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Personal Branding: You, Only Better

In her new book ‘Raise Your Profile’, brand strategist and public speaker Jenny Handley suggests that because people cannot afford to take risks in a soft economy it’s the prominent brands that survive and thrive. That’s why you cannot afford to be anything other than well known.

Monique Verduyn

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It’s been over ten years since the father of branding Tom Peters, writing in Fast Company, told us that “regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Peters’ point was that whatever your area of expertise, you have to take steps to ensure that people think of you when they think of your field.

“You do that by creating a message and a strategy to promote your personal brand,” says Jenny Handley, who is an expert on building practical personal marketing and brand plans that create buzz for individuals – and their business.

What is a personal brand?

“A brand is a distinctive mark,” she says. “And more than that, it is the perception in the hearts and minds of the consumer. It is a relationship between a product or service and a person. A personal brand includes perceptions created by everything you do and say, and by what you do not do or say. It is a reflection of the real you, taking what is inside and communicating it to the outer world.”

Handley adds that a strong brand speaks for you when you are not there. Because of that, engineering a good personal brand is essential in today’s competitive world if you wish to be distinctive and make your mark. “From leader to learner, the aspirant to the arrived, employee to entrepreneur – we all need to market ourselves,” she says. “It is not the most intelligent or educated who become the most successful, but those who are accessible and make an effort to market themselves effectively.”

Why do you need one?

Handley notes that there are several good reasons for entrepreneurs to market themselves:

  • To be perceived as a specialist rather than a generalist.
    A specialist has greater status and earning power than a jack-of-all-trades. Further, a specialist gets clients and new business by referrals, or word-of-mouth advertising. “It’s more about focusing on your special talents than offering a one-stop-shop,” Handley explains. “This denotes quality rather than quantity.”
  • To be considered first choice rather than most convenient or cheapest.
    Handley equates this to the difference between a designer label and a no-name brand, the first being the one that is sought after as it is perceived to be of better quality.
  • To have easier access to decision makers.
    People who are well known find it much easier to get past gatekeepers.
  • To attain the level or status where you are called upon for opinion, comment or endorsement.
    This is when your brand has been elevated to a level where you are being invited to enhance other’s brands and help them to develop their own profiles. “This is the cheapest and most cost-effective marketing campaign you could ever embark on,” Handley notes. “It’s the equivalent of building brand equity.”
  • To solicit the work you love, rather than having to accept any work that is offered to you.
    “When you start out as a consultant or a small business owner, you may often be persuaded to take on any business,” she says. “By defining and refining your product offering, premium work will come your way.”
  • To allow more work to come to you.
    “When you have a higher and more visible working profile, work comes to you,” Handley says. “How wonderful to be asked if you would like to take on a client, with them having the thought that they are lucky enough to have you to service their business.”
  • To get paid.
    Handley says people who have visibility, credibility and good working relationships are given the respect they have earned. “They are in a better position of negotiation, and can receive higher remuneration, plus they will be paid on time out of respect alone…when a business has a cash flow problem the suppliers with the better, more valued long-term relationships are often paid first.”

The Brief

No successful business is successful by accident; it has a plan. “Every ambitious individual also needs a plan,” Handley explains. It should reflect what goals are to be achieved, and what personal strengths can be leveraged to achieve them.

To kick off your personal brand strategy, Handley suggests creating a brief comprised of three questions: Where am I? Where do I want to go? What work do I want to attract? “Goal-setting is an important process,” she maintains. “It needs to be focused and realistic. For some people, short may mean three months; for others, three years. The same applies with medium- and long-term goals.”

The Budget

Many entrepreneurs find it hard to believe that it’s possible to develop a personal brand without blowing the budget. Handley suggests that a personal budget is not only about money, but also the resources you have available to you.

She advises creating a balance sheet of “you”. “The first column will show your assets, the second your liabilities, the third perceptions (what people think of you), and the fourth your potential and areas for growth. You may want to add a fifth column called ‘loans’, listing what you can borrow in terms of skills, techniques and tactics, from those around or above you.”

One of the most vital aspects of developing your brand is to build credibility based on a worthwhile reputation – brand equity. Ideally, you should perform at such an optimum level that everyone you deal with becomes part of your marketing team, resulting in good word-of-mouth coverage. Giving excellent service and going the extra mile costs nothing.

Positioning

To measure the effectiveness of your brand, you need to benchmark yourself against your competitors and perform research in your industry to determine what your reputation is. There are several means through which smart business owners can elevate their positioning in their industries.

