Building Your Personal Leadership Brand

Just as businesses need to build their brands, so leaders need to build their leadership brand.

You probably already have a personal leadership brand. But do you have the right one? And is it the one that will take you from where you are to where you want to be?

This is an important question as it is your leadership brand that conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer. If you have the wrong leadership brand for the position you have or the position you want, then your work is not having the impact it could. A strong personal leadership brand allows all that’s powerful and effective about your leadership to become known to your colleagues, enabling you to generate maximum value.

What’s more, choosing a leadership brand can help give you focus. When you clearly identify what you want to be known for, it is easier to let go of the tasks and projects that do not let you deliver on that brand. Instead, you can concentrate on the activities that do.

Five Steps to Building Your Leadership Brand

  1. What results do you want to achieve in the next year?

The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “In the next 12 months, what are the major results I want to deliver at work?” Take into account the interests of these four groups:

  • Customers
  • Investors
  • Employees
  • The organization
  1. What do you wish to be known for?

What are the six key descriptors which you need to have to balance your strengths and qualities? A good way to do this is to ask your boss, peers and some of your most trusted subordinates. “What are the traits that someone in this role (and/or future role) should exhibit?” Their responses will help you to refine your list.  For example, the traits you ultimately select might include being collaborative, deliberate, independent, innovative, results-oriented and strategic.

  1. Define your identity

The next step is to combine these six words into three two-word phrases that reflect your desired identity. This exercise allows you to build a deeper, more complex description: not only what you want to be known for, but how you will probably have to act to get there. For example, the above six descriptors could be combined into the following three phrases:

  • Independently innovative
  • Deliberately collaborative
  • Strategically results-oriented

Test these ideas with your colleagues.

  1. Construct your leadership brand statement, and then test it.

In this step, you pull everything together in a leadership brand statement that makes a “so that” connection between what you want to be known for (Steps 2 and 3) and your desired results (Step 1). Fill in the blanks:

“I want to be known for being ______________ so that I can deliver __________.”

For example: “I want to be known for being independently innovative, deliberately collaborative and strategically results-oriented so that I can deliver superior financial outcomes for my business.”

With your leadership brand statement drafted, ask the following three questions to see if it needs to be refined:

  • Is this the brand identity that best represents who I am and what I can do?
  • Is this brand identity something that creates value in the eyes of my organization and key stakeholders?
  • What risks am I taking by exhibiting this brand? Can I live this brand?
  1. Make your brand identity real

To ensure that the leadership brand you advertise is embodied in your day-to-day work, check in with those around you. Do they see you as you wish to be seen? If you say you are flexible and approachable, do others find you so?

Share your personal leadership brand with others. Let people know your evolving as a leader and ask them for their feedback. The exercise of forging a leadership brand requires day-to-day discipline to make it real, the courage to make the changes you need to make, and humility to ask and take on the ideas and advice of others.

Your leadership brand isn’t static; it continually evolves to the different expectations you face at different times in your career. Leaders with the self-awareness and drive to evolve their leadership brands are more likely to be successful over the long term — and to enjoy the journey more.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Peter Drucker on Marketing

Peter DruckerLong ago Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a very profound observation that has been lost in the sands of time:

Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Today, when top management is surveyed, their priorities in order are finance, sales, production, management, legal and people. Missing from the list: marketing and innovation. When one considers the trouble that many of our icons have run into in recent years, it is not easy to surmise that Drucker’s advice would have perhaps helped management to avoid the problems they face today.

Ironically, David Packard of Hewlett-Packard fame once observed that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.” But as the years rolled on, rather than learn about marketing and innovation, executives started to search for role models instead of marketing models.

Tom Peters probably gave this trend a giant boost with the very successful book he co-authored, In Search of Excellence. Excellence, as defined in that book, didn’t equal longevity, however, as many of the role models offered there have since foundered. In retrospect, a better title for the book might have been In Search of Strategy.

A popular method-by-example book has been Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras. In it, they write glowingly about “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” that turned the likes of Boeing, Wal-Mart Stores, General Electric, IBM and others into the successful giants they have become.

