Build your personal brand to achieve professional success

How to Build Your Personal Brand and Achieve Professional Success

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on September 25, 2018

Business Brands and Personal Brands

All of us are familiar with a business brand. It’s the marketplace recognition of the promise of a company or professional services firm to meet or exceed the high expectations of its customers or clients in the delivery of products or services. Less familiar is a personal brand, which is the recognized promise of an individual to help a client or employer to be successful in their business.

Customers and clients buy from companies with strong brands, such as Nike, Mercedes, Apple, Google and Starbucks, to name a few. These companies have a reputation for consistently offering high-quality products or services and delivering a great customer experience.

Companies with a great brand reputation are often not the lowest price offering in the marketplace but offer perceived value for the price charged. The strength of their brand gives these companies a competitive advantage. They become the preferred provider in their marketplace. They are the companies that customers and clients want to do business with, and they hold a significant market share within their market.

The same holds true for personal brands. Individuals develop a reputation such that clients want to do business with them. Employers want to promote them to their next job within the company or hire them as new employees. They differentiate themselves and develop a competitive advantage over their peers.

Ram V. Iyer of The Business Institute writes, “Personal branding is the intentional identification, packaging and marketing of a person’s mission, strengths, capabilities, talents, background, appearance, etc. as a brand. A big objective of personal branding is to establish a specific image or impression of the person in the mind of others that evokes positive emotions.”

Iyer continues, “If you build a strong personal brand, the benefits could increase your popularity, credibility, prestige, customer loyalty and market differentiation; it could attract new (and the right) clients, partners, employees and build bigger networks; and it could increase your perceived value (ability to charge higher prices) in the marketplace while negating your competition.

“Personal branding involves self-packaging – combining your mission, strengths, capabilities, talents, background, appearance, etc. – to define your uniqueness.”

So, as an individual, how do you build your personal brand?

How to build your Personal Brand:

  • Do your job and do it well. Develop a reputation within your company,
    client base and industry as someone who achieves results, is a problem
    solver and facilitator with high emotional intelligence, is an individual
    who improves business processes and is someone who brings people
    together to find common ground.
  • Develop your reputation as a thought leader – a recognized authority in
    your field of expertise. Get what you have accomplished and are
    accomplishing out in front of an audience. Volunteer to speak in front of
    groups. Help others be successful.
  • Write articles or blogs on LinkedIn. Develop a website that can feature
    your articles and share your views on industry trends and on how to be an
    effective leader. Exercise caution not to criticize the company at which
    you work or its leaders and don’t reveal confidential information. Build
    an email list of individuals who would be interested in what you convey
    and send them what you write.
  • Develop your networking skills. Attend industry conferences and
    network with other attendees. Your goal should not be to hand out as
    many business cards as possible at these events, but to develop
    relationships with a small number of attendees. Connect people with
    common interests or who can be helpful to each other. Become well
    known by others within your industry.
  • Hone your leadership skills. Become known as an individual who creates
    a culture in which employees are empowered and encouraged to develop
    a sense of ownership in what they do. Develop a reputation for holding
    people accountable for results, as well as a boss people want to work for.
    Become known as someone who develops future leaders.
  • Develop a reputation for honesty and integrity. People will not want to do
    business with people they don’t trust. If you make a commitment to
    someone, be sure to keep that commitment. She may have made a
    commitment to others based on your commitment to her.
  • Always have and project the right attitude. It is a significant determinant
    of your success. Develop a reputation for seeing a world of possibilities
    and abundance, vs. seeing nothing but limitations and scarcity.
    Individuals with positive attitudes move forward in their career. Those
    with a negative attitude do not.
  • Always be on a journey to be the best in the world at what you do.

Follow the above advice to build your personal brand. It will help you advance your career, especially when in transition to your next job. When employers vet potential new employees, they look for the traits identified above.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. Follow Silverman on LinkedIn here and on Twitter, @StanSilverman.

Advance Your Career by Being Different from Your Peers

Advance Your Career by Being Different from Your Peers

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on August 28, 2018

People advance in their careers by differentiating themselves from their peers, just as businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors. An individual’s track record of accomplishments, skills and the experience gained in previous jobs can be used to achieve that peer differentiation.

Recently I had lunch with a college sophomore at Drexel University who was just finishing up his first six-month co-op work assignment at a company before returning to school. The co-op program is an opportunity for students to work full-time in their field to gain valuable hands-on experience. I asked him what he had learned during his co-op job and what he contributed to the organization.

He responded with the many ideas he offered to improve the organization’s business processes. Because his suggestions fell on deaf ears, he thought his experiences at this company would not help build his resume, which is one of the most important things anyone can do regardless of where one is in their career.

I told him to the contrary, his focus on continuous improvement is exactly what might make his resume stand out from the dozens submitted for a job opening and get him an interview. A commitment to continuous improvement, among other factors, is a differentiator for any job candidate.

In November 2017 I wrote an article headlined, “Eight ways to differentiate yourself to land that next job,” in which I identified traits attractive to potential employers. Employers will want to know if you possess these traits. How you respond to the following questions will differentiate you from your peers. 

1.   Are you results oriented?

You will be asked about the results that you achieved in your previous positions. How did those results support the goals of your organization, or those of a customer or client? Show how you have been innovative and have exercised initiative. A potential employer will assess what you can do for their company, based on what you accomplished at your previous company.

2.   Are you customer/client-focused?

All employees have internal and/or external customers/clients. If you are in a staff position, your job is to help other staff and line organizations within your company be successful in achieving their goals. If you are in a line position, your job is to help your company’s clients or customers achieve their goals to be successful in their businesses. How have you done so?

The Holy Grail of any business is to be the preeminent preferred provider to its market and the company that customers/clients will first choose to go to for products or services. How have you helped your previous employer travel the journey to be the preferred provider to its market?

