Your per­sonal brand is linked to that of your firm

The National - News - Business - - Front Page - Alex Davda is a busi­ness psy­chol­o­gist and client direc­tor at Ashridge Ex­ec­u­tive Education, Hult In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness School, and is based in the Mid­dle East. Email him at busi­ness@thena­tional.ae for ad­vice on any work is­sues

q I of­ten hear peo­ple talk about build­ing their per­sonal brand. But what does that mean if you are em­ployed by an or­gan­i­sa­tion? Should I be fo­cus­ing on build­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tional brand or does my own iden­tity in the work­place take prece­dence? NW, Dubai

a The term brand­ing has long been rel­e­gated to com­pa­nies, but to­day al­most ev­ery in­di­vid­ual has their own per­sonal brand. We may not con­sciously cul­ti­vate these brands, but they ex­ist. It is the phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal foot­print used by our friends, clients, col­leagues and bosses. It is this brand that ul­ti­mately cre­ates our rep­u­ta­tion and col­lec­tively forms the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion to the mar­ket.

Your brand is used by other peo­ple at work in a num­ber of ways. It can be used by se­nior ex­ec­u­tives or peers to con­sider or over­look you for projects and pro­mo­tions. It can also be used by your team to paint your pic­ture (ac­cu­rate or not) to a new team mem­ber. Re­mem­ber all im­pres­sions count and your brand be­comes your walk­ing, talk­ing LinkedIn pro­file. Only it is con­sid­er­ably harder to in­flu­ence what is be­ing posted.

If you are em­ployed by an or­gan­i­sa­tion, it will be its ex­pec­ta­tion that you have de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion that is in ser­vice of that or­gan­i­sa­tion. This pro­file may dif­fer within and out­side of the busi­ness, but is usu­ally ac­cepted if in ser­vice of the or­gan­i­sa­tional goals and de­liv­ered in line with its val­ues. For ex­am­ple, you may have a sales­per­son whose rep­u­ta­tion within the com­pany is to be cut-throat and com­pet­i­tive, yet their brand to cus­tomers is some­one re­garded as at­ten­tive, driven and per­sis­tent. If the or­gan­i­sa­tion val­ues those char­ac­ter­is­tics and ap­pre­ci­ates both sides, then that is fine. If the busi­ness pro­motes col­lab­o­ra­tion and this per­son is known for be­ing overly com­pet­i­tive, then this may be a prob­lem as they don’t ac­cu­rately por­tray the brand. There­fore, your own iden­tity in the work­place should go hand-in-hand with build­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tional brand and value propo­si­tion to cus­tomers.

The chal­lenge is how peo­ple go about build­ing this per­sonal brand. Brand­ing also im­plies that peo­ple may need to adopt iden­ti­ties that are ar­ti­fi­cial and plas­tic (like a pair of shoes) to be ap­peal­ing. This is not the case, and what ac­tu­ally works is build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion au­then­ti­cally and around your true self. If you’re spend­ing ev­ery hour of the day pre­tend­ing to be some­one you’re not to fit in, you’ll be ex­hausted and the or­gan­i­sa­tion will suf­fer. Sim­i­larly, if the or­gan­i­sa­tion is forc­ing you to cre­ate a brand that goes against who you are, then maybe you are in the wrong place.

Ul­ti­mately you need to con­sider the brand you have cre­ated and if it is valued by the com­pany. Ask your­self what you are known for and find out from oth­ers how it sees your strengths and devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. A 360 feed­back as­sess­ment is a use­ful way lead­ers can gather the per­cep­tions of oth­ers in a con­fi­den­tial man­ner through an on­line multi-rater sur­vey. Once de­briefed by an in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal coach, you can then be­gin to un­der­stand how your own be­hav­iour is per­ceived by oth­ers and the ef­fect you are hav­ing on the or­gan­i­sa­tion. You should make your­self crys­tal clear on the vi­sion, val­ues and be­hav­iours your or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­motes and then can con­sider whether some per­sonal change is to meet these.

Peo­ple reinvent them­selves all the time; to take on a new chal­lenge, shift into more mean­ing­ful work or re­but per­cep­tions that have hin­dered their ca­reer pro­gres­sion. You will be do­ing so to pro­mote your or­gan­i­sa­tion more ef­fec­tively, which is an hon­ourable choice. The most im­por­tant thing is to de­fine and clearly un­der­stand where you want to end up. Then you need to build the skills nec­es­sary for this new path, which may in­volve fur­ther qual­i­fi­ca­tions, train­ing or some self-dis­cov­ery. You also may need to re­work your so­cial me­dia pres­ence to bet­ter re­flect the or­gan­i­sa­tional image. You can then start chang­ing the nar­ra­tive one con­ver­sa­tion at a time.

Doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion

Our rep­u­ta­tion at work is what we are known for. It is ben­e­fi­cial to us as in­di­vid­u­als, but ul­ti­mately should pro­mote the com­pany and build its po­si­tion in the mar­ket. Yet in some in­stances, the two may be slightly out of sync. If so, some per­sonal re­brand­ing may be in or­der.

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