PERSONAL BRANDING

How regularly do you think about or work on your personal brand? Have you actively created an image, mind set or persona of how you’d like to be viewed in the minds of others’ from a professional perspective? Do you know how you are viewed in your area of expertise or market?

Maybe we should take a couple of steps back, to what is a brand? A brand is everything from a design, image, colour, emotion, impression, tone, symbol etc that separates one thing from another; the unique identifiers. From a business perspective we know what this means and why we do it. We all know the golden arches of McDonalds, from childhood we associate this with fries and a burger, knowing that no matter what McD’s we go into we can guarantee what we’re going to encounter. But why would we do it from a personal perspective? The answers include the likes of better job prospects, extending your networks, recognition, reward, progression and development. Your personal brand is your reputation and your calling card, so in essence we’re building a brand around our careers to ensure they grow.

People with strong personal brands know their strengths; they know who they are and where they’re going. Personal brands are made up of values, passions, purpose and goals. To do this you’re going to need to know your why. I recently attended a seminar by Brand Strategist Phil Pallen (philpallen.co) hosted by the wonderful team at IMNZ who recommends refining your brand why to one sentence – that includes the essentials “What’s In It For Them” in terms of what you can do for other people. His being that “People need brands and companies need to show more personality” which tells us in a nutshell what he’s all about. Phil further believes that “the best branding recreates an in-person experience”. Meaning your brand needs to be authentic.

To be authentic you need to think both about yourself, and your audience. Knowing your audience will play a huge part in the marketing plan for your personal brand. It boils right down to the way you communicate, dress and present yourself, so be mindful of all of these things when thinking about your brand style. Yesterday I attended JobFest in Auckland, an event aiming at getting youth into employment and onto career paths. They had specifically been coached on the importance of the first impression, the way they dressed, approached hiring organisations, spoke and the way they carried themselves. Many of these young adults had taken this on-board and done a really impressive job of putting their best foot forward with their audience (hiring organisations) in mind. But others still had a long way to go so think too about where you sit on this scale and whether there are changes you could make, no matter how big or small to improve your outward-facing personal brand.

After these initial stages ensuring your brand is multiplatform is key to success. But more important is choosing platforms that sit well with you and what you’re trying to achieve with your brand, particularly when it comes to social media. Doing one or two exceptionally well will get a lot more cut through than spreading yourself too thin. Again, it’s important to keep the tone, look, feel and imagery consistent – it should all become instantly recognisable as you/your brand.

If you can back up social with further activity such as blogging, speaking at events, contributing to white papers, all the better as these will all contribute to growing your profile. Stick to the subject matters and areas you know you excel at, that provide a “what’s in it for me” for your audience. It’s also important to commit to continuing to learn and grow to stay relevant and continue to “solve problems” and engage that audience.

Having written this post I realise it’s a great reminder and there are certainly a few more things/changes I could make to my own brand. What changes will you put in place? And is there anything you would add to above that I’ve missed?

SOCIAL FOR HR – L&D

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

#3: LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT

Networking is super easy across many social media platforms. The trick is to get in there and get involved! Many people social “watch” for a while before feeling comfortable enough to join in. I’m a classic example of this, initially joining twitter to follow the America’s Cup because the feeds were better than any others I could find, it was a full year later before I started to watch and then engage from an HR perspective – but following hashtags, joining in group charts and niche interest groups are all a great way to extend your networks and therefore your L&D opportunities.

Self-directed learning via social networking is a great way to upskill and increase your own knowledge, be it through chats with others, interest groups getting together online or in real life and / or enrolment in MOOC’s (Massive open online Courses) or in fact via blogs…

I think we all know what blogs are by now – but the hardest thing I found was keeping them all straight – without a million extra email alerts ending up in my inbox every day. There are some great blog readers out there that collect and collate your chosen blogs into categories, by date for later reading – I use Feedly, but Google Reader is another great option. This essentially creates your own specifically selected content feed.

With the number of blogs now days I would recommend taking a little extra time to research the background of new bloggers you follow to qualify their expertise.

Mentoring is made all the more accessible via social…my last mentor I met via a twitter chat and despite the fact that he was the Head of OD for a university in Scotland, we worked together for over a year utilising social for our communication and other tools such as facetime and google docs to share work, challenges and get feedback and direction. And just recently a former mentor of mine who had relocated to another country has been back in touch via social, is back in NZ and we’re due to meet up!

This all leads to pointing out how social gives us access to thought leaders – Dr Harold Hillman, an award winning author and expert in the People Professions and I connected over social and have connected to where I recently invited him to speak on authentic leadership through change to a group of HR and Recruitment professionals at a breakfast event. And it’s been fantastic for me to meet and work with someone I’ve long admired and looked up to “in real life!” (Hashtag #IRL!)

SOCIAL FOR HR – COMMUNICATION

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HR – BLOG SERIES

#2: COMMUNICATION

How many engagement surveys show communication as poor or needing improvement in organisations? The answer is most! A few do it amazingly well, but many leave a lot to be desired. Using social channels for communication with employees’ works especially well when you use platforms they’re already used to engaging with – and we saw the numbers on the first blog, most people are getting social. Facebook groups are a great option given the 1.55B users every month. There are also specialised chat platforms you can utilise for employees such as slack.

It also gives employees, customers and audiences an opportunity to give you feedback or ask questions on anything and everything from products and services to special offers.

Collaboration is increased with employees – particularly those working from remote or regional locations or when coordinating larger groups. I know of a Brand Engagement team who are a classic example, they utilise slack to communicate and collaborate with their team working and activating for various radio stations all over new Zealand – from Invercargill to Kaitaia they all get the same messages, opportunities to make suggestions, compare notes, give feedback on promotions and ideas, and importantly in real time.

The best advertising for your products, services, employer brand comes via referrals and advocates, so positive user generated content is gold!!! This is content of your social pages linked back to or directly posted on your social platforms by employees and customers alike. It could be anything from an employee posting about an amazing team day out, reward and recognition celebration or a client recommending your brand, product or service.

Referrals are almost always the best source of quality candidates when hiring, so I would really encourage all staff in your organisation to get posting about the awesome work coming out of your company, the culture you’ve built and the way you do things, thereby utilising their content to build your employer brand and talent pools.

 

 

#WellnessWarrior

The hash tag in the headline is used across social media for those on a health kick and endorsing a healthy way of living, but it’s also used for those living with chronic illness or disease. The number of New Zealanders living with chronic illness is scarily high and on the rise according to figures from the Ministry of Health New Zealand Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, 2006–2016, and I feel certain NZ won’t be alone in this phenomenon. Those who I do think could be feeling very alone are those dealing with chronic illness at work. Be it physical or mental, these are illness’ no one else can see, often described as invisible illnesses and being chronic, won’t be just a one off occurrence.

There is much written on this topic on line and in papers & magazines from the individual perspectives of those dealing with these situations; they describe  reactions from others towards them and their situations as ranging from disdain to disbelief and vague understanding to sincere sympathy. But even given how much information is out there and being written to raise awareness and understanding I think more often than not they simply exist without any acknowledgement. Most people living with chronic illness, especially those that can’t be seen prefer to do so in private for a whole host of reasons. They don’t want to be judged. They don’t want pity. They want to be able to join in conversations on normal topics without their viewpoints being taken the wrong way. And most of all they want to appear normal. Chronic illness or disease is often multifaceted, so not only will it recur, but there are so many moving parts to it in some cases that people feel unable or unwilling to explain the extent of their illness, using an umbrella approach or describing one part of the issue/s if at all.

So what can be done to help those living day in day out with chronic illness or disease? First and foremost as with everything in life be mindful; treat others as you would have them treat you, if you haven’t got anything positive to say don’t say anything at all and all those other wonderful mottos to live by our parents gave us. Just be aware that we don’t always know what other people are dealing with. And should they choose to confide in you be understanding, be sympathetic but don’t be patronising. And try to avoid offering helpful advice if you haven’t got any first-hand experience on what they’re going through. Suggesting trying yoga to someone in chronic pain or sympathising with how tired you are too to someone which chronic fatigue won’t help and are things they’ve probably heard a million times before. Instead ask them what, if anything, can be done to help them during the bad times, encourage them to let you know when they’re having particularly hard times so at the very least they’re not going through it alone.

There are many things that can be done in the workplace to help ease these situations, make the circumstances more manageable for people and to provide support. Many firms offer the likes of flexi working arrangements where days and hours of work can be negotiated; others offer on-site occupational health and safety in the form of nurses and or wellness advisors. Employee Assistance programmes can be useful too; both for those dealing with mental and physical illness as both can be a burden and talking it through with a professional can be immensely helpful. Above all creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture will go a long way to making people feel they can be honest about these situations in the workplace. In today’s fast paced, technology driven, innovative, ever changing world many would feel it a sign of weakness to admit to and be honest about an illness, so it’s important we all work to create environments where this is ok.

As individuals I think if we all took just five minutes to Google a couple of hash tags we would learn a whole lot about living and working with chronic illness, and that in turn would bring more awareness in general. Hopefully that would also bring about more conversation and create more accepting and inclusive workplaces whereby people feel they can bring their whole selves to work. Therein lays my challenge to you: three hash tags, one minute for each on your choice of social media…#chronicillness #spoonie #invisibleillness to increase your own awareness.

Another Google search quickly unveiled a number of support groups, both in real life and via social media for an immense range of chronic illnesses. Ensure if someone does come to you or let you know they are dealing with something that you take it and them seriously and that you respect them coming to you. They may or may not know what other support is available out there, so help them explore the options available to them.

Be well!

You’ve Got Mail

I recently spent some time out of the office, and pre heading on annual leave tried to reduce the looming experience of a ridiculously overflowing inbox on my return by unsubscribing from the multitude of sites, newsletters and updates I’ve signed up to over the years. At the same time I read a “hack” on reducing the stress of your inbox, that included the likes of mail rules and auto-filling and quietly congratulated myself on how much easier my return to work would be, given I had full intentions of “switching off” for twelve days. It occurred to me at this point how obsessed and overwhelmed by email we have all become.

How many emails a day does your inbox average? How many inboxes do you have? I confess to three personal email addresses, two work ones that filter to the same inbox and a generic work one I hold responsibility for but others’ have access to. Six all up. No wonder I’m reading hacks on filtering email and the other blogs and posts I’ve read in the past on time management, claiming back your work day and the like, largely focused on reducing your email time.

I wonder too whether we’ve come to a point where we rely far too heavily on email as our main means of communication? Are we hiding behind it? Will we lose the art of conversation simply because it’s easier and more convenient to whip out an email than pick up the phone or walk across the office? And have we utter lost the ability to write a letter, falling into the less formal speak of email?

In thinking on all of this I came across some great articles such as this Four Influential People Who Ditched Email which detailed not only the people (who will surprise you), but also their reasoning, alternatives and tips for doing the same. Most featured around work lie balance and being more productive in your working day – gaining hours of time back. However, they almost all used alternatives and usually social media, the likes of facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. I’m somewhat sceptical of this also as surely they’ll take up as much time, but block out the junk, newsletters and the like?

I’m all about social media, so don’t get me wrong here, I love it for what it is. The virtues of which I’ve written about many times over due to the networking, learning & development, true friendships and the like I have benefited from on a global scale that I would never had achieved without it.

I haven’t tried forgoing email, and given my job I can’t see myself being able to any time soon, but I’m intrigued. For right now I’m thrilled with averaging 80 emails a day in the main inbox as opposed to the 200+ I was getting before with the hacks I’ve put in place. There seriously is a lot in sending certain mail direct to folders and unsubscribing from the 101 things you’ve signed up for. But what I’m interested to hear is who else has tried something like this? No email or other hacks – and what have you found works?

Here are some examples of the reading I did in all my thinking about this:

http://99u.com/articles/7274/how-i-gave-up-email-and-reclaimed-3-hours-a-day

http://www.chrisducker.com/7-email-hacks-productive/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/02/05/9-email-productivity-secrets-that-will-get-your-life-back/#40b56d94c5d5

On Leadership…

Picture this; average day, school pick up, Miss Six in the back chattering away in her usual way. Endless questions, comments on who she’d played with that day, what she’d observed whether she ate the carrots in her lunch box, and then wham! One of those moments of pure wisdom that children bring, cutting through to the crux of something that adults the world over struggle with, study, research and theorise over. Now my child does appear to be beyond her years, regularly surprising me throughout her short existence with her knowledge, depth of questioning and grasp of language…..though I’m probably biased!

On this occasion the topic in question, Leadership. Word for word it went like this:

Miss Six: “No, I didn’t eat my carrots Mama. I know about Leadership”

Me: “Oh yes honey, (choosing to ignore carrot comment) – what do you know about Leadership?”

Miss Six: “I know that a Leader is someone who helps other people. They are patient and kind and show other people ways to do things they might not have thought of before”

Me: “That’s exactly right my darling, is there anything else you know about leadership?”

Miss Six: “Yes a leader should look after people and care about whether they feel happy or sad and make sure they’re included. They need to be good at listening.”

Me: “Have you been learning about this at Kura (school – Miss 6 is in a bilingual class)?”

Miss Six: “No. I just know. Mum, if I eat my carrots can I get an ice cream at the mall?”

In a matter of minutes she’d nailed it. Leadership doesn’t need to be as complex as many of us seem to want to make. Break it back down to the basics. The best leaders I know and the top leaders in history (by and large – there are exceptions to every rule!) share the characteristics Miss Six identified:

  • They help; they are genuinely interested in and care about others
  • They take the time to give direction, and step back to let people find their own way
  • They ask questions to encourage thinking outside the square
  • They listen

Now, I could categorise all this with words like communication, integrity, authenticity, influence and write screeds about all of these things and what they mean, how they’re displayed and how to achieve them, and in turn greatness in leadership through them. But why not leave it at that. In the words of a six year old that can be understood the world over, plain and simple?

What price {cost} a smile?

How far does a smile go? Ever walked past someone at work, on the street, in a queue who’s absolutely beamed at you…and found yourself genuinely smiling back? Or caught someone’s eye across the room and shared a grin? And have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been feeling down or similar and had received a smile, a real smile from someone you knew or otherwise that actually made you feel a little better?

So what price a smile? It costs nothing, yet are you distributing them enough? Are you taking those couple of seconds to look people in the eye, acknowledge them and smile? Appropriately! For there are a hundred different types of smiles of course! But really, it’s such a small simple act, but can change a day, a mood, an outlook. And truly make a difference to another person.

I’m not sure there’s enough happiness in the work place anymore. People are heads down, bum up working harder, faster, smarter and more to innovate, challenge, create and service. And in doing so we’re achieving amazing things. But are we happy? And are we taking the odd moment to stop and notice, reflect and connect with those around us?

A smile doesn’t cost a thing; but is there a cost in a lack of smiles? Would people be more productive if they were happier at work? And would they be happier with more smiles – given and received? There are multiple types of people in workplaces, but have a think who are the ones who stand out? For the right reasons? I’d hazard a guess it’s the person quick with a smile, who’s head held high catching peoples eye and acknowledging them be it in the lift, walking the floor or coming into the building.

We should all be caretakers of morale at work as we all have the ability to directly affect it, in how we interact with those around us. Happiness is catchy and so are real and genuine smiles. Throw a few around the place a bit more often and see what comes back to you. It won’t cost a thing and you might even find you feel better in yourself for it. Smile!

Pass the Purple Crayon!

Did you have a favourite crayon in the box back at pre-school or in your early school days? Is there one you secreted away to be able to use it every day? Or was it a favourite marker pen you used to colour everything, ensuring it ran out twice as fast as the others in the box? I’ve watched my daughter from the moment she could hold a pen make a beeline for the pinks and purples in the container. She prefers if they have sparkles or some sort of glitter shine to them as well, and these are always used first.

