Question: I have a reputation as a high performer but this is holding me back from going to the next level. How can I re-brand myself for a big leap forward in my career?
Jo Miller Answers: Have you allowed others to define your reputation? Everyone has a certain reputation or “brand” that they are known for in their workplace, however for most people that brand is created by default, not by design.
What reputation are you currently known for? What do others say about you? It’s important to know, because then you can choose to embrace that perception and build on it, or take steps to change how you are perceived.
At one of my workshops a technical woman approached me during a break for some personal coaching. She had received feedback from a manager who said that she was perceived by others as a high performer but was considered “high maintenance” and for that reason was not being considered for certain career opportunities. Upon hearing the feedback, the technical woman had reacted with frustration because she saw herself as the only one on her team who paid attention to details, set high standards for the team’s work product, and was not afraid to speak up when she saw a problem that others were inclined to overlook. Unfortunately, the team did not always appreciate receiving unsolicited critique, and they came to resent her opinions. When she spoke up, she encountered resistance and defensiveness. It didn’t matter that she was often right.
As we talked this over during the workshop break, it occurred to me that she had a genuine desire for her work product to be the best it could be and for the team to achieve a high standard of excellence in all that they did. But what she had not realized was that she was currently walking on the wrong side of the very fine line between giving valuable feedback and being overly critical.
The key to re-branding herself would be finding a way articulate her feedback to the team at the right moment and in the right way, so that it could be perceived by them as a positive and valuable contribution. She would need to be highly selective in choosing when to offer her critique and change the tone of her comments. If she succeeded in doing those things, there was a strong likelihood of re-positioning herself as the team-member who champions excellence and brings out the best in the team.
“It seems to me that you have a passion for excellence,” I remarked. With that, her face lit up. “That’s my brand!”, she exclaimed. We spoke for a few more minutes and discussed ways to subtly introduce her new brand and evolve how others perceived her, and proactively cultivate a new reputation as the one on her team with a passion for excellence. I challenged her to monitor her interactions with others closely and avoid saying anything that would be judged as too critical. She decided to look for opportunities where it was appropriate to express her brand by acknowledging excellence and championing it within her team.
It can take as little as two months to completely re-brand yourself, but I won’t lie; it takes a lot of work. I have seen a few women bounce back from devastating career missteps that harmed their reputation and could have haunted them for years. They overcame poor reputations by paying close attention to every interaction they had with others.
Three steps for re-branding yourself for a big leap forward in your career
Step 1: Understand your current brand
Get a baseline to understand the existing brand that you are known for. Ask managers, mentors, trusted colleagues or HR partners to describe how you are currently perceived by others.
Step 2: Identify the new brand you want to be known for
When you know what your niche is, create a short, concise brand statement that describes what you want to be known for. Check to see that your brand is one that will be valued by your company.
I tweeted a request for technical women to share their brands, and here are some responses I received:
“Change agent; and turnaround specialist for failing programs or teams.”
“The person who can make things happen, has great contacts, and can move projects forward.”
“Spunky, energetic supporter of women in tech with a focus on students, and working on becoming a go-to person for phone development.”
Step 3: Align your communication and actions with the brand you want to be known for
For two months, pay close attention to every interaction you have with others and try to stay in alignment with the brand you want to be known for. Look for opportunities to take on, stretch assignments, projects, or even a new role that showcases the brand you want to build. When you deliver results in those brand-building roles or assignments, make sure to promote those accomplishments so that others know the value of you and your brand.
To learn more about building a leadership brand, revisit the webinar “Create Your Leadership Brand” with guest speaker, Titina Ott, Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness for Oracle Corporation.
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