Written by Beverly Crowell, EVP Career Systems International
In the book Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed, author Harvey Coleman examines what it takes to get ahead in today’s crowded work world. Based on his research of corporate America, Coleman shares there are three elements of career success:
- Performance and Skills
- Image and Brand
- Exposure and Network
Of these three elements, which do you think ranks as the most important? If you said performance and skills, you’re wrong. In fact, Coleman finds performance accounts for only 10% of what it takes to be successful in our career. Yes, you have to be good at what you do. Everyone does. Truth is, however, there are a lot of folks good at what they do. You have to be good to even play the game. To stand out from the crowd, you must have a strong image and brand that grants you the exposure you need to build a strong network. Coleman indicates that image and brand accounts for 30% of our success and the remaining 60% is based on the exposure we get inside an organization and the strength of our network.
Certainly, our ability to build a strong network and expand our exposure inside our organization is directly impacted by our image and brand. How we are seen and how people talk about us on a daily basis is directly proportionate to the types of opportunities that come our way.
If you agree, then one area that needs our immediate attention is image and brand. A touchy subject for most. After all, who wants to ask the question, “What is said about me when I leave the room?” and then wait around to hear the answer? What if the feedback is not what you want to hear? It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s exactly what you need to hear.
Several years ago, I took on a new role inside our organization that would broaden my exposure to a wider audience. And while I didn’t go off seeking the feedback, a trusted colleague encouraged me to up my game when it came to my personal style. Ouch! Did I really look that bad? No, but it wouldn’t hurt to take it to the next level. So sure I was that she was wrong that I asked another colleague what she thought and she confirmed, “You don’t look bad, but it wouldn’t hurt to amp up your personal style.”
The feedback reminded me of the Yiddish proverb, “If one man calls you a donkey, pay him no mind; If two men call you a donkey, get a saddle.” Guess I needed to get a saddle or at a minimum a new style. So, I reached out to personal stylist Michael Bassolino who raided my closet, tossed more than I was allowed to keep, and then rook me shopping (with my money of course). It was a wonderful experience that gave me more confidence and a polished, professional style – unless you ask my teenage daughter of course.
So, here’s my challenge to you and it’s as simple as 2+2+2. Over the next 2 weeks find 2 trusted colleagues and ask these 2 questions:
- What do people say about me when I walk out of the room?
- What aspects of my image and brand need to be improved?
And, when they answer, say thanks for the feedback, seek clarification and don’t pout. Remember, it may not be what you want to hear, but it may be exactly what you need to hear.