“One way is to benefit from continuous learning and extending your broad-based skills,” Handley points out. “Small business owners especially deny themselves the chance to attend courses or further their studies, often because they feel they cannot afford the time away from the business. One solution is to send your staff on courses and ensure they report back on the experience to the entire team so that everyone benefits.”

Joining associations that are relevant to the work you do is also advisable. Membership of associations shows that you have met certain criteria and adhere to quality standards. Related to this is attendance at lectures, talks and networking functions, which will give you the opportunity to interact with many key people in your own and other industries.

“Make sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of your field,” Handley advises. “Read trade publications and newspaper headlines. Speed read and just take in the headlines if you are pressed for time. Listen to radio news bulletins and search the Internet constantly.”

Another important element of personal positioning is making your expertise available to others – even freely, if you can. Public speaking, writing, and addressing colleagues and students are all ways to elevate your position while you help to spread knowledge.

Makeovers

We live in a world that is characterised by constant change. As a result, the personal brand you build and consolidate will also have to change over time to keep it current. “Don’t rely on the fact that you were considered high-profile a decade ago,” Handley says. “Instead, make a concrete effort to maintain your credibility, visibility and flexibility. Move with the times.”

She advises taking stock of your brand offering once a quarter or at least every six months. “It’s not always a huge shift. Make some notes or implement some minor changes. It’s taking the time and trouble to reflect that will make you become more conscious of your personal marketing and your goals.

She also suggests getting clients involved in a re-brand by inviting them to give feedback and be part of the change.

When your brand goes bad

A reputation is not only hard-earned, it’s also largely out of your hands. Damage to your reputation can happen at any time, and for reasons that may not be of your own doing. That’s when careful management is required.

“Always be honest and transparent,” Handley cautions. “Good communication is key. Tell people personally if you have a crisis. Being positive and staying in contact with all stakeholders can help you to create good perceptions of your brand and improve its positioning.”

Handley adds that creating good brand alliances is essential, as you are judged by the company you keep. For example, know that your suppliers should be selected to enhance your brand. Business is, after all, a team sport. If you are connected to a company or individual that has tarnished your reputation, stand up and speak out.

“Always remember that to be your own brand champion requires you to be genuine, to be confident and to have self-belief,” she says.

Jenny Handley is a brand strategist, public speaker, author and owner of Jenny Handley Promotions, a brand management and PR company.
Contact: +27 21 686 0287, www.jennyhandleypromotions.co.za

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Self Development

Re-engineer Your Performance Culture To Avoid Disruption

52% of the companies on the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 no longer exist today. Simply put, they were disrupted. If you want to survive and thrive, you need to learn to be the disruptor, and that starts with your employees.

Rob Jardine

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“It’s been discovered that traditional performance reviews trigger the same threat networks in the brain as those that are triggered when we are being attacked by a lion in the wild.”

Developing a performance culture

Performance management is not just about a system, it’s a culture. At its very core it shows what a company values and what it does not. It’s a means through which we reward and encourage certain behaviour and provides a process that enables us to correct behaviour that is not considered helpful in the business.

If a company rewards both quality of client relationships and sales targets for example, it displays a different culture to a company that only rewards sales targets. The way in which companies reward behaviour, be it individual bonuses, team bonuses or incentive trips demonstrates what values they hold.

Related: Leadership Advisor At NeuroLeadership Institute Shares Lessons On Business Success

It’s therefore imperative that businesses begin this process by first defining what they want their performance culture to look like. What does ‘good’ look like and how do we recognise it? I recently read that the best way for top talent to figure out if they want to work for a potential employer is to ask the interviewer how they reward and recognise talent.

This will indicate the type of culture a business has and whether you may be a good fit. From a business perspective, it will determine what types of employees you attract, and how customers are treated by your organisation.

There are a lot of reasons why more than half of the Fortune 500 companies from the year 2000 no longer exist today, but one of the most important is that their decline is simply indicative of disruptive times.

In disruptive times we experience changes in the workplace that fundamentally shake up and change how we do business. The most disruptive times force us to take an honest look at ourselves and reconsider what we need to change to survive. Those that do not adapt often die. But it’s also true that in moments like these industries, societies and cultures move forward.

Be in-tune with your company’s performance culture

One of the biggest areas of reflection for businesses in recent years has been our traditional methods of managing performance. Performance management is considered to be one of the most important functions of a business, no matter the industry or size.

