Conversations with business leaders - How can we learn and grow professionally and as a leader if we don't know what needs to change? Here I share the stages that one goes through in developing skills and attitudes that can help us succeed. Learn more about the conscious learning model.
Conversations with business leaders - Starting this series on "Conversations with Leaders", that is with you business leaders - about how we lead ourselves and lead others. In this video, we explore a little bit about ourselves - because self-awareness is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. So please join the conversation with your thoughts and ideas.
People often talk about wanting to improve their personal brand. For quick understanding - your personal brand is how other experience you when they interact with you. David McNally and Karl Speak, authors of ‘Be Your Own Brand’ explain it further, “Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.”
It is the unique combination of skills, experience, and personality that we want the world to see. It is the telling of our story. It reflects in our conduct, behaviour, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes. And when it’s done well, it can enhance our profile in ways that go far beyond just our professional expertise.
I am sure you must be have seen some successful examples of Personal Branding within your peer group. You might have even seriously considered starting with a branding exercise yourself; or you might already be putting a thoughtfully constructed branding strategy into action as I write this. Regardless of which stage of personal branding journey you are currently passing through, networking is a crucial aspect that deserves some deep thought and strategizing.
Naturally, you must already be networking and meeting people as part of your operational activities, but is that useful for your personal brand? Most people tend to think that an organizational meet and greet will automatically feed into their personal brand!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. As you are representing your organization at networking events, you naturally end up talking more about your work or your company’s reputation. This does not equate to networking for your own personal brand.
The more connections we make—and the more value we can provide in our interactions—the more likely it is that our personal brand will be recognized. The best networking opportunities for our personal brand are cultivated over time and consist of a combination of integrity and quality that we can offer to people. Michael Goldberg puts it succinctly, “Networking is simply a proactive approach to meeting people to learn with the hope of helping them.”
Even for an experienced hand-shaker like you, there is always a way to add to your business bonding skills. Here are some ways to up your game:
You are the sum of many different things – your work is just one of them. You have to bring the elements of your personal branding message into your official interactions. In case you haven’t yet crafted a personal branding strategy and elevator pitch or a message, then now is the time to decide how you want to present yourself. A very simple example of this would be - If you want to present your down-to-earth, straight-talking credentials to the world, then you can eschew jargon-heavy, indirect talk and stand out as the person who says-it-like-it-is.
Be a giver, and you will be remembered! You don’t have to be a giver in the material sense; even being generous with your time and attention is sometimes enough. While interacting with peers at an event or even online, try to maintain an overall aspect of helpfulness. Advice, encouragement, a compliment, referrals, and sharing connections – all don’t require much effort, but when done consistently, these small acts of kindness will undoubtedly add to your personal brand.
It’s important to know who’s going to be at an event, which we can often do by checking social media – conference hashtags on Twitter are a good place to start. Then make a shortlist of people you want to meet. Google them and view LinkedIn profiles, so that when you do meet someone new, you will know something about them.
People often think that networking means meeting as many people as possible. But that's not the case. Making a few meaningful connections is far better than working an entire room. If you can have three or four deeper conversations, then both you and the people you meet will be more likely to remember the interaction.
You don’t have to keep your online and offline networking efforts siloed. Use them as an extension of each other. Follow up meetings and interactions by connecting with people on LinkedIn or engage with your LinkedIn community to organise physical meetups at events.
Engaging with people online is important for people of all ages, but particularly if we want to make contacts with younger prospects or companies working in a digital space. Remember, though, nothing solidifies a business relationship like meeting face-to-face.
By making networking a priority and regularly reaching out to people from different fields, you can broaden your network even outside your industry. You never know where your next opportunity is going to come from.
Yes, it can sometimes be a challenge to network for your personal brand. Many of you may feel a bit uncomfortable with the concept of personal marketing; after all, being self-effacing or not bragging are ingrained in our collective psyche as admirable qualities – and personal marketing does require some amount of blowing your own trumpet which might put you off!
I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be like this! Sure, you can share your photos or videos of receiving awards and giving talks, but that is just one part of it. The rest is all about respect and trust; it is about being truly helpful and kind to people in your circle; it is about valuing your contacts and not taking your friends and business connections for granted.
Networking is a long-term investment. You don’t have to bombard your social media feed today! But do keep the tips I shared above in mind and practice them gently. With time, you will feel at ease, and nurturing your personal brand will slowly become second nature.
