Brand

How are you showing up?

640px-Lioness-in-the-Serengeti

“Lioness-in-the-Serengeti” by Charles J Sharp – Cannon EOS with 300mm zoom lens. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5.

If you talk to twenty different people about how to “show up strong” you may get twenty different answers. This is because we all view strength through our own lens. There are, however, many studies that do show some statistically common responses to various behaviors. It’s good data, when interpreted correctly. Unfortunately, many people interpret it to sound as though we all have to be Ringmasters — performers with a booming voice, oozing charisma — to get anyone to follow us. Fortunately, this is not true. There are some great resources out there which suggest alternate paths, such as Quiet Leadership by David Rock, and some of the insights in Good to Great and Built to Last by Jim Collins.

Here, I add my thoughts, based on my experience with leaders over the past 20+ years. If you want to show up with strong leadership presence, I’ll boil it down to four big things:

Clarity of Purpose

The most important thing you can do before going into a situation where you want to show up strong is to clarify your purpose. When you remember why you are on this project, or making this recommendation or believe in this effort, you will feel greater commitment, communicate more clearly and stand stronger in the face of opposition. Bottom line, you will come across as more confident as well as competent. Before any meeting, take a few minutes to center your thoughts and consider:

  • Why am I / are we doing this?
  • What impact can / will it have?

Big Picture Focus

If the batting coach only talks about batting 100% of the time, and never about the team as a whole, he or she will never be seen as someone who can be the head coach.

Remember that the higher up in any organization a person goes, the greater the scope of concerns. If you only focus on small details, the message you are sending is that your scope and understanding is very small. This is unlikely to impress or influence others with larger scope concerns. Always:

  • Take time to understand what the big picture goal is and how your piece of the puzzle connects to it.
  • Reference that big picture any time you are speaking or presenting.

This will reinforce the impression by your audience that you can play at a higher level (or already are.)

Self Awareness

Here is where the external self becomes an even bigger part of the equation. Pay attention to your physical habits. Do they say small, weak and unsure, or strong, open and confident?  Are you like a mouse, with quick, small, nervous-seeming movements? Or are you like a lion with big, deliberate movements?  This does not mean loud = strong. Birds can be loud, squawking all the time. A bunch of loud squawking does not say “powerful”. It says “annoying”. Lions do not roar all the time. But you always know they are there. And when they do vocalize, you listen.

The next time you are in a situation where you want to appear strong (or preferably before that, while you are preparing):

  • Envision a mirror in front of you. What body language do you see?
  • Also, listen to your choice of words and tone of voice. Are you using lots of wiggle words and phrases (maybe, I think, this might be stupid but…)
  • Ask a trusted colleague how you are showing up and what behaviors, words and vocal cues give that impression.

Remember that we are all sending messages of submission, power, understanding, focus, nervousness, confusion, and many other things continuously through our actions and our words. What do yours say about you?

Self Control

Self awareness, if we do nothing with it, is not worth much. Once you identify behaviors that are counter-productive, you must engage in some kind of behavior modification. This may be a quick and easy change or a long, difficult process which takes many, many times to practice until the new behavior feels more natural. Remember how long it took you to learn to walk? No, of course you don’t, but I’ll tell you it wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy. But you did it.

Before you go into a situation where you want to show up differently:

  • Decide and practice in advance what behaviors you will use to replace the behaviors you don’t want.
  • Keep practicing until the new behaviors become ingrained.
  • Just before “performing”, do something physical. Get out the excess energy if you have too much with some jumping jacks or shake it out with your arms and shoulders like a boxer (where no one can see you!) Or, if you feel withdrawn and low energy, do some power poses and power breaths to feel bigger and stronger.
  • Envision success.
  • Only try to control what you can control — you!
  • Remember that you will survive no matter what. Seriously. Framing the situation properly can help to quell that fight or flight response in our brains that can send us back to our old habits.

The great thing about using strong behaviors is that it actually affects your brain chemistry and you feel stronger too, especially over time. Our minds and bodies have a pretty cool thing going on there.

Try these four tips and let me know how they help you to show up strong!

