The honest truth is that HR departments, and its leaders, don’t get the respect and recognition they deserve. We know the critical role HR plays in organizations as the stewards of the company culture and as the people who are responsible for moving things forward -  keeping the organization aligned and able to do everything it does. If you’re working in HR, you’ve probably felt under-appreciated at one time or another. Because you aren’t actually selling anything, or bringing in any money, your worth is often overlooked.

Accurate or not, people have begun to think of you in a certain way. Because they’re too busy answering emails and running from meeting to meeting, the people in your organization have developed mental shortcuts to summarize who you are and what you’re capable of – irrespective of your actual potential. Instead of letting your worth be decided by people who may or may not know how much you have to offer, develop and promote a personal brand that reflects how you want to be known.

In a recent #SmartTalkHR webinar, I discuss the importance of HR professionals working a bit harder and a little bit smarter to make sure we’re conveying our value to other people and that they really get it. You can view the webinar, “How to Stand Out in HR and Build a Powerful Personal Brand” in its entirety here.

Establishing your worth

Too often organizations, and the people within them, value employee contributions in relation to their impact on the bottom line. This short-sighted view often gives high-level visibility to the top selling sales person, while the people busily stewarding the company culture are considered a “nice to have”.

The challenge for HR professionals is proactively promoting ourselves and our contributions to our organization to help shift opinion and perception. For most of us, the concept of creating a personal brand, defining ourselves, or self-promotion is a little uncomfortable. When I talk about your personal brand, I’m talking about your reputation. There’s nothing sleazy, slimy, or questionable about making sure your reputation reflects the things for which you actually want to be known. What people say about you when you leave the room is the most valuable thing you have; it’s your personal brand and your reputation.

When your personal brand accurately reflects your impact on the world and the value you bring to others and to organizations, it’s easier to accomplish the initiatives you believe in, and do the things you want to do.

Know your brand

Developing a brand begins with self-knowledge. You aren’t going to be inventing a brand, because you have one already. You have a reputation -  people think about you in some way. The challenge is discovering what that reputation is, and then altering perceptions to more accurately reflect how you want people to think about you.

If you want to be influential in your organization, you need to be perceived as a leader. In the webinar, I discuss research from the Center for Talent Innovation which boils down what it takes to be perceived as a leader to three things:

  1. Appearance
  2. Gravitas
  3. Communication skills

While it’s important to dress appropriately and to be the cool head in moments of crisis, most importantly, we choose leaders who are great communicators. When you think about it, this makes sense. We choose our political leaders based on who has the best communications skills and who can express their ideas through speeches, debates, and town hall meetings. If you’re looking to achieve leadership status in your organization, you’ll need to brush up on your communications skills. There are lots of ways to do that. You can start by joining Toastmasters or hire a coach. Whatever it is, invest in your speaking skills.

Develop your ideas

For business professionals, I think developing your own ideas is so important, that I wrote a book about it, Stand Out – How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around itThe idea is that as business professionals and HR leaders, we are known in the world for our ideas. For white collar workers, our product isn’t visible – our product is our ideas. The challenge is to know how to develop better ones.

HR professionals are well positioned to come up with thoughtful and innovative ideas. You are the renaissance people of corporate America. You probably studied Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy, and you may have worked in other functional roles or departments before moving into HR. A lot of times, people in HR have eclectic backgrounds, and sometimes people try to use that against you. I want you to push back and recognize that your varied background is your strength.

All the things you’ve lived and experienced are different lenses that you bring to your job and to life. It enables you to see things differently. Tapping into your diverse experiences is one way to develop some of your own breakthrough ideas. During the webinar, I discuss how to come up with breakthrough ideas and how to create the mental space required to develop ideas in a very busy world.

Share your ideas

We need to get acknowledged and recognized at work, because that’s how we’re able to accomplish what we want. You get promoted – and see your ideas have impact in the world - if you’re recognized as a thought leader and an instrument of change. So that’s the code you need to crack.

Through my research, I’ve identified three elements that are necessary to effectively share ideas and get recognition as a thought leader. The three key pieces to sharing ideas are:

  1. Developing a strong network
  2. Attaining social proof
  3. Creating content

All these things sound intuitive, but many of us don’t connect these dots. If you are a knowledge worker, ideas are all you have. And if people don’t know what your ideas are, then they have no clue if you’re a thought leader or just another cog in the system. You need to share your ideas as broadly as possible and not just among people who work next to you. Sharing your ideas publicly, is the only way people can begin to see how you think, and it enables like-minded people to find you.

One of the challenges for people who want to start making their mark as a thought leader is carving out the time to create and share content. In the webinar, I discuss some examples of very busy people who have found a way to use what they’re already doing, and the time they’re already spending to create shareable, thoughtful content.

I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the important concepts I cover in the webinar and also those I learned in the course of researching and writing my two books, Reinventing You and Stand Out, as well as what I’ve discovered over the past seven years while writing the hundreds of articles for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. If you’re interested in learning more, you can watch the webinar here, or visit my website:

For more webinars and resources for HR leaders, click here.

18 April 2017

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