We all have a brand, whether we have consciously created it by design or whether it has been created for us by default. Everything a leader says, does, does not say or does not do is brand defining.
In its simplest form, a brand is what people think of when they hear your name. Ideally the brand you have and the brand you want will be in complete alignment. In other words, people will associate you with the qualities and character traits that you desire to be associated with.
Often, however, there is a gap between how a leader wants to be thought of and how she is actually perceived. That gap is where coaching can work wonders. We find out what the prevailing perceptions are, define the leader’s desired brand and work to close the gap.
Your brand is the promise you make and how you deliver on that promise. Your brand will only adhere to you if you can fulfill the promise you have made. Thus it is important not only to think aspirationally (what do I want people to think about me?), but also practically (what can I deliver and what do I want to deliver?).
For example, I received a resume from someone applying for an open administrative role at my company. In the cover letter, the applicant told me that she is detail-oriented but when I opened her attached resume, I found a typo. The promise was detail orientation but that promise went unfulfilled. Clearly, she cannot claim detail orientation as part of her brand (and she did not get an interview for the job)!
Remember that your brand is out there in the minds of those you work with, whether you are aware of it or not. You may want to reach out to some of your colleagues and trusted contacts to ask “What is my brand?” Or, you can hire an executive coach to conduct interviews with key people you work with to find out. When I conduct these types of stakeholder interviews for my executive coaching clients, I always ask the interviewees about my client’s brand.
These steps can be helpful in establishing a brand you want to live into and also help you see where you may have gaps. Once you have some data on how you are perceived, consider your career goals. Ask yourself, “Is that the brand I want and need in order to reach my goals?”
Having identified your desired brand and assuring that brand is something you can deliver, you can use that information to consciously design your actions. What you say and do every day as a leader should directly align with the brand you desire to create and reinforce. Knowing your brand is a key piece of information as you determine what promotions or jobs to seek, how to respond to requests and even how you compose an email message.
What’s your brand promise and how are you doing at fulfilling it in your everyday actions?