The outcomes of how we manage performance may be the most impactful events in how we get the best out of people, define and execute strategy and ultimately survive as a business. As times change and we move into the next industrial revolution, the pressure has started to mount on many companies that have to reengineer a dated system.

They are being asked to align it with the actual dynamics of work and reflect the nuances of how business has changed. This is even more important when we consider that most of today’s traditional yearly target-review processes stem from the first industrial revolution, which occurred a century ago. A survey of global executives recently admitted that they had only a 4% approval on current performance management processes.

Performance reviews trigger fight or flight

If we consider that most employee performance review techniques are linked to a basically antiquated system, then how we understand the brain can determine what modern-day performance management should look like, starting with how we review our employees.

A major breakthrough in neuroscience has led the field in reengineering performance. It’s been discovered that traditional performance reviews trigger the same threat networks in the brain as those that are triggered when we are being attacked by a lion in the wild.

When these networks are triggered the brain does not prioritise its higher-order thinking and rather resorts to instinctual, unconscious behaviour in order to ensure survival. This has commonly been known as the fight or flight response. In this state the brain’s best thinking is not prioritised as the brain relies on the quick and instinctive thinking needed to ensure survival.

What’s important to remember here is that the brain uses the same neural networks for both physical and social threat. This explains how the same areas of the brain light up when we feel socially threatened in a performance review and when we hurt ourselves physically. It also explains why social isolation is used as an effective form of punishment in prison.

How to achieve a successful performance review

The challenge with performance conversations is that a crucial outcome of the conversation is for the brain to be at its best to prioritise its best thinking. A successful performance review occurs when individuals think reflectively about performance feedback and are able to adjust behaviour and move forward with a plan of action.

The problem is that most performance conversations do not achieve this result successfully because traditional performance reviews trigger a threat response that prevents the brain from being at its best.

Our work at the NeuroLeadership Institute has cumulated in a model of social triggers that can be used to better understand how these social triggers play out. The SCARF model was developed by Dr David Rock and focuses on what triggers a threat state in the brain and what can be leveraged to put the brain into its best state. These could be summarised in the questions:

  • Am I being valued and respected? (Status)
  • Am I in the loop? (Certainty)
  • Do I have a sense of control? (Autonomy)
  • Do I belong? (Relatedness)
  • Am I being treated fairly compared to others? (Fairness)

A typical performance conversation is started with something along the lines of “Come in, let’s do your performance review,” or if you would like to start the conversation, “I need to give you some feedback.” This may trigger all five of the SCARF triggers and put the brain into a natural fight/flight mode.

There is no sense of what the conversation is about and no degree of control and there is a clear distinction made between manager and feedback receiver. However, by being aware of these triggers we are able to structure the same conversation in a different way.

Related: Can Being Deceptive Help You Build Your Business? It Worked For These 5 Entrepreneurs

You could begin the conversation by saying, “I need to give you feedback about X and I need 20 minutes of your time. What time is good for you today?” This conversation puts the brain into a state where it can prioritise its best thinking and is better prepared to actually think differently when given the feedback — the desired outcome of most performance management conversations.

How you can re-engineer your performance culture

At the NeuroLeadership institute we have found that many of our clients are trying to reengineer their performance culture and change the three most critical stages of the performance cycle.

These are Goal Setting, Performance Feedback and Rewards. The changes have largely been influenced by an understanding of threat states in the brain. There are a number of ways that companies are experimenting with changing performance that include removing performance ranking and decoupling bonuses from performance discussions — some of the things that actively trigger the brain’s natural threat network.

We recommend starting the change where you are in your performance journey. Some industries and cultures are more fertile for more radical changes, while others are not. In some cases, you cannot take away ratings or individual targets as the business model does not allow for it.

Some cultures are not always ready for 360o-feedback right away and some remuneration schemes are not always ready for group or shared bonuses. Further technical and system constraints may also impact what is possible. One thing everyone is ready for is to improve the quality of conversations and have them more often.

Why are you conducting performance reviews?

When we think about the performance conversation, we have to remind ourselves what the point of it is. They often deteriorate into conversations that attempt to justify performance or fight for an increase.

This is why a lot of businesses are decoupling bonus or remuneration outcomes from the outcomes of conversations. When we do so, what do we really speak about then? Performance and behaviour change, not a fight or an attempt to justify a salary or performance.

We have found that it’s useful to separate conversations. A salary discussion should ideally happen once a year and check-ins and progress conversations should happen more often. There should be more conversations about performance in a year, done in a brain-friendly manner.

