Personal Branding: Why It’s Important and How to Create A Brand

“Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, yet each and every one of us is a brand”, Mashable

Although personal branding has become a household term, few people are familiar with the meaning. By definition, it is “the personal branding - you are your own brand image
process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.”1 Similar to when a company works to create a memorable impression for itself or its products, creating a personal identity can help establish you as a leader in a particular industry, and lead your personal development path.2

How can you develop your personal brand?

  1. Discover – “Figuring out what you want to do, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement(what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan”1 is the initial step of the process.
  2. Identify – Determine the characteristics and strengths you’ve built in your career so far. If colleagues consistently describe you as “funny but professional,” that should be a consideration for your personal brand.
  3. Tell Stories – Make a list of your accomplishments and be prepared to share them with others. Each story should include an accomplishment and what you did that made this achievement unique. what you personally did to lead to the accomplishment. Don’t be concerned about bragging, because it’s essential to promote your special qualities.
  4. Own It – Adopting your brand means frequently and consistently inserting key messages into formal and informal conversations as well as interviews, speaking engagements and blog posts.

Spending the time to establish your personal brand can have a lasting impact on your professional and personal reputation. Have you created one yet? How has it evolved over time?

Sources:
1 – http://mashable.com/2009/02/05/personal-branding-101/#NZMDp7DqqEqJ
2- https://www.fastcompany.com/3048401/why-personal-branding-is-essential-to-career-success
3- https://www.quicksprout.com/the-complete-guide-to-building-your-personal-brand-chapter-1/
4- https://www.thebalance.com/creating-and-growing-personal-brand-2295814

By | 2017-12-09T18:17:33+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Storytelling|0 Comments

How to Communicate Successfully During a Corporate Reorganization

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. “- Charles Darwin, Origin of Species.2

In our changing world, corporate reorganizations result in centralization or decentralization measures based on business needs. Although not always a negative change, when employees hear the term “reorg” they immediately equate it with layoffs and presume the worst. This is a reminder that communicating change clearly and frequently while setting expectations for ongoing communications can prevent incorrect assumptions and rumors. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Carefully select the spokesperson and how the change will be communicated. Choose someone who is not only senior enough but also respected by employees. In the announcement, focus on the needs of the employees and cover the questions they likely will ask their manager or a fellow colleague. Only discussing the corporate rationale for the change is limiting. Some standard examples are: Why is this happening? When will it happen? Who will I report to? Are there more changes ahead?
  2. Ensure there is two-way communication. The biggest mistake some companies make is to deliver the change without offering an opportunity for employees to ask questions on an ongoing basis. It may be helpful to establish an email address or a Q&A box to receive questions. Then, share the answers publicly with employees as some may be wondering the same thing, but are afraid to ask. After some time has passed, conduct an employee survey and commit to sharing the results, even if they are negative, along with an action plan to address the results.
  3. Communicate often. Successful reorgs require more than a one-time communication. “You need to treat people with respect and dignity, being transparent and telling them what is happening and when. You need to keep communicating with people. The biggest mistake is to communicate once and think you are done.”3 In addition to a big announcement, companies should equip managers with information to use during their smaller department meetings that discuss the specifics for that group. This will give employees a better understanding of what it means for their role.

I have worked with numerous companies undergoing a variety of changes for many years. The successful ones work in advance of the announcement to prepare several layers of leadership in order to keep their staff engaged. You don’t need all the answers, but transparency will earn you loyalty in the long term.

What communications practices would you propose to a company undergoing a reorganization?