Key Takeaways of a Workshop on Personal Branding for Women by Soaring Eagles
We recently conducted an immersive workshop with a select group of women executives on the topic of Personal Branding for Women. The workshop was led by our CEO, Sonali Sinha.
Women, across companies and industries, thrashing through intense personal and professional issues resulted in a very productive 4-hour session! We discussed some unique challenges women professionals face and how they can overcome some of these through cultivating and projecting a strong personal brand.
After a fun icebreaker, Sonali introduced the concept of Personal Branding and the myths about it. Unlike what most people misunderstand it for in terms of external appearance and how one speaks and carries herself, Sonali clarified that real personal branding starts from inside. She highlighted the fact that as one moves up the corporate ladder, it becomes more and more important to be visible and be seen as a capable leader.
“Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” – David McNally and Karl Speak, authors of ‘Be Your Own Brand’
For all professionals – and most especially for women – it is critical to start projecting themselves in a specific, well thought out manner. As careers advance beyond middle management, the challenges of the work are compounded by the cutthroat competition to advance up the ladder. This is when your personal brand could be the differentiator that keeps you moving up.
The workshop covered the 4 main aspects of building a personal brand – self-concept, communication style, visibility and networking.
Self-concept is our knowledge about ourselves, including our beliefs about our personality traits, physical characteristics, abilities, values, goals, and roles. As we grow up our self-concept becomes more abstract and complex.
Our self-concept very strongly affects the way that we process information relating to ourselves. The participants went through an assessment and came to understand their own self-concepts and how it is impacting their behaviour and choices. This whole exercise actually set the mood for the workshop and made the participants think deeply about themselves.
The discussion then turned to self-talk and core beliefs. Our core beliefs are the very essence of how we see ourselves, how we see others, the world and the future. These are rules that we take as a given. They colour our way of thinking in any given situation. If we believe that the world is not fair, we will look for signs that confirm this belief and we will question everyone’s agendas and actions. Similarly, if we believe that we are not smart (because we have been constantly told so), then we will not even try to make an effort to do better.
The discussion on the core beliefs gave immense insights to participants when they shared how being a perfectionist is taking a toll on them. Delegating work to others is hindered by their own ‘Must’ and ‘Should.’ One of the participants also shared her experience of when she was micromanaging a family picnic to the point that after the outing she was totally exhausted.
The participants also realised how their core beliefs were shaped during their childhood and how important it is as a parent to be careful about what messages we give our children all the time. Someone who is constantly held up to a higher standard of performance may actually develop a belief that they are not good enough in any situation. This can be debilitating, especially in the work environment.
The discussion then veered to the fact that a lot of women do not aspire for leadership roles as their belief is that a leader needs to authoritative and aggressive and that they do not want to be that kind of a person. Sonali highlighted that the traits of successful leaders in the current age are very different from this age-old image of a dominating and aggressive leader. She urged the women to take on leadership roles as they have the capability to thrive in such roles.
Our communication style also plays a huge role in how people perceive us. This point was driven through roles plays. Given our socialisation, women tend to be more passive or passive-aggressive. Sonali underlined the need to be assertive, especially in the work environment and while dealing with demanding and aggressive colleagues.
Women tend to feel embarrassed to say NO in many situations because of their conditioning. This self-effacing behaviour is especially obvious when personal issues crop up. They frequently feel – and are told so by colleagues and bosses – that the right to prioritise a personal life is not something career women have. This makes them feel very guilty and pressurised.
Participants were asked to reflect and identify which areas in their lives they needed to be more assertive in. They then discussed their rights and correlated them with the situations in which they need to be more assertive. Participants share that this is one area where they really need to improve as not being assertive can take a big toll on their health and personal life.
Sonali highlighted that to get ahead in the workplace, you have to be seen. Being visible at work allows employees to demonstrate their skills, land prominent assignments, and build strategic relationships.
Studies have shown that women’s contributions are systematically overlooked at work, especially if they are not visible and assertive. This limits their professional advancement and explains why the senior levels of organizations remain overwhelmingly male-dominated. Yet when women try to make themselves more visible, they tend to face backlash for violating expectations about how women should behave. This fear of backlash leads women to believe that if they try to be more visible they may even risk losing their hard-won career gains.
Many women shared how they struggle in their own organisation; they routinely deal with comments on their leaving on time, not being available late at night or for extra projects. They constantly tried to fit in and keep their heads down so as to fit in better and not create a stir. In fact, many even distanced themselves from other women who were perceived as aggressive!
