly, substance is critical to doing your job well and proving your competence but it is the impression others have of you -- your personal brand -- that often gets you noticed and remembered when it comes time for a promotion. If you watch the debate, ask yourself: What is the impression each candidate is trying to create, how is he doing it and is it working? We can all learn from their successes as well as their mistakes.
Remember, you can create the conversation people have about you! What will those conversations be and when will you begin to create that brand for yourself?