THE BRAND THAT CALLED ME --EVERY EMPLOYEE IS A BRAND --LOOK WITHIN TO LEAD OTHERS --KEEP THE FAITH --BRUSH UP YOUR SKILLS --
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Branding, today, plays an important role in influencing your decision-making process while buying a product, among many available in the market. After all, a good branding exercise promises complete value of the product purchased and that it is better than its competing products. It has been observed that employees, too, are branding and marketing themselves, in an endeavour to carve a niche for them, thus making them much more sought after than the rest. Deepesh Das finds out how branding isn’t just for products anymore.
Is branding oneself a positive approach that employees should have? Personal branding is not all about self-promotion and marketing tactics; it is more fundamental than that. It is a clear, deep, and profound understanding of who you are and what you stand for. “Every organization should believe in playing with the strengths of the individual. The employees who can brand and market themselves well carry an image that gets associated with not only their brand name but also the organization’s. Self-branding always helps. But the employees should not resort to bragging or pretence. It’s a careful study of oneself in a quest to understand what one excels in and then leveraging on those attributes to create a brand called “me”. A great communicator, for instance, brands himself/herself likewise. Whereas a silent performer caries this very attitude as his/her brand identity,” expresses Anisha Sinha, HRD Manager, Endeavour Software Technologies Pvt Ltd.
According to Anuradha HR, Project Head, Consulting, Metes ERC India Pvt. Ltd, “This is not a new phenomenon. It happens in all relationships; people always wish to establish their identity (brand). Branding is a positive and an essential long term process in one’s career as long as it is based on and backed by one’s own competencies and achievements”. Balaji Chandrakumar, AVP-Learning Solutions, Expert us concurs, “Branding oneself stems from a simple fundamental of how human beings co-exist in a given environment. Humans can exist only in two forms of relationships. Either, they compete or collaborate”. K B Srinivasan, Head BSA e-Bikes, Murugappa Group gives his perspective, “Taking advantage of natural opportunities to promote your accomplishments and letting others know what you have done is a good thing and needs to be encouraged. One of the ways to stand out and shine through is to wisely promote your accomplishments and use effective self marketing and self branding tools”.
Is it a fair deal for the silent worker whose efforts go unnoticed and some other employee who is good at branding himself/herself walk away with all the applause? Anuradha elucidates, “Branding is neither about making noise nor is it a popularity contest. Hence, it does not matter whether you are silent or outspoken. Branding is about what image/brand one wants to build for one and how he/she goes about doing it. Building a brand for oneself is a highly individualistic process and what works for one may not work for the other. So, being an introvert or an extrovert does not matter”.
Talking about whether it is an unfair deal for the silent workers, Srinivasan explains,” There are many successful introverts. I do not agree stereotyping an extrovert with being successful. Networking and blogging are domains where introverts can beat their more talkative rivals in their own game of self promotion”. Sinha too agrees and adds, “It would be wrong to say that the silent or the introvert employees miss out on a lot as they do not get the appreciation or recognition, as they tend to maintain a low profile. If they are good at what they do, their “silent” attitude towards work may even add to their performance and productivity. In fact, at Endeavour, every Project Lead has a special knack of identifying and rewarding the silent performers. Extrovert employees are more suited for the ‘client-oriented roles’ where their ability to speak out and good presentation and persuasion skills may do wonders. On the other hand, an introvert employee may be more suitable for the back-end delivery kind of roles where a dedicated and focused effort is required”.
“Fairness in this entire process is only about an opportunity being provided to all to showcase his/her success. Leveraging the opportunity is only a function of his/her ability to communicate with confidence. Introversion could be referred to someone who either does not wish to ‘toot his own horn’ or someone who lacks confidence in articulating his/her success openly. Such an employee would expect his/her supervisor to point out his/her success to the rest of the team,” adds Chandrakumar.
