Personal branding: what I’ve learned from my coaching sessions
At the beginning of the year the management of inlea and the human resources department invited me to start receiving coaching sessions with the purpose of exploring my personal and professional growth. I am happy to say that at inlea there is a great culture of well-being. If the employee is happy, feels well cared and professionally growing, the impact on productivity and efficiency is undoubted. In addition, I think that we all like to see that the people around us are happy, and so does the company I work for.
What is Personal Branding?
Before explaining my experience, I must introduce the meaning of Personal Branding for those who do not know what it is.
Personal Branding is the way other people perceive you as a result of your actions and the way you communicate them. It is a concept that consists of considering yourself as a commercial brand – you are your own company – with the aim of differentiating yourself and achieving greater profits.
In summary, making yourself a Canvas, a SWOT, find your Ikigai, or any analysis exercise that helps you maximize your profits.
After several sessions of the Human Made Brands “Unbox your Purpose” program, led by Cristina Morenete, I am confident to share some of my reflections with you:
Personal growth doesn’t have a destination point
After accepting the proposal to start the coaching sessions, the first thing my subconscious told me was: do I need it? Is this what they are trying to tell me? I immediately realized how silly these questions were: we all need it!
It is common to associate therapy or coaching with something negative, with being in a bad mental state, or with the need to improve because you are not doing it well enough. Aware of my thoughts, I quickly knew how to correct myself and understand that I am doing great (or as I sometimes tell myself, the best I can) and inlea is giving me the tools so that I can do it even better.
From the beginning I was very grateful for the opportunity and I knew that I wanted to get the most out of the sessions. I never premeditated what I would share with my coach and I definitely had no doubt that I was going to open up emotionally, and I am sure this was a key point for the coaching sessions to be successful. If there is something that I have learned, it is that when you open up, you gain many things: freedom, respect, learning, etc.
The first session went very well. Honestly, so good that I thought “you’ve made things difficult for your coach”. I mean, I know these kinds of activities very well. First of all, I work in the branding industry and I am aware of the latest trends, being Personal Branding one of them. Secondly, I constantly read books about psychology, I practice meditation almost daily, journaling (writing about oneself) and I always end up talking about these kinds of topics with my circle. In conclusion, although it may seem arrogant, I consider myself an emotionally “developed” person.
Although my mindsted from the beginning was “let’s see what I can learn from these sessions”, I think I did not expect what I could learn and what I can get out of it. The way in which the coach Cristina knew how to relate my personal self with my professional self, is something that I definitely would not have known how to link myself. Or yes, but it would have taken years instead of hours.
The conclusion I came to was that whether or not you practice introspection, you never stop learning about yourself. Even if you have a well-developed professional brand, you can develop it even better.
And it is necessary. You’re doing it for yourself.
It requires a high level of honesty
The first step in analyzing your personal brand is to be clear about who you are. I find it very interesting that most of us do not know how to answer this question immediately and with a concise phrase. I myself, as I have previously mentioned I am a very introspective person, did not have a clear answer to this. The first thing that came to my mind was that “I am many things”, but now thanks to the work with Cristina I can summarize all these “things” in a concise sentence that gives me clarity.
Consequently, it is time to analyze what your added value is (what you offer that differentiates you from others). When Cristina asked me this question, I immediately began to think about what I knew that others did not. And I realized that this was a mistake, basically because there is nothing that I know that others do not know: it is how I do it. Many companies have changed the perception of a product that already existed or have gained customers simply by communicating differently or having X values. And understanding that how I do things is what differentiates me from others, I have never been so confident about my added value.
The next step is to be clear about your vision, your mission and your purpose. How do you see yourself in 5 years? And in 10? Having a defined route is what has helped me to focus my energy on what I really want and not accepting things that are out of it because of fear or social pressure. Indeed, knowing how to embrace the new opportunities that you are presented with and accept the changes that are beyond your control is essential, but if you know what are your healthy boundaries, it makes you feel more self-confident in these script changes. And of course it is very difficult to know exactly what will be your jobtitle in the future, but what I know clearly is how I want to feel in 5, 10 or 30 years from now. My advice: think about this. How do you want to feel in 5 years? Make your efforts be focused on achieving what you have defined.
