Your Time to Shine
For years I have been writing that business leaders and consultants alike must actively build their professional brand and influence. COVID-19 has simply amplified that need. Leaders know they need to build influence with their people, customers, bosses and boards. Technical competency and time served are no longer a guarantee of future success or even employment!
If you already work for you, or plan to do so on the other side of a corporate career, you have to add a new dimension beyond capability and contacts.
You must sell ‘Brand You’ – loudly and often. Most find this really challenging.
A proven roadmap built on blood, sweat and tears!
10 years ago, I left a corporate career and set about designing the life I wanted. The journey wasn’t easy. I made a lot of mistakes, kissed many frogs and learned some painful lessons.
Today, I make a great living as a leadership consultant, advisor, mentor and speaker.
I’ve captured the key elements of this journey in my Professional Brand Success Roadmap. It maps out what you need to DO, BE and BUILD to create commercial success and personal happiness in a noisy, competitive and uncertain world.
How to strategically build your Influence
There’s a great difference between being an expert and being an influencer. ‘Influence’ requires far greater levels of pro-activity, energy and persistence. You’ve got to stick your neck out – even within a corporate setting. Chances are you will also have to work on your own without team support or the encouragement of positive feedback.
Building your influence requires a strategic investment of time, mental energy and effort. I get frustrated at how easily organisations let their managers and leaders off the hook in this regard.
You need to be the one who shows the grit and initiative to get on the other side of this work. It can be hard, but it’s also rewarding, enjoyable and very commercially smart.
Most importantly – Believe! This stuff works.
My roadmap illustrates the combination of actions, attitudes and resources you’ll need to grow your influence. It describes 3 focus stages and 3 levels within each stage. Start at the bottom left and work upwards through each state.
1. Create (content that distinguishes)
The first focus stage is about what you need to ‘DO’.
Information is overwhelming and everywhere. We now value those who can make sense of it, by creating content that helps us to understand and solve problems. Less is usually more. Often this is about giving yourself permission to put your ideas out there, rather than to rely on prevailing market thinking.
Be brave! Have fun!
2. Engage (connect with prospects/people)
Experts and leaders often present an aversion to selling, rather trusting that the sheer weight of their intelligence or status will seal the deal. Many subscribe to the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. In my experience they don’t!
You’ve always got to be connecting your ideas and in-build this process into everything you do. Think twice – first about what you want to communicate, second – what’s the most engaging way to do that. Elegance, energy and environment are all variables you can use to maximise the impact of your ideas – and therefore your success in selling them – and you!
3. Execute (flawless and impressive)
It’s no use having amazing ideas if you can’t make them wow your customers, clients, staff and peers. Today’s technology means all of us can create amazing projects, products and collateral.
The imposition of remote everything in 2020 has again raised the bar in this area. The best practitioners are revolutionising delivery with studios and screens that POP the user experience. Likewise, affordable design apps like Canva and Animoto make great design accessible to all.
There really are no excuses, so up-skilling yourself in this area is critical. From client ‘first contact’ through to project delivery, follow up and invoicing – you need to make sure you are professional, timely and impactful.
So that’s what you ‘DO’. To ensure you consistently build your brand and Influence over time, you also need to get into the right mindset. This is the focus of the second stage and is about how you need to ‘BE’.
4. Productive (get more done faster)
If you are going to earn serious money for yourself or your company by commercialising your expertise, you must become highly productive. This has always been the case for solopreneurs. Increasingly, organisational leaders are also being expected to act like internal entrepreneurs.
The employed/self-employed gap has blurred remarkably in 2020. Gone are the days of PAs and spare people. You need to obsess on getting more done and develop a constant vigilance around your output.
5. Strategic (sequence actions and skills)
You need a clear plan of where you are going. This means doing the right things at the right time. It’s easy to embark on too-many projects or to get distracted. This is where 90-day horizons and strict weekly, monthly and quarterly plans are crucial. Schedule your activities and say “No”. It’s about developing the discipline to finish what you’ve started (and avoiding shiny project syndrome).
Leaders and organisations have to place the same importance on meeting e.g. content-creation deadlines (blogs, presentations, speeches, videos, podcasts…) as they do on the weekly sales figures. It’s easy to get lost in the habit of business as usual, so you need to become ruthless in staying on track.
6. Accountable (take responsibility)
Most of us can’t do this alone. The best way to stay the course is to hold yourself accountable to someone else. An external mentor is the perfect person to challenge you and encourage you to keep delivering on your agreed actions and targets.
This is the mentoring work that I do for a lot of leaders and solopreneurs. I usually find that clients are amazed with what they have achieved and how far they have grown after only 6 months.
The combination of our ‘Doing’ and ‘Being’ is a great start to developing and deploying your influence. The final column details the things that you need to be ‘Building’ over time. These are fundamental in sustaining your long-term success.
III. BUILD this
7. Resilience (know the game)
The pressures of work and life don’t disappear when you commit to building the professional brand and commercial impact you need to become a market influencer. Trust me, you WILL experience knock-backs and discouragement. Colleagues will say you are wasting your time, that it doesn’t work. Projects will fail. Ideas will be rejected. You will doubt yourself and wonder if it’s all worth it.
You must counter this by learning to expect it and developing your resilience muscle. Never lose sight of the fact you are making a significant investment in securing your future success and happiness. Influence is a highly valuable business currency – especially in a tough marketplace. Most of your peers and competitors do not and will not make the effort.
8. Support (spread the load)
To help manage your resilience, to stay on strategy and to thrive in a potentially lonely environment, it’s important to build a supporting community. As you develop your network, you must actively seek out and commission those who you ‘get’ you and what you are about.
These are the kindred spirits willing to support your growth. You will be amazed and delighted by the people and resources that emerge as you develop your reach.
9. Community (find your tribe)
The ambition to build your professional brand and bring it to life to become a business and market influencer can seem unrealistic and even arrogant. If you’ve got this far, you probably think you have something to offer the world. GOOD FOR YOU! You’re probably right.
Once you step out on this path, you will be amazed by the new connections, friends, colleagues, mentors and resources that your efforts reveal. In just a few months you’ll probably look back and wonder how you remained so stuck for so long.
I find that getting clear on the 9 elements of this roadmap is clarifying. It’s easy to get lost and discouraged on this journey, or to fixate on a few of the pieces. All are important over time – especially once the initial inspiration has passed.
Keeping a lightness of touch and a good sense of humour and humility is also useful.
If you have ever toyed with the idea of building your professional brand and influence, NOW is an excellent time to begin.