Discover, develop and maintain your personal "brand"

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If you haven’t thought about yourself as having a “brand,” perhaps you need to. Products have brands, and companies know the power they hold.
 
For example, when you see the following products, what do you associate with the brand?
  • Lexus
  • United Airlines
For United Airlines, it might be “Reliable” or “Unreliable” based upon your personal experience with that airline. For Lexus, it might be “Quality,” or “Expensive.”
 
When your colleagues think of you, what might be associated with your brand? Perhaps one of the following?
  • Smart
  • Thorough
  • Bossy
  • Underutilized
Increasingly, I’m hearing senior executives discuss “brands,” as they relate to reputations. Developing a good brand can open opportunities but a flawed brand can stop a career from reaching its full potential. And once developed, it can be hard to change. However it can be done--think Harley Davidson, for example. (Today you are likely to see your cardiologist riding a Harley, when in decades past, the brand may have conjured up an image of a Hell’s Angel.)
 
Similarly, I’ve seen individuals change their brand with focus and changed behavior.
If you are like most people I work with, you could have several brands, depending on the reputation you have with various groups. For example, you might be seen as a high potential in the Home Office but the Field may see you as a company-minded obstructionist.
 
Sometimes even your strengths can damage your brand, especially if they are over-used. Consider the politically astute leader who befriends executives above him but has a reputation for being unavailable to his staff. His actions can make him look too self-serving and might even derail him if his followership slides.
 
How do you find out what your brand is?
A 360 degree feedback process with an experienced coach is one of the best tools for discovering your brand. But don’t look in the numeric categories—it’s the open-ended questions or an interview-based process that will reveal the real perceptions.
 
And “perceptions” is the key word. We usually think our brand is more positive than it actually is. Since we judge ourselves by our intentions and others judge us by how our actions “land” on them, a 360 will usually reveal how colleagues honestly feel. A good brand manager will analyze the feedback and look for ways to change their own behavior, instead of justifying why others’ perceptions are wrong.
 
Cultivating candid, trusting relationships with peers is another smart strategy for managing your brand. People within your own vertical channel may be reluctant to tell you how you are perceived. They also may be too close. For example, your boss may understand your motivations and intentions and give you a “hall pass” for some of your behaviors—but your peers won’t. Most employees won’t want to risk telling you the truth. But a trusted colleague may care enough about you to tell you the truth if you ask.
 
Digging below surface feedback is another way of deciphering your brand. For example, many managers have learned to dance around sensitive feedback by using phrases such as, “You could enhance your performance in the area of X, to make you more effective.” Maybe what they are saying is “Unless you fix X, it could derail you.” Ask more questions and ask for specifics, to get the impact your behavior is having on your brand. For example, “Given my current performance in the area of X, would I be considered for promotion? Or, is it holding me back?”
 
 Listen to your spouse. They are the closest person to you and likely to know all your weak spots and blind spots. Usually these things manifest themselves at work. Quite often, when I’m coaching someone, a few months into it they will say, “My wife is noticing a difference, too!”
 
Companies spend millions to create, elevate and capitalize on their brand. You need to invest in your own brand, too.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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