Like many people, my life changed significantly overnight in mid-March. Suddenly I was working from home – exclusively. Among the many changes from this, my commute went from 60 minutes a day to approximately 60 seconds a day to the “office” (including grabbing a coffee on the way). With this excess capacity and time, after a few sleep-ins (comparatively 08:00 a.m.), I decided to use this time productively for mental health (reflection, planning, introspection and improvement). After a few days of listening to iTunes and Amazon music, I decided that I should re-discover audio books and podcasts to exercise the mind as well as body. The first three business podcasts that I listened to at some point spoke about branding – our “personal brand”, “professional brand”, and “corporate or departmental brand”.
As I reflected on this, I had to think about my own brand. What is my personal brand? What is my team’s brand? I really liked the way that one of the consultants referred to your brand as synonymous with your “superpower”. I gave this some thought for a day or two… what do I think that my “superpower” is? Would others agree? What would others say about my brand or our team’s brand?
Shortly after the COVID-19 work from home initiatives started, we had decided to have a bi-weekly team call not related to any work updates or initiatives, but just to check in, chat, j and see how everyone was doing. On the next call I decided to bring up this topic, ask everyone on the team: what is your brand? What is your superpower? This ended up to be a great discussion – perhaps a bit uncomfortable for some – but thought provoking and very affirming. These declared superpowers elicited positive feedback from others with respect to how they have certainly seen these attributes, or have always thought this about their colleague. One very quiet thoughtful colleague asked me if she could get back to me on this. I felt a bit bad for putting her on the spot and said of course no pressure or response required either way. She called me a few days later and proudly stated that her superpower was empathy. We then had a great discussion on the critical importance of that quality as an HR professional. Three or four of the eight colleagues on this “mental health” call, later called or emailed me to say how they really liked the exercise, and that it was a great affirming exercise for them and the team.
Does Your Video Match Your Audio?
One thing that has become clear to me is that we all have a brand. If you have not thought of what your personal or team’s brand is, chances are the people that you interact with regularly (your internal and external customers) have a clear perception of your brand. Is the brand that you are attempting to live in alignment with the one that others are experiencing? Does your “video match your audio” in this regard?
In my discussion with my team there were at least two people’s superpowers that did not at all align with how I, and perhaps other members of the team saw them. (i.e. “I am extremely organized” – he is not well organized and has missed deadlines consistently.)
This is an important idea for personal and team development, particularly as HR/LR professionals. Reflect on how you or your team present themselves, your service model or support for your organization. Does your performance align with your intended “brand”? This is a valuable question to ask on a regular basis. Does the way that we present ourselves, or our team, align with how we actually come across to others? What does your organization think that your brand is? Is your personal superpower clear to all those you interact with personally and professionally? Does your video match your audio?
Building Your Brand
How do you ensure that you are delivering on your brand? Are you hitting the target that you are aiming at? We also have to be realistic in our thinking when it comes to branding. Can we actually deliver the brand that we envision? For example, my brand is “I am extremely talented singer” – reality – my local karaoke club has asked me not to return on “Amateur Talent Night.”
How do we build a personal or team brand?
- Define your brand – what are your core values? What do you want to resonate, or how do you want to be perceived by others?
- Ensure that your behaviours, initiatives and outputs are consistently in alignment with your core values.
- Develop feedback mechanisms so that you can determine if your brand is having its intended impact on all those that you influence.
How do we maintain our brand or superpower?
- Always do what we say we are going to do – integrity around this is critical.
- Be clear in all our expectations – never settle for anything less than what will build or enhance our reputation.
- Always be consistent – “be consistent at being consistent”.
Can we improve/strengthen our brand?
- Where does our feedback tell us that we could improve? Having a feedback mechanism and requesting this regularly is extremely important to this analysis.
- How can we measure improvement? If we achieve the following (X or Y) we will reach our goal.
- What is the next goal once we have achieved that measurement? We need to be continuously striving to improve upon the improvement.
Unfortunately, as soon as we lose focus, or fail to recognize emerging issues, we can hurt the brand that we have built and have worked so hard to maintain. We can we diminish our brand or superpower by:
- Not delivering on commitments or initiatives, essentially not “doing what we said that we would do”.
- Providing outputs that are not consistent or in alignment with our stated values and goals.
- “Over promising and under producing” – taking on too much or embarking on initiatives outside of our core competencies.
You are the Author of Your Own Story
Our brand, whether personal superpower, professional brand, or team brand, is something that should be extremely important to us. It takes time to build, effort to maintain, and can be diminished far too quickly. I would encourage any practitioner or professional to ask themselves: what is my brand? Would others agree that this brand is in alignment with what I am putting out there for those that I interact and collaborate with on a daily basis?
Your brand can (and should) change and evolve as you change roles or rise within your organization. My brand was much different as a young Naval Officer than it was as an operations manager many years later. My brand evolved again as I took on leadership roles within continuous improvement teams, and again as a leadership coach. As I later transitioned and grew within the human resources field and as an employee relations professional, I evolved and refined my brand yet again. This is an ongoing process or evolution; ideally, you take the best of the previous brands and attributes, and form a new brand, improved for your situation or role.
After much reflection on my personal brand, the conclusion that I came to was that, as with most things in life, “I am the author of my own story”. I can invent, build, maintain and enhance my own brand (superpowers). One way that I have personally found to enhance my brand is through training and development, constantly trying to learn and improve my professional skill sets. Queen’s IRC has been instrumental in this journey. I have taken several courses to date, participated in the Community of Practice webinars, and I intend to continue in this, building my HR/LR breadth and depth of knowledge. Queen’s IRC is an excellent example of a brand that has been carefully built, maintained, continuously enhanced and improved to be a clear leader in developing human resources and labour relations professionals.
About the Author
Michael has had a wealth of experience in operations management and leadership roles prior to his current human resource/employee relations role. Michael regularly facilitates training in respect in the workplace, diversity and inclusion and workplace investigations in his current capacity within his organization. Michael Goulet is an Employee Relations Advisor with Canadian Pacific Railway. He has recently completed an Advanced Human Resources Certificate with Queen’s IRC, and continues to take courses in labour relations pursuant to a Labour Relations Certificate.