Personal Branding at the executive level is impactful for both the executive and the organization. The value to the organization is shortening the process to match an executive to the right position where they will thrive and drive results quickly. Conversely, executives who propagate their brand will be offered positions where they will have a higher chance of succeeding and have an accelerated path to connecting with the teams under them.
Executive personal brands reflect who you are at the level (title or leadership phase) you are and will be.
Your personal brand allows people to relate to you and will understand your values, value, and interactions. Executives I have worked with in the past have used the following questions to start defining their brand are as follows. How do I show up from the moment I enter the room until I leave the room? What expertise do I bring and how do I use that expertise? When smart team members come to see me, what do they make certain to prepare? IF someone on my team described me in a recruiting interview, what would they say?
I recently worked with an a Vice President in a Fortune 100 company who came into the coaching engagement articulating their desire to work on their “communications”. They wanted others to see them as a high-value impactful part of their current and future teams. After we explored this further, we found the executive had predominantly above average communications skills in the key areas and those around him saw him as an asset and someone who “got things done”. The real issue wasn’t communications it was personal brand. The brand the executive was presenting was stale for where he was going in the organization and given his modest unassuming nature was only being talked about by a select few.
Your personal brand without your constant attention is just your reputation as others see you following their last positive OR negative interactions with you. A reputation isn’t necessarily what you want others to see and say about you. As a coach, I have heard others say I ask bold insightful questions that others have not considered. Most of my clients (individuals or teams) and customers (organizations where the clients work) have no idea what my previous leadership background is and what else I bring to the table.
How do you or I bring the whole message to the table without sounding like a braggart?
Curiosity, Activate, Propagate. Introducing the CAP approach to Executive Personal Branding
Get curious about what your reputation is today. The only way to do this is to get firsthand feedback. You might think you have a good idea of what your reputation is, however, it is always jaded by your own thoughts and blind spots. In addition, you can reread your past assessments, specifically the comments section. You can then ask people directly, people you know and people that you barely know. If they struggle to articulate fully for you, try using the 3-word approach, for example, what 3 words or phrases do you feel best describe my personal value to the company? Sit with this feedback and analyze it not for the negative aspects, but for the positive strong attributes. Do you own these attributes? Are they strong enough for your position and where you are headed in your career? Can you feel the strength of these in your next career step? Are they enough?
I love this word. The synonyms for activate are stimulate, galvanize, and initiate. You need to stimulate your thinking and create an authentic “best you” brand that can be used to galvanize your reputation into what you want to be remembered and said about you. This is where most people say they are uncomfortable because they believe they cannot know they do this without bragging or being immodest. If this is you, then put this thinking in the hold parking lot until you finish the CAP process overview. The big questions to ask yourself at this stage are: What is your vision and unique value proposition for your viable, consistent, authentic future personal brand? What has been your ROI in the organizations where you work and have worked, e.g acquisitions, new revenue sources, expense cutting, high profile projects? What level of visibility and to what audiences do you want/need to demonstrate your expertise as you advance, e.g. will you be presenting as this brand to the CEO of your organization, other organizations, as an industry expert? How will you know when you are presenting, narrating and living this brand?
Come up with no more than 3 power phrases that can be used in a multitude of ways: in a bio as someone introduces you to present at an industry conference, by your team as they describe you to the new recruit when your boss is giving the reasons why you are perfect for promotion.
What is the gap between reputation today and your aspirational brand? What is needed for you to close the gap between today’s reputation and tomorrow’s aspirational brand? Develop a plan to close the gaps to your aspirational brand. This last action under Activate shouldn’t be missed, we all have strengths that we are not featuring or would be more powerful if we upgraded them. Don’t just dream it, create strong actions that make it happen.
Now is when you bring that fear of being immodest back from the parking lot. How can we use this great work you did in Activate and get others to see it too? First, you do not need to go pound your chest with your brand, you can toot your own horn without bragging. One way to do this is to use successes to emphasize your specific attributes of the brand. Be sure to use the power phrase EXACTLY as you have articulated in at the end of Activate. For example, if you said one of your power phrases was being inclusive, specifically of key players for maximum efficiency in decision-making for results, you might put a line in your status review for a key initiative like this: we were INCLUSIVE of all departments to ensure we were EFFICIENT and are now MAXIMIZING RESULTS. You can also consistently use your power phrases as you are in meetings: I think we should be more INCLUSIVE, let’s INCLUDE Sam as VP of Engineering to our next meeting on this subject. We as a company MAXIMIZE RESULTS through INCLUSION and BETTER DECISIONMAKING, let me give you an example……
You will know you are successful in propagating your brand when you hear your words said back to you.
CAP is powerful
I had one executive create 3 phrases and used them consistently with those around him. As we were completing his final review with his boss, the President, I asked what the President thought this person’s brand was. The President nailed 2 out of 3 of the phrases and talked about how this had become apparent over the last 6 months. This short timeframe to getting your brand noticed was definitely an exception to the rule. Normally as human beings, we need to see and hear how someone has changed many times before we can internalize it and be able to articulate the change. So stay the course and keep propagating your brand frequently.
I hope that you too can count the feathers you put in your CAP as you are rewarded with the result of others referring to your brand and the power you want to bring to your team, your boss and your organization.
Here are a few additional resources that might serve you as you go through the CAP process:
BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing IT by Peggy Klaus.
The Brand Called You by Tom Peters
Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives by William Arruda
At Kinetic Insights, our PathFinders are skilled in helping leaders unleash the greatness in themselves and in their organizations. Call or email us for a quick discussion that just might put you and your team on the path to significant change.