If a visitor came into your office looking for you, and asked a colleague to point you out, what would they say? The short, messy one? The busy one with her glasses on her head?
If a colleague was describing you to someone from another department, how would they sum you up? A good project manager, but she never replies to emails? Great with the technical stuff but lacking in people skills? Lovely to work with but a bit of an airhead?
This is Brand You: how people see you in the workplace (and out of it) and therefore how they form opinions and judgements of you. You could be more effective at work if you knew more about the impression you make and how to improve it. I spoke to Salma Shah, Founder of Beyond and one of the trainers at womenintechnology. She’s an expert in personal branding, leadership, communication and conflict resolution.
Salma, What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is your ‘reputation’: how do people describe you? It’s the emotional fingerprint you leave on others. Successful, leader and trustworthy or are you someone who is described as creative, disorganised and unassuming? Body language, posture, clothes, facial expression, accessories are all part of the package. The key to developing a successful personal brand is authenticity and self-awareness. How we are judged by others is based on a whole host of subconscious decisions. Most of us a highly attuned to picking up fake behaviour. So faking it is a massive brand saboteur. You have to be true to your real self and then apply skills to make a better impression.
Oh, so I have a personal brand already?
Everyone already has a reputation and therefore a brand. The question is, are you in control of your brand? Colleagues and acquaintances already sum you up in a few words. Your emotional fingerprint is also your ‘reputation’. Are you aware of how others describe you? Or are you sabotaging your personal brand through ignorance or naivety? If you were a supermarket – what kind of supermarket would you be? Lidl or Waitrose?
OK. I want to be Waitrose. Or even the John Lewis Food Hall on Oxford Street. Can I improve my personal brand?
Yes, of course you can work on your brand. The question to ask yourself is what is the motivation behind your public personal brand. Is there a pressure for you to be like everyone else? Is there an internal disconnection between the real you and how others perceive you? Do you need to work on your external image? If you want to be perceived as someone who is successful, a leader and a professional do you look, sound and behave this way? Perhaps the changes you need to make are on the inside, working on your confidence and communication skills.
Making changes on the inside sounds difficult. How does it work when you run courses?
My experience of running personal brand workshops falls into two camps. The already converted arrive to pick up hints and tips on separating themselves from the herd. Then there are the sceptics – their dominant
argument is ‘Why do I have to behave differently or dress a certain way? I am an expert at what I do and what is on the inside that counts. Others should see my natural brilliance.’ At some stage during the workshop the sceptics will moan about how they keep getting passed over for promotion and how they feel undervalued by their boss.
So personal branding has a lot to do with how others see us, but that depends on what we show them. I’m different at work to how I am with my friends, so is that part of it?
Those with a good personal brand typically have a well developed sense of what their private and public values are. Where possible their public and private value systems are aligned giving them clarity, positivity and purposeful confidence in all aspects of life choices.
A key aspect of personal branding is to portray your key messages clearly and consistently in your appearance. Visual triggers dominate in humans so reflecting your personal brand values consistently in your presentation creates a powerful and winning package. Dress, grooming, body language or facial expression. These shout volumes about you without you speaking a word, so make sure they say the right thing. Achieve a good balance in your image between ‘standing out’ and ‘fitting in’. You aim to ‘stand out’ because you consistently project your strengths and not because you look awkwardly out of place. You ‘fit in’ because your dress and grooming always create an appropriate professional appearance in context with the situation. Add your individual style choices that signal your qualities and brand values. Personal image is comprised of many details that together create a holistic picture. Ask yourself if all the details in your picture are working towards creating a true and positive impression? Does your image help you to stand out for all the right reasons by clearly reflecting your unique personal brand?
Thanks, Salma! Sounds like I need to go shopping…
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