Tag Archives: Leadership development

What is Your Personal and Professional Brand?

CoachStation: Personal BrandingThe leader and employee in today’s environment must possess a credible and trusted brand, much like a company does.

 

The benefits of modern technology and Social Media make this easier than in the past. However it takes time and effort to develop a reputation that is built on genuine results, behaviours, skills and qualities that others identify as strengths and positive attributes.

 

Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others. (1)
Many leaders are already performing well in their roles and have much to offer. How many others know this is another question. Having the knowledge and tools to promote yourself effectively without appearing to be ‘big-noting’ is a challenge for some. I look at this differently. It is not about being a self-promoter. It is more about being comfortable enough in who you are and your achievements so that you can comfortably talk about it. Being overlooked for promotion; receiving little recognition; difficulty in explaining beliefs, passions or roles, amongst other skills can be difficult challenges. But they can be overcome. Creating a strong brand can only be achieved through consistent practice and application. This takes effort and accountability. In a blog I wrote previously titled ‘Ownership of Your Employment Status‘ I mentioned the importance of ownership and taking accountability. Perceptions about self and what we think others believe about us influences much of who we are and what we do.

 

Each person has their own beliefs and needs and are at various stages of acceptance of their situation, financial requirements and employability. Being clear about what you want from life, including as an employee, helps an individual make appropriate decisions based on want, values and need and not simply situation and opportunity. Even when current roles appear stable, understanding of yourself and focusing energies on the next step or options is a worthwhile exercise.

A brand in itself is not the end game. It is a mistake to think that a hollow set of tricks and/or being a good marketer without having the substance to support the brand will work. This is the same when promoting products, services or people. People see through this kind of facade very quickly, even when we think they haven’t.

A solid social media presence is one aspect, but not the only point. It is widely written that what is presented to the world via your web presence is becoming more and more critical to your brand. It is a wonder to me how many people still struggle with this concept. As important as this is, what is being highlighted here has greater depth, meaning and substance than merely presenting yourself professionally online. It is how you communicate, manage perceptions, behave, respond, learn about and apply emotional intelligence, develop your relationships, foster an ability to connect with others and many other core skills that makes a real difference.

 

Developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.  Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy.   They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.
Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.  This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.  Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and / or a voice that others can depend upon. (1)

Personal branding is a topic  that has been of interest to me for some years. I previously designed a 1-day workshop that focuses on developing a personal brand that means something in the workplace and the real world. This is not only relevant and important when you are looking for a new role. Essentially, having a strong brand always matters. I work with people in various industries at all levels of management, yet the branding elements remain surprisingly consistent. The issues that exist and skills required in modern workplaces are as applicable for entry-level employees as they are for supervisors and executive level leaders.

Within the workshop I focus on the core elements that can assist any individual to develop a reputation that is based on a solid foundation, leading to improved credibility and future success. These topics may be of use to you as you continue to develop your own brand:

  1. Understand why personal branding is important in the business environment.
  2. Learn the key elements of branding and how to build them.
  3. Confidence and being genuine – don’t feel you need to act the part.
  4. Understand the relevance of Social Media in developing a brand and how to use these tools to greatest effect.
  5. Develop a strong brand that matters to you and those who matter most to you.
  6. Be introduced to and learn how to use the most relevant tools and technology to develop your brand.
  7. Understand why a personal and professional brand is a non-negotiable for leaders and employees in today’s environment.

View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it.  Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve. (1)

Have you defined your own brand? If so, do you live and  breathe it consistently every day? The need to develop strength in reputation is more relevant today than ever. If you don’t take control of your brand it will continue to evolve but not in a way that will add value to yourself and those you care about. Think about what your brand looks like from the perspective of others and take action to be accountable in moulding it to greatest effect. The opportunity is yours.

 

(1)  Personal Branding is a Leadership Requirement, Not a Self-Promotion Campaign: Forbes

 

Some of my other blogs aligned to this topic:

Leadership Benefits: Self-Awareness and ROI

Turning Connections Into Relationships

 

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Filed under Accountability, Leadership, Self-Awareness

One Man’s Leadership Journey

The traits I believe good leaders must possess are people skills, ability to implement, strategic focus and commitment to the ongoing improvement of technical and knowledge skills.

Work Smart! The work force is not intrinsically fair. Ability alone will not guarantee a successful career.

CoachStation: LeadI have had the pleasure of working with Gary Leonard at Toyota Finance Australia (TFA) for the past 2 years. Coincidentally my contracted tenure with TFA finishes later in November, as does Gary’s 28 years with the company.

As I have spent time with and got to know Gary I realise that his success as a senior leader has not been driven by circumstance, but rather who he is and how he operates as a person and as a leader. The statements in the first few sentences of this blog highlight two of the many elements of his beliefs regarding leadership and business culture.

I felt it would be appropriate and do justice to Gary’s career to interview him and provide a few pearls of wisdom as Gary has seen his roles, philosophies, successes and challenges. They may well provide value in your own journey.

    What does leadership mean to you?

Walk into any bookshop and one of the most voluminous areas on any subject will be about ‘Leadership’. Many well researched and respected experts have written insightfully about this topic

I don’t think there is any silver bullet I can add that hasn’t been covered off before. However, the thing I would emphasise is the importance of integrity and honesty which are the building blocks on which all other competencies can be built on.

A leader must at all times be prepared to walk the talk. A leader must be a role model at all times for his staff, during and outside normal working hours. My favourite saying related to leadership or people is:

Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination (John Seaman Garns)

I particularly like this quote as it is sits well with my view on the frequently asked question “are leaders born or can leadership be learnt?”

Clearly my view after many years in the workforce is that effective leadership can be both taught and learnt.

    What is your background and work history?

Prior to working with Toyota Finance Australia (TFA) my career could be broadly divided into finance and non- finance. This included a short time in the Commonwealth Public Service (Department of Supply) and two years as a cadet Journalist with the Daily Mirror in Sydney.

My experience in finance came from 8 years at Esanda and stints with AFS (an off shoot of Hambro, an English Merchant Bank) and Mercantile Credit, at that time owned by National Mutual.

I joined TFS in an operational role as NSW Regional Manager in 1986. TFS undertook a major restructure in 1994 and I was asked to take on the head office role of Personnel Manager, despite not having any prior HR experience!! In 2008 I was promoted to General Manager Business Services; a very varied portfolio which has at different times included Human Resources , Strategy , Planning , Compliance, IT, Credit , Retail Contact Centre , Wholesale Centre and Collections.

    Is there any advice you would give to newer leaders starting out in their roles today?

Work Smart! The work force is not intrinsically fair. Ability alone will not guarantee a successful career. So what does working smart really mean?

I am a great believer in people realising their full potential. I have worked for a very large company where one feels like you can get lost in the system. I have often stated to my staff that one of the big advantages of working for a smaller company is that good performance can be more readily identified. The downside is that poor performance can also be more readily identified!

Working smarter to me is closely aligned to fulfilling and maximising one’s potential. Opportunities might include:

  • Volunteering for that challenging project to demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Taking the opportunity when presenting to the Executive to ensure you are well rehearsed and professional
  • Being proactive in your career and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves
  • Keeping current in your chosen discipline, keeping abreast of technology, dressing in appropriate and professional attire, thoroughly preparing for meetings etc.
  • Maintaining a suitable work-life balance. I have not necessarily achieved this myself but it is important to have outside interests and opportunity to focus time on family, friends and non-work related activities.

Let me give you a personal example. Through research I integrated some of the life experiences of a personal hero of mind, the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, with universal leadership traits that can be applied equally well in the work force, inclusive of some poetic license you would expect from a former journalist! I prepared this into a PowerPoint and presented it initially to some of my staff.

I have since been asked to present this piece of work to a number of other internal teams including the TFS Executive leaders. I have also presented to external organisations at their request.

I put this example forward as not only a way to have hopefully added value to the Organisation but at the same time as an opportunity to raise my personal profile within the organisation i.e. work smart.

     What one leadership development tip would you give to others?

I would try to access regular 360 feedback from superiors, peers and direct reports. I know this type of feedback can be quite confronting but it can also provide tremendous development opportunities if viewed constructively. I would also add that developing strength in working with people is critical, including taking joy in the development and success of others. After all, it is the people that make the difference to an organisation.

    What aspect of your career do you look back on with the most pride?

The aspect of my career I am most proud of called for me to deploy many of the skills I had developed over the years to ensure it was a successful project.

Two of Toyota Financial Services core products, Fleet and our extended warranty product, Toyota Extra Care, had originally been administered by our sister Company Toyota Motor Corporation Australia (TMCA). Strategically it was decided these products were better suited to be managed by Toyota Finance.

To support the transfer of this business from TMCA to TFS we had to relocate approximately 50 people with specialist skills from Taren Point to Milsons Point in Sydney. Logistically most staff lived within 10 kilometres of the Taren Point office and had access to subsidised motor vehicles and ample free parking on site.

We were now asking most of these staff to travel approximately 35 kilometres each way by public transport to get to work. Not to mention that the two companies enjoyed very different cultures and the staff to be relocated worked in a heavily unionised environment.

The successful relocation of our team was essential if we were to have the necessary IP to run the two business’s seamlessly and service the needs of their respective customer bases after the relocation. These staff had the option of taking attractive redundancy packages in lieu of agreeing to such transfers.

Overall, this offered quite a challenge!

In no way did I try to downplay the challenges such a significant relocation would present to an individual. What I did however was to present to them the positives such as enhanced career opportunities which would come from working for a larger company in the rapidly expanding finance industry

Supported by a strong change management and communications plan and most importantly being available at all times to discuss any issue with our team, however small or insignificant they may heave appeared at first glance. The majority of our employees made the decision to relocate.

One of my most treasured mementos from my years at Toyota was when the team members impacted by the relocation presented me with a beautiful watch in recognition of my efforts to support them during this period of transition.

    Do you think that leadership principles and practice have changed much over your career?

I do not believe the fundamentals of leadership have really changed to any great degree over the span of my career. This is possibly best reflected in one of my favourite quotes by William E. Holler.

Just as the real basics of human nature do not change from one generation to another, so the real basics of human leadership do not change from one leader to another – from one field to the next – but remain always and everywhere the same.

The traits I believe good leaders must possess are people skills, ability to implement, strategic focus and commitment to the ongoing improvement of technical and knowledge skills.

Many so called leaders possess some of these skills but outstanding leaders possess all of these skills in equal measure. My experience is that the number of managers who possess every one of these skills is relatively few. I believe that lacking in any of these competencies has an impact on the ability to successfully deliver optimal outcomes.

Additionally, when it comes to integrity and values, they are a core requirement for any leader. Learning the ‘tricks’ of leadership is not a sustainable attitude and people see through this over time. Ensuring that integrity is how you operate and who you are not just what you know or do is critical to leadership success.

As mentioned earlier, the fact that people make the key difference in and for organisations cannot be underestimated. The advent and higher profile of leadership tools and self-development concepts such as Emotional Intelligence and its influence on leadership is a positive aspect that has changed over the years.

     So, after a very successful career and your retirement being a matter of weeks away, what does the future hold for you, Gary?

My wife organised a very enjoyable 60th birthday celebration for me during which I took the opportunity to acknowledge her patience in living with a ‘workaholic‘.

In many ways with my working life soon to be effectively behind me what I am looking forward to is having the time to pursue a number of interests that I have neglected over the years and at the same time learning some completely new skills – hopefully inclusive of spending more time with my wife!

As I approach retirement I have taken the opportunity to speak to a number of friends who have already retired and some professionals who specialise in this field.

The common theme from all these people is that every day you get out of bed you must have a plan as to what you want to accomplish that day. I am genuinely excited at this prospect and will be disappointed if I don’t have to continue to keep a diary to keep track of the many things I still want to achieve in life!

Thank you and all the best for your retirement, Gary. I hope it brings you and your family all the rewards and joy you are looking for.

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Three Cornerstone Leadership Skills

There are many skills required to be a good leader. In my experience there are three core capabilities however, that when mastered, provide an outstanding platform for leadership success.

CoachStation: Leadership Development

These three skills are not only of great value to leading, but also to an extension/requirement of leadership which is the ability to build meaningful relationships with depth. Connecting with and the understanding of people is a key to earning the right to trust and be trusted; removing assumptions; accepting that differences between people is natural and when understood is a positive aspect of life; and increasing the opportunity to influence. Each of the skills detailed adds significant value to make these goals a reality.

Listening

The ability to truly listen forms a crucial element of any relationship. In my experience it remains the biggest single gap in capability and is not a strength across most people. Leaders who listen and take in the context and words of others have more chance to build a depth in relationships and purposeful direction, bringing others along on the journey. Listening impacts the level of respect people feel towards one another and taps into the core need to participate and be a ‘cog in the many cogs’ that make business run and life a success.

Associated skills such as paraphrasing; acknowledging; and body language are all important communication attributes, however listening has the most immediate impact both visually and practically. It is a difficult attribute to change or improve as it goes against the grain for most people. But it is not impossible and the power that comes from being a good and effective listener can be a game-changer for many of us in leadership positions.

Empathy

In my experience empathy is as much about acknowledging as anything else. I have worked within the leadership and customer experience areas for many years and it is amazing how customers and employees respond when empathy is provided at the appropriate time. It is just as impacting when the opportunity to show empathy is missed.

Empathy sits in the mid-range between apathy and sympathy. When practiced sufficiently so that empathy becomes a natural or unconscious part of how you think and operate, it can be a powerful tool in connecting with people. Empathy allows you to understand the emotional state of other people and build a connection though acknowledgment and understanding of alternative perspectives. The potency in this is enormous however is regularly a missed opportunity.

Questioning

The ability to ask the right questions at the right time is the single greatest skill I have been able to develop in myself and in helping other leaders develop.

How do you improve understanding? Ask!

This should not take the form of or feel like an interrogation. Developing the skills to know when is appropriate, what to ask and how many questions are relevant based on the person and situation will provide great clarity, purpose and direction. Again, this will also go some way to building a deeper and richer relationship with the person involved. We often feel the need to justify another’s position. When we seek solutions for a team member who has an issue that they want resolved or are unhappy with, we often try to resolve from our perspective, not theirs.

How can we answer a question that is not understood (or even asked)? It is neither our role nor right to speak on others behalf and we certainly don’t know as much about the issue or topic as the person involved. So don’t feel compelled to respond and justify what is not understood. Do question and paraphrase to understand and gain clarity.

None of these skills are a silver bullet that will resolve all relational and leadership issues. There is no doubt in my mind however, that by practicing and developing the ability to listen to what others are truly saying and meaning; ask the right questions to clarify and understand; and connect through relating to others via empathy actions and statements, you will become a better leader. In fact, these capabilities, when improved, will have a direct positive impact on all of your relationships…and who doesn’t want that?

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Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership