Your Personal Strengths Matter

Work posterWe live in interesting times.  Whoever thought that so many professionals would be worried about corporate restructuring, layoffs, and downsizing. Keeping your job in today’s unstable business climate takes new ideas and new ways to present yourself  – it takes personal branding.

Career opportunities have become as competitive as the market itself.  Knowing how to differentiate yourself from the pack will make all the difference in your career progression.

Personal Branding demands that you put your best foot forward. Taking a lesson from product marketing, you need to find and show your unique value.  You must clearly articulate what unique skills and strengths you possess.  Your online profiles and  resume represent your value statement – what you bring to the table – so it needs to be crisp.  Focusing on your strengths can provide you with a strong identity which is uniquely you.

”Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer”. – Peter Drucker

Selling your expertise has always involved putting your education and experience on paper (your resume or curriculum vide (CV)).  It usually was not until you were face to face with a client, or prospective employer, that you were able to impress them with your point of view. But today you rarely get the chance to have that face moment.  You need to wrap your point of view into your social presence.  Your online profile needs to not just talk about what you have done, but highlight your point of view, and what you can and want to do for others.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about identifying your soft and hard skill sets (2 Steps to Understanding Your Hard and Soft Skills).  To understand your soft skills, you really need to look at your CORE STRENGTHS.  These are the attributes of your personality that drive your ability to excel in certain soft skill areas, and the same one’s that drove your choices in selecting your hard skills (technical training and knowledge).

If you look around on LinkedIn or Twitter, you will see that many people define themselves by their titles (VP of Important Things), or the technical and business hard skills that they have (Network Engineer, Physicist), rather than the strengths of their personality (Leader, Innovator). But your core strengths, not your job title, will keep you moving forward in your business career.

Core Strengths

Core, or personal, strengths, unlike skills, are based on who you are, not what you know.  For example, one of my personal strengths is ‘Analytical.’  People with this strength search for reason and causes in things. They think about the factors that might affect a situation. (Gallup StrengthFinder)  It is important, as you focus on what makes you unique, to think about what your natural abilities are; the innate talents you were born with.

Attitude Adjustment Assignment – Define Your Core Strengths:

Looking at the list below, pick out 5 or 10 attributes that describe your top strengths.  Put them in an order from strongest to weakest.

strength chart(Chart adapted from Myrko Thum’s blog, Personal; Development That Transforms, March 2013)

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Differentiate Yourself

When you build your brand around your unique value, your authentic self, you start to standout from others.  Knowing and appreciating what makes you different from your peers and your competitors gives you a handle on what unique qualities you have to offer your team or your employer.  And it is in the knewing, that you are able to build a better online presence.

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It’s also important not to confuse strengths with likes. What you like to do is not necessarily what you do best. It can be, but it’s not a given. Of course, for a successful career you want to combine these two in order to overlap your strengths with your passion.

Over time, my core strengths guided me in making choices around work and also my personal life.  I chose jobs that felt comfortable and ‘right’ for me – not because I really knew why, but because I tend to ‘trust my gut’ (I am not sure that is a core strength, but it should be).

What I have learned over the years is that when my core strengths and my technical and business skills support each other, I tend to really shine in my work (and in my life), and I am the happiest.

Leverage your strengths as part of your personal branding process is a must for professionals today.  Companies are expecting employees that desire career growth to know who they are and to manage their own eminence.

What are your personal strengths and what makes you unique?

animationfinalKeep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

Email: thedigitalattitude@gmail.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorianlipton/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorianL

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

4 Steps To The Brand Of YOU

You are unique.

Yes, you are.  You’re one of a kind. There is no one else like you. Some people may have similar attributes, but they are still different from you.  Even if you are an identical twin, you are not a clone (well, I am pretty sure you aren’t). Good personal branding is communicating through words and actions those things that show who you are: your unique self.  Today’s Attitude Adjustment post looks at 4 things that, when put together, call out what makes you UNIQUE: Expertise, Perception, Personality, and Presence.

My cousin's triplets.  All look the same, but are very individual personalities.

My cousin’s triplets. All look the same, but have very different personalities.

To describe our brand, we need to look at the combination of characteristic features that make us, us. We must be able to describe our personal traits: the distinguishing features of our personal nature, our personality, that we alone possess. It is through analyzing our traits, strengths, weaknesses, and other differentiating qualities, that we construct our personal brand statement and show people the unique value we bring to things.

