Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Build Your Brand

Brand matters.  Not just for Jay-Z or J-Lo or JK Rowling.  Us too! 

Many senior managers get frustrated when a direct report shows a forceful presence and point of view in their office and then blends into the woodwork among their colleagues in meetings. They rarely see them take a stand or add a leadership perspective to what they bring to senior-level meetings.  

This problem cuts across gender, geography and level, all the way up.  Careers can plateau or even regress for lack of a strong leader presence in public.  It pays to keep in mind that senior level meetings in private conference rooms qualify as "in public".
Senior managers get reluctant to put their direct report forward for the next level because their colleagues have not been won over yet. Those people can’t see the direct report in question wearing their boss’s shoes; or making their boss’s decisions; or projecting their boss’s presence.  If you’re that direct report, a few practical suggestions to remove this potential career roadblock. 

First, ask your boss to articulate specifically what’s missing:
o   “You always let Charlie take over the meeting”
o   “You take too long to cut to the chase”
o   “You go a whole meeting without saying anything impactful”
o   “You’re the smartest person in the room, but don't show it"

Second, script a few “points of view” before the next big meeting:

o   Make them short and sweet
o   Tell them to your smartphone for practice
o   Test drive the ideas with colleagues pre-meeting
o   Develop assertive tactics to counter objections
o   Make expressing these points of view your “exit visa” 

Third, avoid your “reporter” voice – use your “leader” voice:

o   Don’t dump problems on the table – point to solutions
o   Don’t bail at the first objection – play your hand out
o   Express ways to operationalize your ideas using the team
o   Lead the room to action – own your ideas

Senior level business meetings can be a Darwinian proving ground for all kinds of leadership species.  You are being seen as well as heard.  Your boss is watching you and watching how others watch you.  Project a strong presence.  Compete for air time, real estate and attention. 

It doesn’t mean being a loudmouth or a show off. It means getting your leader voice and presence heard and seen.  If not, someone else can get a great opportunity meant for you.  If all the people hear and see from you in a meeting is a well-paid reporter, you are failing to compete as a leader.
Tough meetings are an acid test of presence under pressure. Make sure you understand and project what your boss wants to see and hear from you. Project that in public and they will gain even more reasons to foster your candidacy for the next level. 

Give them the weapons they need to win people over on your behalf.  Senior sponsors can be very effective if they believe in who they’re sponsoring – and everyone else does too.  Think of it as "air cover" for advancement.

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