Developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.
Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy.
They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.
This is why those who want to have a social media presence should think carefully about their intentions and objectives before opening an account.
Because the moment you start – you must not allow yourself to stop.
Challenge yourself to think about what your intentions are and what you are capable of delivering to the communities you are serving – both in and outside of the workplace.
Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.
Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.
This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.
Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and / or a voice that others can depend upon.
Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set-forth for both yourself and those whom you serve.
View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it.
Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.
While browsing the Internet, I stumbled on a very interesting post from Kenneth Hartman, a Security Architect and Senior Product Manager for Cloud Security for SAP Ariba.
Ken's motto is "I help my company earn and maintain trust of our customers in our products and service."
If you are a regular of imagine4tomorrow, you know that Ken's maxim is summarizing extremely well what we've been advocating and discussing in these pages article after article.
In a very easy - and fun read - tabled list (after the break), Ken Hartman compares the way a true leader works, behaves, thinks vs. a non-leader.
Among much more, this list shows that leaders prioritize their company and teams over themselves, while non-leaders put themselves first:
Non-leaders are looking at their own interest, the way they appear (good of course) to the outside world (by 'outside world' understand 'their bosses' and any useful authority!).
You will also see how they complicate things unnecessarily, so that they can look like the savior when they fix a problem that never really existed and that their selfish behavior created.
Or also how they are strongly against delegation, so that they make believe that the company cannot run without them, as they have the necessary burden for the common good to make all final decisions!
(Gosh... when writing these lines, I've got so many names of people I know and deal with everyday that come to mind! Don't you?)
Well, don't delay any further, and jump the brake to look at the comparison Leader vs. Non-leader list!
It is now well acknowledged that to succeed, a company needs to recognize their associates’ needs as well as their customers’ expectations, and must pay attention to constantly communicate we both groups in a positive, consistent and efficient manner.
For some reasons, usually the internal (towards the workforce) and external (addressed to the clientele) communications are fundamentally different.
Does that mean that employees’ brains are wired differently than customers’?
Of course not!
Regardless of our origin, education, or any other cultural or geographical parameter, deep down we are all the same and respond globally similarly to the same stimuli.
Hospitality group Starwood understood it very well when, in 2006, they launched the Sheraton’ ‘You / We belong’ worldwide campaign:
Under an identical motto and theme song, this campaign was declined in two versions – one for guests, ‘You belong’, and one for employees, ‘We belong’.
The outcome of this US$20 million operation was fabulous.
Not only it allowed the group to introduce a Sheraton new signature ‘Warm Welcome’ experience and increase dramatically brand’s positive recognition, it also improved significantly associates’ sense of belonging and satisfaction to work for Sheraton.
Because when the campaign was built, the designers disregarded who it was addressed to – guests vs. employees.
They worked on the ‘belonging’ factor.
It is only once the campaign’ core design was finalized that they dressed it up differently for guests and associates.
That was the reason of the ‘You / We belong’ great success.
If we are wired the same away and respond similarly to the same stimuli, what are those?
Let’s have a look at what needs to be addressed to positively communicate with both clients and associates.
And anyone else for that matter!
We are discussing here at length branding issues:
How to communicate to a targeted clientele, how employees are the best brand’s ambassadors, as well as the complications to avoid at all costs.
At the end of the day, a brand is not necessarily how the marketing department defines it, but how the final customer understands it.
It goes down to perception; regardless of how well designed a brand communication is, or how well a new campaign is organized, the final decision belongs to the customer:
Did they pay attention to it? Did they like it, hated it or ignored it?
In other words, were they attracted to it?
As discussed before, brands' first customers are the company’s employees.
The same applies to be recognized as a ‘preferred employer’.
Any company will tell you that they want to attract and retain the best talents.
Therefore, they need to attract them.
To do so, they need to brand themselves as ‘best employers’.
To get this envied title, firms need to look in detail at their internal (towards their workforce) and external (directed to targeted clientele) branding.
Being labelled as best employer is more than another award to add to a collection; it is a powerful competitive advantage:
According to a 2016 Gallup study, sales increase by 20% when companies pick up top candidates.
How does it work?
Brand is the first thing that comes to mind when employees think about a company.
Even in this challenging economic environment, best talents know that they are first in line to get a job; hence, they can afford to be picky.
Therefore, before accepting a job offer, they look at the brand of the potential company and see if their communication addresses positively questions such as:
Is the hiring firm innovator in their field? Do they have an aggressive development strategy that will allow me (the candidate) to grow and develop? Is the working environment great? Will it enhance my personal branding? Are the benefits good?
