Building Your Reputation. Stand Out to Get In.

Guest Post by: Jen Dalton for Brand Mirror

What is a personal brand, and why does it even matter? Put simply, your brand is your reputation. It’s the words that people think of to define you. It’s how relevant you are, and what conversations you are a part of. It’s how you stand out from others. If you don’t define your personal brand, others will define it for you, and this is why being in charge of your brand matters.

Brands create an emotional connection. When people think of Volvo, they often don’t just think car, they think safety. Apple is no longer just a fruit, but an innovative technology company. And you can’t think about Nike without thinking sports or speed. What emotional connection do people have when they think about you? There are actionable ways to control that, so let’s go over a few.

Understand Where You Are Today

First, we need to do some foundation building. To define your personal brand, we need to look at the Three D’s: Discover, Design, and Differentiate. Start with doing some self-reflection.

  • Ask yourself questions like: What do I want to do? What is the impact I want to have? What are my skills, strengths, and values? Where am I? Where am I going?
  • Think about 5 words that you think describe you, then go and ask your friends, family, even clients what their words for you would be. Compare the two, and think about how you might align them better.
  • Take a Digital Inventory. Google yourself and see what shows up. Ask a friend to search for yourself on LinkedIn by name, and then by role, and see where you show up. How hard is it for someone to find you?

It’s important to understand where others think you’re at because others’ perception of you is the reality of your personal brand.

What Do You Want People To Say About You When You Are Not in the Room?

Now, onto Design. Here we can look at some actionable steps to take towards designing your own brand. After you’ve figured out how people define you now, think about the ways you WANT people to define you. These are the words that will make up your Brand DNA. Think about how you want to show up, and start to design that brand. Be consistent. Does your work space, the way you dress, how you show up in meetings, and how you interact with others align with your Brand DNA? George Bernard Shaw said, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Look at your LinkedIn page – is it telling a story about your brand, or is it just a copy of your resume?

If you’re having a hard time designing your Brand DNA, make your signature storyboard. Go through your history and find pictures that mean a lot to you emotionally, where you really liked the person you were at that moment. If you’re not visual, think of words or phrases where you really deliver in a powerful way. This can make up your storyboard, and this will help you define your brand promise. A brand is, essentially, a promise, so take time to create your Leadership Promise Statement. What can people expect when they work with you? How can you present this to people in, say, networking scenarios? When you introduce yourself, what do you say? Take this Promise of Value and make sure it’s consistent online. Show evidence of it everywhere. Prove it to everyone who looks.

Own What Makes You Unique and Different

Next, you need to Differentiate yourself from everyone else. What is your position? Look back over your storyboard and your Brand DNA and figure out what you have offered in the past that nobody else could’ve done. Figure out who your audience is. What companies do you want to be a part of that inspire you? What boards do you want to be on in your community? Taylor your brand to be approachable to your audience. Who are your competitors and who do you look up to and why? Spend some time researching them, how they got where they are, what exactly they’re doing. Figure out what their brand is.

Now you can start creating value and opportunities for yourself. Think about what you should be talking about. Should it be company related? Or perhaps about your passions, or your particular set of skills? Does what you have to say matter, and will people care? Is it relevant? Are the right people seeing you? How can you get them to care AND share what you talk about? Who are the leaders and influencers writing in the same space? These are the key elements that make up your Digital Brand. You can also create opportunities for yourself offline. You can join a board or volunteer in an organization. You can interview people in your same space and blog about it. You can network with others, and look for places to share your insights. You can look for speaking opportunities and webinars.

Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan

Remember, timing is everything. Create an editorial or visibility calendar for your brand – where to be, when to write posts and blogs. You want to stay visible. In many cases, out of sight is out of mind. Make sure that your content is easy to share and re-purpose. Write about other people, companies, and organizations. Be sure to tag them when you post your content. This creates opportunities for others to share and help make you more visible. Write about others and help them be visible. Share helpful articles. Give shout outs on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Write recommendations on LinkedIn for people and on Google+, and Facebook for businesses. Send thank you notes, and provide recognition. Be genuine. Don’t expect things in return. Contribute to your brand by giving to others. Above all, be authentic. Authenticity contributes greatly to your personal brand. It’s easy to tell when someone is being disingenuous, and that puts a big hit on their brand or the way we think about them. Although you may plan a lot of your communications, be spur of the moment too and share things real time.

