You know everything that you bring to the table as a leader. But do the people around you understand — and tap into — your value?
The answer to that question can make all the difference in your ability to drive results and to achieve goals like getting promoted or taking on an exciting new opportunity.
So, before we get any further into 2019, I want you to get really clear about what you want others to understand about your leadership this year.
I've got my own experiences with redefining my leadership brand. During my 14-year career at Deloitte, I remember exactly when I realized that how I viewed myself didn’t fully match how others viewed me. I was surprised to hear that some people found me intimidating. Some of the things I did with a positive intent were perceived in a very different way. To be mindful of everyone’s time constraints, I was always very efficient, focused and prepared with an agenda. That was great — except that I wasn’t spending enough time to just connect with people and show them more of the personal side of me. Fortunately, there were some simple steps I could take to show people some other aspects of myself and shift their perception. I took what I learned from my "rebranding" experience to hone a process that I use to help my executive coaching clients and that I will share with you today.
Assess Your Current Brand
The first step is to find out what you are known for today. Revisit your most recent performance review, talk to peers and mentors that you trust, and pay attention to how your colleagues react to what you say and do. Executive coaching is another effective way to get clarity about your current leadership brand.
Don’t worry if you discover that there's a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you. That’s not uncommon. My client, Susan, found herself in that exact situation. Her core strength, a deep commitment to getting results, led her to frequently get into “the weeds” as she explored potential solutions. Consequently, her bosses and others viewed her as being tactically and operationally oriented, but lacking a strategic perspective.
Even though Susan did “get” the big picture, how would anyone really know she did? In conversations, she talked far more about how to execute ideas and the tactical steps involved. She rarely connected her ideas to the larger context or priorities. As Susan began to make shifts in her communication style, the negative feedback dissipated.
Reinforce Your Desired Brand
In the journey of change, most of us seldom directly go from being criticized to being praised for the positive shifts we have made. There's usually an uncomfortable in-between stage. In Susan’s case, her new approach no longer raised questions in the minds of senior leaders. But she went from hearing criticism in this area to hearing … well, nothing.
Now don't get me wrong. Going from "negative noise" to "no noise" is progress, and worth celebrating. But there's one more step if you want to strengthen your brand as a leader. You have to help people notice the change.
Through key words and phrases, Susan began to consistently link her operational knowledge to the broader business goals and priorities. She helped others see that she understood both strategy and execution. She paid close attention to the balance of how much she shared details vs. how much she stayed higher-level in her communication. Susan also took on projects that gave her a chance to shine as a strategic thinker.
Susan showed up differently, and people noticed. She replaced old perceptions with new evidence of what and how she could contribute. This allowed others to better understand who she was as a leader and how they could tap into her strengths.
Keep It Authentic
The best part of all of this is that we reinforced Susan’s brand from a place of authenticity. In other words, by identifying who Susan really is and what matters most to her, we helped others see it more clearly. This allowed her to put her passion — driving for results — into play even more powerfully.
Now that you've read Susan’s story, it's your turn to think about your own leadership brand. Start by finding out how others perceive you today. Next, define your desired leadership brand. If someone were to describe you to someone else, what are the top three things you would want them to say? Your responses will reveal your core values, passions and strengths. And focusing on these things will help you step into your leadership in a way you haven’t before.