In my book, “Women Who Brand,” I cited “empathy” as a key aptitude for women and personal branding, and talked about it as an important business tool. So how can you leverage empathy – the ability to perceive how someone else is feeling and to find a sense of similarity and understanding. How can empathy be of use in the business world? Here are some ways:
- Understanding the feeling and point of view of others: Empathy is the ability to understand and connect with other people – to walk in their shoes as it were. When you use empathetic listening, people feel understood – even if you don’t end up agreeing with them. Most important, when you understand others, their concerns and approach, you will be better able to persuade and suggest solutions to problems.
- Building consensus and promoting teamwork with diverse groups: Empathy is particularly relevant for today’s modern, global companies in which people from different cultures, backgrounds and status need to work together as a team to solve problems and reach important company goals. For 21st century companies, empathy can make the difference between success and failure of the business.
- Developing a reputation as fair and balanced leader: As a boss, what you convey non-verbally has a tremendous impact. In one study, bosses gave employees a poor performance review, but did it in an empathetic, caring manner. People rated the experience positively. Then the test was flip-flopped. Bosses gave a positive review but did it in a cold, uncaring manner. Even though the verbal message was positive, people felt far worse than those who received the poor review.
In short, empathy is powerful. From a branding perspective, empathy will help you create positive perceptions about Brand You. From a business perspective, it will help you perform better.
Here are some of the tips for building a strong web presence:
- Claim your name. Purchase the domain for your name, as well as claiming your name on Twitter and other sites. If you have a generic name that someone else has claimed, use a slight variation with your middle name or initial, or add your career focus or credential.
- Fish where the fish are. Focus first on the key business social networking sites and build a presence there. If you can just be on one, make it LinkedIn since it has the largest business audience and active discussion groups on just about every topic, career interest, alumni association and company.
- Put in the time to develop a strong brand image. What you put on your profile page of a social networking site and your own web site is something that you can control since you are the copywriter and create director. Make sure they convey a consistent and compelling message for Brand You. Writing a compelling 2000 character summary on LinkedIn will take some time, but it will be worth it. Have a professional photo or a good selfie. Add some rich media such as a short slide presentation or paper.
- Google yourself from time to time. Make sure you’re up to date on what the web is saying about you. After all, new people you meet will google you. (You google people, don’t you?). Make sure you don’t put up anything you will regret. It’s not like Vegas. What happens on the web can be hard to remove later if it’s taken on a viral life.
New and Improved! Marketers are always looking for ways to improve their brand with updates and new features, and to communicate those brand benefits to customers, and you should too.
Often people focus on being promoted, but sometimes a lateral move is the best one because it adds to your skill set and experiences in a way that the next move up the ladder doesn’t provide.
Sometimes, it even makes sense to take a step backward, if it points you in a new direction whether there are fewer entrenched competitors and more potential for you to stand out and be a leader.
Power and strength in the career are also based on how you carry yourself.
Do you walk into a meeting looking rushed and like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?
Or do you take a few seconds to catch your breath and walk in confidently with an open expression on your face?
Our facial expressions talk even when we’re not saying anything. Studies show that women are more animated with more smiles, expressions, winks and nods than men on average. And that’s attractive! Positive expressions like smiles are contagious and bring about pleasant responses in others (MRI tests of brain reactions demonstrate this.)
We may not like it, and it may seem superficial, but our image and self presentation is important. Looks certainly don’t make a difference in how well you can do you job, but it can make a big difference in how you are perceived on the job.
Why is that?
The way something looks, its visual identity, have what social scientist call a halo affect. When something is attractive – be it a product or person – we assign many other positive attributes to it that have nothing to do with looks. For example, tests show that products with nice packaging are perceived to be bigger and have more volume than products in the same size container but with packaging that is deemed “unattractive.”
If you don’t think the power of packaging is important for people, look at the power of a first impression. Research shows that we are pegged in the first couple of seconds. Social scientists call it “thin slicing” and Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, demonstrates how quick and often accurate these blink-of-the-eye impressions are.
The good news is that all of us can package ourselves attractively and we don’t have to have a perfect figure to do it. Studies indicate a variety of factors in attractiveness:
You have to be willing to stand up and stand out. You have to want to step forward and take the initiative to lead others.
It’s risky being a leader. You can’t hide behind being number two anymore.
You can’t blend into the background at a meeting with no idea of what to do.
You have to have a point of view or the ability to spark conversation and discussion to solve the business issue. You have to be willing to step out and move the group forward.
People will be looking up to you as a leader in more ways than you realize. You need to set the tone.
A traditional leader says, “Here I am.” A creative leader says, “there you are.”
A creative leader realizes that when people aren’t having fun, they seldom do good work.
Creative leaders realize they have intertwined roles of substance and symbol. Their role is not just to know the technical aspects of the business and to exert authority, but to be a symbol of inspiration and connection for the group.
Creative leaders want to change lives.
They are a symbol of hope that things will be better under their leadership. They give us the courage to do things they we wouldn’t do on our own.
A traditional leader appeals to our intellect.
A creative leader trusts intuition and feelings, and wins over our hearts and minds.
A traditional leader prizes analytics and authority.
A creative leader prizes creativity and empowerment.
A traditional leader acts big. A creative leader acts small.
What business are you in? The healthcare business? Law? Financial services? Technology? Education? The Arts?
No matter what industry you are in, you are in the business of building businesses, and you are in the business of inspiring and persuading people. That’s why creativity and leadership can make a big difference.
A traditional leader can make you do something because they are the boss, but the creative leader makes you want to do it.