Our ‘Personal Brand’ is the emotional fingerprint we leave on others. How do people describe you? 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.
Your clients already sum you up in a few words when they talk about you to others, i.e. prospective clients. 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?
Our 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 networking never works for them.
So how do you distinguish yourself from the competition and really get noticed? The key to developing a successful personal brand is authenticity and self-awareness. How we are judged by other is based on a whole host of subconscious decisions. Most of us are 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.
So what are you brand values?
Everyone has values. Whether we are aware or not most of us are guided by two sets of co-existing value systems;
Private motivational values which help us make decisions about how we prefer to live our life. Deep down reasons for why we choose a certain career path or live in a particular area.
Public personal values, the ones we show the world. People who are successful have several things in common.
They 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. For example someone whose private values are altruistic may choose to work in a caring profession as a nurse or social worker. If their private values are altruistic and commercially ambitious then they may decide to set up a company which develops and assesses people working in corporate organisations.
Here are five questions to ask yourself as you set about understanding your true values, private and public:
What is the motivation behind your public Personal Brand Values? 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?
Are you “emotionally” committed to change? The classic pitfall: Your motivational values are based as much on gut feelings as they are on logic, if not more so. If it doesn’t feel right things will not work out well and you are bound to fail. Your personal brand is most likely to succeed if you are emotionally committed to change.
Who else does this impact? Adoption or re-alignment of new values will impact those around you. Colleagues and friends may notice changes and the temptation to slip back to old ways will be high – old habits die hard. Those impacted will react in different ways to the changes in you – be prepared for feedback.
Be flexible in how you make the changes? Do not jump in at the deep end. Have a strategy of how you want to change your personal brand and adapt accordingly to reflect different experiences. Personal brand values are a force for change, not a straitjacket.
Putting your Personal Brand Values into practice? If only it was as easy to put values into practice as it is to define them! Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is one fire that needs to tended. Client meetings, networking, and especially face to face conversations, they’re all opportunities to feed the flames. So if your brand values are ‘Creative, Intelligent, Leader and Positive’. Are you someone who looks creative, sounds intelligent and behaves like a leader?
If not what do you need to change to be true to your values. Would a leader turn up late at a networking event dressed scruffily and apologises or hides in the corner?
It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. It starts with authenticity and desire to change.
Tips and Hints for a Successful Brand Image
A key aspect of personal branding is to portray your key messages clearly and consistently in your appearance. Visual dominated 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? If not, it’s time to focus on this important aspect for yourself.
About the author:
Salma Shah is the Founder and Director of Beyond, whose corporate clients include; Oracle, Microsoft, Cap Gemini, New Star Asset Management and Infor. Salma’s focus is to combine business skills with business psychology to help course participants to perform at their best and have a measurable increase in their performance. Beyond also partners with companies and assists them to take development and assessment to the next level. Beyond offer some great training courses to help develop people in business. Find out more at www.beyondonline.org