Your personal brand is linked to that of your firm
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.
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.