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Is your personal branding at risk thanks to your lack of self-awareness?

Imagine if all the work you put into building your personal branding went to waste due to your lack of self-awareness. Don’t skip this post. It will save you future pain and suffering.

Behavior that damages your personal branding

Julie is always excited to meet any high-level professionals and top leaders. She’s a great listener and better questioner. What do I mean? She’s constantly asking candid questions to advance her career. Which is great, because how do you grow unless you ask what you don’t know and request feedback along the way?

Don't miss this post on how to give constructive feedback to your colleagues.

But there’s a fine line between asking for feedback or insights and turning every opportunity into a focus group for your benefit, where everyone becomes your personal advisor. All this without you ever turning around and asking, “What can I do for you?” And doing this meaning it and not as an afterthought. Undoubtedly, this kind of behavior is eventually going to impact your personal branding in a very negative way. How? Well, for starters, your colleagues will quickly catch up and stop providing valuable advice.

If you've invested time and effort in develop your personal branding, you owe it to yourself to become as self-aware as possible.

If you’ve invested time and effort in develop your personal branding, you owe it to yourself to become as self-aware as possible.

It’s a pity though, because Julie has worked hard on her personal branding. She’s invested time, effort and money to become the knowledgeable professional she is. But her chances of success will be acutely diminished by her single focus on her own needs. Her complete lack of awareness of how her behavior affects others’ reaction to her damages her personal brand time and again.

The problem is that if you suffer from lack of self-awareness, how would you know that you’re suffering from it? Well, here are a few signs to help you gain that awareness.

6 signs that your lack of self-awareness is negatively affecting your personal branding

1No matter how hard you try, you can’t get promoted

There are variations of this obstacle. Maybe it’s not that you can’t get promoted but that you can’t get the projects you want. Or the support you need from your bosses to pursue an initiative. Or the air cover when you break the status quo. If you find yourself in any of these or similar situations, take a step back and ask yourself: “Could my personal branding have been compromised?” And then approach someone you trust and candidly ask: “Are there instances when I’m not aware of how I come across that may be jeopardizing my opportunities in the organization.”

Be open to hearing the answer and resist the urge to shoot the messenger. If the person is willing to be honest with you and you penalize them for it, you’ll lose an important future ally.

2You’re kept out of the loop

You’re the last one to find out about your company’s reorg. Or about a new project or a business trip to which you weren’t invited. When your peers and bosses keep you out of the loop, it’s time to wonder whether your personal branding is no longer what you need it to be. Time to find out if you’re known as someone who can’t be trusted with confidential information or to behave in a specific way that’s acceptable in your workplace. And although this is not the only reason why people may be keeping things from you, it’s one you should consider seriously. Personal branding is tied with your reputation. If there’s anything affecting it, you want to address it immediately.

Be aware of your blind spots!

Be aware of your blind spots!

3You have been called a “bully” or other negative epithets in the past

When you push people around, mistreat them, raise your voice or when you act with a sense of entitlement you don’t do yourself any favors. There’s truth to the saying, You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Mistreating people, whether by bullying them or being passive-aggressive, will eventually tarnish your personal branding. This will happen regardless of how good you are at your job. It will come a point where few people will want to work for you or have you on their team. Exercise objectivity and review your last twenty interactions with people at work: Bosses, peers, and your staff. Where you kind? Did you make requests politely or brashly? Did anyone complain to you or others about your treatment? Practicing this 360 review of your interactions will help you become increasingly self-aware. The next step might be to conduct a truly 360 evaluation in your workplace.

4You have an overwhelming need to control

When you micromanage your team, when you have to be briefed on the smallest details of their daily work, it takes your focus away from your own role. It also takes responsibility and accountability off the table for your team, which in turn requires more and more of your supervision. In other words, you create a vicious circle. By becoming increasingly self-aware you will notice when you’re micromanaging and need to back off to let others do their thing. The more you promote self-empowerment and self-motivation, the stronger your personal branding gets. Others will be interested in supporting you, they’ll sing your praises and produce great work for you.

Keep your focus on the results, not on proving that you're right. Your personal brand will be stronger for it.