3.   Do you embrace continuous improvement?

In your previous jobs, did you challenge paradigms and the accepted ways of doing things within your area of responsibility if you felt there was more effective or efficient approaches to accomplishing your organization’s goals?

4.   How do you de-risk your decisions?

You may have sole authority to make a decision that you deem risky. The way you de-risk that decision is by asking others for their opinions. It is not a weakness to ask others for their views – it’s a strength. The decision is still yours, but you get the benefit of others who may see the issue in a different light. Share examples of how you have de-risked your decisions.

5.   What is your leadership style?

You should share your expectations and jointly develop goals with your direct reports without micro-managing how those goals are achieved. You should help create a sense of ownership in your employees for what they do, and hold them accountable for results.

6.   Are you effective at selling your ideas?

People who are in sales aren’t the only ones who sell. Everyone is selling their ideas to their boss, their peers, the teams they serve on and to their direct reports. This requires good presentation skills. It also requires good listening skills, not only to address objections, but to be open to other ideas. Discuss how you have sold your ideas to your organization, and demonstrate that you listen and value the opinions of others.

7.   Do you keep commitments?

People who keep commitments engender trust. Without trust, no organization can properly function.

Don’t make a commitment unless you can keep it. If you find that for whatever reason, you can’t keep a commitment, let the other person know immediately. She might have made a commitment to another based on your commitment to her.

8.   Do you fit the culture?

Prospective employers will want to know if you are a good fit. Conversely, you will want to determine if the culture of a prospective employer is a good fit for you. Stay away from a company that has a reputation for unethical dealings with employees or with customers, or has a toxic culture.

The key to landing your next job is differentiating yourself, demonstrating that you are an effective leader and developing a reputation of achieving results within your field. Do this well, and employers will seek you out.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com. 

Picture of Employee during her annual review.

It’s Time to Take a Serious Look at How You Evaluate and Compensate Your Employees

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on June 26, 2018

What is your company’s approach to assessing the performance of its employees, sharing feedback with them, and compensating them properly for their performance? Do you and your employees think that your approach is effective? What changes would you make?

In June 2015, I wrote an article to guide business leaders in how to improve their compensation and performance review system based on the work we undertook at my former company, PQ Corporation. This is an update of that article. Adobe Systems followed a similar path when they revised their employee review system in 2012.

For years, many employees at PQ felt that the employee performance review and compensation system was not effective. The opportunity to improve the system occurred when I was appointed president of one of the company’s operating divisions. I convinced the other two operating division presidents that changes were needed, and we received approval from the CEO to design a new system.

Working with the HR department and with the assistance of outside advisors, we made changes to the system, which we tested with a focus group of employees that included upper, mid-level and first line managers, as well as individual contributors. This was key to making the new system a success. We wanted to involve employees, so they would have ownership in the new system, which remained in place with only minor modifications some 15 years later when the company was sold.

So, what were the key elements of the new performance management and compensation system?

Performance was assessed on achievement of business and personal objectives

Managers were also assessed on the effectiveness of their leadership and management style. As part of this process, all employees were asked to assess their own performance. Managers gave informal periodic performance feedback to their employees, in addition to more formal annual feedback.

360-degree interviews were used to get a full picture of an employee’s performance

Annually, 360-degree interviews were conducted with the manager’s direct reports to get a sense of the effectiveness of their management and leadership style, tone and culture within their organization. These types of interviews were also conducted with the individual’s peers to learn about their teamwork and collaborative skills.

After I was named CEO of the company a number of years later, I continued to undergo a 360-degree review conducted by the chairman of the board. This was some of the most valuable feedback I received to improve my performance as chief executive officer.

Employees were not force-ranked

Our company did not force-rank employees – one of the best ways to adversely impact collaboration and teamwork. We did not want employees competing for salary increase dollars.

Employees were informed if they were meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations and coached on how to improve their performance. This was done periodically throughout the year. We parted company with those employees who fell short of expectations and did not improve.

Compensation system was fully transparent

Salary ranges and midpoints of jobs were benchmarked using market survey data. Performance criteria were defined for the midpoint and for the 75th percentile of the salary range. To be paid at the midpoint, an individual’s performance had to meet the definition of midpoint performance. To be paid at the 75th percentile, performance had to meet that definition of performance.

To be paid above the midpoint, the employee had to significantly exceed expectations on a sustained basis over time. If an individual was being paid high in the range, they would need to sustain that performance each year, or their salary increase would be less than the annual salary structure movement, and they would slip back in the range.

How the performance review and compensation worked was explained to all employees in a very transparent way. There was no need to keep anything from them. This significantly increased the trust level between manager and direct report.

The response to the age-old question: I am not happy with my compensation

When an employee shared that they were not happy with what they were paid, they were told that they were compensated commensurate with their performance, and that if they wanted to earn more, they had to improve their performance or get promoted to a higher paying job.

Of course, the effectiveness of any performance review and compensation system depends on a fair and realistic assessment of an individual’s performance.

Were there sufficient salary increase dollars for promotions and to pay top performers?

Delays in filling open positions and adherence to the definitions of midpoint and 75th percentile performance usually provided more than sufficient salary dollars in the budget to make proper decisions about each employee’s salary increase.

If there were insufficient salary dollars to reward all of the high-performing employees within a unit, approval was granted to exceed the salary budget, but only after the manager of that unit demonstrated the need. The last thing you want to do is give a lesser salary increase to a high performer. You might lose them.

There is no reason why your company’s performance management and compensation system should not be transparent and easily understood by your employees. It will remove any doubt that they are being treated in a fair and equitable manner. This allows employees to focus on their job and not compensation issues. It will also help to retain top performers, helping your company perform better in the long run.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.