We have all heard people say things like “it is his nature to help others,” or “she is a natural-born communicator.” Well it is our nature that determines our actions and reactions to things and it is through understanding ourselves to this degree, that we are best able to craft a compelling and authentic personal brand statement.

The Brand of YOU

To get you started on thinking about personality traits, here is a list of some of the more common ones.  Do any of them fit you?

activeness, activity – the trait of being active; moving or acting rapidly and energetically
attentiveness – the trait of being observant and paying attention
communicativeness – the trait of being communicative
discipline – the trait of being well-behaved
drive – the trait of being highly motivated
emotionalism, emotionality – emotional nature or quality
emotionlessness, unemotionality – absence of emotion
femininity – the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for women
firmness of purpose, resoluteness, resolve, firmness, resolution – the trait of being resolute
humility, humbleness – a disposition to be humble; a lack of false pride
individualism, individuality, individuation – the quality of being individual
masculinity – the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for men
pride – the trait of being spurred on by a dislike of falling below your standards
serious-mindedness, earnestness, seriousness, sincerity – the trait of being serious
sound judgement, sound judgment, perspicacity, judgement, judgment – the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions
thoughtfulness – the trait of thinking carefully before acting
trustfulness, trustingness, trust – the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others
trustiness, trustworthiness – the trait of deserving trust and confidence
wisdom, wiseness – the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight
Trait definitions from TheFreeDictionary © 2012 by Farlex, Inc.
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When I ask people what their personal brand is, many can not tell me.  They can talk about their technical or business expertise and they can recite their work and life resumes, but they lack the details of what they uniquely bring to the world – their personal twist – their brand.  When pushed they can tell me their moral and ethical values, and their passions, but they have never tried to create a personal brand image.  And, you first need to develop your personal brand image before you will be able to create a digital one.

Attitude Adjustment Homework:  Crafting Your Personal Brand Image.

In your notebook make a list of the following information.

1,  Expertise:  Include here your competencies: general knowledge, point of view on things, technical knowledge, and your critical thinking ability.

64309“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.”
Werner Heisenberg

2.  Perception: What do other people think you’re an expert in? What are you known for doing well?  What strengths do others perceive you possess?

Understanding how people see us is enlightening, and is the best way to investigate and improve our image, especially when it comes to branding. I regularly survey my mentors, managers, colleagues, and clients to ensure that I have a good feedback loop between what I think I project and what I really project.

This makes me think of a line from a Robert Burns poem:

“O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”
(O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.)
Robert Burns, Poem “To a Louse” – verse 8
Scottish national poet (1759 – 1796)

3.  Personality: What are your personality strengths and weaknesses?  Describe your core personality traits.

Personal strengths, unlike skills and expertise, are based on who you are, not what you know.  These are the personality traits that I mentioned above. Once you understand your personality traits, your natural talents, you can apply them to your personal definition.

Take me for example: my top personal strength is “Individualization.”  I am intrigued with the unique qualities of each person and have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively. (Gallup StrengthFinder) This talent has served me well in my role as a global program manager, in customizing projects for clients. and in identifying different approaches to everything from data analysis to personal problems.

4.  Presence.  Your personal image depends on how you appear in the world.  Presence or appearance includes things like how you dress, the way your carry yourself, your posture, your gestures, even your facial expressions.  Influence demands on personal presence.  You can have all the other factors, but without the proper presence you may never be able to ‘sell’ the Brand of You, “Presence is not an all-or-nothing commodity. Consider it a continuum, with your physical attributes, natural talents, communication skills, and character traits plotted along the way somewhere from one end to the other between “low presence/low impact” and “high presence/high impact.” (Dianna Booher, Creating a Powerful Personal Presence to Influence and Engage, American Management Association, March 6, 2012)

Once you have a solid list in all 4 categories, you can begin to create a strawman of your brand profile.  But I think that is enough homework for a couple of days.

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

2 Steps To Understanding Your Hard and Soft Skills

Player_runsSocial Presence is about putting your best foot forward… but you need to know which foot that is.  Only when you are clear on what skills you possess can you really paint a good picture of yourself online.

Today we are going to talk about the two types of skills that are critical to your success in business, your HARD and SOFT skills. Your Attitude Adjustment Homework will help you hone in on both so that you will be able to highlight them in your online profiles.