Keep your focus on the results, not on proving that you’re right. Your personal brand will be stronger for it.

5You always need to be right

If you often find yourself trying to prove to others that you’re right and they are wrong, you’re likely bruising a lot of egos. Not a good thing for your personal brand. Do the best you can and aim for your own excellence while keeping your eyes trained on the results of your work and your team’s work. Who’s right or not is of no consequence when you’re all pursuing the same goal. Insisting all the time that others admit they are wrong will build resentment in the long run. At some point, this behavior will affect your reputation and your ability to land great opportunities.

6You need to point out other people’s mistakes

Very closely connected to the previous item, being the Chief of the Mistake Police can gain you the antipathy of your colleagues. Granted, perfectionists and people who are super detailed oriented suffer in a world of excuses of why things are not as good as they should. Again, there’s a fine line between encouraging your team to be the best and constantly finding what’s wrong with everyone else’s product. Even more so if you are unaware of the mistakes you make. It’s hard to build a powerful personal brand with this kind of attitude.

Your personal branding can easily be affected by your blind spots.

Your personal branding can easily be affected by your blind spots.

If you identify any of these signs in you, it’s safe to assume you lack at least some self-awareness that might be impacting your personal branding. It’s time to look for someone who can shed light into your blind spot so you can correct the behavior ASAP.

After all, none of us is anything without an impeccable personal brand. No time like the present to polish it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is resilience? Its role in your career

How many times did you run into people who have experienced the worst circumstances and yet, they seem to move on with ease? Today we answer the question, what is resilience? And explore the key role it plays in your life and your career success.

The best way to answer what is resilience is with an example. Over a period of two years, a friend of mine suffered four major surgeries, had a severe accident that required two additional operations plus two months of recovery, the loss of her job, personal bankruptcy and the attempted suicide of her daughter. To tell you the truth there were times when I feared for her life. I though she wouldn’t have the strength to survive the magnitude of the difficulties facing her. But not only did she survive but in addition, she came out of that period stronger than before.

What is resilience? — Definition

There are many definitions of resilience, a word that refers to the quality in objects to hold or recover their shape, or the quality of people to stay intact in the face of adversity.

What is resilience? The ability to overcome adversities. Prepare for eventualities and learn to improvise.

What is resilience? The ability to overcome adversities. Prepare for eventualities and learn to improvise.

Psychological resilience is the ability to bounce back from a negative experience with a “competent functioning”. Neuroscience considers that the most resilient people have stronger emotional balance when faced by stressful situations. This better prepares them to put up with higher levels of pressure. It gives them a sense of control over their circumstances and an expanded ability to face challenges.

How resilience impacts your career growth

It’s not enough to answer the question what is resilience, but it’s critical to understand how it affects your career. Consider that the more resilient you are the easier it will be to:

  • Overcome adversity
  • Adapt to change (whether it’s change you seek or that happens unexpectedly)
  • Manage highly stressful situations
  • Face crises
  • Go through hard personal and professional times

Traits of resilient people

Many studies on resilience have been done over the past few years. They are helping identify people and organizations that conquer extreme adversity. (For example, people who are able to overcome a severe recession, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack and those who can’t.)

One of the best ways to answer what is resiliency is to explore what resilient people have in common.

According to Diane Coutu, author of a great article on what is resiliency and how it works, many of the

What is resiliency? You can tell right away by watching people who overcome major natural disasters.

What is resiliency? You can tell right away by watching people who overcome major natural disasters.

latest theories agree that resilient people share three characteristics:

1A staunch acceptance of reality– This is what enables them to consider the real possibility of extreme and adverse situations that might happen in the future. It’s what enables them to prepare for this eventuality.

2A deep belief that life is meaningful– This is what enables them to strengthen their relationships with others, seek solace in their values, interpret what happens as a challenge, and find hope to keep going. Rather than getting stuck asking, “Why is this happening to me?” they adopt a proactive attitude towards their new circumstances.

3 Unusual ability to improvise. This is what enables them to adapt to any new situation, regardless of how challenging it may be, and find a solution.