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Career Wellness Checkup #18

Do you know what your strengths are in terms of professional knowledge, skill and ability?

There’s a lot of talk out there these days about branding. Not for nothing, as my dad would always say. It really does make a difference. A strong brand is the only way you stand out from the crowd. I’ve seen time and time again, it’s the differentiating factor between those who are seeking opportunities and those who are sought out.

I’m not saying you need to crow it from the rooftops, or that everyone needs a website or a slick marketing piece. But you do need to be able to articulate how you can add value. Not just what you do, but how your unique combination of tools makes a tangible difference to your organization, your clients, your co-workers. And before you can articulate it, you’ve got to own it yourself.

Think about it – What are you the go-to person for? What seems easier for you than for most people? What kind of problems do you love solving or challenges do you love facing? What do you know better than anyone else?

Ask others – Where do I add value for you? What seems easy for me? How would others describe me and what I’m good at?

Use assessments – There are plenty of personality, knowledge and skill assessments out there which can give you some general ideas about your strengths relative to the general public or specific populations.

Once you have a better idea of your strengths, you can think more strategically about how to employ them. Using your strengths with more intention can create a powerful impact. And that’s good for your career.

Managing your virtual brand

In a recent post, I asked if you’ve Googled yourself.  If you haven’t yet, you should.  See what is showing up about you online. Is it what you want people to see?  Is it even about you? Sometimes what you’ll find at the top of “your” search results are links to people with the same or similar name who have done things you don’t want to be known for.  I’ve addressed previously why this can be damaging, so I won’t replay that tape.

If this is happening to you, or you don’t know how you’re showing up online, what can you do?  One option is: do the legwork yourself.

1)  Google yourself, and look at the results beyond page 1; conduct several searches using various forms of your name if you have them, locations and other indicators which may pull different results to the top.

2)  Search for yourself on any social platform you’re a part of.

3)  Bury negative or out-of-date information by creating newer, positive content and generate links to it.  LinkedIn is a great way to do this, since LinkedIn results in general almost always show up on page 1 of a Google search of a name.  Update your profile, share your profile with contacts, invite new contacts to connect, share a LinkedIn update with a link to your blog or personal website, if you have one.  All of these will help “good” content move in on top of “bad” content.

4)  Address false or damaging content with providers if possible.  Occasionally, you will find that online content providers and platforms will remove data if you can show that it’s incorrect or damaging.  For example, someone created a fake profile in your name with your information all over it, but their content. How online providers handle this varies greatly, but it’s worth a shot if there is something truly harmful to your reputation out there.  Do be careful about who you contact, and what information you provide to “confirm” your identity.  If it’s a big name like LinkedIn, you’re fine.  If it’s a company you’ve never heard of, check out their reputation by Googling them along with the word ‘complaint’ and looking at sites like RipoffReport.com or Pissedconsumer.com.

Another option is: get help.  There are many companies who will clean up your online reputation for you, for some pretty nice fees. This will definitely save you time if not money. Again, do your research to make sure you will get what you pay for. Getting recommendations from friends is best if you can manage.

There is also a free online product that a friend recently told me about: Brandyourself.com.  I have not used it myself, but checked them out online, and think they’re worth a look. They have a free account option, and of course a paid account option if you want more support.  Even if, after checking them out, you decide to do it yourself, they’ve got some great articles on their blog that I think you’ll find useful.

What other tools or resources do you recommend for managing your brand?

Career Wellness Checkup #13

The first quarter of the year is gone.  Like many companies, I reviewed how the year has gone so far, and I decided some tweaks were in order.  The titles of my posts (CWC #x) was quick and easy, but not so great for Twitter. So, I’m writing it out now: Career Wellness Checkup #x.

I also realized it was time for a checkup of my Checkup because I did not have a focus on virtual brand and social media in the original Career Wellness Checkup. Crazy, huh?  Considering, here I am on social media talking about it.

I’m revising my Checkup as we speak and here is the first question I’m adding:

Do you know your social profile? 

