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Build your personal brand around 4 key elements that tell your story (review of Cynthia Johnson’s Platform)

platformThis review first ran in the Feb. 23 edition of The Hamilton Spectator

Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding

By Cynthia Johnson

Lorna Jones Books

$29.99

You have a solution to our problem and an answer to our prayers.

You’ve gone where we’re going and already done what we dream of doing.

We’re hungry to hear what you have to say and you’re willing to share your lessons learned.

Thanks to social media, it’s never been easier for you to  offer up your experience and expertise, insights and ideas. Yet finding you among the billions of users online is the challenge.

This is why you need to build and then manage your a personal brand.

“You can change the world with your voice if you have a platform to stand on and people who will listen,” says Cynthia Johnson, author of Platform and a branding agency co-founder with more than three million followers on social media channels.

“There is so much noise coming from so many people and places that we are exhausting the public attention span for experts and important causes. We need to hear from people who understand topics completely and thoroughly.”

A strong personal brand cuts through the noise and draws our attention.

Brand building is technical, creative, spiritual and scientific, says Johnson. “And it is much easier than you think.”

Our personal brands are built on four elements: personal proof, social proof, recognition and association. “Each piece is part of a puzzle, and they all work together to tell a story: your story.”

Personal proof includes your education, experience, credentials and achievements.

“Social proof is the proof that other people need in order to believe that we are qualified to do something,” says Johnson. Examples include our social media followers, referrals and references.

“Association is the part of the branding puzzle that determines nearly all of your successes,” says Johnson. “People decide whether you are credible based on your expertise and your network. You are whom you hang out with.”

And finally, you build your brand by being recognized as among the best at what you do. Awards and accolades elevate you in our hearts and minds.

Building your personal brand requires growing your networks on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Johnson has four suggestions.

Always include an email address on your social media profiles and tell us exactly what you’re interested in and looking for. “You can follow and connect with people all day long, but unless they know how and why to reach out to you, the ball will remain in your court.”

Aim for quality over quantity when posting content to social media. Post too much content that’s of low or no value cand we’ll legitimately wonder where you find the time to do the job and develop the experience that you’re attempting to build your personal brand around.

Avoid the rookie mistake of overusing or misusing hashtags. Don’t use hashtags to grow your followers by highlighting key words, says Johnson. “The main purpose of the hashtag on all social media channels is to create live public groups around topics or interests.”

And, just like in the real world, treat everyone on social media as if they matter because they genuinely do. “Don’t be the person who ignores the little guy, because in a connected digital world, you never know how people will grow from one day to the next. So go ahead and connect with people; it doesn’t hurt, and you never know how much it could eventually help.”

Personal branding is for everyone, says Johnson and it’s not an optional exercise if you want to be seen and heard. “You have it even when you don’t. Everyone in the digital age needs to be aware of their personal brand. It is no longer a choice whether to have one; the choice is whether you manage yours.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Pick one – a pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss (review of The Mind of a Leader)

mindThis review first ran in the Feb. 9 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The Mind of the Leader

By Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter

Harvard Business Review Press

$39

A pay raise for you or a pink slip for your boss.

Which one would you choose?

Apparently, a third of us would pass on the bigger paycheque to instead wish our leaders well on their future endeavors.

That’s one of the key findings from research done by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacequeline Carter with the Potential Project.

They also report that only 13 per cent of the global workforce is engaged while 24 per cent is actively disengaged.

Yet in a McKinsey and Co. study, 77 per cent of leaders say they do a good job of engaging their people. That same study found that their people just aren’t feeling it, with 82 per cent saying their leaders are lousy at engagement. Basic human needs of finding meaning, purpose, connection and genuine happiness appear to be going unmet in too many workplaces.

So maybe the $46 billion spent annually on building better leaders needs to come with a money back guarantee.

If you’re a leader who wants a more engaged and productive workforce, Hougaard and Carter say it’s all in your head.

They recommend you focus on the three foundational and mutually reinforcing mental qualities of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion are universal languages that are understood by everyone. They are innate human qualities in which status and authority do not get in the way of true human connectedness.”

Mindfulness is about turning off our autopilot and intentionally managing our attention and thoughts. “You learn to hold your focus on what you choose.” Through focus and awareness, we develop better emotional resilience and lose our fight-or-flight instincts and our tendency to default to knee-jerk reactions.

Selflessness is a winning combination of humility, service to others and self-confidence. “With selflessness, trust increases because we have no secret agendas and followership strengthens because our selflessness sets free our people to be their best selves.” By comparison, a raging, unhealthy ego leaves you vulnerable to criticism, susceptible to manipulation, corrupts your behavior and values.

Compassion helps your people feel safe and connected. “When we as leaders value the happiness of our people, they feel appreciated. They feel respected. And this makes them feel truly connected and engaged. It’s no accident that organizations with more compassionate leaders have stronger connections between people, better collaboration, more trust, stronger commitment to the organization and lower turnover.”

Leaders who are mindful, selfless and compassionate can then lead by example and instill these foundational qualities in their people and across their organizations.

“Leading with mindfulness, selflessness and compassion makes you more human and less leader. It makes you more you and less your title. It peels off the layers of status that separate you from the people you lead,” say Hougaard and Carter.

“Mindfulness, selflessness and compassion make you truly human and enable you to create a more people-centred culture where your people see themselves and one another as humans rather than headcounts.”

And instead of wanting you to get a pink slip, your employees will give you extra effort, respect and loyalty.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books since 1999.