If you think about it, many of these are typical traits of people who grew up in Latin America and other countries in the developing world where the unexpected is the norm. People in those areas are used to having a plan B and plan C at the ready. They are creative, problem solvers. And history has shown that they are able to overcome any challenge put in front of them. If you grew up in that region your make sure to use those innate strengths to your full advantage.

Now, if you have a tendency to come undone when faced by an obstacle or if it takes you way too long to recover from an unexpected situation, it’s time to strengthen your resilience. It will not only help you in your career but also in your personal life.

Test your resilience with this quiz
Like the bamboo that bends with a strong wind but doesn't break, so can you if you develop resilience.

Like the bamboo that bends with a strong wind but doesn’t break, so can you if you develop resilience.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:

  • Face the reality that unplanned, stressful things often happen and prepare for them the best you can.
  • Understand that there are circumstances out of your control and focus on those you can control. For instance, your interpretation of what is happening. If you find a meaning to the situation it will be easier to go through it.
  • Strengthen your personal relationships. They are key to support you during high- pressure times.
  • Practice using improvisation and creativity to resolve problems on the spot.
  • Build self-confidence so overcoming adversity becomes second nature.

Nowadays, resilience is one of the most valued characteristics for employers. They guarantee your adaptability to new situations and your quick response time. It’s a quality you can continue to develop throughout your life. So go for it!

 

 

Self Promotion is a Leadership Competency – Striking the right tone

Effective self-promotion, is essential for success, yet one of the main hurdles for women in business to overcome.

Most women have grown up with the idea that hard work will get them noticed. When in fact it is the strategic, effective, and explicit promotion of their achievements and their potential what gets women’s hard work noticed. The key, of course, is that all of it must be presented in an appropriate manner and context.

Unfortunately, this misconception around self-promotion is pervasive throughout all levels of an organization. A study on senior executive women conducted by Women of Influence suggests that the same challenges faced by many women in middle management still surface among women in senior management roles. The well-known secret for the sustainability of a successful career (regardless of gender or level in the organization,) however, is in fact ongoing self-promotion paired with political shrewdness.

Self promotion inspirational quote by Lily Benjamin - Communicating your accomplishments and value proposition doesn't only benefit you; it also benefits your team, peers and the organization

Understanding the real definition of self-promotion enables you to take full advantage of its power for career growth.

Redefining self-promotion

So it’s time to redefine self-promotion in order to really understand what it entails and learn how to do it gracefully, strategically, and effectively.

First, self-promotion is a leadership competency

The competency of self-promotion encompasses acting with intent, being assertive, and negotiating along the way. These are all fundamental leadership skills to influence vital stakeholders and gain access to networks in order to advance shared business goals.

Second, it’s not just about you

Communicating your accomplishments and value proposition doesn’t only benefit you; it also benefits your team, peers, and the organization. Any leader without this competency cannot actively engage others when promoting and selling her/his vision. The impact of a team is a clear indication of its leader’s abilities. Hence, when a leader promotes the accomplishment of their team, they are not only motivating their people but they are also indirectly promoting their own leadership capabilities.

Get over fear of speaking in public so you can effectively use self-promotion anywhere.

The challenge of self-promotion for women

Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers from the MetMuseum Collection

Women were not raised to self-promote. We need to change that! Painting: Charlotte du Val d’Ognes by Marie Denise Villers from the MetMuseum Collection-

The concept of self-promotion is particularly taxing for women because they are not only challenged with the genetic predisposition to ‘tend or befriend’ that results in them putting others before themselves, but also with social norms of humility and modesty. This is very different from what men experience. Their genetic predisposition drives them to ‘fight or flight’, which generally means they put themselves before others, while social norms encourage their bragging rights. These are some of the main reasons why men are not only inclined to self-promote but when they do, they are perceived as competent and impressive. Whereas when women do the same they are perceived negatively as showoffs.

Being gender intelligent is essential to break through this inevitable genetic and social conundrum, as self-promotion is critical for a successful career path and for greater impact on business results.

Though we can’t change genetic predispositions, through awareness and behavior modification we can address social norms to successfully display a sense of self-worth, confidence, and competence.