A REALISTIC APPROACH:
It is imperative for any organization to make sure that their employees gets the right kind of appreciation and doesn’t feel side-lined and disappointed. How do organizations make sure that they keep employees who blow their own trumpet at bay and identify the deserving talent? Anuradha explains, “As the saying goes ‘empty vessels make more noise’; differentiating a deserving employee from a hypocrite is only about an organization being knowledgeable about human behaviour and work performance standards”. Srinivasan feels, “With so many skilled self-marketers around, leaders need to develop tools and skills to evaluate and reward real performers”.
“It is very important for organizations to weigh the claims of individuals against time; it’s easy to form opinions about employees as professed by them in the short-run and determine roles and responsibilities, accordingly. However, a real brand is created only when the opinions are vindicated time and again, and the individual delivers consistently, over a long period of time,” expresses Sinha.
Hence, the moot point remains that as much as self-branding is highly recommended for every individual, a short-term image should not be confused with branding. It’s always in the long run that an individual’s brand gets established. If organizations are good at identifying the deserving talent, then the practice of an employee branding oneself will certainly work wonders for both.
DEVELOPING A BRAND THAT RESONATES WITH CUSTOMER AND THE EMPLOYEE IS IMPORTANT FOR ORGANISATIONS. DEEPESH DAS LAYS OUT AN INSIGHTFUL APPROACH TO BRAND BUILDING FOR SERVICE BRANDS AND TALKS ABOUT HOW THEY CAN CHANGE THE FACE OF AN ORGANISATION.
In the current phase of the Indian growth story with significant untapped potential in many service sectors, one can still acquire customers through robust distribution and being available in the right place at the right time. However, as the competitive quotient in a sector increases, the focus shifts to building a strong brand image that helps attract customers, encourages positive referrals and retains profitable customers. A deep understanding of what goes into building strong service brands is thus the key to long-term success.
Customers always have a set of expectations when they interact with the organization be it the first time or as part of an ongoing relationship. These expectations are formed based on advertising communication, word of mouth as well as past experience. The consequent interaction is the ‘moment of truth’ – the point where the rubber hits the road, where expectations crystallize to reality and shape the perception in the customer’s mind of what the organization stands for. Over time, this perception translates to the ‘brand promise’, which customers expect from that organization. Moments of truth if managed well can strengthen the brand, enhance brand loyalty and become significant drivers of long-term value creation. The converse is also true.
Service brands are thus built and destroyed over millions of moments of truth across hundreds of touch points of interaction. Strong service brands are those that are clear in what they promise to their customers (and what they don’t promise) and deliver that promise consistently across touch points.
Successful development of world-class service brands requires alignment of three elements with the core brand promise – (a) product and service offering, (b) advertising communication, and what is often overlooked, (c) business practices and employee behaviour. Customers’ everyday experience indicates that this alignment is often absent and service organizations are unable to live up to the service experience they promise. This also suggests that of the three elements, advertising communication has lesser influence on building strong service brands while business practices and employee behaviour are critical if not the most important elements.
Do you have what it takes to be the boss? Read on to find out your true worth BEFORE YOU LEAD Others, before you can help others, you have to discover yourself, former Royal Dutch Shell executive Joe Ja-worski told interviewer Allen Webber. Evidently he’s not alone in that belief. Increasingly, companies are requiring their high-potential executives, the ones tabbed for stardom, to learn more about themselves. Dan Golem-man, author of the highly acclaimed Working with Emotional Intelligence, has identified 25 essential components of emotional quotient (EQ) which, he says, can account for up to 90% of career success. Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf described 21 key personal qualities in their 1996 book, Executive EQ. Personnel Decisions Inc., the Minneapolis firm that publishes Profiler, one of the leading 360-degree managerial assessment tools, has built its instrument around nine essential skills that they say separate the winners from the also-rans in executive life.
