FountainBlue’s April 8 When She Speaks Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand and featured:
Facilitator Linda Popky, Founder and President, Leverage2Market Associates
Panelist Erna Arnesen, Head of Global Services Channels and Alliances, Cisco
Panelist Aditi Dhagat, Director of Client Engagement & Business Architecture, Adobe
Panelist Praveena Varadarajan, VP of Product Management, FICO
Panelist Alexandra Woody, Senior Manager, Program Management, EFI
Please join us in thanking our hosts at Adobe for graciously hosting us at their facilities and their ongoing support of our program and the series. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panel represents the breadth of experience from channel sales and marketing to engineering to product management. They have successful built and enhanced their brands within and across companies and have consciously developed and revised their strategies and approaches to building a stellar brand. They are known for the work they do, the results they deliver, and have graciously shared their advice and perspectives on what has worked and hasn’t worked for them.
They spoke about the how building their brand has helped them transition to new roles with increasingly more responsibility within their organization, to new companies with more and different opportunities, to new industries leveraging existing skills and connections. They spoke about elements about a successful brand, including a congruency within and outside yourself and organization, an outwardly-facing outlook, a focus on continuous improvement, an affinity for technology, and fearless authenticity. There was also an extensive conversation about the merits of remaining unemotional, focusing on facts rather than emotions and how valuable that is within a business setting.
Our panelists repeatedly pointed out that building a brand does *not* mean getting the messages right all the time, every time. That’s too hard considering how easy it is to get it wrong, how many ways to screw up there are, given that our every move might be noticed and YouTube-ed or FaceBook-ed or Twitter-ed! However, it *is* about fixing it when it goes wrong, adhering to a core set of values, learning from our mistakes, sharing candidly with others, becoming stronger and moving toward a known destination, *because* you are genuine and human.
Below is more specific advice from our panelists:
• Know and live your values.
• Be your own person. Don’t think and act the way someone else thinks.
• Accept what yourself for who you are – the good with the bad. Accept also that you *can* change about yourself, if you decide you really need to.
• These days, with so much movement between companies, people should see themselves as independent contractors rather than a life-long employee and position their brand accordingly.
• Challenge yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone regularly in many ways.
• Find the intersect between your passion and your skills and the market need to build your brand and career around that niche.
• Accept that people are going to have an opinion and perspective about you and the work that you do, so be proactive about developing your own brand.
• Know who you want to impress and build relationships with and why.
• Know where you are headed and how your current actions and decisions and successes will help you get there. Course-correct as necessary.
• There’s a balance between planning your brand and letting the messages flow. Nobody can control everything that impacts how they are viewed by others, but planning and correcting perceptions will help you ensure that your brand is communicating how you want to position yourself to others.
• Try to be fearless and act with honesty and integrity, especially when the stakes are high.
Communicate What You Have to Offer
• Be cognizant of what’s hot in technology and position yourself as an expert in some way.
• Be prepared to address technology needs and trends and make this a part of your brand.
• Face brand issues head-on and immediately, updating communications, speaking one-on-one with others involved, doing what it takes to smooth things over and maintain relationships and the brand integrity you’re seeking.
• Be articulate and crisp in your communications and balance it with silences so that you can listen.
• Social media is a double-edge sword, making it easier in some ways to build and extend your brand, and also making it more difficult to ensure a pure and consistent brand message for both individuals and companies.
• Communicate your brand based on the preferences of your audience.
• Become known as a problem-solver, doing what you do well.
• Become known to others in your industry and role for the great work that you do.
• Make sure that you get the credit for the work you’ve done.
• When things *don’t* go your way, assume that others have good intentions and that the simplest explanation may be the cause of a misunderstanding. Even if it’s as bad or even worse than you thought, try to give yourself some time to cool off and *not* be too reactive in your communications.
Build a Strong Network
• Pay it forward and help others, regardless of whether you see the short term reward.
• Build and maintain a network *before* you desperately need one, during a job transition, for example.
• Continue your strategically network and focus on quality rather than quality of connections.