Learning about being more assertive can help you master self-promotion.

Myths

Generally speaking, women admit that often the greatest barriers to effectively self-promote are themselves. But it’s also true that a lot of the social norms and myths reinforce these obstacles. So, let’s debunk several of those myths about self-promotion.

Myths about self-promotion
Myth Rationalization Fact
The Bitch “Self promotion will make me look arrogant.” Self-promotion done well is essential to a successful career. It gives the opportunity for others to learn and benefit from your contributions.
The Princess “If I’m good enough, people will hear about it.” (The princess waits for her knight…) Women need to take action to promote their contributions, rather than wait for the recognition to come to them. People are too busy to notice the contributions of others. No one can advocate better for your attributes than you can.
The Friends and Family ”Others (people who know me) should talk about my accomplishments, not me.” Relying on word of mouth alone, without influencing the key messages can be counter productive.   Effectively owning and promoting your personal brand and value to others, pays off big dividends.
The Martyr “You can’t control what people think anyway.” Women can influence what others think of them, by believing in themselves and displaying confidence through the quality of your work. The impact they have on other people, their teams, and organizations will strengthen your personal brand.
Self Promotion quote by Lily Benjamin

Achieving the competency of self-promotion is key to your career success

Your take away on self-promotion…

Self-promotion is an essential leadership skill. Learn how to believe on your strengths and attributes, while observing the impact you have on others and on business results. Then, share the value you and others add. Strengthen this leadership skill to further strengthen your confidence and reputation, while enjoying your continued success!

Look out for my upcoming post on successful self-promotion strategies!

Beyond the Traditional Executive Presence Definition

Quite often, the standards for promotion of diverse talent are stricter than for the average employee. Expanding the traditional executive presence definition will help you grow your organization’s brain.

In this article we will cover the definition of executive presence and the impact this traditional executive presence definition has on diversity talent, particularly in women.

Myrna, a highly educated Latina professional, with impressive credentials and a track record of accomplishments, was in a career development path but was denied the opportunity to move to the next level because “she didn’t have executive presence.” This is a true story (although I changed the name of the protagonist to respect her privacy) and one that many people with diverse backgrounds can relate to.

white men and white woman in suits

We need to expand the narrow executive presence definition to allow for a diversity of gender, backgrounds and styles

The truth is that the real reason for which Myrna wasn’t offered the promotion was the fact that she was assessed against the outdated standards of the executive presence definition. Her merits and accomplishments were never questioned, only the fact that she displayed executive presence in a different way than expected. The outcome of her assessment was that she did not meet the conventional criteria to be considered “leadership material,” that she lacked “leadership presence,” the “It” factor, or the “je ne sais quoi” needed to be promoted to the next level.

As a result of her performance review Myrna received “another” chance to earn her promotion, but not surprisingly, “the chance” had nothing to do with addressing her leadership presence or with a suggestion that she went to executive presence training. The standards for her promotion were stricter than for the average employee in the organization. Myrna was given a series of challenging projects to prove herself again-and-again and demonstrate that she was worthy of the next level, which always seemed to be one additional challenge away.

Executive Presence pillars

Executive Presence pillars

In a study conducted by The Center for Talent Innovation 268 senior executive participants said executive presence contributed 26% to career advancement. One of their conclusions was that executive presence is the link between merit and success.

The Three Pillars of Executive Presence

This research suggests that there are three pillars of executive presence:

Communication: How we share information

Appearance: How we look

Gravitas: How we impress others.

As simple as these three pillars sound, they show up very differently depending on the lens you use to evaluate a person.

Let’s take a look at how communication, appearance, and gravitas show up in high and low context cultures. (“High” and “Low” refers to communication styles, while “Context” refers to how circumstances or facts are explained during communication.) For example, in high context cultures –Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America— messages are communicated indirectly and implicitly with metaphors, analogies, and symbols. In low context cultures —United States, Canada Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland for instance— communication is more direct, concise, and explicit with frequent use of facts and specific examples.

