What’s behind a brand? According to Webolutions’ definition, it’s a successful memory bank created over time. Successful brands create a memory bank of positive associations between their brand and what it stands for and moments of happiness in people’s lives — both personally and professionally.
On Wednesday, October 2, the Webolutions team hosted their third Women in Executive Leadership event of the year, inspiring leaders from a variety of industries to discover how they each leverage their own personal and professional brands. More than 20 Denver-area executive women each shared their thoughts and empowered one another to discover how their brands, values and culture have evolved.
Webolutions began the roundtable by asking the audience “What is your professional brand, and what is your personal brand?” Women executives mulled over this question, often listing their personal and professional brands as the same thing. It was simple for Denver-area leaders to list their business tasks as their business brand, but there is more to it than that. One attendee said it is important to believe in developing your personal brand first before identifying your professional brand. She said your personal brand is who you are and how you grew up. Another attendee mentioned that a personal brand can be centered around family, kids and how you are perceived in that role.
Other attendees took a more universal approach in how they approach their personal and professional brand. “My brand is who I am,” said one leader in the non-profit industry. “There is no ‘oh, who is she today.’ My brand and myself are consistent.” Webolutions also added to this statement, saying that each employee is a living example of a personal and professional brand. “Do you walk to represent your company brand, or not,” said one of the organizers.
As attendees analyzed their personal and professional brands, Webolutions shifted the conversation and asked attendees to identify how their values reflect their brands. Many women executives said their brands are in lockstep with their values. “When you operate in clear values, it’s easier to find alignment,” said one attendee. “To get to a place of values, start with love and passion,” said another executive who works in the financial industry. Many women professed to lead with love, heart and personal relationships, and they would take more time with clients, get to know them on a personal level and really invest in them as people. “The alignment of culture and values comes together when we say we are who we say we are,” said one attendee.
While these values may materialize in their role, many attendees have expressed the struggle of expressing their brand with a workplace that doesn’t reflect a solid culture and values. “Stress is when your values clash with your workforce,” said one attendee, noting the significant source of tension between a worker and a boss is when personal and professional brand values don’t align with the company values. Some Denver-area executives have even mentioned that they have had to resign from a job immediately, without a backup plan, because their values have differed from their workplace. “I was told by a former boss that ‘lying is a coachable trait.’” said a woman executive in the non-profit health care industry. “I couldn’t work there anymore.”
The final discussion of the Women in Executive Leadership Roundtable revolved around maintaining personal and professional brands. Many attendees agreed that when values and morals are held in high regards, brands are less likely to be destroyed. “When my values are peppered with integrity, they are less likely to become tarnished,” said one woman executive in the consulting industry. Another attendee said bravery was a character trait that she held close to her beliefs, citing not to be scared when faced with challenges and difficult decisions.
However, some attendees shared their experiences of their brand being tarnished. One attendee opened up about a very serious situation in which she was accused of something she didn’t do by one of her subordinates. “I had to keep my balance and keep my cool, even though I was frustrated,” she said. This not only tarnished her brand to higher-ups, but also to those other team members that reported to her.
Another example of maintaining brands is the use of social media. Some advice? “Live life as if what you’re doing will go to print,” said one executive in the IT consulting industry. And when that executive received a negative post on social media, she said she talked directly to the person who posted that comment. “They are probably just mad at you and need to have a conversation.: Many executives agreed that when social media threatens a personal and professional brand, the best approach is to stick to what you say and believe and you won’t be damaged. “You need to be in alignment to ‘walk the walk, of the company,” said one Denver-area leader.
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