In other words, do you know where you are “showing up” online?  You should know if you are on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or any other social network.  But do you know what people can & do see about you there, depending on how they are connected to you or not?  And there may be information online about you that you did not put there.

Here’s a fun exercise: Google yourself. If you have a common name, add the name of your city or your company to your search.  You might be surprised at what comes up.

Recruiters, potential clients, potential employers and employees – they all have access to information about you, just clicks away.  What will they see?  Next week, I’ll talk about taking control of your social profile.

Your most important asset: your reputation

What do people say about you when you’re not there?

If you are in a job search, or looking to move up in your career, it makes all the difference.  I speak regularly with professionals who are looking to move up or move on in their careers.  Some rake in referrals to new contacts, informational interviews, and job leads like leaves in the Fall.  For others, it’s like they are walking through a Winter wasteland.

Even though the job market is rebounding and there are about 4 million jobs filled each month in the US, it can take time for that just right opportunity to appear and for the offer to come.  But job seekers who are not getting referrals or warm introductions or never make it past the first interview need to carefully assess the reasons.  In particular, they need to be brutally honest with themselves about their reputation. Here are some of the issues I’ve seen poison reputations:

  • Talking at people rather than with them.  You can’t build a relationship on a one-way street. When you don’t listen to others, they feel you don’t care.  Plus, this is just annoying, and people don’t like to help or hire those who annoy them.  Remedy: listen twice as much as you talk. The old adage about having two ears and only one mouth is an old adage for a reason.
  • Being a user.  If you only reach out when you need something and never have anything to offer in return, even something as simple as information, you may get what you ask for, but you’ll never get more than that.  It is okay to ask for what you need, but you also need to show willingness to give.  Remedy: Ask “How can I help you?”
  • All talk and no action.  If you have a habit of overpromising and underdelivering, or contributing tons of ideas and leaving others to do the work, they may be only too glad to leave you out of the loop now. Remedy: Roll up your shirt sleeves and start making good on your promises. Consistently.
  • A Debbie Downer attitude.  Wah-waaah.  You know the old Saturday Night Live skit.  Debbie is the person who can find the rain in every rainbow.  Who tells you all their personal problems. People find this draining and are only too glad to get away when they have the chance. Yes, sometimes critical analysis and worst-case-scenario thinking is needed.  But it’s not needed all the time, everywhere. Remedy: Outside of your sacred circle of trust, only communicate the negative when it will actually add value. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
  • Instability. This one is tough but it’s real whether we talk about it or not. If you drink too much, use illegal drugs or abuse prescription medication, and think it doesn’t show, stop fooling yourself. Not everyone may be able to identify what the exact issue is, but drug and alcohol abuse causes behaviors that tell people something is “off”.  Things like absenteeism, emotional outbursts (this includes anger), or poor memory.  Others will be very reluctant to stick their neck out for you when they see these behaviors. Remedy: Seek professional help. Now. You will need to act differently for people to see you differently. Others have done it and you can too.

If none of these describe you, your reputation is probably working for you, just like a good investment. However, if any of these sound uncomfortably familiar, it may be time for a course correction. The good news is, you have the power to change, starting today. The bad news is, reputation repair takes time.  Just because your intentions change and even your behavior, it will take time to show – like a Polaroid picture slowly becoming clear.  Keep at it.

Investing in your reputation is like saving for tomorrow – it compounds and can pay amazing dividends down the road.

Let your Skills do the talking on LinkedIn

Last year, I wrote a post about creating a robust profile on LinkedIn.  It’s time to update that because of the  new(ish) LinkedIn feature called Skills.  It has been in beta testing for a long time, and technically still is, but I believe it’s here to stay.  LinkedIn has incorporated it into the initial profile building process.  For those of you who joined LinkedIn a year ago or more, you didn’t get pushed through this process automatically, but it is easy to remedy that now.

The Skills feature has great functionality which benefits recruiters, job seekers and passive candidates alike.  Recruiters in particular, who have access to special features as part of upgraded/focused account types, can and do “power search” in the Skills feature.   This will only work to your advantage if you have skills listed!

