Where Are You Setting Your Sights For Your Personal Brand?

“Am I writing down what I think my personal brand is now, or what I want it to be?”

It’s a question I get asked often during the part of my workshops where people begin to define their brands. They’re thinking not just about where their careers are now but, quite rightly, where they want them to be. So here’s what I tell them:

“Your personal brand can be aspirational, so long as it’s achievable.”

The whole point of a personal brand is to be the best version of who you already are – so you don’t want to end up with something that’s a world away from that. But you also want your brand to help others see your potential, hence the aspirational bit.

It can be hard to get the balance right, so if you’re struggling, here’s a 2-step process I’ve used with a few of my clients:

Step 1. Start by defining the brand you already have, that’s working for where you are in your career now.

Step 2. Re-read it, asking yourself which statements would remain true for where you want to go next in your career and which ones need to be tweaked for a better fit.

I want to be clear here.

You’re NOT asking saying to yourself, “Hey, what sort of personal brand do I think would appeal to the people who decide who gets a promotion round here?” What you are doing is asking yourself, “How do I take the elements that already appear in my personal brand and apply them differently to show I’m ready for the next step.”

Here’s what I’m talking about…

A client of mine was a mid-level manager in a global organisation, heading up a large IT team. He was happy with his current reputation as the go-to guy for getting technical problems solved, but was ready to take the next step.

His aim was to get promoted to a more senior level, where he’d be better placed to influence business strategy, giving more clout to the effect IT could have in the company’s future, plus better represent the interests of his team.

As he said, “I have a seat at the table, but I’m not making proper use of it.”

We started by digging into who he was and what made him tick. However, as someone whose mind was firmly rooted in logic and numbers, considering the stuff that sat deeper in his psyche – like his Values and Drivers – wasn’t easy.

So rather than add in the extra complication of thinking of himself aspirationally, as the leader he wanted to be, we concentrated on the here and now. Then, having defined his initial incarnation of his brand, we looked at it with fresh eyes.

Much stayed the same.

His Values in particular remained relevant, as did most of his Skills/Strengths, plus his Image. But when we considered his Drivers and Behaviours, in terms of what would be expected of a next-level leader, we made a couple of subtle but important changes, as you’ll see:

DRIVER as noted in first version of his brand

I aim to please: my #1 motivator is doing something that matters to others. In turn, I hope to gain supporters who will help progress my career to where I can focus on what matters and influence what happens.

This approached his brand from his current point of view of seeking what he needed to progress.

DRIVER as noted in the second (aspirational) one

I aim to please: my #1 motivator is if it matters to others, it matters to me – particularly the customer. Delivering value to them delivers value to the business through success and profits.

This kept the same catalyst to his Driver, but changed its focus to deliver something to the business, not him.

BEHAVIOUR as noted in first version of his brand

Nobody wants surprises so if I agree to do something, it’ll be done and I’ll keep you drip-fed with updates on the way.

This placed him as the person doing the work itself, rather than as a leader of a team that delivered.

BEHAVIOUR as noted in the second (aspirational) one

If I agree to do something, I’ll make sure it gets done, keeping the lines of communication open, so you can trust you have the same information I have.

This redressed that, keeping his promise to deliver, but thinking more of how he’d lead the operations.

The core ingredient of his brand remained the same in both, only its application changed.

So why not take a look at your own brand? (I’m assuming here that, as you read this blog post, you’re someone who takes their own brand seriously.) Now ask yourself: “Is this the brand of someone for where I am, or where I want to be?”

What do you think? Should a brand be aspirational? Or should it be based solely on what’s got you to where you are today? As ever, I’d love to read your thoughts and there’s a comment box below just waiting for them. Thanks!

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