The 5 pillars of leadership to truly transform your customer experience

Cultivating a strong personal brand

Mike Ashton

In this series of articles I‘ll examine why personal influence is pivotal to leading customer experience transformation in complex organisations, and suggest 5 proven steps to becoming more effective as a customer experience leader. 

We’ll begin by considering the importance of personal reputation and look at some practical steps you can take to build a valuable personal brand. 

Ever wondered what colleagues say about you when you leave a room or when your name crops up in conversation? This handful of words that sum up who you are, in effect, your personal brand.

If you were to find out what people say, you might very well proclaim, “but that’s not accurate or fair!”. You may be right, but it’s their perception and will remain so until you do something about it.  

This perception is usually based on what people observe (how you behave in different situations) and what they hear (from you and from others over time). The more consistent and strongly the view, the more accurate it’s likely to be….whether we like it or not!       

Leadership principles

“But why is this important?” you may well ask, other than to appeal to gratuitous self-interest or galloping paranoia. Well, to be effective at work almost invariably means influencing  others; what they think, feel and do. Our ability to do this is influenced by how they see us: whether they trust our judgement, respect our professionalism, like our style and want to help and have confidence in the quality of our work. In short, their perception of our reputation or brand. 

It’s the kind of stuff that gets our report nodded through with a cursory glance or picked over with a fine-toothed comb; that gets us invited onto the project team or overlooked Decisions often made at arm’s length by people who don’t know us well, but who know about us by reputation.

Also: Download the agenda for the Employee Experience Forum 2018

So surely the smart question isn’t “What do people think?”, but “Does my brand match how I want to be seen? Does it have a positive impact on my performance, and what can I do about it?”

Here are four steps that will give you control of your personal brand. It’s proven and it works.  

Step 1. Outside-in view: Find out how you’re seen by your key stakeholders – the people whose support you need most. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can approach them directly and ask for their feedback as part of your personal development process. Alternatively, try a 360° review, where a coach will survey your stakeholders and then provide you with feedback.  

Step 2. Personal brand proposition: In no more than a page, set out how you want others to describe you; the words they should use. Include the unique value you bring to the organisation, the specific behaviours that you exhibit and the performance standards you aspire to deliver. To work, your proposition must include specific behaviours and tangible outputs that others can observe.       

Step 3. Reality check: List each behaviour and standard in your proposition, for example: “100% reliable: Delivers projects and reports on time, every time”. Now record (with brutal honesty!) your typical behaviour against each standard and assess the ‘performance gap’. For example: “Missed deadline on 3 of last 6 reports”. Then check what stakeholders said to see if a pattern emerges.         

Step 4. Change the game: Now prioritise the most important performance gaps and decide

1) what changes you’ll make to your behaviour (ideally visible to your stakeholders),
2) write these changes down with specific delivery dates,
3) start right away, and
4) monitor and record your progress.

Finally, you may want to find a mentor to help with the changes you plan to make. They can give you useful feedback, check in with your stakeholders and keep you on track when the going gets tough!

Cultivating a strong personal brand means making positive changes to your professional behaviour.  Changes that will make you more effective in your job, more influential among your colleagues, and more valuable to your company.  Done well, it can be a tremendously positive step to take.    

Read our latest market researchThe global state of customer experience 2018

Watch out for my second article in this series in which I’ll examine why a strong stakeholder network makes it so much easier to win support for your customer experience strategy and deliver the change you need.  Once again, I’ll suggest some practical and proven steps you can take to build your own powerful network, taking lessons from some of industry’s best exponents.         

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