It can sometimes be more stressful for the feedback giver than the feedback receiver and that is why we often delay a conversation until it’s necessary to have one and it becomes a tough conversation.

Figure 1 demonstrates the benefit of having more frequent conversations. When you have regular check-ins you are more able to catch behaviour when it is moving off course and correct the trajectory of growth so that targets are achieved and there isn’t a big surprise between planned and actual performance.

the-business-case-for-frequent-conversations

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Self Development

Why Stress Can Actually Be Good For You

For years we’ve been told how unhealthy stress can be and how important it is to manage our stress. Turns out, everything we thought we knew about stress might actually be wrong.

Nadine Todd

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As a high-performing entrepreneur, there are few things more irritating than being told to work less and manage your stress. You’re building a business, which by its very nature requires a lot of time and is stressful.

Here’s the good news. Health psychologist and author of the best-selling book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, Kelly McGonigal, has one mission: To help people be happier and healthier. For many years this meant sharing the message that stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease. Basically, she turned stress into the enemy.

But thanks to some ground-breaking studies, Kelly changed her mind. As it turns out, stress doesn’t kill you. Thinking that stress will kill you is the real killer.

Don’t view stress as harmful

Kelly’s opinion of stress started shifting after a ground-breaking study in the US tracked 30 000 adults for eight years. At the start of the study, participants were asked how much stress they had experienced in the last year, and if they believed stress was harmful to their health. They then used public death records to find out who died.

Related: 49 Inspirational Quotes And Mantras To Help You Overcome The Stress Of Running A Business

Here’s the bad news: People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% higher chance of dying. But  that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful.

People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful to their health were no more likely to die than people with absolutely no stress in their lives. In fact, the focus group who had experienced stress but didn’t view it as harmful actually had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study.

Change your response to stress

Other studies have revealed that changing your mind about stress can change your body’s response to it. You can make stress good for you. In one Harvard study, participants were placed in a stressful situation but told that the stress response was good and would help them cope with the situation. Briefed that all the physical signs of stress were helping them to stay focused and perform at their peak — including a heightened heart rate — the participants had a different physiological reaction to someone who believes their stress response is bad.

In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up and your blood vessels constrict. Constricted vessels are a factor in cardiovascular disease; chronic stress is sometimes associated with heart attacks. It’s not healthy to be in this state all the time.

But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but their cardiovascular profile looked more like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at 50 and living well into your 90s.

Stress also releases oxytocin, which fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen relationships by making you crave physical contact with your friends and family, enhancing your empathy, and making you more willing to help and support people you care about. So, when oxytocin is released in the stress response, it’s motivating you to seek support.

How will knowing this side of stress make you healthier? Oxytocin also acts on your body. One of its main roles is to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. It even helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage.

Pulling it all together

The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and act can transform your experience of stress. When you view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Stress gives us access to our hearts, from the compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and to the pounding physical heart, working so hard to give us strength and energy. When you view stress this way, you’re not just getting better at it, you’re actually making a profound statement that you trust yourself to handle life’s challenges and that you don’t have to face them alone.

Read next: 4 Stress-Management Tips For Reducing Anxiety And Getting More Done

Watch Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk on how to make stress your friend:

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Self Development

It’s OK To Not Be OK

First, acknowledge your feelings. Then, follow these tips to do something about it.

Nicolette Amarillas

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We live in an age of image projection. Instagram gets over 95 million posts per day. You can find hundreds of thousands of pictures of engagement rings, new puppies, exotic dinners or washboard abs at any given moment.

Even LinkedIn is probably sending you dozens of notifications each month reminding you to congratulate your high school acquaintances on their job-iversaries. It’s easy to get caught up in the general tendency of creating an illusion that we have our lives perfectly together. After all, people are watching. So, what happens when you are not OK?

When depression sets in, when negative self-talk gets too loud or when you get let go, get dumped or lose a loved one. What do we do when we don’t have a solution?

During hard times, most people want to skip past the moment of acknowledging that they aren’t OK and go straight to working toward a resolution. Resolutions – even tough ones – make us feel in control.

Admitting that you’re struggling doesn’t feel as manageable, or fit in with the sense of perfection that most people get blasted with on social media. But the ability to sit with a feeling of failure can be one of the most important skills you learn, both in life and in work.

The power of saying “I’m not OK”

Embracing tough moments, instead of swiftly moving past them, can be incredibly powerful when practiced correctly.

