Personal Branding – Image versus Identity

Probably the hardest part of any personal branding is the step of completing a 360 degree assessment of your strengths and opportunities. Most people are intimidated by this step and fall not the trap of doing a superficial look in the mirror. In part, it is because they fear their self-perception far exceeds reality and their ego doesn’t want a wake-up call. This is a major mistake if you are serious about personal branding (and I would argue if you are not serious, don’t waste your time).

The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” directly applies. If you do not create a complete and accurate assessment of yourself as the foundation of the personal branding exercise, you likely will never address the things that really impede your success. Your fear of facing reality will ultimately guarantee your failure.

Having said that, what are the things you should be looking at? What are the factors that really count?

There are seven basic areas (in a work environment context) to focus on when creating a 360 degree assessment of yourself. Each is critically important to your overall success.

The first, and often most important, is GETTING RESULTS. What is your proven track record? Are your results meeting or exceeding management expectation? How do your results impact the business performance? Many people fall short in this area because they simply do their job well, but not exceptional. Doing the job well suggests you are a good fit for the role you are in. But, while necessary it is not sufficient to indicate you are ready to assume a more challenging role. The problem is you are not a good judge of whether you are meeting or exceeding performance standards. You are too close to the work, and you likely do not have a real understanding of your performance relative to your peers. Therefore you need input from Management and mentors to assess this area.

The second area is your proven LEADERSHIP skills. How have you applied those skills to change how the game is played? I have a good post on 5-E Leadership that will give you insight into what real leadership looks like. It is a good benchmark for assessing where you stand in leadership mastery. I encourage you to read it as well as the other blog posts listed in it as further reference. I find most people are too anxious to be promoted to have spent sufficient time in position to really demonstrate mastery of these skills. The potential to be a leader is not the same as having a track record of proven leadership. And, importantly, you have the opportunity to lead regardless of your role in an organization. You simply need to recognize that opportunity and proactively capitalize on it.

The third area deals with your CAPACITY for getting things done. Do you do what is expected or do you over achieve. Often this area gets intertwined with your ability to manage through effective delegation and to build organizational capacity by working on versus simply in the process. For perspective, you do not need direct reports to delegate work. You can delegate to people in other parts of the Organization when appropriate. But, you do need to ensure those activities are completed to a standard of excellence. Effective delegation increases your capacity to take on tasks on increased complexity.

The fourth area is RISK TAKING. Do you have a bias toward informed action, or do you wait to be authorized to take the next step? This area is about taking initiative to overcome obstacles and achieve results. It also includes process improvement so the Organization can achieve the same result more efficiently and effectively. Smart risk takers are valued in any Organization and often are given greater degrees of freedom by Management to operate.

The fifth area is about translating learning into INNOVATION. There are a lot of smart people who are subject matter experts, but fail to find practical ways to apply their knowledge to create business results. This area is all about seeing the connection between that knowledge and how to actually get things done. It is about discovering/creating new ways to accomplish goals. It is about learning from others and reapplying their knowledge to overcome current challenges. Great innovators are often effective benchmarks. They see the parallels between challenges faced by others and the challenge currently being addressed, and are able to create effective pathways forward based on those insights.

The sixth area is your THINKING. Are you intuitive? Can you balance the need for data and your intuition? Often with increased responsibility comes increased complexity. Instead of following well worn pathways to success, you are bushwhacking through new territory. Can you look forward and anticipate problems? Do you learn from your successes and failures? Can you be counted on to do the right thing?

The seventh area is COLLABORATION. Rare is the career that does not require working with others. Sometimes this is called emotional IQ (or EQ for short). Can you create positive relationships with diverse people? This includes people with diverse opinions on what the right thing to do is. Do you seek first to understand, or do you try and convince others of the rightness of your position? Are you able to nature and develop talent and encourage their growth?

In reality, we are each on a spectrum with respect to our personal mastery in these seven areas. It is important to understand where your skill level is relative to expectation. The best way to get that understanding is through quantitative research. Literally sending a questionnaire out to people who interact with you requesting them to rate their perception of your skill level on a 10-point scale. Comparing the aggregate results of responders (your proxy for image) with your self assessment (your proxy for identity) will help identify gaps (performance improvement opportunities).

This is the first step on your journey toward effective personal branding. My partner and I are in the process of creating a questionnaire that can be used in this step. If you are interested in learning more, contact me by email. Simply put Personal Branding in the subject line and I will respond.

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