Lastly, monitor yourself, and listen to what others are saying about you. Continue to search yourself on Google and LinkedIn. Ask people to describe your brand periodically to check up on yourself. Do your own self-reflection when you can. Keep control of your brand, the emotional connection people make to you, by monitoring yourself using the steps above. Remember, although you are not a product, you do have a reputation and people will decide to work with you and help you based on your brand.

“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember you how made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Be a noisebreaker, not a noisemaker.

Jen

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Meetings… And Meeting About Meetings…

We’ve all been there… Another meeting on our calendar… Another seeming waste of time.  Meetings. Meetings about meetings.  We all have so many meetings to talk about our work that often it doesn’t leave us enough time to actually do our work.

The Year Without Pants talks about the culture of the corporate offices of WordPress.com and how they do their work and think about their work.  Most meetings are online which is somewhat of a different beast, but, for the most part, the same issues prevail. A few highlights from the book specifically about meetings that I found interesting:

“If what is being discussed is important, people will pay attention.”

“If the people in a meeting think its a waste of time, then either they’re the wrong people or what’s being discussed is not important enough to justify a meeting.”

“A good sign as a leader is when output is high and meetings are short.”

Here are some tips for leading your next meeting… Keep in mind these apply to everyone, including you!

1. Start and end on time.  Being late implies that your time is more important.  Value the time of others and the ripple effect one late meeting can have on and entire day’s schedule.

2. Keep it consistent and hold people responsible. Create a process and stick with it.  Use the same form for your agendas, create some consistent themes or practices. For example, have a round-robin in the beginning of every meeting where each attendees states their most pressing issue or project.  Or have employees bring an article of interest and give a 30 second summary.  While it may take a while for everyone to get in the habit of new procedures, if you are consistent and people know you’re serious it will catch on.   There is nothing worse than a lack of consistency.  It makes people unsure as to when and if your next idea will actually stick.

3. Delineate action items. Take it a step further by assigning responsible parties and create deadlines.

4. Send follow up notes.  And within 24 hours. Summarize the meeting and action steps so everyone is on the same page and you create a record of your team’s progress.

5. No smart devices.  Put the smart phones and Ipads away (except for taking notes).  If you’re meeting in person, make sure people are connecting in person. Otherwise it could have been done via email or phone and probably in a shorter amount of time.

6.  Be patient.  We tend to be uncomfortable with silence and fill the room with rambling in order to fill that silence.  Give people time to warm up, think, and respond.

7.  Leverage brainpower. Use meeting time to not only report out but leverage the brainpower in the room for discussing and brainstorming about strategic objectives.

8.  Do you really need to meet?  Think about whether you can accomplish the goal in another way (email? phone? quick chat?) or how you can leverage one meeting for multiple goals in order to maximize time.

9.  Be the scribe.  In Year Without Pants, the author suggests that while this is often seen as a chore, it can help establish your credibility as a leader and inspire the trust of your team.  According to Berkun, your team will see how you think and if/how you summarize things accurately, clearly and concisely.

10.  Share ownership.  Make others feel engaged in the meeting by letting them own a piece of the agenda.

What we’re doing
In a world of meeting after meeting, Alumni Career Services has started “White Paper Wednesdays” in order to focus on the future as opposed to the here and now.  Once a month (the first Wednesday) we block our calendars – there are no meetings and less emphasis on email responses.  We do strategy work the entire day – those projects that are often the most important but we put on the back burner because we are too busy responding to fires.  Similarly, Sarah will post later this month about the book she is reading called Quiet which mentions one company’s policy of “No Talk Tuesdays” where individual work could be done with a thoughtful approach.  For our chatty team, we haven’t quite gotten to these yet!

We want to know: what do you think makes an effective meeting?  What are you biggest meeting pet peeves?

Make sure you check out our upcoming webinar “The Art of Meeting Facilitation” on Tuesday, November 12th!  Register here