If you've watched "It's Me or the Dog" or similar dog-training TV shows, you've seen trainers essentially trying to rewrite history. They use treats to develop fantabulous associations in the dog's mind when a particular behavior occurs or try to extinguish negative behaviors through redirection or loss of attention to them. The common link is that owners change their behavior, prompting the dog's behavior to change as well. Despite whatever happened in the past, it doesn't work that way anymore.
That came to mind when I read this "Ask Jo" piece in the newsletter of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. It was written by Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. She writes of a woman wanting to change the way she is perceived within her company.
This woman was considered a high performer, but also high maintenance, a perception that was limiting her prospects for promotion. Upon learning about this perception, she was frustrated because she felt that she was the only one who sweated the details, set high standards for the team's results and wasn't afraid to speak up about problems. Her colleagues, however, didn't appreciate her unsolicited critiques and became defensive and resistant to her efforts at improvement. When Miller mentioned the woman's passion for excellence, she cried, "That's my brand!"
There's so much written about a 'personal brand' these days, and I have to admit that I haven't been clear on exactly what that means. However, I like this definition by Donna Rachelson, founder of the South African company Branding & Marketing YOU:
Personal branding focuses on your USP (unique selling proposition), how you position yourself relative to colleagues and competitors and how you are able to "package" yourself in an authentic and noticeable way that makes you stand out.
Personal branding and marketing is about knowing yourself and understanding what differentiates you from others with similar qualifications and experience.
Essentially, Miller said this woman needed to rewrite history to improve the associations that team members and bosses have of her. That meant being hyper-aware of the fine line between offering useful feedback and being overly critical. She needed to set a new tone to her comments in order to be perceived as a person who champions excellence and brings out the best in the team.
Miller offers these three steps to creating a new brand or reputation:
As Miller points out, we all have a brand in the workplace, whether we cultivate it in a particular way or not. And Lisa Barone, co-founder and chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, writes at Business Insider that our brands are being created by our online activity anyway, so we'd better get busy in shaping it. She writes:
But ignoring your personal brand is like ignoring social media or the Web, in general. It's a death sentence. We all need to wake up. ... A personal brand isn't a luxury, it's a living resume.