Tag Archives: Personal 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

Lead Yourself – Take A Break

I have recently returned from 6 weeks leave, including a month with my family traveling in the West Coast of the United States. Apart from the obvious joy in spending time with my wife and daughters, a few other important observations reminded me of the importance of stepping away from the day-to-day roles I have.

CoachStation: My Girls in Hollywood Taking a break and removing yourself from the routines and ‘busyness’ of the modern daily grind is more important than ever. This topic is quite relevant at the moment, particularly in Australia as the school holidays are on and many of us are just returning to work after a break over the Christmas and New Year period. Making change to your lifestyle does not have to be a New Years resolution, which may not be sustained over time, but should derive from a level of self-awareness about what is working well for each of us and recognition/action around areas that could be improved. Beyond holidays, the period when returning to work from a holiday is a good time to refocus efforts on how to operate during the day whilst at work, at home and other times. This focus minimises the risk of burn-out and the expectation that holidays and extended breaks are to be the restoration ‘catch-all’ that they often need to be.

British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations’ personal benefits have been found to include: rest and recuperation from work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication; promotion of peace and understanding; personal and social development; visiting friends and relatives; religious pilgrimage and health; and, subjective wellbeing. The benefits of vacations extend to family relationships. An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond” (in sociological parlance, a “shared experience”) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks. (1) The disconnection afforded from a vacation can help us relieve stress, improve mood, and see the bigger picture. The anticipation of an upcoming vacation can boost well-being for up to eight weeks prior to the trip, according to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life. (2)

It is not only the type of break that a vacation or extended holiday provides that has benefit. How we operate during the day has a marked effect also. One of the core goals this year is to better utilise my time and how I apply breaks each day so that there is less of a ‘need’ to look forward to or expect that my holiday time is going to perform the miracle of restoring my energy and offer a period of relaxation that re-energises me. Discovery has shown me that this is unlikely based on experience – how I manage my time and energy every day has a much more significant impact on my resilience, tolerance and patience. It does not work if I wait for this balance to occur during a holiday, so a focus on how I operate daily provides a more sustainable, effective mindset. The alternative is like a short-term sugar high…the effect is short-lived and non-sustainable.

Though breaks might seem counterproductive, they’re more important than ever in the 24/7 workplace of constant connectivity and non-stop streams of email. We’re constantly checking and updating our email, Twitter and Facebook in addition to the other work we’re doing, and frequently we forgo real breaks in favor of cyber-loafing or Facebook-updating. There’s no way to perform at your highest level without allowing time for rest. Over long periods of working, the brain uses up oxygen and glucose, its primary form of energy. (2)

My most recent holiday was outstanding for many reasons whilst it also provided an opportunity to reflect on other aspects of my life. During this period I recognised the areas that could be improved even further related to the lifestyle, holidays and choices that assist to make the difference for myself, my business and my family. Some of these may be of relevance to you:

  1. A family or group holiday provides the opportunity to reconnect with those who are most important to you. This may sound obvious but you have to spend time with others to ensure the rich relationships that have been developed over time remain strong.
  2. The inverse of point 1, it is as important to ensure you take some time for yourself. This should be part of your normal rhythm at any time and matters just as much when on holidays when you are often trying to fit in as much as possible as it does during the normal routines of everyday life.
  3. Related to point 2, the ability to ‘switch off’ and focus on the now, even when on holidays provides a level of balance. I am fascinated by the brain and its workings. We continue to learn more about how the brain works and recent research reinforces the importance of neuroplasticity and mindfulness – keeping the brain active through varied and challenging actions and focusing on the current, at its most simplistic level.
  4. Schedule social media commitments. There are many tools available that allow you to ‘pre-schedule’ your social media activities to ensure you are able to switch off but maintain a presence and consistency on social media. This is important for me as I have worked hard to develop a web presence, so the idea of taking a month off and not maintaining some contact is counter-intuitive, however by using Hootsuite as I do, I was able to maintain an overview presence during the month without taking much out of my holiday time at all.
  5. Ensure that the wonders that are provided through modern technology are used to your advantage, not disadvantage. For instance, it could be easily argued that email and mobile are as big a time-waster and hindrance as a benefit. Of course, how they are used has a major impact either way, like many things in life.
  6. The need for a full and restful sleep is an imperative. Being a light sleeper means that I have to be conscious of getting the right length and depth of sleep. This has an immediate impact on my energy levels, motivation for exercise and tolerance.
  7. The need for holidays with family; my wife and I only; and short breaks for us an individuals each provide benefits and fulfillment.

Taking holidays and breaks regularly are important. I have always been surprised by those people who accrue their leave over many years, rarely taking a break, although ironically they are often the people who most need a break in my experience. How we function day-to-day is as important as when and how often we take a holiday. These are choices that require focus and attention which has been brought to life for me in recent weeks…what do you need to work on?

(1)  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health

(2)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/youve-been-taking-breaks-_n_4453448.html

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Filed under Drive, Leadership, Motivation

Accountability In Leadership

For a variety of reasons I have recently been encouraged to consider where accountability sits within our businesses and cultures. Many would agree that it has always been one of the core inputs to success as a leader. However, how many of us can state with certainty that it is well understood in theory and more importantly in practice and application?

