Managers: What’s Your Personal Brand?

BY C. Lee Smith
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Managers, have you thought about developing your brand? I’m talking about polishing up the image you present to your team members. You may not have given this topic much thought, but Joe Williams has. Williams is the Founder of Creative Performance Group and the author of The Pact Awakening: How to Go from Having a Calling to Changing Lives. In a recent Manage Smarter podcast, Williams described two ways to improve your brand: communications expertise and building trust. 

Communications Weaknesses

Williams categorizes communications styles into four levels. It’s worth taking a moment to analyze where you fall on the communications scale. Just a slight improvement can help you develop stronger bonds with your team and boost motivation. 

In the everyday hustle of the workplace, it’s easy to throw together a slide presentation and then cover the important points with your team. If it’s your typical style to read exactly what you put on your slides, Williams would label you a soundtrack presenter. Boring. 

Some managers become presenter/​performers. Think of them as stage performers. They memorize a script. They practice and perform it. But the presentation itself is inwardly focused. These kinds of managers are so concerned about their performance, they aren’t thinking about whether their communications are truly impacting their listeners: the team members. 

Communications Goals

For Williams, the real goal for most people is to become world-​class communicators. At that level, you make your point in a way that moves people emotionally. After your presentation, they’ll resolve to change their behavior. 

A few managers and leaders develop the ability to speak to large groups and deliver messages that stay powerful for a long time. These messages can be life-​changing for listeners. The combination of what the speaker says and how they say it adds up to truly unique experiences. Most of us in the corporate world don’t communicate at this level. This elite group of communicators has included John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Martin Luther King, Jr.

To improve your communication style, consider videotaping yourself. Look for details that could distract your audience from your message. Do you clear your throat frequently? Do you use a common phrase as punctuation? Common examples include “like” or “you know.” Consciously try to avoid that. Remember that a pause every now and then is fine. You may also exhibit some personal characteristics, such as keeping your hands in your pockets, when you speak. Ask as trusted colleague if this behavior is distracting. 

Try to correct your most distracting behaviors. But don’t get carried away with trying to fix everything. Some of the personal mannerisms can also help to define you.

Building Trust

You can also hone your brand by using the right tactics to build trust with your team. Employees have a standard reaction when a new manager comes in and promises, “You can trust me.” The team response is typically “wait and see.” 

Your team members want you to prove yourself. One approach that works well is to rally around a common pain point. For example, these days, we’re living in an increasingly uncivil society. What if you and your team members have been taking abuse from a key customer? If you lead a meeting and tell your team members you empathize with what they’re going through, you don’t have a lot of credibility. But if you talk about your personal interaction with the customer and how it made you feel, you’ll get people’s attention. When you take the next step and develop a process to help team members deal effectively with these kinds of customers, you’ll also gain their trust and their loyalty.

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time to develop your personal brand.