The companies that the authors of Built to Last suggest for emulation were founded from 1812 (Citicorp) to 1945 (Wal-Mart). These firms didn’t have to deal with the intense competition in today’s global economy. While there is much you can learn from their success, they had the luxury of growing up when business life was a lot simpler. As a result, these role models are not very useful for companies today.

There is a growing legion of competitors coming at new businesses from every corner of the globe. Technologies are ever changing. The pace of change is faster. It is increasingly difficult for CEOs to digest the flood of information out there and make the right choices.

But a CEO can have a future.

The trick to surviving out there is not to stare at the balance sheet but simply to know where you must go to find success in a market. That’s because no one can follow you (the board, your managers, your employees) if you don’t know where you’re headed.

How do you find the proper direction? To become a great strategist, you have to put your mind in the mud of the marketplace. You have to find your inspiration down at the front, in the ebb and flow of the great marketing battles taking place in the mind of the prospect. Here is a four-step process to pursue:

Step 1: Make Sense in the Context

Arguments are never made in a vacuum. There are always surrounding competitors trying to make arguments of their own. Your message has to make sense in the context of the category. It has to start with what the marketplace has heard and registered from your competition.

What you really want to get is a quick snapshot of the perceptions that exist in the mind, not deep thoughts.

What you’re after are the perceptual strengths and weaknesses of you and your competitors as they exist in the minds of the target group of customers.

Step 2: Find the Differentiating Idea

To be different is to be not the same. To be unique is to be one of its kinds.

So you’re looking for something that separates you from your competitors. The secret to this understands that your difference does not have to be product related.

Consider a horse. Yes, horses are quickly differentiated by their type. There are racehorses, jumpers, ranch horses, wild horses and on and on. But racehorses can be differentiated by breeding, by performance, by stable, by the trainer and so forth.

Step 3: Have the Credentials

There are many ways to set your company or product apart. Let’s just say the trick is to find that difference and then use it to set up a benefit for your customer.

To build a logical argument for your difference, you must have the credentials to support your differentiating idea, to make it real and believable.

If you have a product difference, then you should be able to demonstrate that difference. The demonstration, in turn, becomes your credentials. If you have a leak-proof valve, then you should be able to have a direct comparison with valves that can leak.

Claims of difference without proof are really just claims. For example, a “wide-track” Pontiac must be wider than other cars. British Airways as the “world’s favorite airline” should fly more people than any other airline. Coca-Cola as the “real thing” has to have invented colas.

You can’t differentiate with smoke and mirrors. Consumers are skeptical. They’re thinking, “Oh yeah, Mr. Advertiser? Prove it!” You must be able to support your argument.

It’s not exactly like being in a court of law. It’s more like being in the court of public opinion, especially with the rise of social media.

Step 4: Communicate Your Difference

Just as you can’t keep your light under a basket, you can’t keep your difference under wraps.

If you build a differentiated product, the world will not automatically beat a path to your door. Better products don’t win. Better perceptions tend to be the winners. The truth will not win out unless it has some help along the way.

Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising. Your brochures. Your web site. Your sales presentations.

The folks who work for or with you don’t need mystical answers on “How do I unlock my true potential?” The question they need answering is, “What makes this company different?”

That answer gives them something to latch onto, and run with.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Why We Fail to Make the Right Impression (& What to Do)

Why we sometimes fail to come across as we intend.

We often want to make the ‘right’ impression, but inadvertently end up making the ‘wrong’ impression.

This can happen with your boss, a potential employer, or someone who represents a romantic interest – in fact, anyone with whom you interact. And it can happen despite our best efforts and having the best of intentions. Not coming across as you intend – particularly in your initial encounter with someone – can cause big problems in your personal and professional life. People may mistrust you, dislike you, or not even notice you. Sometimes the fault is your own, sometimes the reason why may lie with other people

Why is this?