Spot on: What is the common thread within these three different sources? Taking active steps to uncover your blind spots and skill gaps, and being willing to do something about them. A case in point is Ted, a smart, tough, and “company man”. Ted demonstrated an inordinate supply of good ideas about how to make things run more efficiently when he was hired. A former Navy commander, he came early, stayed late, and thought incessantly about “plugging the leaks” wherever he found them.
And, boy, he was good at finding them. The only problem was he seemed to enjoy the fact that he had offended nearly everyone in the company in a few short months after coming on board. “I’m here to make these people get the lead out,” he said on more than one occasion. “What they think of me is irrelevant”.
The animosity Ted engendered in others soon meant that he couldn’t get all the information he needed to make decisions. No one was willing to collaborate or partner with him on important projects, morale and productivity in the organization plummeted, and several of the high-potential colleagues who had to deal with him chose to leave, even though they were not particularly his targets.
Right push: As Ogilvy and Mather CEO, Shelley Lazarus, recently observed, “The name of the game is talent. You find ways to keep it and grow it, or you lose”. So, within a year Ted was history, left to wander off and look for another battleship to fix. It’s largely the Teds of organizational life that have made the need for training in emotional intelligence so essential to 21st century executives. Ted hadn’t a clue about his blind spots, of being incredibly self-absorbed, not knowing how to listen, failing to pick up on the cues of others, and being oblivious to his own emotional drivers.
Baby steps: Three factors – going global, the emergence of diversity as a business issue, and the need to keep both internal and external customers satisfied – have combined to create a business environment somewhat akin to walking on eggshells. Today, executives are dogged by the constant likelihood of misreading, disappointing or offending someone whose business is critical for them. In a world where leaders must be able to pick up easily on nuances of preferences and needs among colleagues and customers alike, flat-footed executives like Ted can do massive damage in a short time.
Discovering your weaknesses or blind spots can be an unnerving experience, especially if you think that your management style works pretty well. But if you want to make it to the next level, you need to work on all the skills that are important for top executives. Getting to know you will pay off immediately as well as down the road as your career progresses.
‘People aren’t born apathetic, and few people come to work wanting to be that way’
MOTIVATION IN THE WORKPLACE IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP APATHY AT BAY.
Hiral Shah, a marketing executive in a finance company, is getting the heebie-jeebies these days. The boss, who has for a long time been happy with her performance – in fact, she has promotions and hefty performance-related bonuses to show – seems to have suddenly become distant. Some of her colleagues have been shown the door. Shah fears she is next on the hit list.
The fear is not unreasonable; many far more effective salespersons get the boot during a downturn. But it may not be justified. Shah’s boss may be feeling guilty because he has already had to sack so many people. Besides, he may be feeling insecure himself. Once you finish sacking all your sub-ordinates, there is much less to justify you keeping your own job. The best way to protect your turf is not by reducing the people – and therefore the costs – in your department. You need to fight tooth and nail for every person who reports to you. Do it visibly and you also build up an enormous amount of loyalty.
The average Shah reacts to such a situation by putting in far greater effort. Under normal circum-stances, this would result in quantifiable success – more sales, more orders, more pats on the back. But during a slowdown – exactly what we are experiencing now – extra efforts don’t translate into extra achievements. In fact, you might work twice as hard but fail to meet your targets, which were a breeze only a few months ago.
“It is easy in these circum-stances to lose faith in yourself,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. “This feeds on itself. Even if you weren’t in line for a pink slip, you could easily be working towards one”.
Experts say that it’s easy to sink into apathy when things start going wrong in this fashion. It happens when organizations are downsizing, for whatever reason. The people asked to leave have their own troubles, of course. But it is quite as likely that the people left behind also lose their motivation. “They too feel guilty,” says Singh.
Apathy may reach its peak in times of trouble, but it occurs in the workplace even when things are normal. Says Dotty Heady, author of Leading When No One Cares: Apathy in the Workplace Can Be Costly, “This hidden cost of apathy in the workplace is potentially enormous. Such behaviour can alienate loyal customers, impair business reputation and adversely impact organizational and financial performance”.
