Personal branding has become a popular topic, at least among coaches and authors. For example, I just came across this article: “What To Do If Your Personal Brand Is Killing Your Career”
Author Hanna Inam, an executive coach, quotes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on the definition of personal brand: “It’s what they say about you when you leave the room.”
Inam suggests first identifying your brand – i.e., what others think of you – and then taking steps to correct your image. She suggests directly approaching people to say something like (I’m paraphrasing), “I’ve made mistakes and I want to make changes.” She says that we establish trust when we show sincerity about accepting and correcting our mistakes.
I would add a few suggestions.
Sadly, some brand images are based on rumors, false perceptions and stereotypes. You may have made one mistake or said something that rubbed someone the wrong way … ONE time.
A negative brand image might come from a culture clash with your organization or industry. If that’s the case you have to decide: Do you want to reinvent yourself or move to a new industry or company? Are you a maverick who needs to dig deeper to find a fit (and may need to look outside the corporate world)?
Do some reality testing. Make sure you’re not relying on just one or two sources for feedback about your brand. Maybe you’re not being branded because you’re new, have a certain background, or work in a different department.
Focus on behavior, not intangibles. For instance, if your brand has become “bad attitude,” what actions are creating that brand? Are you speaking too freely about your challenges? Refusing to take on extra work? Ducking out of meetings?
When you focus on behavior, sometimes what’s perceived as a “bad attitude” really is something completely different. To change your brand, you’ll need to change your actions and activities. Your attitude will follow.
Finally, if you’re new to a company or industry, become an observer. Take time to study the culture. Notice the way people talk to each other. Move slowly and don’t make assumptions.
Often you’ll benefit by talking to an impartial outsider; that’s why so many people work with career coaches and consultants. Before coaching went mainstream, CEOs often hired “consultants” who were their confidants behind the scenes.
You have to keep your game face on not just during the workday, but just about any time you interact with colleagues, bosses, subordinates, industry members – anyone who might impact your business or career. If you don’t have an opportunity to decompress afterward, it’s all too easy to slip up in the wrong place.