Sonali shared the concept of Intentional Invisibility – how women tend to intentionally become invisible. This was something that almost all participants could relate to their behaviour. Women leaders also realised the important role they can play in support other women in the organisation by giving them the opportunity to speak up and share their ideas and in general be more supportive.
Sonali outlined several ways in which the women leaders can improve their visibility at work without feeling like there are being too aggressive or a show-off.
Networking touched off a debate where women opened up about the challenges they face on the ground trying to create work relationships. Many felt that networking was either unnecessary or sometimes sleazy (this was an important issue in a male-dominated workplace). They also felt that the whole process of networking is inauthentic in some way. It tends to also make demands on their personal time and hence women tend to avoid networking.
Sonali introduced the core concept of networking and clarified the myths the participants had about networking. She showed them how they can do networking without feeling inauthentic and pushy. She also shared how anyone can become a great conversationalist and leverage that ability to get better at networking.
The participants understood that lack of networking was keeping them stuck in their current roles. They needed to build relationships outside their department and organisations to establish themselves as thought leaders and get more opportunities to work on exciting projects.
The whole workshop was intense and made the participants realise how their own thoughts and beliefs may be holding them back. Generational conditioning is a big part of this internal roadblock which promotes a workaholic, aggressive image of a leader that most women can’t seem to align with. Now, of course, the millennial workforce requires a softer touch and organisations are rapidly reassessing the role of a leader – AND women with their heightened emotional intelligence and social skills are perfectly placed to approach leadership roles, which makes this a great time to be women at work!
The participants also realised that the power is within them to make a name and space for themselves and also help other women in their journey. All of them went away greatly motivated to start implementing the learnings of the workshop, and we wish them all the very best!
If you would like to know more about building your personal brand or if your organisation would like to encourage women leaders to grow, then do get in touch.
ACs and fans whirring in a calm office, people hunched over their computers and working on their own or attending meetings – Some of us older lot might remember what work used to be like before mobile phones and Internet took over. It seemed everything still got done without the rush and chaos that seemed to be the hallmark of modern offices. It was an era of reasonable deadlines!
But times have changed, the digital age has made everything faster – you get information faster, you can get things done more quickly, but you also have to produce results more speedily! Naturally, this next-gen workplace also needs different skills. Is HR managing to cope? Well, they certainly understand the changing scenarios and are tweaking training programmes to serve the employees better. However, L&D needs to transform more quickly and completely – there seems to be a tendency to use a band-aid approach to training; keeping old methods and content and adding new patchy updates. What is needed is a complete revamp of how we approach L&D altogether.
The traditional classroom learning is on its way out even in schools, so it’s high time we stopped using it for adults at work!
We need to ensure training is developed in collaboration with the employees, manager and the HR team; learning can no longer be a one-way process where one department decides what to teach and the learners passively take in what’s presented to them.
It’s time employees were put in charge of their own learning requirements. Making the training process collaborative not only empowers the learner to choose what he/she wants to learn but also puts the onus of learning on to the employee.
There is no doubt that digital technology will need to be incorporated in a significant manner in L&D. This can be done in two different layers – firstly, as a medium of learning such as using mobile learning to deliver training on the go. And secondly as content such as reskilling or upskilling employees to become comfortable with new digital trends and tools like mining Big Data or handling AI based modules or learning new automation driven skills.
While many younger employees come with updated technical skills, they often require some handholding in other areas such as interpersonal or communication skills. For older employees, there is an urgent requirement to help them develop a resilient mindset. The quicker pace of work along with the long-ranging effects of digital transformation has proved to be exceedingly hard for many people to manage. It’s crucial to incorporate these indirect and non-technical needs of employees into the L&D programmes as well.
The age of the one-size-fits-all approach has now truly ended. As business models and customer service models become personalised, it is being recognised that the workforce also needs personalised attention.
To make sure people remain productive in this fast-paced modern workplace, it is crucial to ensure each person has his/her exact requirement mapped and fulfilled. Training now must be tailored to individual needs, and huge generic workshops for the whole office are out of the door!
Lastly, L&D is now moving towards the long-term goal of creating a new mindset – one of continuous learning. Till now there was a definitive end to education; we finished college, and it was assumed that we have all the skills that we need to manage the next 20 years of work (sure there was training etc. in the middle but nothing too disruptive). Now, as the world changes quickly around us we can no longer afford to sit back with our initial educational qualifications, we need to constantly update and stay ahead of the curve.