I find that people tend to define themselves more by the technical and business hard skills that they have, rather than the strengths of their personality that are defined by the soft skills.  They lead with their business titles, not with their strengths.

Human Resource people say “it may be your hard skills that get you the interview, but it is your soft skills that get you the job.” (SearchCIO).  So let’s start with the easy stuff and look at your hard skills.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are learned.  You are taught them in school or from books. They are a way of doing something; a procedure, a best practice.  They usually refer to training and knowledge that a person has in a specific skill set.  Hard skills are usually what you spend hours and hours learning in school. First you take the basic courses, then you move on to the more advanced.

Using me as an example, I am a project manager. Project management is my hard skill.  I took many IBM courses in project management, earned Masters certificates from both George Washington and Stanford Universities, passed my Project Management Institute (PMI) Exam to become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and also passed the internal IBM certification process.  Though life experience was important in completing these milestones, it was the hard skills, that were being assessed.

Hard skills take smarts, they are about using your brain (in particular the left side of your brain).  They are about your ability to perform a certain task. Careers that rely heavily on hard skills are Physicists, Mathematicians, Computer Programmers, Statisticians, etc.  What are your hard skills?

Attitude Adjustment Assignment #1:  Identify Your Hard Skills

Take out your notebook and write down all the skills you can think of that relate to you.

I am an expert in  (specialty):  _____________.

People come to me (I am the ‘go-to’ person) for:  _______________.

I am known for the following skills: ___________________________________________________

Soft Skills

tightropeSoft skills are more difficult to quantify. These skills are personality qualities, habits, attitudes, and even social graces. Unlike hard skills, which can be evaluated by a logic intelligence test (IQ), soft skills tend to use your heart, and conversely would be evaluated by an emotional intelligence test (EQ).  This is ‘right brain’ stuff.  Some examples of soft skills would be: anticipating risk, motivating others, teamwork, innovating, listening, communicating.  They are things that you learn, hone, and improve over a life time of trial and error.

People skills, management skills, communications, leadership, politics, are all soft skills.  You can take classes in how to develop these skills, but it is your innate personality that will ultimately determine which ones you excel in and your ability to apply what you have learned to different situations over time.  Unlike hard skills where the rules pretty much are static (for example, the Waterfall Application Development Method), soft skills are dynamic and change based on the situation to which they need to be applied.  For example, you could do a great job communicating technical status to your team, but a poor job communicating project progress to your executive management.  When the audience changes, your must change how you are communicating accordingly.

What are your soft skills?

Attitude Adjustment Assignment #2:  Identify your Soft Skills

Look at the list of 28 soft skills below and pick out 5 or 10 that you feel are your top soft skills.  Put them in an order from strongest to weakest.

(The list is adapted from: List of 28 Soft Skills – Business Professionals, June 2, 2011, Career Success – Ask A Wharton MBA)

