Updated: Apr 13
How Emerging Executives Can Shift to Total Rebirth While Increasing Employee Retention
The COVID-19 global pandemic has created a digital tectonic shift in communication. Remote working has become a way of life for many people around the world and has presented opportunities and challenges for emerging executives and team development. It is well known that having a strong personal brand can create opportunities within a company or even externally if for some reason an employee is made redundant.
Building a personal brand in the Zoom era has an opportunity cost of lost emotional connection which affects trust with peers, leaders and teams. As a means for survival, most leaders have focused heavily on the necessary tangible components of their roles and abandoned personal professional development to a certain degree. So, in fact, they have commoditized their personal brands, which is quite dangerous.
“A personal brand is a perception in the minds of others that must be developed, nurtured and managed by rising stars—the notion that there is no one else in the marketplace quite like them. Their personal brand will stand at the forefront of influencing all types of stakeholders in the niches your firm serves via their experience, expertise, thought leadership, honesty, integrity and capabilities”. (Source: Journal of Accountancy).
Strategic personal brand building is a necessary component of professional development for emerging executives and should be built from the inside-out. Personal branding building should consist of a mix of executive coaching, therapy, and career development where a high-performing leader ultimately discovers or rediscovers his/her WHY, establishes an authentic leadership style and begins to operate from a true place of purpose. Self-discovery should be the initial focus of one’s personal branding coaching journey, then Strategy and thirdly, Activation.
All companies (and leaders) can benefit from rebirth – change that leads to a new period of improvement for the brand, and this applies to personal branding too. Steve Forbes shared that “investment in one’s brand is the most strategic decision that companies can make, because without the brand, there is no differentiation". Without differentiation, brands compete merely on price and simply blend in.
Here are 10 steps that you or an emerging executive within your organization can take to build an authentic personal brand.
1. DETERMINE YOUR BRAND PREVISION (VISION)
This is a great time to assess where you are in your role, where you would like to go and what really brings you joy (not merely happiness). You should question why you want to build your brand and determine what success looks like for you in the short-term and long-term. It is totally appropriate to profile other thought leaders within your organization (or externally) so that you can solidify who you want to ‘become’. If you are working with a coach, he/she should help you determine what it would take for you to achieve true ‘self-actualization’. Brand goals should be established based on what you have defined that brings you joy so that you will have an anchor to build upon.
According to the Alan Vitberg, "Developing Your Personal Brand Equity", Journal of Accountancy, July 10, 2010,
“Personal brand equity refers to the (1) intangible value that individuals bring to the firm in terms of their ability to influence others by leveraging their experience, expertise and reputation (2) relationships they have built and maintained, and (3) the tangible value they bring in terms of their contribution to firm revenues and growth”(Source: Journal of Accountancy).
When you determine your brand prevision, it provides a roadmap to build your personal brand equity. All in all, this is a foundational step to building one’s personal brand.
2. ESTABLISH PERSONAL CORE VALUES
Core values demonstrate what energizes you as a person and can prescribe how you are geared to generate more success in your career. When you joined the organization you work for, you most likely learned about the brand’s core values. Well, it is important to determine your own personal core values as they measure core and unchanging motivational drivers. There are some great tools that will get you past choosing basic core values that don’t resonate with you at the deepest level. After establishing core values for your personal brand, look to see if you have values-alignment with your company.
It is important to find a way to connect with your organization and team at the core values level as well.
According to the Qualtrics State of Global Engagement Report, “Confidence in senior leadership to make the right decisions for the company is a top employee engagement driver and represents 53% of 13K responses spanning 12 countries, along with managers who help employees with career development (50%)”.
All in all, when emerging executives discover their personal core values and work for companies that invest in their professional development, it fosters a greater sense of engagement for them and invigorates their leadership impact.
3. DETERMINE YOUR WHY
It is a known fact that purpose-driven brands are more successful and build community. A poll conducted by Fred Kiel at KRW International found that CEOs who were seen as authentic in living the company’s purpose produced a higher return on assets (9.35%) vs. just 1.93% for those who rated lower. This statistic also applies to personal brands that are purpose-driven. When emerging executives and corporate leaders know their why (reason for being), their what (they do) has a greater impact.
As emerging executives desire corporate ascension and transition into leading teams, it becomes imperative that they understand the internal operating system that drives their decisions, direction, and behavior. It is a known fact that senior leaders/emerging executives struggle with team cohesion and lack confidence in their remote teams (at times).
In fact, according to a study on engagement, “Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies around $400-$500 billion each year".
Hence, in addition to emerging executives discovering their WHY, they should try and find a way to understand their team’s WHY”. Overall, determining your WHY, then that of your team’s WHY is a pivotal milestone in practicing authenticity, kinetic leadership and shows more promise of becoming more aligned with your company purpose.
4. PERFORM A SWOT ANALYSIS
Developed in the 1960s, SWOT stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats and is a strategic planning and management framework that was developed by the Stanford Research Institute and funded by Fortune 500 companies. After experiencing deep discovery with the steps, the SWOT can help one analyze additional dimensions using an objective lens and better define what one has to offer. It is also a powerful and systematic tool that can help when applied to personal branding. It has four quadrants and analyzes one’s internal self (Strengths & Weaknesses) and external self (Opportunities & Threats). Performing a SWOT will increase your emotional intelligence (self-awareness) and build a roadmap for personal success within the organization and will ultimately benefit your company as well.