Hand holding colored gears

Look at your talent through a diversity lens

In a high context culture communication styles are notably different than the styles of people from a low context culture. Africans can feel that the Dutch insult their intelligence by explaining the obvious, while the Dutch can feel that African leaders provide no information. In Myrna’s case, the American executives responsible for approving her promotion found Myrna to be secretive and unforthcoming with information while Myrna found the American executives to be offensively blunt. These examples only highlight the element of communication and culture. We are not yet discussing how the addition of other diverse characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, or age could further influence how a person’s communication impacts their executive presence.

The combination of diverse traits makes precise recognition and evaluation of the three executive presence pillars (communication, appearance, and gravitas) even harder. The traditional and narrow executive presence definition does not allow for the diversity lens to be applied to these three pillars.

Effective global leaders, however, are keenly aware of the complexity of these assessments, the need to use a diversity lens, and the importance of avoiding generalizations.

They redefine executive presence, champion diverse expression of leadership presence, and provide everyone a fair chance to be promoted based on how their authentic self contributes to the business objectives.

A couple of these effective global leaders were the ones that championed and coached Myrna, helping her get to the next level. These leaders were willing and able to see beyond the obvious, understand, and reward Myrna’s genuine executive presence.

Don't miss our Executive Presence Quiz, ideal to use with your women employees.

How to embrace an updated executive presence definition

How could you become one of these effective leaders with an uncanny ability to spot executive presence by transcending the narrow definition that keeps top talent out of the leadership track? Well, there are several actions you can take to objectively assess people’s leadership potential, honoring their uniqueness while enriching the thinking power of the organization.

Effective global leaders are fully aware of the need to use a diversity lens when assessing executive presence

Executive presence quote by Lily Benjamin

  • Provide constructive feedback. Build people by focusing on their strengths. Discuss what is working and what could be adjusted. For instance, “You have a very effective way of commanding the room (Gravitas) – give a specific example. During the presentation to the senior management group, last Friday, however, your report was too generic (Communication.) Unfortunately, that came across as though you had not done your homework or as if you didn’t want to provide specific information. This made you seem aloof to the needs of the audience and out of touch. Also, next time you have a meeting with this group, dress up more formally – a suit will work better with this audience (Appearance.) The combination of providing the correct and necessary information, while being dressed more on par for this audience, will enhance your executive presence and will help them connect with you.”
  • Provide executive sponsorship. Be the agent of your top talent. Talk about their strengths when they are in or out of the room. Highlight the value they add to the teams and the organization. Humanize them by sharing unique, valuable and relatable traits. Provide strategic public recognition. This means, ensure that in public settings this person gets appropriately praised for their merits and executive presence. Be their biggest Champion. Give others the language or qualifiers you want your talent’s brand to be remembered by. For example, “Myrna is a very influential and effective leader. She is credible and reliable. I trust her to do things right in any sensitive situation.”
  • Demystify the traditional (and very narrow) executive presence definition. A good way to spot authentic executive presence, regardless of diverse backgrounds, is to distinguish between myths and facts. Be mindful of the facts that can transcend any diverse element. By that I mean tangible diverse elements such as gender, sexual orientation, age, race, etc. or intangible elements such as diversity of thoughts, and diversity of styles in areas such as learning, communication, decision making, conflict resolutions, and so on. Below find a few myths and facts on executive presence.

Executive Presence

Myths

Facts

Bold: Shows a strong demeanor, vivid appearance, and ability to take risks Confidence: Is self-assured, calm, composed, with grace under fire
Vocal: Expresses opinions or feelings freely and emphatically, drawing people’s attention Clear Communicator: Shares substantive information, with great foresight, engaging and motivating people into action
Self-promoter: Publicizes self in a compelling and persuasive way Credible: Is authentic and persuades people, also ensuring that others get credit
Sophisticated: Demonstrates knowledge on and ability to discuss complex issues with ease Emotionally Intelligent: Is aware of, can control, and express emotions. Leads from the heart and head with empathy
Popular: Is liked, admired, accepted by many people, based on skills or knowledge Outstanding Reputation: Is known for her character, trustworthiness, and track record of accomplishments
Commanding: Expresses and projects authority, imposing points of view Assertive: Speaks up, expressing and owning feelings and opinions openly
Tenacious: Is determined and holds on firmly to positions and courses of action Courageous: Is not deterred by consequences of protecting principles and shared goals
The RSM Step Up Plus helps develop diverse women year-round.