Framing the situation correctly is validating; you acknowledge that your feelings are justified, and that even though your situation is not ideal, you accept there is nothing wrong with the fact that you’re struggling. This is not about accepting and ignoring, this is accepting and moving through.

study from Montana State University found that people who are authentic and honest with themselves can overcome feelings of shame – which would otherwise cause them to devalue themselves.

Dwelling on a feeling of failure is paralysing. It will keep you from asking for help when you need it or making good choices.

Understand that sometimes your emotions take precedence over finding a solution. We often discount the value of feelings  especially in the workplace – but you need to remember that in the end, emotions are simply information.They are facts of life like any other. Emotions exist, and when you’re making decisions, you’ll have to factor them in.

Everyone has points in their career where they make a major mistake or feel overwhelmed by their workload. Women in particular are usually taught not to talk about it.

But according to the sociologist Arlie Hochschild, suppressing negative feelings can cause an “emotional load” that causes you to burn out faster, give up more easily and ultimately be less successful.

As an entrepreneur, professional woman and recovering perfectionist, I’ve realised I need to give myself permission to be not OK sometimes. I accept that there isn’t a solution right now, and I tell myself that that’s OK. That attitude is what has given me the stamina to accomplish everything that I have, even when times felt dark.

Related: It’s My Job And I’ll Cry If I Want To: The Case For Showing Emotions In The Workplace

4 Ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work

work-stress

Enduring uncertainty isn’t easy. It’s a professional skill that needs to be fostered like any other. I have four main tactics I personally use in order to stay centred during challenging times.

1. Breathe

You may have heard it a hundred times from your yoga teachers, but it bears repeating: Breathing is the single best way to get yourself centred. There are many different therapeutic ways to breathe, but here’s a simple one I enjoy: If possible, lie on the floor, knees up but feet planted. Otherwise, find somewhere where you can be seated.

Take one hand and put it on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale for three seconds breathing through your belly, then an additional two seconds filling the chest with air. Hold the breath for a moment and exhale through the mouth completely.

Breathing effectively can literally cure the physical aspects of anxiety. It’s an underrated skill when we talk about what contributes to professional success, but it can make a huge difference.

Related: (Infographic) How 9 Creative Minds Got Their Ideas

2. Find a mantra

You might not consider yourself a “mantra” kind of person, but positive affirmations have been consistently shown to make a major positive impact on confidence and performance.

That said, there’s no need to start memorising inspirational quotes or learning Buddhist scripture. Create your own mantras, ones that resonate for you. Figure out what it is that you need to hear in order to feel stronger.

Some things I find comfort in saying are “I am whole. I am safe. I am here.” Or as Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” These are just simple sentences, but I find them to be powerful in their ability to bring me to my current state.

3. Move

I am huge fan of going for walks when work gets hectic. It’s a valuable way to let your body influence what your brain is doing, instead of the other way around. Try using the power of your steps to help calm your mind and reconnect with the immediate present, so you can keep things in perspective.

The way you hold and move your body can also legitimately influence your sense of person ability. In social scientist Amy Cuddy’s famous TED Talk, she talks about how body language influences confidence.

I teach the power of posture and a strong mind-body connection in the first part of my four-part workshop series, Developing Executive Presence. The goal is to help students develop their own authentic presence as a base necessity for the workshops that follow.

Related: 15 Traits Of Unstoppable People

4. Talk about it

Sometimes, you just need a third-party opinion in order to keep things in perspective. Reach out to your loved ones, friends or even coworkers.

Holistic psychotherapist Kat Dahlen deVos has some great thoughts on the subject: “Sometimes, when we are experiencing fear, sadness or any other painful emotion, our tendency is to feel very alone – like no one understands or can relate to us.

As a result, we isolate, which can actually increase the intensity of our suffering by activating our stress response (a.k.a ‘fight or flight’). When we’re talking to a loved one about what we’re going through, we’re doing two things that can actually help us to move through the difficulty: Allowing our vulnerability to be witnessed, and building the capacity to tolerate painful experiences.”

Other people might be able to make a point that you hadn’t considered, or they might just listen and validate what you’re feeling. Either way, talking honestly about how you’re feeling will ground you, and it might even convince your listeners to be more genuine with themselves about their emotions, as well.

We’re conditioned to think that we always need to give a sense of perfection, but in my experience, that hurts more than it helps us. Humans are flawed, and they struggle in their work life just like in their regular lives. The people who end up being the most successful aren’t the ones who don’t struggle. They’re the ones who know it’s OK to not be OK.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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