I recently did a keynote presentation where the topic was “personal branding”. With so much having been written on the topic within the past few years I didn’t want to be repetitive, but I did want to provide the audience with some tangible and practical coaching tips for how they could develop and market their personal brands in the workplace.
What I came up with was a simple acronym that spells out the word WALLET. And I know if you’ll take the time to follow these six steps, you’ll increase the likelihood that your brand becomes synonymous with quality in the market called work, and in turn, widen your “wallet”.
Write down what you want people to say about your personal brand.
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There’s a “word on the street” about all of us. It’s how people describe you when you leave a meeting or when they discuss your performance. Then write a sentence of about 25 words, use the present tense as if it’s true now (even if it isn’t yet), and make it easy enough for you to keep in mind. You may have to wordsmith the sentence before arriving at one that feels right to you. An example might be, “I am a leader who gains the co-operation and trust of those around me by engaging in transparent communications, acting with the highest level of integrity, and leveraging the unique talents each person brings to our team.” Now you have a vision for how you want your brand to be perceived.
Act on it. Take those words and turn them into actionable behaviors that a video camera could actually see if it was trained on you. The camera can’t see “transparent communications” but it can see you doing things like forwarding emails, sending out a monthly “state of department” communiqué, holding quarterly town hall sessions – all things that contribute to transparent communications. Do this for each element of your personal brand and these actions will guide your behaviors, forge the impressions of those around you, and provide you with benchmarks by which to evaluate your success.
Let others know when you’ve acted consistently with your brand. One of the reasons we buy brand name products over generic brands is advertising. Hearing about the quality, consistency, and advantages of a particular product causes us to believe in it. Of course without truth in advertising, brands have been known to go belly-up. Assuming you will deliver what your brand promises, you need to market it. Without sounding self-serving or arrogant you can tell someone when you’ve “acted with integrity,” for example. A modest statement such as, “It’s important for you to know that I decided we will no longer be pursuing this particular piece of business because the client cannot guarantee that it will treat the employees we put on the account consistently with our corporate values.” If you’re really brave, post your personal brand/vision statement where others can see it – that’s another way to advertise and keep you honest!
Look to the edge. Every workplace is a playing field. As such, it has boundaries, rules, winners and losers. If you’re playing your game in the middle of the field, you’re playing it too safe. Your brand will never be associated with risk-taking, out of the box thinking, or development of creative solutions to complex problems. Similarly, you may have transitioned from a different playing field where the boundaries were much broader (or narrower) and looking to the edge of your current field let’s you know where the boundaries really are. Winners play their games at the edge but in bounds. They even get to go out once in a while without being called out. Most people never use the entire field that is available to them and, instead, complain about what they’re not “allowed” to do.
Elicit feedback. This is the only way you can know whether or not you’re brand is hitting the mark and its market. Rather than ask the question, “How am I doing?” (to which you almost always hear “fine” in response) ask, “Can you tell me one or two things I’m doing that contribute to your effectiveness and one or two things I can do more or less of to help you be even more effective?” Phrasing it in this way increases the likelihood of getting responses that describe behaviors you can actually act on.
Treat others with a spirit of abundance. And what, you may wonder, does this have to do with widening your wallet? Too many people act as if there is a finite amount of praise, money, good assignments, promotions or other opportunities in the workplace. It causes them to act in a spirit of poverty – as if there isn’t enough to go around. As a result, they interact with others far more competitively than necessary. Trust me, there is more than enough for everyone. Act is if you believe it and make giving and receiving abundance an integral part of your brand. You’ll never regret it.
Dr Lois Frankel is the author of the bestsellers Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich, and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It. She can be reached through her website www.drloisfrankel.com.