In the now-famous 1997 article, Tom Peters changed the way we saw ourselves in our careers. In the article, Peters proclaimed that regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of personal branding. Our most important job is to be the CEO for the brand called ‘you.’ But how do you know if your brand is producing the results you want?
In a recent Institute for Management Studies virtual program, Lida Citroen, author of Control the Narrative: The Executive’s Guide to Building, Pivoting and Repairing Your Reputation, provided a proven and practical step-by-step approach to building a positive and consistent image and brand. She stated that your brand is an emotional quality that people connect with. She goes on to identify the following three steps that should be addressed first when building your brand.
1 – IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
Your values are the principles that you use to make decisions. Have you identified your top 5 values? Do your past and current actions reinforce them? Your values should drive your actions and on the flip side, the actions should be providing evidence of your values. Remember brands are anchored in values.
2 – ASSESS YOUR CURRENT PERSONAL BRAND
Once you identify the important values that are driving your actions, the next step is to gain a better understanding of where your brand is today. Choose carefully those you ask for feedback. Ideally, you should target people who you believe will be honest and forthcoming. In addition, conduct 360 interviews with people at all levels (subordinates, colleagues, superiors). Don’t argue or get defensive with their feedback, but instead receive it with gratitude. A few of the common questions to ask are the following:
- What are some words you would use to describe me?
- What makes me memorable?
- For what would you refer me?
Were there common themes uncovered during these interviews? This feedback will also help identify blind spots or gaps in how you are perceived today. You don’t have to act on all feedback, just act upon those items that support your desired reputation.
3 – CLARIFY YOUR DESIRED BRAND
Clarifying your desired brand starts with asking the question, how do you want to be remembered? Imagine the end of your life, how do you want all the people that you have developed relationships within either a work or personal environment to feel? Are they happy remembering your contributions to helping them? Do they feel inspired by the difference your life made? Are they proud to have known you?
Once you have a clear picture of how you want the end to look, take that picture and use it to direct all future decisions from now until then. Not only will this help to ensure you get that legacy at the end but you start earning that legacy today.
Hopefully, these steps will set you on the right path in cultivating a deliberate brand that speaks to who you are and one that you are proud of. However, as you further refine your brand remember to keep in mind it must also be genuine and authentic, compelling to your target audience and consistent with your values. Personal branding is a lifelong project that constantly evolves and changes.
I am reminded of the quote by Robert Kiyosaki, author of more than 26 books, including the best-selling personal finance book of all time, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and someone who has built a strong brand. In his book he states, “If you are not a brand, you are a commodity.”
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.