Here’s one quick way to identify relevant skills and add them to your profile:

  • Under the More menu, click on Skills
  • In the search box, enter a primary skill that you use in your work (or otherwise possess) and search…
  • On the resulting page, read the description of that skill in the center column and look at the people listed below to see whether this skill is a good “match” for your profile — consider your professional brand.
  • If so, click on the blue Add Skill button.  This skill will now show on your profile.
  • Check out the list of related skills in the column on the left.  Click any which may be a fit, and repeat the process above.  You will soon have a robust set of skills on your profile.

From Entrepreneur to Corporate Life

A number of people recently have sought my advice on their intended transition into the corporate world.  They are entrepreneurs who, for a variety of reasons, have decided that now is the right time to leave that path. Some are in businesses that have slowed down or have become too difficult for other reasons.  Some are in business school, which they entered intentionally to use as a lever for finding a role in corporate America.

Entreprenuers have amazing skills and a lot they can bring to the table within a larger corporate setting.  However, their self-employment history can also be of concern to recruiters and hiring managers.  Why?  Well, here’s a look inside their heads:

Does this gal really want an internal role?

The number one concern is the motivation for applying to a corporate role.  Does the applicant truly want to be a part of, not in charge of, the business?  Or, are they just doing this because times are tough right now, and as soon as the market defrosts, or they simply get the itch, they’ll jump ship?

Can this guy really take orders or will he buck the system?

This is closely related to the question above.  They wonder, Can this person fit within our system?  The larger the organization, typically the more processes and policies in place and the less likely one individual is to influence them.  Ever heard the phrase My way or the highway?  If we’re being brutally honest with each other, we must admit this is often the way it works in large organizations.  In very large companies it’s common to not even have contact with the person who chose the highway.  People who ask too many questions or do things their own way are considered difficult.   Understandably, managers don’t want to hire someone, only to have to fire them later because they don’t “fit”.

Is she really as good as she says she is?

Recruiters and hiring managers may wonder if all the achievements listed on the entrepreneur’s resume are 100% accurate.  They generally don’t have any way to verify the information.  An issue related to this one is salary or overall compensation.

These are just a few issues, but they’re big ones.  If you are moving from entrepreneurship to corporate life, you need to figure out how to counterbalance these concerns. How?

1.   Be ready to talk about why you want a corporate role, not why you don’t want to own your own business anymore.  If you just tried the entrepreneurial thing for a while, it’s okay to say “it wasn’t for me” but if you owned your own business for a long time or are a serial entrepreneur, that won’t cut it.  If you were in a corporate role before and enjoyed it, say so.   Do you enjoy structure?  Being part of a larger team?  Be prepared with a message that will make them comfortable that you understand what you would be getting yourself into and that you truly want it.

2.  Make sure that when you talk about your experience or achievements, you illustrate how you’ve successfully worked with or within larger structures.  That you can follow the rules.  For example, were you a vendor to a large company with strict purchasing guidelines and a rigid RFP process?  Were you a franchise owner who had to work within very closely defined operating standards?

3.  You aren’t obligated to open up all your financial records to any potential employer (unless you’re going into politics, the FBI or something like that), but the more specific details you can share in an interview the better.  Quantify your achievements.  Sometimes non-financial details illustrate this better than dollar figures, i.e. “I won the contract renewal with Large Co., Inc., three times due to our excellent customer service and product quality”.

4.  Of course, always be prepared to highlight what you bring to the table that non-entrepreneur types may not.  For instance, a profitability mindset.  A broader understanding of the business.  A humbleness that comes from knowing how hard it really is to herd cats.

People make this transition successfully all the time, though it is certainly more challenging now due to the competition in the market.  If this is your plan, do your homework now so you can make it easy for a potential employer to say yes.

Before you get on LinkedIn…

If you are completely new to LinkedIn, we must start at the beginning.  No, not with registering and creating a profile.  That is step two and three.   Creating an effective online presence starts before you actually get online. 

“Ohhh!  I just want to get started!”  I can hear you muttering at your screen.

I understand, but trust me when I say it will be well worth your while. 