Have you ever met someone with such a strong personality that they are a brand (or their company’s brand) by themselves?
Now, try to define what makes these leaders so compelling, and you’ll have a hard time to put in words what you know for a fact.
The reason being that they embody the brand; they don’t represent the brand.
They are the brand.
Successful or not, we all brand ourselves:
The way we dress, the way we walk, the way we deal with others, the way we talk – or don’t -, our body language… all brand us.
Some might be happy with the impression (branding) they make on others, some may not.
The latter will say “well this is how they see me, there is nothing I can do about it!”.
Others – often leaders in the making - may think that building their own brand is something that may turn their life around, that allows them get on the driver seat.
Yet, it is a very challenging endeavor.
First, if you want to be one of them, you need to set up a clear vision:
Who are you now and who you want to be; how do you want others (life companions, bosses, work colleagues) to perceive you, understand what you need to do to achieve these goals, to set milestones, etc.
This is where it gets complicated:
You define your ultimate goal and decide the means to get to it in a specific environment (professional and personal – keeping in mind that they are eventually linked one way or the other).
Let’s say that few milestones away, your environment changes drastically – you’re in a new professional setting (say, you changed job and your new manager style and expectations are totally different from the previous one).
What happens then?
Do you need to rethink your personal brand design to adapt to your new environment?
Consider for a moment the most successful and long-lasting commercial brands.
Coca-Cola or Walt Disney – to only consider two, while we could also cite Johnson’s, L’Oréal, or McDonald’s among many more – are on top of the list of world’s most popular and loved brands (actually, Walt Disney is the world’s most popular brand according to the 2017 Brand Finance’s annual ranking).
Generations of consumers have been purchasing Coca-Cola (established in 1892) and Walt Disney (established in 1923) products – each with their generations’ specifics and expectations.
Yet, the brands’ look and feel, their ‘faces’ (color codes, logos, etc.) apparently remained the same – in fact, they went through subtle changes throughout the years, in order not to feel dated and foreign to the generation of the time, while carefully keeping their unique acknowledged by all identity.
Running a business is more than ever a cutthroat adventure.
To succeed, you need to stand-out, to show how different and better you are from your competitors:
You need to be able to clearly present a unique value proposition and distinctive identity so to be immediately recognized by your clientele among those in the same business line as yours.
This is the reason why you need to develop a strong brand backed up by impeccable quality:
A successful brand will attract customers to your business, but only perfect quality standards implementation will bring them back.
“A brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind,” Branders’ CEO, Jerry McLaughlin says.
In other words, branding is manipulating your audience mind so that they clearly believe that your company, your products or even yourself (never underestimate the power of self-branding) are / is the solution to their conscious or unconscious desires – desires that are also built from nowhere whenever required.
Apple is the perfect example of a brand that is more important in the mind of their customers than the products and services they are selling – this is the reason why despite their recent quality-related flaws (i.e. iOS 10, iPhone 7, only to list a few), their followers are not failing them.
It is branding perfection!
No one else in the entire world achieved the level of branding excellence that Apple did; not even close.
It doesn’t mean that you cannot follow their steps as best as you can.
Let’s look at what needs to be done to build a successful brand.
We recently discussed what makes a bad manager and how dangerous they are to an organization.
Poor leadership is an even bigger issue.
Some individuals may present themselves as leaders; unfortunately, at the end of the day, they prove not having what it takes to successfully have others accept their leadership - you cannot impose leadership, it has to be willingly accepted by those led.
What makes a true leader?
First of all, a leader needs a vision.
An actual vision, something that will make their teams and followers get up happily every morning to go and 'get'.
Vision, or mission statement such as the one below don’t help (yes, it is real!):
“The New Ventures Mission is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings."
Do you feel like joining this company after reading this – if you can understand what they are trying to say?
We didn't think so!
Now, you will want to work for a firm that presents itself in a simple and efficient manner:
"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first."
Simple. Powerful. To the point.
This statement clearly paves the way for a strong leadership:
It says that the company’s priority is its workforce because through their workforce they will be a successful business.
Obviously, a company with such a strong vision cannot be run by managers.
They need leaders.
Which brings us to the topic of the day:
How would you spot a leader? What are the criteria a leader must be able to demonstrate?
There are 10 main criteria you need to look for in a leader (in no particular order):
To paraphrase Voltaire (and incidentally Benjamin Parker!), with great power comes great temptation.