With the analysis of these last three points, it is inevitable to think about how others perceive you. It is important to know well that what you communicate is aligned with your mission, vision and purpose, it will help you know yourself better. If the perception that others have of you is not aligned with who you really are, it is a great opportunity to change the way you communicate and look for the tools that help you achieve it. If this perception is aligned, you will feel more reinforced and oriented to improve. Do not be afraid, if you do not know what perception others have of you, ask them.
I want to emphasize that this exercise was not easy. At some point I was overwhelmed by all the thoughts and reflections. I came to the conclusion that it is due to the result of being honest with oneself and with others. In my opinion, honesty in this exercise and knowing that you are the only responsible for your personal brand are everything.
There is one only “ME Corp.”
I confess that it was difficult for me to understand that I cannot have different personal brands. In the first sessions I had perfectly defined an analysis for Anna-out-of-work and another for Anna-at-work, but it was impossible for me to merge them.
I have grown up in an environment of “don’t live to work” or “you can’t take your work home” that has made me see my professional self as a complementary part of my life that began in my first professional experience and that it will end someday. And although my priority has never been “getting paid at the end of the month” but motivation and professional growth, I have also lived with the fear of becoming “those people addicted to work” or those who “only live to work.”
Here Cristina gave me a phrase that has changed everything. She told me: “don’t take your work home, take your home to work.” Knowing this makes me feel more freedom.
So how can I bring who I am, my values and my interests to the company I work for (or which I own) and consequently to the clients? Are these actions aligned with my mission? How does this contribute to my purpose?
Another thing that Cristina taught me, something which I am very grateful for, is that when you meet your ME Corp. your final client is not the company you work for or the company you would love to work for. The company that hires you is your partner. And if you find it difficult to differentiate it as I did in the beginning, ask yourself: Is my purpose to offer [my added value] in exchange for a salary? Or, is my purpose that [my added value] reaches [my target audience] thanks to the tools or platform provided to me by [my partner]?
For me this reformulation has a lot of power.
It’s a win-win for employer and employee
Inevitably during the sessions I could not stop thinking about the benefits that applying personal branding would have not only on me but on my colleagues. I am responsible for inlea’s marketing, I coordinate the social networks and of course I want that all my colleagues reach their best potential to sell the company and our services. Knowing well who they are and what they can contribute will help them to communicate better, feel more confident about the use of professional networks like LinkedIn or give their personal opinion of something like I am doing in this article. Any manager or marketing manager knows the positive results of these actions.
This type of activity is a resource to be exploited by the company as well, both for personal and professional reasons. The perception that I have had in my professional active years is that most companies are afraid to give. At a group level it is easier: business lunches, teambuilding, training, etc. But on an individual level little is done beyond the One2One.
Likewise, I want to emphasize that it must be respected that not all of us are willing to go through this process. As I mentioned before, it requires a lot of honesty and overcoming fears. If you read this as an employer, and you have employees who are not prepared or simply do not feel like it, you must understand them and it should not be associated with anything negative. We each have our timings and priorities. It should not be forgotten that the main goal as an employer is to improve the well-being of your employees and the environment of your company. If you read this as a business owner, please reflect on how improving your personal brand can benefit yourself and the employees that your leadership inspires or conditions. If you read this as an employee, my advice is that you invest in the development of your personal brand as much as you have done with your training.
The last steps of the cycle
As in any process of redefining the strategy of a company, personal branding consists of several phases, which I have summarized in four: analysis of the current situation, planning of the desired situation, monitoring of results and renewal of strategy.
It is important to keep in mind that you are not starting over and that you already have some experiences that make your Me Corp. It is about embracing the brand already created and incorporating the new strategy that you have decided to adopt.
Probably your vision and mission will remain the same – although even clearer – but the action plan and the frequency of follow-up will be different after knowing the personal branding and having carried out the first steps. Evaluating how we are doing and adapting to new trends to obtain the best results is not something that should only be applied to companies, but also to your personal brand. Being consistent is just as important as not obsessing – self-analysis with results can be very addictive.
Finally, I would like to thank Human Made Brands – Cristina Morenete – for her work and for letting me share some of her “tricks”.
Just as I have done with my closest ones, I encourage the readers of this article to invest in their ME Corp.