When I lead workshops on the importance of developing your personal brand, I often ask individuals to consider this powerful quote from Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos in a 2012 TED talk:
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Consider that for a moment. What are the key phrases you hope your peers, coworkers, employers, etc., would use to describe you? Would words like “visionary,” “deadline-driven” or “honest” come up? Would you come to find you have been pigeon-holed into one domain—e.g. as a strict executer versus a strategic powerhouse?
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Performing this exercise can reveal a great deal about the current state—and impact—of your personal brand. For instance, reflecting honestly about the words you believe peers are using to describe you could reveal major roadblocks to your personal and professional pursuits. The answers may even indicate that your personal brand is in trouble.
In the IT sector, there is evidence to support the fact that many of today’s leaders may be in a brand predicament. Specifically, a recent CIO.com State of the CIO Report found that:
- 37 percent of business decisions-makers feel the CIO is being sidelined in their company
- 33 percent of CIOs believe other departments view the IT department as an obstacle to achieving their goals
- 54 percent of surveyed business leaders say the IT group is an obstacle to their mission
In fact, the way in which CIOs view themselves is often in stark contrast with the business unit leaders’ sentiments. Just take a quick peek at the below chart extracted from the study:
Whether your brand is in trouble or you are looking to elevate it to the next level, here are three things you can do to improve its strength:
- Know Your Elevator Pitch: The most revered brands—think Nike, Coca-Cola, Google—all have compelling elevator pitches. These vision or purpose statements are pointed, detailed and differentiated, helping you as the consumer to feel a degree of familiarity and connectedness with the brand. So what’s your elevator pitch? To begin, think about how you would describe yourself to others. What words would you use? Then, take it a step further and ask: What do I stand for? What are my core values? What do I want to achieve? Effective elevator pitches are interesting, honest and personal, but perhaps most importantly, they open the door for further dialogue.
- Understand Your Unique Strengths: Your personal brand is largely defined by the way you contribute meaningfully to your environment—both personally and professionally. And how you contribute is dependent on your core strengths. Here at Atrion, we invest in helping our teams better understand their inherent strengths, often using the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment as a benchmark. The assessment helps you uncover your dominant strengths so that you can begin playing to them, rather than focusing on addressing weaknesses. When you understand your unique strengths, you can get a better handle on both your personal brand’s current state and how you want to evolve it. For example, my No. 1 strength is Communication but my second is Futuristic. When I think of my personal brand, I like to think that words like “futuristic,” “visionary” and “strategic” pop up just as much as words like “communicative,” “responsive” and “expressive.”
- Perform a 360: Instead of wondering how your teammates, peers and manager would describe your personal brand, ask them directly. Often referred to as 360 reviews or assessments, a 360 involves soliciting feedback from those closest to you so you can pinpoint how your brand is viewed by others. For additional perspective, perform the exercise with friends and family too; you may be surprised at how much the answers vary. Consider asking questions that span a variety of topics from leadership to problem solving to interpersonal skills. The answers you receive will give you great insight into how others perceive your personal brand. This type of multi-level feedback requires a level of vulnerability and openness on your part so remember to approach the exercise in a manner that welcomes feedback.
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Your personal brand is dynamic and ever-evolving, but what remains constant is the fact that it provides a windowpane into your character, beliefs and core values. With the start of a new year ahead, now is the perfect time to spend some time examining your personal brand and giving thought to how it can stretch in 2017.