Let's broaden the executive presence definition! In order to diversify your executive levels you must expand the narrow executive presence definition

In order to diversify your executive levels you must expand the narrow executive presence definition

After being coached and championed, Myrna learned to communicate and use her strategic authentic-self more effectively, which strengthened her professional brand. A year later, she was able to turn her “naysayers” into “yea-sayers.” The leader that had denied her promotion became her biggest champion, seeing beyond Myrna’s cultural mannerisms and focusing on her contributions instead. Myrna now heads up a global function in a Fortune 500 company.

Cracking the code on how to spot executive presence regardless of your talent’s background will allow you to rip the benefits of their full potential. Most importantly, it will help you ensure that the organization leverages a vast diversity of thought to transform and grow.

 

Leadership Styles: Identify your Own

By Mariela Dabbah

What traveling styles and leadership styles have in common

I recently traveled to Paris with a friend that I’ve known for over twenty years. Over all those years we had spent a lot of time with each other, but we had never traveled together. Although I knew her well, sharing ten days abroad clearly exposed me to her traveling style: She likes to be on the go, cover as much terrain as possible in one day and is absolutely inexhaustible. I, on the other hand, prefer a slower pace, so that I can absorb the place and its people better. I like to take a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening to write. I enjoy people watching while sipping an espresso and exploring small artistic shops where I get to talk to the owners.

When women respect themselves and craft leadership styles that make use of their unique traits they are rewarded

When women respect themselves and craft leadership styles that make use of their unique traits they are rewarded – Mariela Dabbah

We obviously have very different styles. Neither one is better than the other, but recognizing my style helps me design a satisfying trip. The same is true in business. Our unique leadership styles are forged with a combination of influences — From your upbringing, to your personality, training, experience and so on.  What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. That’s why it’s unwise to try to emulate someone else’s style. Mary yells during her sales meeting to get people motivated? You might turn them off. James swears and promises to quit if he doesn’t get the promotion, and he actual gets the promotion? The same strategy might get you fired. And gender is not the only aspect at play here.

Leadership styles vary wildly from person to person

Leadership styles vary wildly from person to person: Identify, polish and cherish your leadership style. It's uniquely yours. Own it!

Identify, polish and cherish your leadership style. It’s uniquely yours. Own it!

What comes across as authentic when one person does it comes across as being slightly off when you try it unless you  have a similar style. This doesn’t mean that you and I can’t achieve the same goals. My persuasive style may be subtle and yours may be blunt, but at the end of the day what matters is that we can both get our teams to achieve outstanding results.

How to craft leadership styles: Recipe for personal leadership styles

Recipe for personal leadership styles

It can be hard for women to develop their leadership styles when there are few role models of women who lead with a feminine style. We’ve grown used to imitating men’s leadership styles and following their recommendations for successful leadership. But the truth is that more often than not these suggestions don’t work as well for women. If anything, they encourage you to give up some of your most valuable female traits.

When women try to step out of their personal leadership styles to be aggressive, hide their emotions, and have a laser focus on the bottom line while ignoring the human component of their organizations, they are harshly criticized. When they respect themselves and craft leadership styles that make use of all their valuable and unique traits, they are rewarded.

Identifying leadership styles that work for you

That means putting into the blender your education, training, and experience, and also adding your empathy, your consensus building skills, your compassion, and, yes, your emotions. And when we talk about leadership styles, it also means throwing into the blender the memory of the obstacles you overcame to get where you are, the unbelievable tasks you accomplished, and the long list of interests you have outside work. (Like your passion for leaving a better world for the next generation, and for food shows, Zumba, art auctions, and for anything that makes your life easier.) Pushing the “Mix” button on the blender will result in your unique leadership style, the one you must learn to identify, polish and cherish. It’s the one that will always work best for you, because it’s uniquely yours. Own it.