According to Smart Manager, an online publication of staffing services firm Kelly Services, work-place apathy could be one of the biggest costs to business. Tick-box, a UK market research company, says that some employees spend as much as three hours a day surfing the Internet. This is not part of their work and comes from an attitude that “everything goes” in the workplace.
Apathy can even strike the boss. The only saving grace is that – unless he is part of the promoter family – he won’t remain boss much longer. Seen from the other side, however, if the promoter boss carries on that way, the business won’t remain viable much longer. Either way, apathy matters to both you and the business.
What causes apathy? Kelly Services lists some contributing factors. Among them are the physical environment (poor or inadequate equipment or work facilities), skills not being recognized or utilized, bad working conditions, lack of delegation, discouragement of workplace social interactions, lack of job security, conflict issues and burnout.
What are the cures? That’s where there are no easy answers. “Motivation is very important,” says Singh. “There is motivation at an organizational level. That’s part of the corporate mission, vision and leadership. Without it, the company has no purpose”.
But, when crisis comes, individual motivation is also in focus. “This is the time to listen, to hold hands, to sympathize,” says Singh. “This is the time when HR has to prove itself”.
WANT TO ENHANCE YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON A SPECIFIC SUBJECT IN A SHORT TIME? IF YES, THEN A MODULAR TRAINING PROGRAMME IS JUST THE THING FOR YOU, REPORTS DEEPESH DAS.
Paritosh Majhi (75), a septuagenarian, has enrolled for a weekend modular training programme on hospital management organized by Education Times. Surprised are you? Modular training programme have caught the fancy of many across the country, including Kolkata. Modules on investment management, interior management, hospital management or programmes on communication skills are being conducted.
According to education and career consultant Shekhar Niyogi, “Modular training programmes are essentially short-term events on specific area of specialization or interest. They are not encapsulated programmes, of a broader course, taught over a longer time frame”. For instance, there could be a modular programme on managing financial risks. It would be a focused part of financial management that would be interesting for people employed in this sector, explained Niyogi. The training programme is good for mid-career professionals as they are learn about new techniques and developments for norms or statues in their field. “Modular training, through current and relevant case studies, helps professionals understand better concepts they are practicing,” said Niyogi.
Majhi is the administrative head of the local unit of Shibrampur Bhusan Chandra Haldar Memorial Seva Sadanan, an NGO-run hospital at Behala. He has joined the programme to learn in-depth about hospital administration. “At this age, it is not possible for me to go through an all-encompassing management course. So I opted for this course to upgrade my knowledge base in this field,” said Majhi, who was an engineer.
Modular training is less beneficial for novices as it does not enhance employment opportunities. However, it gives an idea of the entire subject in a nutshell within a limited time. For example, the exterior-interior management programme, which is also being organized by Education Times, covers topics like elements of design, principles of design, colours, paints, lighting, services, air conditioning /plumbing, false ceiling and flooring. “Novices, therefore, get an overview of what the sector is like and decide whether they would like to pursue the course,” said education consultant and psychotherapist Mitali Sen Gupta. An array of professional subjects can be offered through modular training courses. They are generally related to professional sectors like investment management, hospital management or exterior-interior management. “Topics on mental health related issues or improvement of communication skills can also come under modular training,” said Sen Gupta. Many institutes in Kolkata, like Birla Institute of Futuristic Studies, Hospicon Services, a healthcare consultancy and Samikshani, an NGO, conduct modular training sessions.
Majhi’s enrolment highlights the rising popularity of such short-term programmes. CMRI (Calcutta Medical and Research Institute) too has sent six professionals to an ongoing training event. “It has dawned that such a programme can enhance the skill level of the working group,” asserted Wg Cdr T Chaudhuri, faculty, hospital management training.