  1. Self awareness – knowing what drives, angers, motivates, embarrasses, frustrates, inspires you
  2. Emotion management – being able to control unexpected emotions like anger and frustration so you can think clearly and at your optimum.
  3. Self-confidence – those who believe in themselves have access to “unlimited power” (wisdom from KungFu Panda)
  4. Stress management – Being able to stay calm and balanced in stressful, overwhelming situations
  5. Resilience – Ability to bounce back from a misstep in your job or career
  6. Skills to forgive and forget – Ability to move on without baggage from a past mistake or something in your career that wronged you
  7. Persistence and Perseverance – Ability to overcome challenging situations and obstacles and maintain the same energy
  8. Patience – ability to step back in an emergency to think clearly or the ability to pause and wait when you are in a rush or want to rush others.
  9. Communication skills – skills to listen and articulate your ideas in writing and verbally to any audience in a way where you are heard and you achieve the goals you intended with that communication. This is also known as interpersonal communication skills
  10. Presentation skills – ability to maintain attention and achieve your desired outcome from presenting to an audience
  11. Facilitating skills – ability to coordinate and solicit well represented opinions and feedback from a group with diverse perspectives to reach a common, best solution.
  12. Interviewing skills – ability to sell your skills as an interviewee or accurately assess other’s ability or extract the needed information as an interviewer
  13. Selling skills – this is not just for people in sales.  This is the ability to build buy-in to an idea, a decision, an action, a product, or a service
  14. Meeting management skills – at least 50% of meetings today in corporate america are a waste of time.  This is the skill to efficiently and effectively reach productive results from leading a meeting
  15. Influence / persuasion skills – ability to influence perspective or decision making but still have the people you influence think they made up their own mind.
  16. Team work skills – ability to work effectively with anyone with different skill sets, personalities, work styles,  or motivation level
  17. Management skillsability to motivate and create a high performing team with people of varied skills, personalities, motivations, and work styles.
  18. Leadership skills – ability to create and communicate vision and ideas that inspires others to follow with commitment and dedication.
  19. Skills in dealing with difficult personalities – Ability to work well or manage someone whom you find difficult
  20. Skills in dealing with difficult situationsAbility to stay calm and still be effective when faced with an unexpected difficult situation.
  21. Ability to think / communicate on your feet (under pressure) – ability to articulate thoughts in an organized manner even when you are not prepared for the question or situation you are in
  22. Networking skillsability to be interesting and interested in business conversations that motivates people to want to be in your network.
  23. Interpersonal relationship skillsability to build trust, find common ground, have empathy, and ultimately build good relationships with people you like or in positions of power/influence.
  24. Negotiation skillsability to understand the other side and reach a win-win resolution that you find favorably, satisfies both sides, and maintains relationships for future dealings
  25. Mentoring / coaching skills – ability to provide constructive wisdom, guidance, and/or feedback that can help others further their career development
  26. Organizing skills – ability to organize business gatherings to facilitate learning, networking, or business transactions
  27. Self-promotion skills ability to subtly promote your skills and work results to people of power or influence in your organization.  This will build your reputation and influence.
  28. Savvy in handling office politics – office politics is a fact of life in corporate america.  This is the ability to understand and deal with office politics so you can protect yourself from unfairness as well as further your career.
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On the flip side of the Mathematician is the Salesperson.  Someone who needs little schooling but a lot of personality.  They need to excel in persuasion, and the art of the deal.  They know how to sell themselves, on and off-line. But for most of us, our personal story will be a mix of both hard and soft skills.  I have had to balance my deep technical knowledge (hard skills), with the ability to handle clients, negotiate the win-win, and delivery with grace (soft skills).

Once you do your homework, we will take a look at how you can change-up your online profile to show off who you really are.

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Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)

Know Thy Self First

Finding the words to define one’s expertise is hard. There are now several pages in my notebook* filled with one or two-word descriptions of things that I believe that I am good at and things that I am an expert in.  After I wrote down all these words, I then took time to think about what I meant by each of them.  I call this deep thinking.

daily_planner_writing_md_wht(*About the Notebook: I told you to get a good notebook, right?  You really need to be writing this stuff down. I’m using a really nice bound journal but you could just steal one from your kid’s school supply stash.  Believe me, you need to have something to write all your Attitude Adjustment Activities in. Stop reading and go get paper and pen now!)

Building your personal brand is a mix of several things and expertise is a big part of it.  Until you know what you are good at, it is really hard to communicate it to others.  And the communication part is what social branding is all about.  You need to ask yourself:  What is it I am known for?  If I ask a colleague or acquaintance, what would they say I am an expert in?  Would they know my distinct point of view on a subject? (And a future thought: Is that what I want to be known for?)

Attitude Adjustment Homework #1:  On at least one sheet of paper, write down the answer to the question “I am ______________”

I am ….a change agent; innovator; caring; mentor; mother; teacher; project manager; driven…..  you get the idea.

Attitude Adjustment Homework #2:  Take some of your words and make a WORD CLOUD (its fun and helps you to visualize).  You can make your cloud at http://www.wordle.net/create.

Here is my word cloud:

wordle expertis

I wanted to understand what ‘expertise’ meant, so I researched it on the internet, but I was not happy with any of the definitions that I found.  The definition I like the best is actually one of ‘competencies,’ and it came from IBM‘s internal encyclopedia called ‘Bluepedia:’

“Competencies are comprised of a balanced and coherent mixture of know-how (skills), know-what (knowledge), know-why (relevant experience) and individual attitude.”

Let’s break that down: (1) know HOW, (2) know WHAT, (3) know WHY, and (4) ATTITUDE.  If you have those four elements of competency then you can definitely consider yourself an expert in an area.  That works for me.

Attitude Adjustment Homework #3: Check in with other people to see if they agree with your cloud of expertise and if they would add or delete anything.

animationfinalKeep up the good attitude.  See you next blog.

– Lorian

(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)