 

Sources:
1 – http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/reorganization-without-tears
2 – http://www.consultparagon.com/blog/change-management-success-frequent-communication
3 – https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-two-biggest-communication-blunders-during-a-reorg
4 – https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/communicating-during-org-structure-changes/

By | 2017-07-27T00:58:35+00:00 July 26th, 2017|Culture, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

The Significance of Strong Communication for Corporate Wellness Initiatives

“The problem with communications is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Wellness is one of the biggest buzzwords in corporations these days. Companies recognize that healthy employees have a positive impact on recruitment, retention and productivity. However, more time usually is spent on developing the program compared with communicating the initiative. Often an afterthought, it’s one of the most vital elements of a program’s success. “A flawed plan well communicated is better than a perfect plan poorly communicated.“1

As I discussed on a recent blog post “Essential Tips for Successfully Communicating Change”, clear and transparent ongoing communications are essential to build engagement, pride and trust in the company and its leadership. A one-time communication will not evoke change. You must share information across mediums in a consistent way. If you choose to create a culture of health, you will need to:

  • Discover what’s important to your employees,
  • Create a program that combines their interests and yours,
  • Implement initiatives in a phased approach, and
  • Sustain participation and grow according to feedback

A successful wellness communication plan will foster an organizational commitment to employee health and engagement.

Wellness Communications

(Estimated percentage of time per phase)

1) Discover

In the discovery phase, you need to explore what might incent employees to participate and why the workplace offers a convenient outlet aligned with individual health goals. Then, ask your core planning team a few key questions: What’s our definition of wellness? What needs to change about our current program? Why is this a priority now? Who will benefit and why? What role does wellness play, or would we like it to play, in our culture?

To match your intentions with employees’ interests and goals, “consider holding a half-hour roundtable discussion, or simply exchanging emails, to learn more about what kind of information (and delivery methods) they’d find most useful.”2 In general, using multiple mediums (meetings, postal mail, email, intranet, eBoard, posters and table tents) is important in any communications plan because everyone absorbs information differently.

2) Create

With the data you’ve collected, you’ll want to develop objectives, strategies and positioning. Brainstorming on the name, logo and tagline for your program could be a team effort or company competition. You’ll also want to develop launch kit components, keeping in mind that one size won’t fit all.

3) Implement

In order to effectively communicate the wellness program, it’s best to start with encouragement from executives and line managers, who support and embrace participation. Then a good next step is to host a kickoff celebration and related events that support the campaign. For ongoing communications, keep the messages direct with actionable items included. “More companies and communities are realizing the antidote is a one-two combination — brevity and clarity.”1

4) Sustain

The most common mistake I see companies make is limiting wellness communications to the launch of the program. One way to maintain visibility is to recognize and celebrate success: “Employee success stories should be highlighted and shared to help motivate others to make lifestyle changes.”3 In addition, companies should continue talking to employees about how the program is evolving, creating measurable milestones, and building additional stages of the program that grow along with your culture.

Following these four steps is vital to the success of your wellness program, so feel free to contact me if you’d like help in this area.

Sources:
1- http://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/worksite-wellness/truths-to-boost-your-wellness-communication/
2 – https://www.hopehealth.com/starting-an-employee-communication-strategy-where-to-begin/
3 – https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/planning/communications.html

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 May 15th, 2017|Culture, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

How to Keep the Peace in the Office During Political Unrest

“According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, more than 1 in 4 employees have been negatively affected by discussions about the election at work, and are divided along gender and generational lines.” (Source: Aberdeen Essentials)

With so many Americans uncomfortable and unsettled about the future of the country, how much is it impacting what’s happening in the workplace? Do you feel the tension or see more arguments? Is the political situation impacting productivity? Are employees so distracted by the noise that they are responding as if it were an internal change and engagement suffers? I’m sure the answers to a few of these questions are YES.politics

As a Human Resources professional, how can you help reduce the impact of the current situation on your organization? “According to a recent study conducted by the Society of Human Resources, only a third of companies have a formal strategy in place for dealing with these situations.”1 As I’ve discussed in prior blog posts, any time there is fear, uncertainty and doubt, the best thing to do is over communicate with employees. In the “Identifying Hidden Bias” post, “Even those of us who intend to be or think we are inclusive cast judgment based on race, age, gender and disabilities.” Now, this may extend to differences in political perspectives.