A leader in a key position has a great influence and / or is a decision maker. Many will try to bribe them in a way or another – their decisions may worth millions.
A true leader will never even consider for a minute dealing with companies who try to ‘buy’ their verdicts.
We wrote a lot about good leadership, from understanding the basics of being a leader to the consequences to expect from being a good leader.
We also discussed at length why being a manager is not enough, and the reasons why good managers should do their best to become leaders.
Great leaders are a rare commodity, and good managers are not so frequent either.
The majority are neutral – they’re just there, doing the best they can – which is often not that much:
If they don’t give their associates the gnack to go conquer the world, at least they let them go with their daily routine without bothering them too much.
The real issue is the bad manager.
Before we look in details at what makes a bad boss, let’s ask ourselves what does make a great boss? The answer is easy:
It’s the ability to deliver results by teasing the very best out of their workforce.
Few reports explain why bad bosses are the cause for most employee frustration at work:
For instance, a 2011 Accenture study describes the main reasons why associates leave their jobs:
“The old saying, which is still true, is that people quit bosses, not organizations,” says Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford University.
As discussed in an earlier article, there have also been clear links drawn between likeable bosses and financial performance.
A 2002 Gallup study looked at 36 companies and found that, as employees’ satisfaction with their jobs increased, so did customer satisfaction, productivity and profit.
Furthermore, employees’ turnover lowered dramatically.
“One implication is that changes in management practices that increase employee satisfaction may increase business-unit outcomes, including profit,” the researchers concluded.
To summarize, a good boss matters.
A bad boss endangers the company.
The main question now is:
Why so many firms (may I dare say ‘the great majority of them’?) are managed at all levels – from CEOs to middle management - by bad bosses?
For many, a leader is by definition a manager.
This is only partially true.
We discussed leadership a lot here, and it is a fact that you can read our articles in a way that they say that a leader is what every manager should be.
This is a fact: most companies would be much more profitable is they were run by leaders rather than managers.
Nevertheless, as many remarked in their comments to our recent ‘You’ve been promoted, few tips to become a leader’ editorial, you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.
You’ll never find a realistic job description that tells you what is expected from you as a leader.
Being a leader is an attitude; it’s a way to look at life and its challenges.
In many organizations, the real leaders are not among the management team – unfortunately.
One of the finest leader definition you can find comes from Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group, who said that “leadership is defined not by the position you hold, but by the people who willingly follow you”.
The important word here is ‘willingly’.
You do not necessarily follow your boss willingly; in many cases, you follow them because you have no choice, because that’s part of your job, that's what is expected from you no matter what you think.
On the other hand, no one forces you to follow a leader – you do because you believe it is the right thing to do.
So, what is to be a leader?
How do you recognize a leader at first sight?
Here are the attributes that will tell you if you have a leader around you, or if you are true leader material.
Because everyone now understands that it makes business sense, every week press releases are published by hundreds of businesses about their Sustainable Development or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan.
Even if many of them demonstrate a will to make a difference, and even if it is exciting to see so many companies actively developing CSR and sustainable development programs, these press releases really are a waste of time.
Simply because no one cares.
It’s not that no one cares about their CSR and sustainable development efforts – we saw in previous articles that more and more employees and customers favor sustainable-conscious companies, especially among the Millennia generation -, it is because the news they publish are beside the point.
Businesses are referring to the things that are wrong through the mediums that are incorrect. Most businesses don’t know how to speak about CSR.
What’s more, a press release is among the least powerful way of sharing this type of info.
Take the example of the employee volunteer programs that are highly popular in these press releases.
Many corporations have an instinctive belief that offering is the “right” thing to do (morally) and it is a vital part of their CSR strategy.
Obviously, sustainable development is for many managers an unchartered territory - they do not know what to do with it and what to say about it.
“Most managers recognize that they don’t know how to communicate about sustainable development; when they do they use quantitative communication methods vs. qualitative,” says Jeffrey Sasch Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Rather than quantifying the specific gains, most firms report how much they spent serving food, cleaning parks, painting walls, giving courses and raising cash.
All these are not insignificant actions – they really can make a difference within the community they are servicing.
But they are only… tasks, a means to an end.
They are giving food to those who cannot afford to eat.
They are not fighting poverty.
They never explain the end of their actions – all we know about are the activities they are launching.
It makes you wonder: are they only developing activities ‘to do something,’ or do they have a master plan they don’t communicate about?