When I was in a mentorship program a couple of years ago, my mentor and I met to figure out how she could help me. I started by explaining that, because I was the first employee at the company and “grew up” there, I felt that people didn’t really see me as the leader I felt I was. I wanted to learn how to build my brand into something new.
She suggested that to really figure out what my brand might be, I needed to start with what I thought about myself. Then, she said to come up with the words I thought other people would use to describe me. After I had that list, I was to report back for our next meeting.
I wrote my list, and we met again a few weeks later. She challenged me as soon as she saw the first two words on my list: helpful and supportive. She reminded me that I was no longer on the support team where I had started my career, so I needed to expand how I thought of myself, too. Moving on from that entry-level role meant I had to allow my opinion about myself to move on and grow with it.
I discovered that I still thought of myself as the main support for the call center and the sales teams because I had institutional knowledge few others possessed so people came to me with questions all the time. By thinking of myself as someone who only supported others, I couldn’t see myself as the leader I wanted to be. So, the answer of creating my new brand meant changing how I thought of myself.
That sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be! I had to make a conscious effort to view every interaction through a new prism, and to replace the old self-limiting definitions for myself with the new ones. For example, when I found myself thinking I was being helpful, I changed my description to being influential. Instead of being merely supportive to my colleagues when they had a question, I used those moments to become impactful in their careers and lives. I strengthened my belief in myself each time I portrayed those qualities outwardly, and I allowed my colleagues’ feedback to keep me honest and on target for my goals. Over time, I narrowed down what to do into five steps and successfully became My Brand!
I know my work is not done yet. I continue to remind myself not only of what my brand is today, but also what I would like it to become in the future. I check myself immediately when I hear self-limiting thoughts pop into my head, and replace them with empowering and positive ones. And I listen to the feedback of my trusted mentors and confidantes, so I can make sure I am on the right track.