Here are some tips for how to help keep your company’s productivity up and keep bias out of the workplace:

  1. Remind employees to be respectful and non-judgmental about their coworkers’ opinions.
  2. Communicate what conversations and behavior are tolerated in your workplace.
  3. Make sure the culture invites people to speak their minds appropriately and feel safe requesting help dealing with uncomfortable situations.
  4. Suggest that employees “know their audience” before making political jokes If you don’t know your audience, you don’t know how it will be received, so err on the side of caution.
  5. Managers should be particularly careful expressing their opinions due to the unequal relationship. Set the tone from the top by making sure managers respect the views of others.2

Have you seen productivity declining given the political unrest? Do you have any other suggestions for how to minimize the impact? Let me know. 

Sources:
1 – http://www.aberdeenessentials.com/hcm-essentials/workplace-culture-productivity-aftermath-election/
2 – https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/office-politics.aspx

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 March 6th, 2017|Culture, Diversity, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

Cultivating Effective Storytellers

Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” Source: Curatti

My last blog post covered how stories are used to inform, engage and inspire their intended audiences. The common thread I’ve noticed over my many years of practice is that the storyteller starts by telling me that they have “nothing interesting” to share. By asking insightful questions and evoking the “gems,” our hour-long conversation yields more rich content than I could have imagined.

Just as one would fit pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, my gift is manipulating words around the page to create the perfect story. When sharing a draft with the content provider, he/she is amazed by the outcome. It is written using their words and tone, but not something that could be done independently. Storytelling is an art not a science.

I remember helping a senior executive prepare an acceptance speech for a prestigious awards ceremony. She was struggling with where to start or what might be interesting for the audience. We began by discussing her background from the perspective of relatable stories that would stick Problem Solutionwith the attendees long past the event. I was delighted to hear that at the ceremony, she not only evoked laughter and tears, but also others began to share their stories, too. What a memorable moment!

Another client took over the leadership role at a young company that was not meeting its messaging objectives, which directly relates to business success. Vital Link was engaged to determine why the concepts were not resonating externally. After interviewing the senior executives individually and some investors, it became apparent that they each were promoting a different company. Therefore, we created a new company name that better reflected their services as well as a new website and collateral to support this brand. Additionally, I trained the executives and investors to each share the company story their own ways yet communicate consistent stories. The executives noted how the cohesiveness improved their business conversations.

These are just two examples, but I’ve also helped clients with their websites and intranets as the company evolves. Additionally, I’ve helped tell the delicate stories aligned with employee engagement, diversity/inclusion and wellness initiatives. Understanding what is said and how it lands with people to produce a desired action or emotion is the “vital link” that I provide.

What are your stories and challenges? I’m eager to hear from you.

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Storytelling|0 Comments

How to Use Storytelling Effectively in Leadership

Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. (Source: Curatti)

Storytelling always has been present in the world; starting with ancient drawings on cave walls, to present day Facebook and Snapchat. Unfortunately, the art of storytelling has been absent from business and leadership communications.

Since stories carry emotion rather than just facts, people relate then remember the key information. You’ll be more persuasive and the message will make a greater impression. Well-chosen vignettes deem a leader inspiring and engaging.

A successful story aims to3: Inform: share intellectually what we know, Engage: to communicate in a way that captures the attention of the audience, and Inspire: to stimulate imaginative curiosity. Here are some tips:story telling

  1. Talk about failures as well as successes. Employees can relate better to situations where the outcome was not as intended.
  2. Start with a hero. Whether it’s the company, product, industry or site, a hero can be captivating.
  3. Have a clear main message. Your story should focus on one value or idea with supporting yet simple details.
  4. Relate to existing situations. Your story can be more effective if it relates to current events or popular topics.2
  5. Keep it short. If your story is easy to understand, it will be memorable enough that people will retell it.
  6. Inspire your audience. “End with a resolution that motivates your listeners to action.”1

Sharing facts and figures work in some cases, but not all. Motivating your employees requires a level of sharing that comes from storytelling.

If you enjoyed this post about storytelling, stay tuned for my next blog post for more on storytelling.