First, when you create your profile, you will want to have certain information at your fingertips: past employers, titles, dates and education details at the very least.   If you have a resume, then you should have this information in one convenient place.  If you don’t, then pull the information together to have at your fingertips.  This is the easy part. 

Now for the harder part.  You need to understand that while your LinkedIn profile is informational, it is also a marketing piece.  And, like any good marketing piece, it must have a specific message about a well defined product with a specific target audience.   You are the product, of course.  To write compellingly about your product, you need to define a few things:

  • How would you want others to describe you professionally?  I don’t mean “he’s so nice” or “she’s a great gal”, but “she’s a great corporate finance gal with tons of M&A experience” or “he’s a real estate guy with amazing market knowledge”  (If you don’t think they would describe you that way now – you have some things to work on, but that is another post.)
  • What are you best at in your job?  What do you do better than others in your same role?
  • What achievements or experience are you most proud of?
  • What are the skills and competencies you most enjoy using?
  • Is there anything unique about your background that gives you an “edge” in the market?  

The skills and knowledge and competencies you identify here are those you will be using as you create your profile.  You are beginning to define your brand.  Doing this helps you really focus your content on that which is most relevant and helps distinguish you from your competition.  Without it, people often end up with the overexhaustive and boring “autobiography” of their professional life, or the completely generic, and therefore useless, list of job duties. 

If you’re going to do it right, do the “internal” work described here first.  The next step is registering and I’ll cover that in the next post.

LinkedIn to career success

Even though LinkedIn is growing by leaps and bounds, I am still finding many professionals out there who are not on it, or are on it, but don’t really know how to use it.   This has inspired me to write a series on LinkedIn – some tips and techniques you can use to make use of it professionally.   LinkedIn won’t be my exclusive writing focus but I’ll sprinkle posts in throughout the remainder of the year that you may find helpful. 

In future posts, I’ll get to more of the how-to.  Today, I’ll address the why-to.  Let me ask you a few questions:

  • have you ever left a job and later realized you can’t find the contact information of co-worker, vendor or client you’d like to get in contact with?
  • have you ever wanted to get in contact with a co-worker, vendor or client who has left their company?
  • would you like to stay up-to-date with your professional contacts, but aren’t the best at taking time for lunch or coffee with them?
  • would you like to be able to reach out, on a moment’s notice, to a large number of professionals in your field to get information on new developments in your field, or get recommendations on resources?
  • would you like to be able to find in-depth information on job titles, job descriptions and job locations within companies, not just what is posted on the job boards?
  • would you like to be able to identify contacts within companies for networking, job search or marketing purposes?
  • would you like to do more to control or enhance your professional brand?

Okay, that’s more than a few questions.  I think you get the idea.  Not only is LinkedIn a great way to maintain control of your ‘Rolodex’ and maintain connections to your professional contacts, it is a gold mine of market intelligence.  In the coming weeks, I’ll walk you through methods for achieving all of the above.  

Subscribe today to be notified by email of future posts, so you don’t miss these timely and practical tips.  I look forward to helping you get LinkedIn!

Want to know your brand?

Maybe you’re not yet sold on the idea that you have a “brand” and that you need to manage it.  Maybe you are.  Either way, the following exercise may be useful or insightful, or both:

1) Pick a “document” that purports to tell people about the professional you:  a resume, a bio, an online profile (on LinkedIn, say…)

2) Go to an online word cloud tool (try www.wordle.net or google word cloud tool to find a similar tool)

3) Either cut and paste your selected text into the tool, or, point it toward your url

4) Let the tool create a word cloud for you

Now, the words that are the largest font size are the words that show up most frequently in your document.  The words that are the smallest show up the least frequently.  The tools are typically smart enough to filter out “the” and “a”. 

So, what are the 5 – 8 largest words in your word cloud?  Are these the “loudest” messages you want your audience to hear?  Because these are the “loudest” messages you’re sending.  At least in that particular document.    You could compare across documents to see how consistent your messages are.   

Try it.  Cool tools.  Easy to use.  Good food for thought.  Perhaps this exercise will inspire some serious thought about career direction and development.  Or perhaps just a serious re-write.