I remember sitting down for an annual performance review with my then-boss. I was in my mid-twenties and responsible for leading a team far more significant than my age likely warranted, given a general lack of experience and accompanying leadership skills. My boss’s biggest feedback was, “Your face gives away everything you think. That’s not a good thing, Kristin. It’s something you need to work on and develop out of with time.” I remember being taken aback. I’ve always been expressive – wasn’t that a good thing?
I’d like to write that this was the last performance review I ever received similar feedback, but it was far from it. My facial expressions, particularly those that demonstrated disdain or frustration with others, weren’t welcomed by anyone on the team. They were impacting my ability to inspire others while negatively contributing to my personal brand as a leader.
An emerging leader I’ve coached for several years recently wrote, sharing candidly, “I think one of the main areas I was struggling to lead would be building my own ‘brand’ as a leader and building confidence within that brand.” I’m sure many of us can relate. Personal branding is challenging. It’s difficult to know how to build your personal brand and even more difficult not to damage it inadvertently.
So, what’s a real-world leader to do? Here are three tips for how to build a personal brand you can be confident in sharing with the world:
Define your brand and be consistent in living it. The “start with why” concept is crucial as you consider your brand. What are your core values and driving purpose, the “why” of your brand? How do you actualize these ideologies in the workplace through your skills, strengths, and development? Knowing who you are and showing up every day in congruent ways is an important step toward building a strong personal brand.
Seek out leadership opportunities. A leader is anyone who inspires others and influences outcomes. You don’t have to wait for the company to name you a positional leader – you can seek opportunities to inspire and influence anywhere and everywhere! Volunteering for leadership opportunities within your organization or industry can help build your credibility and reputation as a leader, building your personal brand alongside it.
Be professional, always. My overt display of emotion wasn’t professional, negatively impacting my brand. It took me too long to learn this lesson. As you’re building your personal brand, maintain professionalism in all workplace interactions. This includes being a “Spark” leader – acting with credibility, accountability, and in service to others. By maintaining professionalism always, you’ll establish yourself as a trustworthy and respected team member.
Our natural tendencies aren’t always our best ones for inspiring and influencing. I’ve come a long way from giving dirty looks at the office, but personal development is a lifelong journey. As leaders, we must always seek to evolve and refine our skills.