 

Sources:
1 – https://www.fastcompany.com/3040709/7-tips-for-great-storytelling-as-a-leader
2 – http://www.krauthammer.com/articles/winning-hearts-and-minds-%E2%80%93-storytelling-for-leaders
3 – http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/dinamic-content/media/Praxis/Storytelling%20is%20at%20the%20heart%20of%20leadership.pdf

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 October 11th, 2016|Storytelling|0 Comments

Essential Tips for Successfully Communicating Change

“When change initiatives fail, the culprit is often a lack of communication.” (Source: Torbenrick)

Due to fear or a prior negative experience, many people are uncomfortable with change. However, without change, there cannot be growth. Those embracing transitions know that frequent and transparent communications can make it manageable.

Since the team implementing the initiative may be overwhelmed with other details, having a communications expert focused on messaging, timing and execution can be beneficial. Based on experience, here are some of the guiding principles:

  1. Communicate throughout the process. Many companies wait until everything is final and ready to be announced, but that can be problematic. It’s better to bring employees along throughout the process, so they can absorb the information in smaller pieces and over time. Then, when the final announcement is made, people are ready to act as you intended.
  2. Test your messaging. “At all levels of the organization, the employee’s direct supervisor has the most influence over what people hear and respond to.” 2 Practicing your messaging on selected employees representing a variety of Change is a Processlevels/functions first will offer insight into how the news will be received. These employees also may become champions for your message and invaluable in helping others digest the information. Think about your various audiences and how the change will affect each one differently.
  3. Use a variety of delivery methods. Everyone has a preferred method for comprehending information. Some may favor meetings with the opportunity to ask questions in the moment and others want to read an email or newsletter article with more time to process. It’s important to vary the ways in which you communicate, keeping in mind that the message must be presented clearly, authentically and with integrity.
  4. Engage an internal resource or consultant. The earlier you involve a communications person in the process, the more likely you will reap effective results. As experts, they will ask insightful questions for both content and timing. Trying to “catch someone up later” might be a lost opportunity.
  5. Be transparent. It is not essential to have all the answers before sharing information. Including your employees in the process is a humbling way of building their overall trust and will yield a more productive result.

Change is inevitable. You can manage it with clear and transparent communications or get managed by it. Since one-time messages seldom are retained, developing a strategy that engages a variety of mediums for a period of time can be much more effective. These efforts will build engagement, pride and trust in the company and its leadership.

 

Sources:

1 – http://www.inc.com/articles/2000/06/19312.html
2 – http://www.torbenrick.eu/blog/change-management/communication-is-paramount-when-it-comes-to-change-management/
3 – http://humanresources.about.com/od/changemanagement/a/change_lessons2.htm

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 June 13th, 2016|Culture, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

4 Benefits of Workplace Diversity

“The benefits of building a workforce of diverse people who are empowered to positively contribute to a company’s success are numerous – from better financial performance and more innovative problem-solving to easier employee retention and greater appeal to customers.” (Source: Talent Intelligence)

Expanding upon a prior blog about Promoting Diversity of Perspective, it’s important to define “diversity” as incorporating individual and organizational differences that include characteristics, values, beliefs, experiences, backgrounds and behaviors. There are a myriad of benefits that come from tapping into the skills of a varied workforce. Here are the top 4 to incorporate:

  1. Innovation. A homogeneous workplace doesn’t yield innovation. “People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more.“4 Doing things the same way you’ve always done it, with the same type of people, will not bring your company to the next level.shutterstock_300720026
  1. Broader Range of Services. Companies with diverse skills, services, experiences and staff are more likely to attract a diverse customer base. By understanding the nuances of your clients (language, customs, preferences), you’re more likely to create a connection that will yield a deeper relationship.
  1. Improved Employee Performance. “Employees are more likely to feel comfortable and happy in an environment where inclusivity is a priority.”3 It is well known that happier employees are more productive, which fuels an organizations’ growth. Deep engagement is measured by the discretionary effort employees put forth when they feel connected to the culture.
  1. Increased Talent Pool. Without a mixture of employees representing your organization, you are unlikely to attract like kinds. In addition, prospects may not know about or feel uncomfortable working for a homogeneous company. Remember that employees often are your best source of qualified referrals.

These are just some of the benefits of workplace diversity. The companies that recognize its importance are the companies that are growing and excelling in the marketplace.

