The first question you have to answer is a straightforward one: exactly which stakeholders do you need to consider?
It’s usually a broad net, including colleagues, the wider community in your organisation, your sector or industry, related sectors, previous colleagues, personal contacts and, especially, leaders both within and outside of your organisation that you could benefit by impressing.
Internal stakeholders first
Internally, influencing the outcome of a project positively always involves building good relationships with your stakeholders.
In a 2011 Harvard Business Review article, Jack Springman says research shows that “CEOs who put stakeholders’ interests ahead of profits generate greater workforce engagement, and thus deliver the superior financial results that they have made a secondary goal.”
Genuine consideration of your stakeholders’ agendas leads to the best outcome for you.
A great personal brand paves your way to set up good relations and the successful outcome that these connections lead to, will, in turn, strengthen your brand.
When you are credible and inspiring, the people you collaborate with will buy into your ideas, are more open to your communication and to co-operate enthusiastically with your proposed actions, delivering the best outcomes and, ultimately, boosting your reputation.
External stakeholders too
For her thesis in the Master’s Programme in Corporate Communication, Aalto University School of Business, Helsinki, Johanna Strömsholm studied Stakeholder perspective to the personal brand in social media.
The study showed that "stakeholder involvement has paramount importance for personal branding.”
“Individuals assess the value of other people’s brands in terms of the brand authenticity, uniqueness and identification, communication, as well as on the basis of the perceived personal benefits.”
Both the quantity and perceived quality of communication around personal brands seemed to have a crucial effect on their perceived value. As manager of your personal brand, this means that the calibre of your profile is determined by:
- The communication you output.
- The interplays this communication leads to.
- The perceived benefits to the reader or receiver.
Just as a fire doesn’t burn without oxygen, keeping your personal brand alive means feeding it quality material consistently. The above study interestingly identifies an outside-in perspective. The personal brand is not just about your output, but also the input of stakeholders.
It proposes that “the success of personal branding is based on the individuals’ ability to deliver value primarily to others and to evoke positive reactions among them. Individuals need to acknowledge that personal branding is an on-going process of interaction, the effectiveness of which requires time and effort—not only in continuous self-development but also in compelling and credible communication.”
Creating a leadership identity
Your public persona is especially important in reaching out to those ahead of you in your profession. Use it to show yourself as leadership potential, so they have you in mind when promotions and succession planning are on the table.
Stakeholders will view your personal brand in three ways:
- Their perceptions of the person behind your brand.
- Their perceptions of your communication.
- The personal benefits to them of your personal brand.
Craft your communication so that it is about adding value and not self-promotion. You will promote yourself by default in an appealing way.
Leadership is about being significant, not just successful
Think about your organisation, your industry and the wider market for your individual qualifications and experience. Identify who stands out. Who is important? Which leader is worth impressing?
Think about the qualities you see in leaders you admire. What problems do they solve? What about them inspires those they lead? What is it about their style that put them in their position instead of other contenders?
- What examples can you use in your communication to show these or similar qualities?
- What is unique about how you think and problem-solve?
- What kind of solutions have you consistently delivered?
- When have you led a team to a better than expected outcome?
- Do you show your understanding of the issues your whole organisation faces, outside of your jurisdiction? How all functions in your company work together. Let your conversations with those ahead of you reflect this interest and understanding.
Let the evidence of your capabilities be seen and talked about. What opportunities can you take that will allow your personal brand to reach to those you’d like to influence?
- Be visible at meetings and events and add value where you can.
- Volunteer for projects where you know you can show significant qualities
- Put forward innovative ideas.
- Post and share communication that shows and connects you with leadership traits, but only when it is authentic to you.
Build your tribe
Finally, build your tribe, so you have as large a support structure as possible in place before you reach a top position.
- Foster authentic relationships with peers, both formal and informal.
- Use the six principles of persuasion to build influence among those you work and interact with.
- Find mentors and coaches who offer informed, objective perspectives and can give relevant guidance when you need it.
- Cultivate followers to show that you can gather and hold the interest and loyalty of a group.
This is the concluding part of a three-part series on how to manage your personal brand for maximum influence and professional advancement, both inside and outside your area of employment. If you have any questions about the subject or would like to know more, please get in touch.
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