Welcome to the March edition of “A Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate the whole arena of Personal Branding.
In earlier posts, I asked you to look at your own brand attributes, including some of the ways you differentiate yourself from everyone else. However, as your personal brand is best seen through eyes of others, it’s important to better understand how others perceive you. I am now going to challenge you to take a bold step this month by asking others for feedback. Without it, we may never truly know how others really perceive our personal brand.
In my personal branding assessment, I ask clients to conduct a 360 Degree interview specifically for personal branding. This allows others to offer anonymous input about a client’s attributes, skills, greatest strength and weakness, and which team role most suits them. But you don’t have to do a formal online survey to get a sense of how you are perceived. The easiest way to do this is to put out an email asking for feedback.
What to ask
You can always start the email with a very basic explanation. Perhaps something like:
“I’m going through a personal (or professional) development exercise which requires me to analyse how I am perceived by others.”
Some simple questions, tailored to what you’d like to assess (personal or professional), can reveal perceptions of your core personal branding attributes:
What three words would you use to describe me (professionally or personally)?
Strengths and Weaknesses:
What do you feel are my greatest strengths?
My greatest weaknesses?
What (skills) do you think sets me apart from others?
What team role do you think I would best play?
Can you offer any other feedback that might be helpful for my personal development?
Who to ask
Invite people who know you well enough to give meaningful (as well as honest!) feedback.
Depending on how brave you are feeling, you can invite colleagues and clients as well as friends and family. If this exercise proves to be a difficult task for you, perhaps start with close friends who you know will be supportive and widen your net further as you gain in confidence. The larger your sample size of course, the more meaningful and robust the data.
What to do with your feedback
First, digest the results.
- Are you surprised by the results or are they pretty much what you expected?
- If you feel yourself being triggered, ask yourself why. That’s valuable data as well!
- Try to be honest with yourself about whether feedback sounds credible. Be wary of extreme outliers.
Look for congruence or discrepancy in the data.
- What three words would you use to describe your ideal self (how you would like to be seen)? Do these come close to the three words others used to describe you, or are they completely different? If there are discrepancies, it’s time to do some focused personal branding work!
- Are you aware of your perceived strengths and weaknesses? How can you build on your strengths while making weaknesses irrelevant?
- Are there strengths you have that others haven’t recognized, and if so, how can you showcase them?
- Are you in a role (or have responsibilities) that others believe you would excel at?
- How are you using your unique position (what differentiates you) to set yourself apart and get noticed?
This can also be a great exercise in handling criticism…and making it work for you! Paula Gardner of Scarlet Thinking conducted this exercise last year as part of an MSc course. Here’s what she had to say about it:
“I was incredibly resistant at first. To be honest, I was terrified of anything critical, but asking for positive feedback really boosts your confidence. You can see where you are getting it right and where you can improve. After the first reply, my anxieties dissolved and I realised that by holding myself back from finding out how people saw me, I was keeping myself stuck.”
This part of the personal branding process is typically not an easy one for most. But as Paula pointed out above, it’s well worth it as the results can be rich and rewarding.