I have been doing quite a bit of research lately on personal brands. This may be a new concept for some but, whether you realize it or not, every person has their own personal brand much like companies do. When you stop and think about it, it does make sense…think about one of your favorite products. What comes to mind? What value does this brand/product provide? Is it reliable? Trustworthy? High quality? Effective? Well, guess what? Employers, potential business partners, co-workers, peers, friends and neighbors all evaluate you on those same qualities.
Just as in managing a corporate brand, the first step in managing your personal brand is to focus on self-awareness. How are you perceived? What are your doing well and what really needs some work? Is your vision of yourself in sync with the reality of the perceptions of others? In order to maximize your brand, you must know how you are viewed. I have an acquaintance that truly has no self-awareness and an incredible sense of self-importance. She literally has no insight into the fact that she has lost all credibility with her peers, co-workers and customers. In her mind, her brand is strong and equates to business acumen, strategic thinking and executive-level management and decision making skills. The reality is that her peers and customers view her as manipulative, lacking substance, weak and untrustworthy. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.
How can someone be so off-course? I simply do not have an answer. However, there are tools to help you get a clear vision perceptions of your personal brand. A tool that I have used recently is 360Reach. Using this tool, you identify peers, customers, co-workers, etc., that you feel will give you honest feedback on your strengths, weaknesses and opportunity areas. Ideally you develop a list of about 15 people to survey in order to get a good sample size. This is a great tool to understand the value proposition you deliver as seen through the eyes of people who are on the receiving end. It’s also very good at shining a light on areas you need to focus on and improve in order to optimize your brand. I recently went through this process and found it to be extremely helpful and enlightening.
Now, fair warning…getting feedback may not be for the faint of heart. It’s not easy hearing about things you may not be doing well, especially if you have no idea that you’re viewed as anything other than stellar. Imagine the person I described above discovering that she is not viewed as the shining star that she sees herself as being. The key to successful feedback is that the person being reviewed wants to receive the feedback because they want to improve. That’s why employer annual reviews are not always successful. If the employee is not open to the feedback, chances are they will not make the needed changes.
So…as you go through your day today, ask yourself “how am I being perceived? Am I brand that really brings value or is there work I need to do to get myself there…”…I think you’ll find working on your brand to be an incredibly valuable process that will bring you great rewards long term. Stay tuned for future info on what to do once you get the feedback…it can be a bit scary…