Accountability is defined as, the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. (1)

The word obligation is interesting in the above definition. I see many managers who balk at this type of ‘obligation’. It is often easier to work in a space of denial rather than acceptance that leadership is an earned right not a response to a title and is never enhanced through bullying or threatening behaviour. Embracing the responsibility of leadership and being transparent in all that you do is a great next step to leadership improvement and credibility in the eyes of others.

Many leaders I have worked with would nod at reading this, acknowledging the importance of being accountable and holding their team members accountable. Interestingly various studies and personal experience highlights that often the same leaders direct reports differ on how this is applied in reality. After all, as a leader how your team members perceive you and make choices as to whether to follow you is a decision made by them, not you.

Being accountable is an attitude and behaviour. As leaders we must hold ourselves accountable first.

What we do matters more than what we say.

Over the past few months I have been making notes as to the types of behaviours, attributes and attitudes that restrict or block people/leaders from being accountable. It is not an exclusive list although does highlight many of the core restrictive inputs to being accountable, especially prevalent in leaders:

  1. Denial: inability to see their part to play and contribution to cultures, situations and outcomes. Quite often this relates to the element of fear mentioned below.
  2. Pride: unwillingness to accept the views of others; inflexible thinking; arrogance and other related attitudes will stifle how accountable you are prepared to be. Importantly, others will see this very clearly, impacting your ability to influence and develop trust in and from your team.
  3. Recognition of impact: taking credit for work completed by others and conversely not accepting when things go wrong. Relates to blame.
  4. Failure to acknowledge or understand the culture of your business and sub-cultures that exist within smaller business units and teams.
  5. Blaming others for what is in existence or where it is at. You are the leader…be accountable and lead!
  6. Lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence: understand the influence and impact you have on others. Use it to the advantage of all. The satisfaction and benefits far outweigh the stress of the alternatives.
  7. Filtered information acceptance: be honest and upfront in your conversations, even when it is hard…in fact, especially when it is hard.
  8. Fear: the fear of the unknown; change; your own capability; how things will be accepted and many other negative fear-based elements can stop accountability in its tracks.
  9. Make it about themselves: inability or unwillingness to put others first. Being a leader is a privilege and acknowledging that your role is about other people first and foremost, is a big step for many however is a critical aspect of effective leadership.

As leaders we are obligated to lead, which includes setting our team members up for success. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect people to understand our expectations if we have not clearly explained the context and parameters. Clarity matters. The onus is on us first. This can only be achieved if the responsibilities, tasks and expectations are clear and understood in the first place. A great way to lose trust and credibility is to hold others accountable for what we have not done initially and reinforced along the way.

To expand upon this point the simple step-process below that I created some years ago highlights 5 core steps that assist leaders in practice. It is a simple reminder that we can only hold others accountable to what was set up and clarified correctly in the initial phases of the relationship or role i.e. be clear about responsibilities, ownership and expectations. The ability to measure the performance including inputs and outcomes of every one of your employees and the team as a whole is important. Lastly, supporting the process of improvement and change through coaching and development shows that you care enough to be part of the solution rather than a manager who prefers to challenge from afar and criticise without assisting to improve the situation.

  1. Responsibilities
  2. Accountability
  3. Performance
  4. Measurement
  5. Development/Change

One of the key elements of accountability is the comfort to have the ‘right’ conversations. Being accountable is addressing all issues and providing feedback for positive behaviours also. This is not something that we pick and choose depending on our own levels of comfort or fear. You are either all in or you are out!

Strong relationships with high trust allow us to have the right conversations. In all of our relationships, both inside and outside of the workplace, we earn the right to hold others accountable. A surface level conversation once every few months will never cut it. I believe there is no conversation that cannot be had – with the caveat that it is what happens in between the formal discussions that enables us to ‘go there’.

Assessing the reality of situations and relationships is an important skill to gain confidence in these situations. Emotional intelligence and the ability to assess where an individual is ‘at’ will provide a platform for trust, connection and relationships with meaning. Once established most of these conversations become less stressful, relative to the depth of relationship.

One of the biggest challenges to accountability is politics and gamesmanship. These negative behaviours have very little useful contribution to holding ourselves accountable let alone others. In fact, whether it is clear to you or not most people can see politics in play early on – this is a relationship and credibility killer.

In my view those who feel the need to spend most of their time in this space often lack genuine direction, confidence and self-esteem. This style is a way to compensate for gaps such as these, along with skill and capability to own the relationships. Being accountable is a choice, but don’t fool yourself into thinking others cannot see through the masquerade.

Being consistent in your approach and following through on your commitments is a significant contributor to being seen as accountable.

Be an accountable leader by helping your team members through coaching and building a connection where the responses to your questions have depth and meaning. Most people cannot interpret feedback to the point where they are able to translate this information into a series of meaningful actions leading to growth, improvement or change. Interestingly, feedback instead of coaching is what actually occurs more often than not. Feedback has its place within the coaching methodology or framework but is neither a replacement for nor the same as coaching. The core mantra here is to give much more than you take.

The brief video below from Kevin Eikenberry highlights the importance of knowing that accountability is everyone’s responsibility…including yours!

 

(1)   http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accountability.html#ixzz339dgjVXG

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership