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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Build your HR leadership brand
Article Type: How to … From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 11, Issue 2
Practical advice for HR professionals
Suzanne BatesSuzanne Bates is CEO and founder of Bates Communications, UK.
Most HR leaders we work with agree that the HR function still needs to earn that seat at the table. Every single day you have an opportunity to build your brand as a strategic contributor, someone regarded as essential to driving the business forward. The operating word here is “earn.” You have to demonstrate that you are thinking and acting in ways that drive business results.
What is your brand? It is a thought and feeling that leap to mind when people think about you. A brand is an intangible asset; however, the impact is very real. Smart, successful HR leaders put their brands to work and demonstrate that they are strategic partners. The question many HR leaders have is, how do I build that brand so it lives in the minds of the CEO, executive team, board of directors, my colleagues and staff?
The first step is to understand your brand. To do that you need to look at the story of your life and career for clues to the values you hold. These events have shaped you and made you the leader you are today. Your brand, which in essence is your character, is already well formed. But you must analyze it yourself before you can communicate it to others.
You have seen this dynamic at work in your company – those who give voice to their values, who share the principles that define them, and connect with hearts and minds, motivating and inspiring others. People want to work for them; in fact they want to be like them. They attract and energize people. There is no reason you cannot be that kind of leader.
1. Believe in your brand
In order to communicate your brand, you must embrace the idea that you have a brand and that it has real power. Begin by recognizing that your reputation is one of your most valuable assets. Treat it like gold. Share it with others. That will drive tangible value into the organization and help to position you as a strategic partner to the organization.
How do leaders who believe in their brands shape the values of their companies? One powerful example was Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, one of the most influential business women of her time. She believed that if you could sell, you could succeed, and that any woman could earn her way to the top. How did she come by this belief? She was passed over for promotions in sales – though she was a top sales person, year after year. She quit, wrote a book, and realized it was the blueprint for her iconic, multi-billion dollar company. Mary Kay Ash once said: “I envisioned a company in which any woman could be just as successful as she wanted to be. The doors would be wide open to opportunity for women who were willing to pay the price and had the courage to dream.”
2. Learn the skill of storytelling
Look at pivotal events in your life, and examine what lessons they taught you. Your personal stories are a veritable treasure chest – inside can be found life lessons that have shaped your values and defined you. When we coach executives, we share a process for finding and developing stories with a six part structure. It is essential to understand the personal lessons and relevant points. When they share these with audiences, a human connection develops, which helps people see who they really are.
How have your life experiences shaped your brand values? That is the question. Storytelling is a critical skill I explore in my new book Discover Your CEO Brand. I encourage you to take a storytelling course, explore these events, and understand the lessons. These character-shaping experiences are the foundation of your brand.
3. Combine your brand with your organization’s
The interesting feature of a leader’s brand is that while it stands alone, it is also part of something larger. As the HR leader, you have your own separate brand, which also is comingled with the organization’s reputation. So it stands to reason that you need to understand your own brand, and also appreciate the interplay between your brand and your company’s brand, so you can harness the two to work in concert.
The organization’s values are not always what you see posted on the walls or in the employee manuals. It is important to truly analyze and understand what traits and values drive the success of the enterprise. If they are out of sync with your own values you need to understand where the gaps or disconnects are. Being in sync with the company values is essential to earning a seat at the table.
4. Share success stories
Talk about how your team is overcoming challenges and how leaders in your organization are succeeding. Read and collect stories about how competitors in your industry are solving relevant business problems. If you tell a story that provides insightful analysis and allows you to make compelling points, you demonstrate your value as a strategic partner.
In looking for relevant examples and analogies it is always helpful to ask yourself the question, “What is this like?” In your experience, how has a current situation appeared similar to others? This helps you get clarity about the recurring values and behaviors you want to drive into the organization as a strategic leader.
5. Be highly visible in your company and industry
Consider the following actions to build your brand:
Have mentors and coaches help you get savvy about all aspects of the business – develop a strategic point of view.
Volunteer to give presentations to your executive team and board and talk about big ideas.
Write thought leading articles for magazines – for visibility outside your company. Explore a new twist on an old idea.
Volunteer for company initiatives – interact with business leaders. Help them solve problems.
Speak up in meetings – let people see your brilliance – and develop an executive presence that commands the room.
It has been said that a brand name is more than a word – it is the beginning of a conversation. What is the conversation that people are having about you, as a HR leader? I guarantee if you are sharing compelling, interesting stories people will remember them – and then they remember you.
About the author
Suzanne Bates is a former award-winning television news anchor at WBZ TV, as well as a best-selling author and CEO of Bates Communications, a leadership communications consulting and coaching firm. Her first book, Speak Like a CEO, is in its 11th printing and published in five languages. Her third book, Discover Your CEO Brand, is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com. Bates Communications is making available a white paper, Becoming a Top Chief Human Resource Manager: 7 Imperatives and 1 Differentiator. It is available by emailing: email@example.com. Suzanne Bates can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org