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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LinkedIn recommendations: recommended

To have or not to have?  That is the question (apologies to Shakespeare.)  

In my book, there is absolutely no doubt.  Have. 

There are people who argue against LinkedIn recommendations and their argument goes something like this: “Who would include bad recommendations?  Of course they are all going to be good.  Therefore, they cannot be trusted and are of no value.”

These cynics are partially correct.  It’s true that you won’t find a negative recommendation about someone on their own LinkedIn profile.  Why would they include such a thing?  And, are there many recruiters and hiring managers who don’t put much value on recommendations, or even read them?  Yes, there are. 

However, the points in favor of including recommendations on your profile outweigh the points against.  As I mentioned in my post Power of the profile, they can be beneficial if done right.  I’ll outline below some reasons to include recommendations, as well as provide a few pointers in making your recommendations work for you. 

Why you should include recommendations on your LinkedIn profile:

  • Without at least 3 recommendations, your profile will not reach 100% completeness.  This negatively affects where you show up in search results.  Say, for example, that a recruiter does a search for profiles which match certain criteria. Do you want to give yourself the best odds you can? Of course you do.  Consider this quote from the LinkedIn Help Center:                                                                                          

 “Users with Recommendations in their profiles are three times more likely to receive relevant offers and inquiries through searches on LinkedIn. Recommendations written about you are visible to members within your network and also to Fortune 500 companies that use the LinkedIn Recruiter corporate tool.”

  • Many recruiters actually do read those recommendations.  And, they look at who wrote them.  If you have a recommendation from a former manager talking about your amazing Java skills and you are branding yourself as a web-based software developer, do you think this will help or hurt the recruiter’s impression of you? 
  • A recommendation of you shows up on the profile of the person who made it.  This gives you additional exposure and the chance to be found by someone who may be looking for someone just like you. 

Here’s how to make the most of your recommendations:

  • Ask for recommendations from people with strong professional reputations who know your work first-hand.  Having a variety of current or former managers, clients, colleagues and employees is a good idea.  Also, recommendations on your most recent work experience is usually best, but it is advisable to have at least one from each job or company in the last several years.
  • Ask them to be specific about some of your skills or achievements.  Saying “he’s a great guy; really enjoyed working with him” is not nearly as helpful as “he was my go-to guy for creating impactful marketing plans under tight deadlines.”  You may even tell them you are trying to highlight your skills in a certain area, and ask them to write about those.
  • Obtain a minimum of 3 recommendations.  You don’t need to go overboard – 30 recommendations is not necessarily better than 10.  Think quality vs. quantity, but at least have 3.

It’s that simple!

To get some recommendations from your preferred connections, simply ask.  Also, consider proactively providing one for them.  You never know when it might help them, and perhaps they will return the favor.  Be professionally generous and it will come back to you.

Power of the profile

For most people, LinkedIn is the first website referenced in a Google search of their own name. This makes their LinkedIn profile their #1 marketing tool.  How can they make it work for them?  How can you make yours work for you?

A great profile can sell you.  A weak one can sink you.  Whether you are in an active job search, being scouted by the competition, in consideration as a guest speaker or a possible network contact, what people see when they look at your profile will affect whether they reach out to you.   This is your “brand” laid out visually. So, here are some basics on building a powerful profile:

Know Who You Are

Professionally, that is.  Know your strengths, skills, areas of knowledge.  Which stand out?  What are you exceptionally good at?  Of these things, which do you enjoy the most and are the most marketable?   What are some key achievements of yours?  These are questions you should have asked as you built your resume if you have done so recently.  The answers will help you define your profile content. In fact, your profile should include similar information to your resume.

Use Keywords

Searches on LinkedIn produce results based on keyword hits.  Therefore, you want keywords that describe your experience, skills, knowledge and abilities integrated throughout your profile.  What keywords might a potential employer search by?  Read job descriptions for roles that interest you (even if you are not in a job search.)  This will give you some ideas. 

Sections

Here are brief recommendations on what to include in the main sections of your profile:

Summary –  A concise overview which includes an overarching “branding” message – communicate immediately what functional area of expertise you possess and at what level.  Highlight some experience, skills or capabilities or combination thereof which you possess and are your key “selling points”.   Are you a talented software architect with really strong interpersonal and presentation skills?  Say so.  Have you led teams on high visibility projects?  Ditto.

Specialties –  This is the place to list or bullet all the tangible knowledge areas or skills you want to highlight.  Focus first on hard skills then soft skills but only if they distinguish you in some way.  Do not list “team-player”.  In a recent study, this was the most over-used adjective on LinkedIn.  This distinguishes you from no one. 

Experience –  As in your resume, list employers, position titles, a brief description of your overall responsibility (one sentence) and then bullet out a few achievements that illustrate your best skills.  Only detail out the last 10-15 years or whatever is relevant.  Do not go back to the beginning of time.  If you had a big gap somewhere in there, either do not go beyond it, or understand that it will raise questions.   

Education –  List relevant formal education, leaving dates and other details out if you think they may hurt you.

Other –  There are a number of other areas you can complete such as Awards and Personal information.  Remember, only include that which is relevant and which you want people to know and be able to share about you.  Some things like marital status and your physical address, for example, really do not need to be completed on your LinkedIn profile. 

What Not to Include

Information that is irrelevant or even detrimental to you as a potential employee, consultant, speaker, reference…you get the picture.  Interests outside the workplace that are highly charged such as religion or politics – be aware these can hurt you.  If you wish to join Groups that are polarizing – just don’t “show” the group on your profile (can be changed in Settings or Edit Profile page).  More about this in a future post.

Uploading Your Resume

Though you may choose to, you do not need to upload your resume and make it available through an app such as Box.net.  Keyword searches don’t search these, so you won’t produce any hits this way, and you lose control over your document, as others can print, save or share your document without you ever knowing.  Anything you do choose to upload and make available on your profile, save it as a .pdf.  This won’t make it impossible to change your document, if the individual has the right software, but it does make it less likely. 

Applying the suggestions above will help you begin creating a powerful profile.  This is a start.  In the next post, I’ll talk about recommendations and the benefits of getting your profile to 100% completeness.

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.