To distinguish themselves and their products, organizations rely upon a brand to identify themselves. A lot of energy and money is invested in getting us to relate to a product and to be able to identify it easily with a mark or logo. These representations are meant to do more than bring a product to mind. They are intended to evoke an emotional response and connect us more deeply to the organization and its products.
You too have a brand, and it also evokes an emotional response from those you interact with. While you may not have a logo, you do have a reputation, and it’s your job to see yourself and your actions as others do, to be intentional about how you want others to think of you.
To build and strengthen our brand, we need to ask ourselves, and more importantly others, three questions about our approach and our work. And once we have asked the questions, we need to continue to ask them and continue to adjust our approach:
1 Am I easy to work with?
“Of course I am,” you might say. In fact, it turns out that all of us have work, communication, and interaction preferences that may not work well for others. For example, you might prefer to talk your problems out to arrive at a solution while someone else needs solitude to do the same. Likewise, a co-worker may be hesitant to take a particular course of action while you may want to jump in and experiment.
These preferences aren’t right or wrong, but they (along with a whole lot of others) can cause friction. People who are easier to work with have built an awareness of their interpersonal preferences and the potential misunderstanding that their preferences can cause. They use this knowledge to manage themselves and their relationships more effectively.
2 What are my strengths?
We all have areas in which we excel — things that we do or approaches that we take that are particularly effective. But sometimes we have a hard time seeing these things in ourselves, so we need the perspective of others.
Books like Strengths Finders 2.0 offer a simple way to recognize our skill sets so we can consider what differentiates us from others. While this tool is a great jumping-off point, we need to hear from others about our work and what sets us apart.
Once you have a clearer view of your strengths, you can use that knowledge to focus on opportunities that enable you to capitalize on your skills and talents.
3 Can I add value?
If you want to move up, the opportunity to get that next chance comes from proving that you have been able to add value in your current and previous work. For many, that requires switching from the language of being “responsible for” something and having a long list of qualifications to being able to talk about and illustrate your accomplishments.
Lots of people occupy positions (jobs) in organizations, but they often don’t use the chance in the role to make much of a difference. We must be able to prove that we have and can make a difference by identifying and talking about our accomplishments.
What’s an accomplishment? I define an accomplishment as “the completion of something that matters — where you took positive action.” The “something that matters” is something that is meaningful to the organization. For example, an accomplishment could be you saved the institution money by streamlining a process or you solved a complex problem that made those you serve happier.
Your brand is the combined outcome of others’ experiences with you and your achievements at work. You know your personal brand is solid when it evokes a positive response in others and when they seek you out for your unique blend of skills and accomplishments.