Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Brand of You!

 Like a lot of you, I have followed the Toyota story and all of its accompanying fallout. It reminds me of a situation that occurred back in the early 80's and this time it was Audi. They were trying to rectify a similar type problem. Lot of bad press. The story stayed alive for months. 60 minutes did a piece on it. It was as much in the news as the Toyota issue is today.

Wow did Audi survive! Today Audi is one of the hottest cars on the market today and nary a tweet of their past troubles. What does that have to do with Toyota? If you have a strong brand going into a crisis, there is a strong possibility that you will survive it. Both of these examples show the importance of a strong brand image. On the other hand, GM went into a storm with a badly damaged brand and even though their cars can now compete on quality, the stench of the past is still there.

If you have read this far, you are probably wondering about all this auto stuff and are probably wondering; what does it have to do with me? It is always about the brand. A brand is a set of perceptions and images that represent a company, product, service and yes even you. While many people refer to a brand as a logo, tag line or audio jingle, a brand is actually much larger. A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.

 Your personal brand is the most important quality that you can and should project.

* What is your message?
* Would you be highly recommended by your peers?
* People that you have interacted with, what would they have to say?
* Do you have a strong track record and level of success?
* What key words would describe you?

We are all somewhat like to Toyota's, Audi and GM or any product for that matter. We all strive to accomplish, do good quality work, be seen as a top producer, develop a stable family life and the list goes on. In our mind we are top-notch, but what would our peers have to say?

This reminds me of a story that was told by Marshall Goldsmith. He was called in to work with a senior executive who was on track for the CEO role. The current CEO has doubts about the executives' people skills and wanted him to work with an executive coach to round out this much needed skill. In having the initial conversation with this executive, the executive told the story about being a great leader, excellent collaborator and how positively he was viewed by his team and family.

As part of Marshalls methodology, he spoke first with the executive wife and kids and got a totally different opinion. His wife told the story that he knew everything; he was obnoxious and never listened to other points of view. The kids said he was always bossing them around and on top of that he never spent quality time with them. It was his way of the highway with his family. As Marshall proceeded with his process, he got basically the same information from his direct reports as he did with the executive's family. As you may have figured out by now, the executive was dumbfounded and clueless when presented with this assessment.

As part of our career evolution, we are sometimes faced with issues that can and do cause derailment. This is not only career related but can happen in every facet of our lives.

The question that I have is "can your brand withstand a hit". This hit can be a recent layoff, career change or other type derailment. Can you survive it? Are you who you think you are? A great step forward in answering this question is self-awareness. Self-awareness is described as an awareness of one's own personality or individuality. As you grow in self-awareness, you will better understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave as you behave. That understanding then gives you the opportunity and freedom to change those things you'd like to change about yourself and create the life you want. Without fully knowing who you are, self acceptance and change become impossible.

I recently read a great piece titled "First Steps in Self-Awareness" which list the following steps:

* Reflect on who you are and who you'd like to become
* Pay attention to your likes and dislikes.
* Face your inner self
* Ask your loved ones' opinion
* Ask your peers their honest assessment (my personal addition)
* And remember; be gentle with yourself......

In human resources departments around the world, this process is going to be a must in facing the issues that you have faced in the past couple of years. What is your brand within your company? From all research that I have read, the answer is that we need to become aware of our brand. We ask for seats at the table, but our brand will not allow us that seat. We ask to become business partners, but our brand will now allow us to be really thought of a true business partner. We want to be viewed as Marketing, Sales and Finance are viewed, but our brand is not clear and focused.

Self-Awareness is our personal as well as professional challenge.

"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightment"_ Tao Tzu

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