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Perceiving people accurately is hard – often the way we see one another can be irrational, incomplete, and inflexible and largely automatic. Although we can distinguish between strong emotions expressed by others, it is remarkably difficult to do with more differentiated emotions. How you or other people look when concerned, puzzled, anxious or confused is very difficult if not impossible to distinguish accurately.  Because we know what we are feeling when we express it we assume that others can discern that feeling. Wrong!  This is why we are often “misunderstood” when we believe we have been crystal clear.
  • What we say, do and express is subject to interpretationwe cannot accurately assess others, or others accurately assess us, because we don’t know what they are thinking or why. So our brains, automatically, pick an interpretation which reflects our beliefs and experiences. So we develop an immediate perception of others, and they of us – rightly or wrongly.
  • We use shortcuts – here we use heuristics and assumptions to fill in the gaps.
    • Heuristics – these are rules of thumb which we use to help us guide our interpretation of someone, an event or a situation in making a decision. For example, when someone believes the opinion of a person of authority on a subject just because the individual is an authority figure. People apply this heuristic all the time in matters such as science, politics, and education. This can be described as an “authority heuristic”.
    • Assumptions – these guide what the perceiver sees, how that information is interpreted, and how it is remembered. As such, assumptions form an integral part of his or her perception of you. There are some assumptions so universal and automatic that you can count on other people making them about you, and that most people are unaware that are making them. For example, if you have a very positive trait — if you are smart, beautiful, funny, kind, and so forth — you are likely to have other positive traits. (and you can count on people to have no idea that they are doing it); the first impression you give is the “right” one, and it shapes how everything else about you is perceived, and you are like the other members of groups to which you appear to belong.

So even when you are meeting someone for the first time he or she will be filling in details about you – even before you start speaking!  So what can you do about this?

  • Find out in advance as much as you can about the other person’s likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. This will help you to anticipate what he or she may be projecting onto you.
  • Plan what you want to emphasize and/or underplay to help create the right effect.
  • Use the primacy effect – this is where the initial information or points you make are more likely to be remembered than those later on. In short, your initial conversation and behavior will have a greater and disproportionate impact than what occurs later.
  • Make your opinions and values explicitly known in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the other person.
  • Be intentional – it is not enough to have good intentions.

Making, Leveraging & Overcoming First Impressions

First Impressions Count

Remember first impressions can always be changed and/or improved on.  First impressions are important as they begin to lay the foundation of your relationship with another person, so if the foundation is not how you would like it to then be quick to smooth over or re-pour the concrete before it sets.  Why?  Because this foundation also represents the inertia of the other person’s attitudes towards you.  If these attitudes are favorable then it can be used to generate momentum, if they are unfavorable then a considerable effort is required to overcome the inertia and then gain momentum.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Flea Training

What is the one thing that limits your personal success most?

This is a story originally told by Zig Ziglar – a leading sales trainer and motivational speaker. It is a good story – short, to the point and memorable. I won’t say anymore – just take a moment to sit back and enjoy this particular gem.

Flea Training

Fleas basically do two things… They jump and they ride dogs… 

If you want to train a flea what you gotta do is put a flea in a jar, and if you put a flea in a jar, the flea will jump right out of the jar.  So in order to train the flea, what you do is put a lid on the jar and you watch the flea jump and the flea will jump – clap – clap – clap – clap.  You watch that flea jump and hit its head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back 10 minutes later, the flea is still jumping clap – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back an hour later, the flea is still jumping – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back an hour later, the flea is still jumping – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

About two hours later at some point, the itty bitty flea even with his itty bitty brain figures out that hitting the inside lid of the jar is not such a good idea and so the flea alters its jumping pattern.  The flea still jumps nonstop but now it’s jumping about an inch from the inside lid of the jar.  You’ve trained the flea at this point.  You can virtually take the lid off the jar and watch the flea jump from now until doomsday and guess what?  That flea is never jumping out of the jar. 

Folks, that flea has all the power in the world to jump right out of that jar, but it can’t and it won’t and the reason why is because the flea doesn’t know the difference between a real limitation being the lid and a limitation it put on itself.  Most people, unfortunately, are the same way.  Most people don’t know the difference between a real limitation and a self-imposed limitation – and I’m here to tell you that there are no real limitations. 