5. DETERMINE THE PROBLEM YOU SOLVE
This is where you think beyond your daily tasks and responsibilities and go a little deeper. Look at your company’s vision statement, strategic goals, individual development plan and define what problem your skills sets are truly solving. Try your best to quantify the problem you are solving in terms of cost savings or opportunity costs of not solving the problem. Think about the “pains” that the organization is experiencing. Focus on the big jobs (initiatives) that your department or division is trying to get done and find your footing in it.
6. DEFINE AND ANALYZE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
It’s critical to understand whom you are serving (target audience) both internally and externally on a psychographic level. Psychographics go beyond basic demographics and look deeply into attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, interests and opinions. Think about the internal stakeholders (leaders, teams, etc.) you have visibility with and responsibility to on a regular basis. If your role (or the impact of your role) is externally facing, make sure you understand your customers on a psychographic level.
Ensure that you understand what is preventing your internal customer from getting his/her job done so that you can alleviate these pains. Frameworks like the Value Proposition Canvas help with fleshing out this thinking and is a great resource.
7. CRAFT BENEFITS AND REASONS TO BELIEVE
Benefits in personal branding for emerging executives refer to what is offered to the target audience (internal stakeholders) in terms of value. If your work product results in a stellar reputation for your department or #1 sales status, then document it. In brand management, benefits come in three packages: functional, emotional and self-expressive.
Functional benefits refer to tangible benefits of experiencing the brand. In the case of personal branding, this could refer to the outcomes of your work like cost savings or efficiency. It’s important to focus on what outcomes you achieve and not merely the processes you use to arrive at these outcomes.
Emotional benefits refer to how the brand makes people feel (i.e., satisfied, relieved, safe) when they work with you.
“Self-expressive benefits refer to how the brand communicates its self -image and symbolizes their customers’ self-concept. It is most concerned with “what does using your brand say about your customers.” (Source)
For example, when Sheila works with Byron (the emerging executive), she is smart because Byron has a strong track record of success in process improvement.
Once benefits are crafted for one’s personal brand, the focus can shift to 'Reasons to Believe' which are proof points of why others should believe in you. It is commonly used in corporate branding and is a precursor to establishing a strong unique selling proposition.
8. UNEARTH YOUR BRAND IDENTITY
After becoming fully self-aware, unearthing core values, determining your WHY and other aforementioned steps, the personal brand is ready to be brought to life. This could include a plethora of things including: a professional brand photoshoot, brand personality discovery, personal brand statement, customized color-palette and font/typeface identification.
9. DEVISE YOUR CHANNEL STRATEGY
After making the investment in building a solid and authentic brand, the next step should involve determining the best channels to share and promote this personal brand masterpiece. Covid-19 forced the world into remote working and for many companies, it will remain like this. Hence, it is imperative that one’s personal branding channel strategy have a strong digital (on-line) component.
Generally speaking, your channel strategy could involve assessing internal platforms, events, and opportunities at your company to leverage. Additionally, the focus could include external speaking opportunities, podcasts, forums, blogs, conferences, an intentional LinkedIn strategy or alliances that would improve and augment the reach of your personal brand for the dual benefit of you and your company. The determining factor in personal branding platform selection is where your target audience spends time and consumes content and it will most likely be digital.
10. ACTIVATE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Branding is about ‘being’ and marketing is about ‘doing’. Activation (marketing) in personal branding requires expanding your reach and generating awareness with your audience and ultimately creating brand evangelists. Brand evangelists are those who strongly insist on consuming your brand and sharing it with others.
Developing consistent and engaging content for your target audience is crucial. Foundational content could include: well written long-form and short-form bios, white papers, optimized LinkedIn profiles, videos (pre-recorded and live), participation in podcasts, personal website development, Linktree, etc.
Content development is an iterative process and should be tested, refined, and optimized to ensure relevance to your target audience. Once you achieve the ‘foundational’ personal branding steps 1-8, you might require minor retooling over time, but you should not have to make major changes. Steps 9-10 that are focused on activation and marketing are short-term and can be adapted and changed to suit the dynamic needs of platforms and technology.
Emerging executives and high-performing leaders in the corporate space, particularly in the technology sector, should view personal brand development as an opportunity for career growth and leadership development. “It is also important for upper management to understand and support the concept of personal branding and its importance for a firm’s growth and legacy. Personal brand equity planning should be a part of every firm’s succession plan to protect its future growth and viability”. (Source: Journal of Accountancy)
Personal branding increases greatly emotional intelligence, improves relationships and enables leaders to communicate from a point of strength. It would be beneficial for companies (HR departments) to support personal branding and executive coaching as a part of professional development for high-performing leaders.
"Employees who say their manager is not good at communicating are 23% more likely to experience mental health declines” according to a HBR study with Qualtrics and SAP."
Simply put, personal branding helps emerging executives lead better. Personal brand development is self-care for the aspiring and ascending emerging executive leader who is courageous enough to lead during a global pandemic and beyond. When emerging executives work with professionals to build their personal brand equity, it can produce lasting effects for them and the organization.
Tanika Vital-Pringle, Global MBA Brand Management, is a Personal Brand and Corporate Brand Strategist for Brand Rebirth who has over 20 years of experience working for global Fortune 50 companies and beyond. She is a certified WHY Coach and offers comprehensive personal branding coaching programs for Emerging Executives & High-Performing Leaders and Workshops to build employee engagement for teams. Book a discovery call today.
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