A training programme that helps people understand and leverage this new normal is going to be useful in the long run!
That L&D is playing catch up to the modern workplace is not news to HR teams. Industry 4.0 and digital transformation has thrown up new challenges for HR as well. What’s encouraging is that most HR teams understand the new landscape and are looking for answers. Whether they succeed will depend entirely on how much time, effort and money they and their organisations are willing to spend in finding new solutions.
If you are wondering how to upgrade your training programmes, then do give us a call. At SoaringEagles we have been working for years with hundreds of clients which give us unique insights of what your employees need and what works best.
Talk to us!
It is Monday morning and Marcia starts her week all committed and determined to deliver on all projects before deadline. She reaches work with a spring in her step and a song in her heart (Marcia loves her job and can’t wait for Mondays) and starts her laptop with gumption and alacrity. And lo behold, her colleague pops in and says, “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee before you get started?” And although there is a voice inside her head which is squeaking and pleading with her not to go, a huge monstrous desire to have that coffee and the amazing sandwich to go takes charge, thus quelling that squeak to a non- existent silence. And so, the day goes by with a phone call here, an email there and questions popping in from everywhere. And before she knows it, a whole week has flown by and the deadlines have all been again revised because they couldn’t be met. Does this sound familiar?
A Basex research conducted in the US reveals that interruptions can impact an individual’s productivity, energy and work satisfaction and the estimated cost of this impact is close to $588 billion a year. The results of this study are startling given that a large part of our day just gets spent getting interrupted. This estimated figure does not include the rise in error rates and the resulting costs from these errors.
According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, error rates doubled following a 2.8-second interruption and tripled after a 4 and a half-second distraction. So, you can imagine the cost implications of interruptions.
So, who creates these interruptions? Others or do we create them? Dr. Gloria Mark, Associate Professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California conducted a survey of employees at Microsoft and found that 44% of the time employees ended up interrupting themselves.
So how do we deal with this huge problem of interruptions? You can use the ICAP strategy to deal with interruptions.
We all have To- do lists which help us identify what needs to be done. But we seldom create the Not- to- do lists. Identify all the things that you should not be doing such as peeking into your phone, randomly checking social network updates, compulsively refreshing to check for emails. Interruption could also be in the form of a person reaching out to you with requests. Identify all the elements that are interrupting your work.
According to a study conducted by The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, when you spend your time constantly on emails, text messages and calls, your IQ drops by 10 points. This loss is the same as the loss you would experience when you miss a night’s sleep. (Yoga Journal, p. 22, 12/2005).
Take control of the situation. Tell people when you will be available to talk to them. Show that you respect time and treat it as a valuable resource. You can do this by valuing others’ time. You can take efforts to show people that you value time by requesting for time on their calendar or being time- bound and not exceeding time allotted to you. Set up a time to check emails. And I know this may sound very drastic but keep your phone switched off during office hours. That way you won’t feel compelled to check for updates.
Learn to say no. Most often we allow ourselves to be interrupted because it is more difficult to say no or because we feel guilty when we say no. Learn to be Assertive. Remember that you are saying no to the request and are not rejecting the person. It is important to understand that when you are saying yes to this person, you are saying no to your work and the cost implications of saying no to your work are a lot higher that saying no to this person.
Sometimes, interruptions are unavoidable. You can however plan for these interruptions in your calendar. Most people get overwhelmed due to the ad- hoc tasks that come in and which don’t allow for planned tasks to get done. This is why planning is so critical. When you have your day planned and prioritized, little else can deter it. If the interruption at hand does not lead you closer towards your long-term strategy, it means you must not let interruption get hold of you. If the interruption leads you towards that long-term goal, go ahead and welcome the interruption. Plans can be more fruitful when you have clear understanding of your goals.
This ICAP strategy can help you manage interruptions much better and can help you be more productive. If you don’t have a long-term strategy sketched out yet, now is a good time to work on it. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what you do today.”
Are you struggling with finding time to do strategic things? Do you find yourself mostly caught up with day-to-day execution challenges and firefighting? How is this impacting your performance and movement towards your goals? Do you want to get a hold over your time and focus on strategic initiatives? A coach can help you with this goal. Feel free to schedule a free consultation with us.
The latest articles and industry insights delivered to your inbox