Oh sure, if you have no legs you got some limitations.  Sure if you didn’t go to Harvard, you have some limitations.  At the end of the day, there really are no limitations except what you decide are limitations.  There are no real limitations.  There may be some challenges, there may be some things you have to overcome, but there are no real stops in your life.  There are no real limitations in your life – it’s what you put on yourself”

I smile every time I read this story. It reminds me that what I achieve is up to me, that the biggest barrier I face is myself, and my biggest supporter is myself.  It reminds me to wake up every day and choose to succeed and achieve.  Share this story with your colleagues, your team, your friends, and family – help them see and realize their own potential, and in doing that do it for yourself!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Building Trust – Make, Keep and Repeat

“Trust takes years to build, seconds to lose, and forever to repair” – Anon

There are three key steps involved in building trust. These include:

  1. Make – making public a clear, defined commitment that is specific, measurable and has a clear date set to it. This removes ambiguity and holds you to a commitment to which you can be held accountable.  Yes, you as the manager or leader are making yourself accountable to your reports or peers. Making a commitment builds hope.
  1. Keep – demonstrating the fact that you have met your clearly articulated commitment as previously defined. You need to actively publicize this.  People need to know that you have done this, you cannot assume that they will know because you have done it.  Furthermore, proving that you are keeping your commitments gives you right to expect them to reciprocate i.e. they will make, keep and repeat in terms of their own commitments.
  1. Repeat – this develops consistency, belief in you, and proof that your actions mirror your words. When people see a discrepancy between what you say and what you do, they will always follow what you do.  By repeating this process you are establishing and creating an avatar for others to model their behaviors on.

Demonstrate these three behaviors on a regular basis so that you can not only create trust, but you are seen to be more trustworthy.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Reduce the Fear

People often experience fear and concern over what is happening or not happening as they perceive it.  As a leader, how do you manage fear?

A good piece of advice from Olivia Blanchard chief economist of the IMF was: “first and foremost, reduce uncertainty….Above all, adopt clear policies and act decisively”. When people have a clear mission then they can transform anxiety into action and productivity.

People need the opportunity, a warning as it were, so they can put themselves in the right frame of mind. When people are aware there is a looming disaster or threat prepare themselves better and become more resilient.

To help your team master their fear, and to use it judo-like to their and your benefit, help them by taking these three steps:

  • Recognize that you and they are afraid – if you can’t be honest with yourself and them about this then you can’t expect them to be.  Being prepared to admit you are afraid and ready to face your fear is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It also stops people from letting the fear fester causing their energy and self-confidence to be eroded.
  • Frame the situation as an opportunity – this helps people to think more innovatively and creatively.  To quote “When you focus on problems, you’ll have more problems.  When you focus on possibilities, you’ll have more opportunities”  In changing times what got you here won’t get you there.  You need to get different results, and to get different results you need to behave and think differently. As Einstein put it “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
  • Develop a sense of urgency – help them use and focus their liberated energy and enthusiasm to take action and get some “quick wins” whilst building for the longer-term.

Fear is only in our mind, so use your mind to “throw” it to your advantage.  By doing you also help others to do the same for themselves and become more resilient, flexible and adaptable in the process.

To view or download a PDF version of this article click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Take a Breath

When you get stressed you need to be able to take a moment out to gather your thoughts and regroup. A good sign that you need to do this is when you find that your mind is busy “chattering”. You are often physically, mentally and emotionally overloaded.  You need to have a break but you may lack the time before your next meeting or appointment. A good way to do this is through controlled breathing. The old advice of “take a few breaths” is well founded. Just take the following steps”

  • Sit down somewhere comfortable and preferably quiet.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Let go of whatever is going on in your mind.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose all the way into your belly, try not to breathe into your chest as you don’t breathe so deeply.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Exhale continuously until you can’t exhale any more.
  • Then breathe in again, and repeat the process four or five times.
  • Open your eyes and breathe normally.

Take the time to do this every day. You will find that by doing this you are not only more relaxed, but your mind is clearer and has less “chatter” going on allowing you to focus and concentrate on your work.

Encourage your team to take brief breaks to do this, especially when they are very busy and not as productive as they would like to be. You can also help them to do this by building it into the start of your meetings – a good way to help people come to the meeting fresher, more alert and with the right intention.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.