How Important Is Having a Personal Brand?
Brand perception is everything when determining what to buy, the reasons why and what we’re willing to pay for a product. Whether it’s the product or services messaging, how it’s packaged or designed, and what differentiates it in the marketplace, these are the criteria that influence our decision whether or not to buy something. This also applies to your personal brand, which should be looked at through the same lens as to what defines you, your motivations and how your most valuable strengths can be an asset when managing those employees/coworkers above, below and to the left and right of you.
While this is a different take on similar subject matter from my previous blog entries, as a consultant and in my prior executive leadership positions, I’ve benefited from utilizing my most valuable strengths when building my own personal brand, as well as during the times when my personal brand perception was impacted, lowering my visibility within the organization. As the hybrid and remote workplace model takes hold for the foreseeable future, it will further complicate how all employees as well as their purpose and perception within the organization are recognized, and how they are compensated.
This Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study identified the following: “More than two-thirds of supervisors of remote workers surveyed by SHRM, or 67%, admit to considering remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers at their organization, while 62% believe full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72% say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.
While most employees agree that remote work is beneficial and increases performance, more than half say working remotely on a permanent basis would diminish networking opportunities (59%) and cause work relationships to suffer (55%).”
To help me better understand how the hybrid workplace model has changed employee perception and why the virtual workforce needs to invest in their own personal brands, I reached out to colleague, friend and executive coach, Jason Press, who taps into his clients’ natural desire to explore, grow and lead.
MS: Jason, first of all, I’d like to thank you for taking part in this conversation.
JP: My pleasure Mike. Thanks for reaching out to me.
MS: Over the past year, what have you seen as the greatest challenges impacting those individuals whom you coach?
JP: I can summarize that in two words: Fatigue and engagement.
Firstly, we can’t underestimate the toll that the past couple of years has taken on us, physically and emotionally. Toggling back and forth between working at home, getting back to the office, and dealing with colleagues who each have their own ideas about what a hybrid workplace looks like is exhausting.
Couple that with the safety concerns that people have for themselves and their families, and it’s very unclear what is the “right” thing to do. It’s a decision that everyone has to make for themselves, so, Elon Musk notwithstanding, most leaders and managers are allowing each employee to sort through these issues based on their own values and comfort level. Which leads to confusion and exhaustion.
It also makes it challenging to rally the team and get full engagement. Creating and maintaining a consistent corporate culture with varying levels of commitment, motivation and engagement makes this a particularly frustrating issue across the board.
MS: Do your clients understand the importance of establishing their own personal brands?
JP: Often my coaching clients talk to me about creating their own “personal brands.” Initially, I shied away from the term. I always viewed “brands” as something executives create in a conference room to promote products, services and companies. People don’t need to be fabricated for consumer consumption. Over time, I’ve evolved my thinking and have become very aware of how these two seemingly disparate disciplines can work together.
Using the brand development framework of Brand Muscles, I invite clients to explore how they can be flexible and effective in the way they think about and present themselves.
MS: I would think that one’s personal brand perception is even more critical to have within a hybrid workforce culture. Do you agree?
JP: Mostly I think the challenge is more about visibility. A lot of our ability to communicate and connect with others, directly and indirectly, is lost on video or phone calls vs. being in the actual room.
Couple that with the missed chance encounters in the break room, cafeteria and hallways, and it’s forced us to be more creative and purposeful when connecting with others.
MS: I read in this HBR post that, “We often confuse our reputation with our personal brand. Everyone has a reputation. The first impressions you make, the relationships you form with managers and peers, and how you communicate—all of these things impact how others see you. Your personal brand, on the other hand, is much more intentional. It is how you want people to see you.”
Can you elaborate on this, Jason?
JP: A simple way to ask this is to ask yourself, “If I was listening to someone tout my top five strengths, what words would I like them to say?”
As a jumping off point, I ask all my clients to take a Gallup Strengths Finders 2.0 Assessment. This is a quick way to get to the core of what you’re good at. By leaning into your strengths, you will be exponentially more successful than trying to overcome your weaknesses. Once you uncover and understand your strengths, you can create a narrative around them to help you put your best foot forward.
MS: How should someone approach building their personal brand?
JP: Borrowing from the corporate model, I invite my coaching clients to carefully consider how they want to uniquely craft their brand identities from four different perspectives:
Brand – What are your mission, vision and values?
Target – With whom do you want to connect and resonate?
Competition – Who do you admire and aspire to outshine?
Context – How are you evolving your sense of self to meet the needs of a changing world?
MS: Do they need to think about this in the context of the organization and who they report to?
JP: Only if their goal is to grow and thrive within the organization.
MS: What are the biggest misconceptions about developing your personal brand?
JP: That the brand comes from outside of ourselves. Developing your brand comes first and foremost from inside of each of us. You have to be willing to do the homework, to gain some self-awareness and to go deep. You can’t “package” yourself to impress others. It has to be authentically and genuinely you.
MS: This has been great, Jason. Thank you again for your perspective.