What is your Personal Brand?
We are all familiar with the concept of brands and the power can play in influencing behaviours, especially buying behaviours, but we often forget that our personal brand is just as powerful. It will impact your success professionally and will follow you wherever you go.
Your professional brand is made up of the attributes that people will remember you by. Are you committed to quality work? Do you work collaboratively? Are you focused on delivering great service? Sometimes how we perceive ourselves is not how others do. Being aware of how your actions influence perceptions of others, particularly managers, leaders and colleagues is imperative to living your personal brand.
Your brand includes your skills, passions, experience, work style and more. How others will evaluate your brand will be impacted by your professional image, the results you deliver in your role, and your style. We are working with a client to help their leaders – seasoned and emerging – to identify the behaviours and actions they can take to ‘live’ their personal brand. Doing so includes several elements. However, none as important as:
- Effective Communication
- Professional Image
- Body language
We can all improve our communication skills. No one is a perfect communicator all of the time. The challenge with bringing our personal brand to life is that often the way we communicate doesn’t do our brand justice. We don’t choose the appropriate medium or use the right style to convey our best selves.
In a world where we are bombarded by emails, we rely heavily on electronic communication. The advantages of this medium are speed, ability to communicate one message to many and the ability to track and capture messages. The downside is that only 7% of our communication is delivered through the words we use. That means we are losing 93% of our effectiveness by only dropping an email.
When building your professional brand or wanting to improve how others perceive you, opt for live connections as often as you can. Grab a coffee, attend a conference, have a meeting. By doing so you will improve your ability to reinforce your personal brand. Given that tone of voice represents 38% of our communication and 55% is made up of body language, any opportunity to improve communication through face to face connections will improve how people perceive you.
The term “Professional Image” is one of those elusive terms. What does it really mean to present a good image? It can include how you dress, the way you carry yourself, the language you choose to use and whether your style of engagement is formal or informal.
In our business etiquette course we work with Gen Ys who are new to the workforce to ensure they are demonstrating the appropriate behaviours for each individual organization. If you work at a bank you may not be able to wear flip flops or expect to bring your dog to work. If you work at a funky design agency that might be appropriate. As the saying goes ‘you only have one chance to make a great first impression’ so make sure it aligns to your personal brand and that it sends the message you want. Even experienced senior level leaders need to be cognizant of their brand and image. This is especially true when moving to a new organization where there will likely be new norms to align to.
Body language says a lot through non verbal cues such as gestures and body movement. As noted, it represents 55% of your communication message. Demonstrating positive body language includes:
Taking up space: Sitting or stand with your legs apart a bit. This will signify to others that you are at ease with yourself.
Leaning in: Leaning in slightly when someone is speaking demonstrates that you are actively listening while leaning away signals that you are disinterested or disengaged in the situation.
Open arms: Crossing your arms is the visual clue that you are turned-off by what is going on around you. Practice hanging your arms comfortably at your side or bringing your hands together in your lap to show others that you are open to what they are communicating.
Talking with your hands: This is an easy way to incorporate gestures into your conversation but be careful not to over do it. Emphasizing words with your hands can lead you to appear more credible and assured.
A firm handshake. Your handshake is one of the most important nonverbal communication cues because it can set the mood for the entire conversation. A firm handshake will give you instant credibility while a weak handshake will make you appear fragile. Take care not to be too forceful with the other person’s hand though.
Making eye contact. Keep your head up and look the person who you are having a conversation with in the eyes both when they are talking to you and when you are talking to them. Good eye contact lets others know that you are interested in the conversation.
Affirmative movements: You can show engagement and empathy with simple actions of agreement like nodding your head or smiling. These actions let people know that you are on their side and that you can identify with their situation.
Taking notes: Taking notes lets others know that you value what they are saying and that you are engaged in the conversation.
Slowing down: Take a deep breath, hold it for a second or two, and let it out. Focus on slowing down your speech and body movements. This will make you appear more confident and contemplative. It will also help keep you calm if you are nervous.
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.