 

Sources:

1 – http://smallbusiness.chron.com/workplace-diversity-benefits-1180.html
2 – http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits-challenges-solutions.asp
3 – http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/benefits-diversity-workplace/
4 – http://www.talentintelligence.com/blog/bid/377611/Inclusion-and-the-Benefits-of-Diversity-in-the-Workplace

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:47+00:00 May 6th, 2016|Diversity|0 Comments

7 Ways to Help Employees Reduce Workplace Stress

“Stress-related health care and missed work are costing employers $300 billion a year.” (Source: Inc.com)

Some stress at work is expected, but an extended or frequent amount can impact employees’ professional performance and personal wellbeing. Since tension can manifest in different ways (headaches, stomach problems, weight gain, irritability), it’s not always outwardly recognizable. While stress management ultimately is the employee’s responsibility, there are many ways an employer can help alleviate the pressure:

  1. Exercise. An onsite gym adds the convenience factor for employees. Or, you could form lunch time walking groups, communicate “fit break” ideas for desk space, encourage “walking meetings,” or map out a walking route inside the building with calculated mileage.
  2. Sleep. Remind employees about the impact of rest on healthy brain function.workplace stress image
  3. Prioritize. Encourage an open dialogue between managers and staff to discuss conflicting assignments.
  4. Flexible. Employees deliver higher quality work when they’re not required to be in the office for a set amount of hours. Acknowledging that some personal matters need to occur during the work day will result in committed staff.
  5. Meditate. Not only is meditation “relaxing, but what scientists also are discovering is that it actually increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, essentially rewiring the body to stress less.”2 Providing a meditation room in the office may provide employees with a quiet space to reflect on work or personal matters.
  6. Communicate. Alerting employees frequently about company news, initiatives or transitions alleviates anxiety or speculation, which often diminishes productivity.
  7. Convenience.   Spending many hours working leaves little time for external development. Bring learning, benefit and self-care programs inside your company to improve employee lifestyles and create informal connections.

Often the best companies to work for integrate wellness programs into their benefits package. This is not only health-related offerings (gym, flu shot, on-site massage), but also company-sponsored events that facilitate employee communication. Both provide opportunities for staff to share ideas or inspire each other in unexpected ways.

How do you reduce workplace stress?

Source:

1 – http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-at-work.htm
2 – http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/10-cheap-ways-to-reduce-employee-stress.html

 

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 March 2nd, 2016|Culture, Employee Engagement|0 Comments

Driving Engagement with Communications

“Effective communication between management and employees creates greater employee engagement, and that communication is a leading indicator of organizational financial performance.” (Source: Workplace Mental Health)

I recently attended a Chamber of Commerce event because employee engagement was the topic. I’m always looking for new ideas Engaged workplacethat can be shared with my clients for retaining top talent. It was no surprise that the presenters agreed that many companies these days overlook the value of involving their staff in these decisions.

Companies on the cutting edge of driving engagement are starting to take a 360-degree view that includes the employees’ lives at work and beyond work. This way, benefits and activities are targeted toward fostering collaboration, adding fun and respecting how much time is spent on work. Some organizations have created culture committees comprised of diverse employees dedicated to proposing ideas that create value in a meaningful way while remaining within the company’s budget. The concept of “by the people, for the people” keeps each organization unique as well as committed to remaining current.

Some ideas shared by Trip Advisor, Chapman Construction and Social Made Simple panelists included:

  • Wellness services on and off site
  • Shuttle service from public transportation (one even includes spin bikes!)
  • Quarterly family outings
  • Buddy systems with new and seasoned employees
  • Playing fun music in the stairways for health and collaboration
  • Affinity groups to form connections
  • Community service days
  • “Hall pass” to leave at noon on any day as a recognition/reward
  • Lunches fostering cross-functional collaboration
  • Dog-friendly environment

Remember that motivators go beyond financial incentives. Utilizing communications about initiatives underway and why they were selected improves involvement. The ultimate gain are loyal and connected employees.

What might you try to improve your company’s engagement strategies? How has communications helped? 

By | 2017-05-24T18:21:48+00:00 January 11th, 2016|Employee Engagement|0 Comments