How Do You Want to be Known?

A good article on defining your leadership brand was recently published in Harvard Business Review. The five steps offered are truly anything but easy. But, isn’t that the case with most things that are worth doing?

One key step that I think is missing in this article is generating objective, confidential 360-degree feedback from people who know you … not just internally, but externally. Colleagues, bosses, board members, clients/customers, third party vendors, friends, and yes, even family. 

Your brand (and yes, you have one even if you don’t think you do or even if you haven’t been intentional about fostering it) is how others perceive you. Are you viewed as a visionary and strategic CFO or as the CEO’s right-hand man? Does the perception of others  who interact with you on a regular basis align with your own perception? If not, it is then that the question becomes, how you want to be known? And, based on how you are wired along with your strengths, passions, and values, what do you need to get there?

Can you generate honest feedback simply by asking people face-to-face? I don’t think so. But without that valuable input, how can you know what your next step(s) should be? 

Soliciting external feedback is, in my opinion, critical because of the authenticity factor. Unless you understand how people outside of your professional life view you and how that aligns with the internal perspective, it’s difficult to assess how truly authentic your brand is. Living out your authentic leadership/executive/personal brand is easy … it’s who you are. Living behind a carefully manufactured professional facade becomes much more of a challenge, particularly in today’s Google-able world.

The Lure of Google and Starbucks

I’ve been snooping in the recruiter’s world again. I love understanding their thinking so I can leverage what they’re doing to better position my clients.

A new article by Kevin Wheeler, Why Google or Starbucks, has great insight into the escalating trend of employment branding. Candidates can learn much about branding themselves from reading what companies are doing to attract the “right” candidates.

Wheeler’s five keys for building a powerful corporate brand also apply to building your executive brand:

Gain perspective and know yourself. Brands are not marketing spin. They are authentic … taking what is unique about you and leveraging that uniqueness to illustrate how you have created success.

Define the promise. What will a company get from hiring you?

Develop a strategy. Just because you wake up one day and decide you are a “visionary adept at transforming vision into profits” doesn’t make it true. First you need to understand how others view you, how you do what you do, and then authentically live your brand.  

Create a "buzz" to communicate your brand. Who needs to know about you and how will they find you? This is all about building a visible online presence.

Measure your progress. If I was a betting girl, I would say that a branded visible presence will win over anything else … every time!

Hmmm, I’m wondering if Kevin has been reading my playbook!

CareerXroads Source of Hire Study

CareerXroads conducts an annual study on methods company use for sourcing candidates. It’s an interesting read and I’ve highlighted, and commented on, a couple of important findings below.

––Personal referrals from employees, vendors, alumni, customers, and friends is the #1 external sourcing strategy, with employee referrals constituting between 80–90% of overall referrals. The study says that one out of every three referrals turns into a hire.

That statistic confirms the validity of the power of networking. Talking to people who work in companies that are interesting to you, can lead to opportunities you would not otherwise be privy.

––Retention strategies are leading many competitive companies to promote from within, with the goal of filling 40–50% of their openings internally.

Even if you are the greatest, most hard–working, and contributing employee, if the higher ups don’t know about you it really doesn’t matter. A strong, visible brand can help you stay on the radar screen of people who need to know about you.

The Buzz about NotchUp

NotchUp is making the rounds in the career industry … a new and innovative way of finding those top performing candidates every employer covets. Whether you buy into its philosophy or not, it’s a hot topic. I recently read an article by Recruiter Dr. John Sullivan addressing some of these issues from a recruiting perspective.

This excerpt really struck me, and I wonder … could it also apply to the passive candidate?

"You don’t have to utilize NotchUp in order to improve your candidate flow, but you do have to improve your employment branding and interviewing approach. If you’re one of those individuals who is constantly complaining about the shortage of qualified candidates, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and realize that it is actually your approach to employment branding, recruiting, and interviewing that is causing your shortage…. The fact is that talent shortages for any single firm are caused by weak branding/recruiting strategies and practices."

If I might seek some grace from Dr. Sullivan, I’d like to re–phrase his comments from a candidate’s perspective.

… in order to improve your candidacy interest, you have to improve your executiv e branding and interviewing approach. If you’re one of those individuals who is constantly complaining about the shortage of company interest, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and realize that it is actually your approach to branding, searching, and interviewing that is causing your shortage…. The fact is that prospect shortages for any candidate may be caused in large part by weak branding, networking, and search strategies and practices, combined with a tendency to value (and emphasize) what you did rather than how you delivered and its associated impact.


A Business Plan for Your Career

It was a very interesting discussion in the CFO–Career–Forum yesterday. Recruiter Tim Norstrem and I were discussing the merits of having a career management plan … a business plan for your career.

Tim suggested that your plan should include

––a clear vision of your industry / discipline,
––an “admission” of your strengths (interesting word choice and great insight in the follow up discussion),
––your unique basket of skills (i.e., personal brand),
––a solid networking strategy, and
––a compelling value proposition and the ability to articulate it.

According to the 2007 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report,

––Executives stayed 2.7 years in a single job, 3.3 years with a company, and 4.2 years in the same industry.

––Corporate HR professionals identify 14 months as a critical point of demarcation for the newly–hired executive where the excitement wanes and dissatisfaction creeps in – and 35% see the disengagement occur in fewer than 10 months.

If an executive is unhappy in his new position in a year or less, chances are good he probably didn’t have a very good plan or more likely, any plan in place. While the unexpected can happen in a new position that can lead to early dissatisfaction, clearly this is not a welcomed trend. It seems to me that having a career plan in place would ensure that the next move was well–researched, well–thought out, and designed to help him achieve his longer–term goal.

Additionally, the average executive job search is 21.6 weeks. What Tim said to me after the call was significant … having a solid career management plan can reduce an executive’s time on the market to zero days.

If you know you are going to be moving every 3–5 years, doesn’t it make sense to be prepared to make that move? Imagine never having to conduct a job search again, and all because you chose to run your career like you run your company.