At work I’ve noticed people do similar things; I had a colleague obsessed with purple pens and highlighters (you know who you are!) who had a drawer full of them – and this extended to purple plastic sleeves as well. There’s another who will only write in red pen and masses of people with favourite notebooks and folders. Many of us have favourite fonts, and sizes and by the same token there’s some incredibly disliked fonts (comic sans anyone?).

Lighthearted as the subject is it got me thinking. Have you got a favourite colour now? And/or does it extend to a little something in your everyday work life that makes you feel happy, makes you smile or makes your day that little bit better? And is that all there is to it?

We recently printed branded notebooks at work and they are seriously cool – edgy, funky and useful with pockets and preprinted info on our brands & products and other useful titbits like calendars. Everybody loves them, regular beige covered notebooks lie unused in stationary cupboards throughout the building while the fancy new models are coveted. I was recently given a bound pink notebook (by a company who shall remain nameless, but I’m sure many of you will guess!), and I really like it. Now I’m not a particularly girly girl – and certainly no six year old girl (who I had to buy a sparkly pink notebook for to stop her sneaking mine) but it stands out. It’s pretty, functional and no one else at work has one so it stands out as mine if I put it down someone.

So is it colour? Is it having an individual thing or another way to express ourselves? Or is it just fluff? Or is there something more to this that could help teams and organisations come together? Is it a personality thing? Can colour affect mood, productivity and inspiration? On a subject such as this I’d love to hear what you all have to say! But to satisfy my own intrigue I googled it and here are some of my findings:

In terms of office space I found screeds of information on colour schemes in the workplace and how they affect (positively and negatively – or otherwise) the environment Entrepreneur had a basic infographic that some may find useful or relate to. Woods Bagot, internationally renowned architects have some amazing examples of pulling together data, technology and people with design to create office spaces of the future, here is an example of this and we’re seeing it a lot more in Auckland especially where Vodafone kicked off new spacial design for offices, and the likes of ASB, NZME and Fonterra have followed suit with more colour, open spaces and collaborative environments than offices of old.

BuzzFeed has this quiz to take about what your choice in colour says about your personality; and for me it was largely accurate. This article on Bustle I found interesting if only because I’ve always struggled to decide if my favourite colour is blue or yellow…and only 5% of adults claim yellow as their favourite colour! Psychology Today offered this simple exercise to assess the personality types of team members based on favourite colours. StopPress think trendier is happier – what say you?

All in all, I think Fast Company summed it up pretty well in this article, concluding whilst studies may be able to give us generalities, it’s an individual thing, humans visualise 10 million different colours; given “green” can mean or be visualised in many forms by many different people. Love to hear your thoughts…

 

Lull or Null?

If you run in the same or similar circles on SoMe to me and on the whole I’m assuming you do, then I’m sure you’ve seen this blog from @Rachiemouce that sparked this blog from @HRmanNZ, and we’re waiting on a follow up from @everydaymanager as I write. So yep, I’m jumping on the band wagon. I love this sort of thing, I love people, opinions, perspectives and some healthy debate and hopefully sparking of new ideas. And to be fair, for me, it’s exactly the post / comments I needed to really kick start me back into this arena in 2016.

I tuned out over the Christmas / New Year’s break…and to be fair there were days I regretted my sign out/off period while we battered wind and rain in our NZ summer, but the days where the sun was shining and the beach was beckoning made it all too easy. Now we’re all back at work, and in our particular pocket of the world the weather is spectacular; today alone I came home from work, swam for exercise for an hour alone then was joined by my daughter and extended family for “canon bombs” in the pool according to Miss 5 for a further hour. Bliss. What could be better?!

Sure I sit here now a few hours later with family staying over, at my computer working (and now blogging!), but it’s worth it. I switched off, I’m back on, but I’m easing in to it. I missed the posts and the updates initially – and like I say most especially on the rainy days, but the silence was nice for bit. And that my point in all of this, for a bit. I’m ready now to start again, recharged, and missing the conversations, the learning’s, the debates, the laughs and the networking. Yes, there’s a lot of noise, but there’s so much to be gained as well.

I wonder if we notice this lag in kiwi land or indeed the Southern Hemisphere while we’re all in summer – and do we notice the same from our Northern counterparts when their summer hits and they go out to play?

I wonder too if it’s new year, new role? I’m in that boat so there’s more than usual to get my head around and to think about on a daily basis, meaning other things are taking a priority for right now, but by no means do I intend for that to go on. Who else is in that boat? Many in my personal circles, so again I’m assuming (and yes I know that old saying assume makes an ass out of you and me),that there are others out there in this boat?

Or I’m simply making excuses? Blind to the change in front of us? I hope not and I don’t think so. There is a lot of noise, but there’s also a lot of cut through. And I for one am not signing out. I look forward to the learning, the development, challenges in thinking /ways of working / behaviours / processes etc  that 2016 brings me via blogging and SoMe. And most of all I look forward to the connections. There are people I’ve never even met in real life that I feel close to, that I care about and are part of my circles I’ve only met through these channels. There are others I’ve connected with that I look up to, admire and learn from. I’d hate to think there was an end to this. It’s so valuable for all of us and a largely untouched and unchartered as far as I can see…the cool kids always move on first and the rest of us play catch up…but in this instance I’m looking forward to catching up. And I have no doubt that will be in new channels and horizons – but it’s the sharing that I look forward to the most.

So not an end, but perhaps a lull; maybe a change in course or dynamic. A signing out, but not signing off? Here’s to the future, new beginnings, carrying’s on and best of all innovation, disruption and collaboration.

Reflections

I’m noticing a lot of blogs popping up at the moment on being thankful, giving back, and reflecting on the year gone by. To use a cliché I think it’s “that time of year” when many of us pause for a moment to be thankful and reflect, check box goals, have a moment of clarity and/or be mindful. And I 100% prefer reading these sorts of uplifting blogs than the other ones doing the rounds of what not to do at the Christmas party and HR’s obligations or not (for the record I’m going to ours dressed as a wider group of Woodstock attendees – the clothed kind J).

My New Year’s resolution this year – and it’s the first one I’ve had in 10 years since I resolved to quit smoking – was to be kinder to myself. By this I meant not needing to be super woman; to go easy on myself when I don’t exercise as hard, fast or often as I’d like; to give up the working mum guilt; to do the best for right now and the situation; to take time out and to stop offering to organise everything for everyone. I’m actually not sure I achieved this – I think I may need to make this a goal for next year! As it’s been a massive year, fun, and successful, though very fast paced and jam-packed.

Perhaps as a goal I’ll achieve it. As the goals I set for this year I’m happy to say I’ve smashed out of the park, personally and professionally. I think sitting down at the beginning of the year and consciously thinking about goals, shaping them and desired outcomes then putting them into writing has kept me on track. I’ve aimed at keeping myself accountable and enlisted the help of my partner and got him on board for personal goals and a mentor for the professional ones. Both were brilliant at asking the right questions, offering advice and setting me back on course if/when I wandered somewhat.

I’m hugely grateful for the wonderful opportunities that have come my way this year, those I’ve taken up and those I’ve been unable to for one reason or another. 2015 hasn’t been without its challenges, both personally and professionally also, and it’s another cliché but it’s true – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Challenges broaden your experience and expertise, test your resilience and ability to cope under pressure, so recognise them for what they are and know you’ll be better for it when you come out the other side.

Which leads me to the “thank you’s”. Thanks to the family, friends, colleagues, mentor and networks who affected my life this year. I’ve laughed, cried, learnt, taught, expanded, tested, initiated, organised, played, danced and have affected and been affected by so many positive actions from others that have grown, shaped and developed me throughout the year. Thank you and with a big lovely glass of bubbles, Cheers to you!