Look at “Kate,” a successful executive in a large corporation who was stuck in the mid level. Colleagues who had similar responsibilities to Kate had been promoted, but Kate had been left behind.
When Kate discussed her situation with her boss, he told her that she lacked “visibility” in the company. Kate had focused so much on her many tasks and her team that she was unknown outside of her department. Maybe her boss had even nominated her for a promotion, but other members of the team had questioned it because they didn’t know her.
To change her situation, Kate began an internal networking and visibility campaign. Kate started volunteering for cross-functional task forces so she could contribute in a broader fashion and build her internal network. Since she had a large team of direct reports, she set up a monthly lunch-and-learn, and invited senior executives she wanted to meet to present to the group.
No longer the invisible woman and with a network of supporters throughout the company, Kate eventually got her promotion. The higher you go in your job, you’ll find you need visibility and the ability to create positive perceptions about yourself.
To a large extent, business success is based on perceptions – other people’s perceptions about you.
If people think you are on top of your game, you will be. If people think you’re a B player, you will be – until you change their perceptions.
Your success in business or life is based on perceptions, other people’s perceptions of who you are, how good you are, and even what you are worth. Branding strategies and tactics can help you build the right perceptions in the minds of others about you.
So how do you change perceptions so that you can rebrand yourself”
You need to build perceptual links to your new brand identity and visibility for yourself.
Marketers do research such as small focus groups to gauge what’s special or problematic about the brand. You already have a lot of focus group information at your disposal too if you start observing.
What do people compliment you for? Criticize you for? What do you love to do? What do your clients or bosses say about you?
What are the themes in your yearly performance review? What are your strengths? What are the vulnerable areas? What new directions are your interests taking you?
The phrase “Know Thyself” may have been written on the temple at Delphi thousands of years ago, but few of us have taken it to heart.
Personal branding means using the principles and strategies from the commercial world of brands and applying them to your most important asset – Brand You. After all, career success involves many things such as choosing the right projects and experiences, developing new skills and getting exposure to influential people who can help you. And the longer your record of successes is and the more people are aware of you, the more successful you will be.
Brand managers have been managing brands that way for decades. Successful people realize they must look beyond the task at hand and empower themselves to create their own career success too.
They ask, Where do I go from here.” They creatively and strategically navigate their careers.
Saying yes to everything is the very foundation of Improv Theater. I learned a little about Improv at a full-day corporate event I spoke at where Improv actors provided fun entertainment on the theme of personal branding after my talk. Agreeing begins the process then the actor adds something to take what is offered in a positive direction.
Saying “Yes” can be helpful in business, too, and not just in the sense of meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise like Susan did. Saying yes prevents you from blocking – the critic in side of us who cuts off possibilities.
Saying yes can be a useful exercise when you are trying to brainstorm new ideas, innovate new products or processes, come up with a new solution, or do something that you didn’t think you could do.
To get started, check out this website on Improv Wisdom http://www.improvwisdom.com/ Or, try saying yes to everything for just one day. Let me know how it goes.
I spoke to a female executive who told me about a novel strategy she used a few times in her career when she was feeling stuck or burnt out. She made a vow to say “Yes” to everything that came her way for one month.
The first time she used her “Just say yes” strategy, someone asked her to join a volunteer group that would be entertaining female inmates at Riker’s Island over the Christmas holidays. Now, “Susan” didn’t want to spend the holidays in such a grim setting, but she had made her vow.
So she said, “YES!”
On the bus ride to the prison with other volunteers, Susan sat next to another executive who became instrumental in her career and life as a mentor, and who helped her get unstuck in her job.
Today, there is a constant drive toward innovation – and not just from the product development folks either. In world-class companies like PepsiCo, we all feel the pressure not just to execute well in the present but to help come up with innovative ideas to keep on top tomorrow.
Historically how to get innovative insights eluded scientists. Of course, we’ve all had our “Aha” moments, but some people seem to be better at coming up with innovations and creative solutions.
Is there a way to cultivate an innovative mindset?
It can be hard not to be stressed out with all the negative news out there: Wall Street gyrations, unemployment numbers, corporations cutting employees and tightening budgets. Most of us know someone close to us who has gotten a pink slip or is worried that they might soon.
Ironically, times like this do provide opportunity and a sense of possibility. In fact, when many people look back on their life, it’s the times of struggle that they often recall most vividly – and most fondly.
Why is that?
Often times of struggle are when we are most engaged with ourselves and our lives. These are the times when we are most likely to reach out and connect with others, and when we focus to achieve an important breakthrough for ourselves.
Here are five things that tough times are great for:
- Make new friends. Go to an event by yourself so you’ll meet new people. Find a networking event that you’ve been thinking about and just do it.
- Be generous with your old friends. Generosity is often cited as a key trait of successful people. Reach out to a friend who’s more stressed out than you with the economy offering guidance and encouragement.
- Get back to basics. Cook a meal from scratch. Invite friends over for wine and cheese. Clean out the closet. Remember what’s most important to you.
- Stop rushing around. Cut back some of the things you are doing that aren’t really fun for you anymore. Streamline your life.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. If you are wondering how, visit gratefulness.org for ideas.
Here are some tips on building a 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.
- Fish where the fish are. Focus 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. After I put up my profile on LinkedIn, I have been able to reconnect with old colleagues and classmates, as well as a wide range of business contacts.
- 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. Have a professional photo not a snap shot – first impressions are powerful.
- 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.
Because she had a family, Rachel limited the amount of time in the evening that she would spend checking email or texts – if she would check them at all. Her boss and colleagues were single and seemed to check email religiously throughout the evening. Rachel felt that was driving her boss’s mistaken perceptions about her productivity.
Here are some tips on how Rachel could handle the situation and start the rebranding process:
- Reach out with a positive message: Set up a meeting but make sure to compose a clear-cut message beforehand. For example, a good message for Rachel to convey might be: “I realize that we both have different perceptions about my performance and I want to change that.”
- Ride in on the elephant: Difficult conversations are hard for many of us, so we tend to avoid them. Of course, that only keeps you stuck in a bad situation. Begin the meeting by saying, “This is a difficult conversation for me to have because I pride myself on being a top performer. And, above all, I want you to recognize that.” You also need to address other uncomfortable things – the elephant in the room – such as the evening emails. Rather than be defensive about your family time, why not suggest a compromise. For example, you can offer to check email once an evening at a specific time.
- Empathize: Make sure that the conversation makes your boss feel understood just as you want her to understand you. Acknowledge that you realize that your boss is under a lot of pressure too. Ask questions and listen to the response. Ask your boss how you might be able to work together with her better in the future. Resist feeling like a victim or reacting defensively. A caring demeanor and eye contact are crucial.
When meetings like this go well, you will both leave feeling that you were able to come to a better understanding of each other. And that will begin the rebranding process.