Personal branding, done well, is all about understanding how you influence other people’s opinions of you, in person and online, and then implementing tools to amplify your value in their eyes, in ways that feel authentic to you and resonate with your audience.
But power differences exist between people and within different situations. This can create very real challenges and roadblocks to achieving your goals – which to me, highlights the importance of improving your chances by working on your personal power.
‘Personal power’ could be defined as a feeling of confidence in your own abilities, values and beliefs, alongside the ability to influence others, hopefully in positive ways, for mutually beneficial outcomes. It’s not about coercion, force, or being the loudest – it’s about internal conviction and outward signposts that demonstrate your ability to bring value.
In the excellent TED Talk ‘How to speak up for yourself’, American social psychologist Adam Galinsky tackles the dilemma, ‘When can you speak up?’ – when is it a good idea to push your interests, express an opinion or make an ambitious ask?
He explains that we all have a ‘range of acceptable behaviour’ that gets us results. Outside of that range, we can come across as too strong or too weak, and be dismissed or judged negatively, missing out on the raise, promotion or deal.
Galinsky tells us that we all have different ranges that change according to the situation, such as how new we are to a role, whether we have alternatives and are prepared to ‘walk away’, what the relationship dynamics are like, cultural differences and yes, even barriers based on gender. But the important thing to focus on is how to expand your range of influence by increasing your personal power.
Galinsky explains the power double-binds we find ourselves in:
- ‘The low power double-bind: If we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed / If we do speak up, we get rejected’
- ‘The self-promotion double-bind: If we don’t advertise accomplishments, they go unnoticed / If we advertise accomplishments, we’re not likeable’
In increasing the width of that middle-ground where we find we can positively influence others to help us achieve our goals, Galinsky says there are two things matter most:
1. That you seem powerful in your own eyes and
2. That you seem powerful in the eyes of others.
This is what personal branding is all about!
Two of the tools that Galinsky mentions are what I term ‘personal brand tools’: Displaying ‘excellent evidence’ to gain credibility in the eyes of others, and tapping into your passion – because it’s contagious!
He also provides other tools to expand your range of influence:
- Advocating for others, because it makes you more assertive
- Looking at the situation from the other’s perspective, to understand what they want or need
- Appearing assertive but still likeable by signalling flexibility e.g. giving two options
- Gaining allies or social support – one way to do this is by ASKING PEOPLE FOR ADVICE – ‘it flatters and demonstrates humility’ – this is a door-opening tool I frequently advise clients to use (more on this in an upcoming article or check out ‘Winning new business without a sales pitch’)
I have worked with hundreds of people on their personal brands, and there are patterns that I consistently come across. People don’t want to appear too pushy, self-promotional or self-absorbed. BUT they do want to be seen, heard and remembered in order to attract the right people and opportunities their way. The achievement of this lies in finding an authentic balance to demonstrate your value and expand your influence. It’s about shaping your personal brand and in doing so, gaining a greater sense of personal power.