“Personal Branding is the ultimate investment in yourself. If you don’t, why should you expect anyone else to?” – Rachel Quilty, Author, Brand Yourself.
When it comes to women wanting to scale the ranks to senior leadership, Personal Branding becomes especially important.
Instead of worrying about fighting gender issues in top leadership, I want you do something more empowering: I DARE you to stand out on your own terms.
How do you that? You do it by creating an unassailable personal brand around integrity, excellence, and results and become a gracious and relentless advocate for yourself in the workplace.
What is your personal brand?
Simply put, it’s the way you present yourself and your reputation. It represents the value proposition you offer your colleagues, subordinates, bosses, customers, and community.
It proclaims to the world how you stand out – and simultaneously fit in. You have a brand just like major corporations. Your brand is what people say about you when you are NOT in the room. Can you list the two to three words people would use to describe you? Are they the right words to help you achieve your long-term goals? If not, here are some tips to help:
5 Ways to Build a Personal Brand:
1. Make Trust and Integrity Your Cornerstone: All successful personal brands have these two traits as their central core. Especially at a time when trust in business leaders/CEOs continues to plummet. In fact, the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual trust and credibility survey, found that for the third consecutive year, trust in the CEO as a credible spokesperson plummeted, with trust levels now at 31 percent in developed markets. In 2014, the same survey found that only one in five respondents expected business leaders to tell the truth and make ethical and moral decisions.
In such a dismal atmosphere, trust and integrity are vital – and a differentiator. If your colleagues, customers, vendors don’t trust you, they wont stick with you when you need them the most, even if they do any business with you. Acting with integrity means acting according to your values. Take time to think about what you consider acceptable, right, and valuable in your work and life. Articulate and define those standards for yourself. The standards you choose will be the structure that supports how you conduct your life both in and outside business.
2. Say Good Bye to “Average”: Decide to be a star. Stars stand out – they are warm and brilliant. It’s vital to cultivate a brand of excellence, as someone who is known to get results. As Rebecca Jacoby, Senior Vice-President and COO of Cisco puts it: “[By getting results] you get associated with success and build a track record. Everyone has strengths and weakness, but your track record is what allows people to notice your strengths and forgive your weakness.”
3. Sweat the Small Stuff: Don’t make the mistake of getting the “big stuff” right and forgetting the devil is in the details. Remember your brand isn’t just made up of those crucial moments when you’re called to take a stand; it’s also communicated in small everyday gestures and in “superficial” choices such as what you wear into the office every day.
4. Look the Part: With all the juggling women have to do, balancing their jobs and family, it’s easy to neglect their own health and welfare. This tendency is not only physically and mentally destructive but can also destroy a career. If you are not at your best, you cannot deliver your best. It’s vitally important you take care of yourself by prioritizing sleep and exercise. There is undeniably a visual component to your personal brand and although it may be considerably less important than your track record or integrity, you wear it much more on your sleeve. People will make a decision about doing business with you based on your brand and where there is no brand they will make a decision based on first impressions. Research indicates people form a first impression within 3 seconds of seeing you. Dressing thoughtfully and carrying yourself with impeccable professionalism are not symptoms of vanity. They are all about your brand, which in turn is about what you will do for others. A brand is not value. It is a promise to deliver value.
5. Smile: Early in my career as a supervisor, I was fortunate that an employee told me I looked so serious that it was downright intimidating for my staff to be around me. I was shocked and I made a change. From that moment on, I made it a point to look everyone in the eye and say hello. I understood that as the leader of an organization, I set the tone for the team. I wanted to create a pleasant and more productive workplace for my team members so I worked hard to change my demeanor. Your smile and good listening skills will be part of your brand, something that will separate you from the rest of the pack.
6. Speak Up: One of the most powerful ways to build your brand and that of your organization is to develop strong presentation and public speaking skills. As a leader, you may need to be the spokesperson for your team or organization so you have to be comfortable speaking to crowds. Very few people are naturally good at delivering a public message but if you are going to be a successful leader, you must learn to make powerful presentations and learn to ‘work the room.’ I often coach people to ask thoughtful questions in meetings in order to stand out and bring attention to your brand. Many times we don’t speak up because we assume there is consensus, when there isn’t, and we assume others know more than we do. As a senior leader, I always searched for top talent by seeing who asked the best questions. Many times leadership is more about asking questions than answering them.
In my next post, I’ll talk more about making powerful presentations with messages that resonate and how to sharpen your public speaking skills.
Do you have any tips on how to strengthen your personal brand? Share them here or @Becky_Blalock on Twitter.
Becky Blalock is a C-Suite I.T. Executive, Thought Leader, Board Member, Speaker, and Author. Her best-selling book DARE: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge is available on amazon.com.