Why leveraging yourself is better than replicating yourself.
By Michael J. Pallerino
If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. How many times have you found yourself saying this? Or, better yet, if you don’t do it, it just won’t get done correctly. What’s the sense of having somebody do something over and over again when you can just do it yourself in one shot?
These are some of the things that many leaders find themselves muttering under their breath about over and over again. These are the things that drive even the most positive, inspirational managers crazy. It’s okay to admit it. There was a time when that old saying – surround yourself with those who can do what you cannot – meant something.
But things have changed today. In a time when companies have learned to do more with less, the natural arc of leadership has followed suit. Today, we are in the age of personal branding – a path that even the best leaders are taking. In fact, leadership experts like Terry Barber say that personal brand identification and brand building has become the true differentiator for leaders today.
“Becoming disciplined in uncovering your unique brand helps an organization know exactly where and how to utilize you,” says Barber, CEO of Performance Inspired and the executive chairman of JUBI Inc. “Do not get caught in the trap of being the ‘utility’ player. Be specific about your brand and build on it. The example of some personal brands today include innovator, connector, problem-solver and coach.”
Barber, who travels the country spreading the gospel on creating inspiring workplace culture, is the architect for the research on America’s Most Inspiring Companies, which is published annually by Forbes. His workshop on the “Science of Inspiration” for igniting customer and employee engagement has been experienced by thousands of participants around the world.
“Leaders are not afraid to leverage their failures,” says Barber, who also is the author of “Kulture Klash: An Allegory, Changing the Culture in the Corporate Workplace.” “It is not enough to simply throw up your hands with, ‘Nobody is perfect.’
Be open about sharing how you’ve learned from your mistakes and are better, smarter for it. The notion that subordinates will be turned off by your shortcomings is a sign of insecurity. It is better to rent a ‘thinker’ and to hire a doer. Be careful thinking that you are more valuable as a perceived expert. [Companies] don’t want ‘experts.’ They want people who can execute with excellence.”
“In the past we have hired people from within our respective industries, from competitors, etc., believing they would bring a book of business with them that would get them off to a fast start. I’m not sure that works anymore.” – Bill Blair, Division Manager, Athens Paper
To leadership experts like Barber, everyone’s branding story should begin with that moment in time when he is able to finally connect the “what” of his job to the “why” of his work. Barber remembers asking a CEO he was coaching what kind of things she received a high degree of satisfaction from.
Her response began a journey to redefining her personal brand. The CEO said she liked to help people see everything that is possible, stating she enjoyed encountering and helping to solve big problems. “I have a gift for seeing right through the problem to the opportunity at hand,” she told Barber.
Barber asked if her title should be Chief Possibilities Officer versus a CEO. The next day, the CEO incorporated the title into her signature. “Over time, it became an affectionate title that she took pride in and made it a part of her introductions when she met customers or made speeches,” Barber says. “As with the personal brand in all of us, she simply needed someone to call it out in her.”
DEFINING YOUR BRAND
With all the talk of personal branding being bantered around today, David Waits believes that every leader should remember that, first and foremost, your brand is a promise of consistent quality. There is nothing more paramount in today’s workplace.
As the senior principal of Waits Consulting, he travels the world helping create organizational environments that facilitate rapid growth, innovative development and on-going profitability. His impressive client list includes the U.S. Department of the Interior, Wal-Mart, Lexus, University of Notre Dame, Major League Baseball, Walt Disney World and Quest Diagnostics, among numerous others.
In every situation, the globally recognized thought leader in leadership development and strategy implementation tells his clients this: When someone has a challenge, problem or opportunity that fits the value and skill set you provide, you want that person to think of you first. “A strong personal brand equates to high top-of-the-mind awareness and gives you the advantage of quickly cutting through the competitive challenges and moving to the top. If you don’t know your own brand, you have to immediately set out on a discovery journey.”
Waits recommends asking your team two questions:
• How have you benefited from the work I do?
• When that is accomplished, how does that help you?
Once you receive their feedback, probe their answers with follow-up questions that allow you to dig deeper. Armed with this input, you can create clear messaging that accurately and succinctly articulates the value and consistency you bring. “Don’t be afraid to professionally toot your own horn,” Waits says. “People are drawn to the bugle that is well-played.” “Gnothi seauton.” That is the ancient Greek aphorism, which translated means, “Know thyself.” Knowing what you are not good at helps you know what you are good at.
Bestselling author, speaker and accelerator Anne C. Graham is the creator of the P.R.O.F.I+T Roadmap. She also is the founder of managing consultant firm, The Legendary Value Institute.