There has been a lot of pressure on the modern L&D leader in the past 18 months to build their skills and capabilities, moving from tactical to strategic and aligning learning to business objectives. However, despite the influx of discussion around this, and the industry acceptance to head in this direction, the reality is that these skills are seeing little to no improvement.
In 2016, L&D professionals recognised the need to prioritise a broad range of skills that included learning strategy, business acumen and stakeholder engagement. This complemented the shift to an L&D business partner role and the strategic position learning needed to take in organisations.
At the end of 2017, Towards Maturity research highlighted the fact that there had barely been an improvement in the level of these skills through the learning industry. There could be many reasons for this – increased pressures, lack of development time, lack of opportunity to hone these skills and even the absence of desire to do so.
It can seem like a mountain to climb; especially if these skills are entirely new to you, or if it’ll be a battle to create these opportunities. So how can we, as L&D professionals, create these opportunities for ourselves and develop our skills? It all comes down to personal brand, or as I like to call it, Me Plc.
It’s time to start thinking about yourself
Naturally, we put all our time and efforts into developing others. When we do this, it’s easy to push our own development to the side, eventually finding ourselves out of our comfort zone.
What we need to do is consider ourselves as a brand; start to think of yourself almost (I said almost) in the third person.
Your personal brand is what people think about you when you’re not there to influence them.
Having a personal brand can help us to be more objective and enable us to promote ourselves more effectively. But why bother?
Not only does having an effective personal brand get you noticed, build your credibility and create empowerment, it also gives you choices. And that’s what is key here.
Why do I need choices?
With that mountain of skills that L&D ‘need’ to obtain, it can difficult to know where to start. Do you head straight down the strategic planning route, or do you focus on performance consulting? Perhaps you are only getting the opportunity to improve your classroom delivery skills, or your coaching and mentoring capabilities – and you aren’t feeling inspired by this.
Developing your personal brand means that you can decide what you are known for, based on your current skills, your passions and where you would like to develop. If technology isn’t your thing, that’s fine. And if data analytics excites you, then you can make the decision to be the best at it.
And, once you have identified your brand, you can ask yourself “will XYZ take me closer to or further away from my brand” when faced with choices and tough decisions. I can’t promise you that you’ll always be able to go down your chosen route, but you will feel clearer about it.
How do I uncover my personal brand?
Your personal brand is what people think about you when you’re not there to influence them. It’s what they say about you to other people, in meetings or on the phone. This means that you need to start by being true to yourself.
Think about what you are good at, what you particularly enjoy doing, what projects excite you and where you’d like your role and career to go.
Look back over the past twelve months and think about what you were proud of, what you did particularly well and what key skills you used. Some people will find this much harder than others, but there’s no need for modesty here – this exercise is for your eyes only.
Whenever you’re faced with a new challenge or opportunity, be sure to consider your personal brand and how your decisions will impact it.
Reflecting on your 2017 successes allows you to identify your key skills and personal attributes that make you stand out from the crowd. If you enjoyed doing those things as well, then you’ll have started to recognise some of the things that make you happy professionally.
This knowledge and understanding will enable you to look into the next year and identify areas where you’d like to develop yourself and take ownership of your personal development. It is a good idea to set up a personal learning network at this stage, to help you bridge the knowledge gaps you would like to.
What about promoting my personal brand?
Once you’re confident about your brand – about who you are professionally, what your strengths are and where you can excel and drive your organisation – it’s time to make sure others recognise it too.
There are many ways to achieve this, and how you tackle it will depend on your situation, your personality and your contacts. I’d recommend starting with some stakeholder mapping to identify who you would like to demonstrate your brand to, then try to gain opportunities to speak to them and prove your abilities and style.
Social media is another great way to promote your brand. Make sure that you’re talking about the topics your brand represents, in a way that represents you. It might sound rudimentary but using your voice in all of your communications is absolutely key. Anyone who comes across you should be able to identify your brand easily and clearly.
And, whenever you’re faced with a new challenge or opportunity, be sure to consider your personal brand and how your decisions will impact it. Ensure you are consistent in your approach, as this will become recognised.
Now is the time for you to take control of your career and position yourself on the journey you want to be on. Don’t try to become the best at every skill L&D needs – there is likely other people on your team with some of those skills.
Focus on your strengths, your passions and what makes you happy to deliver the expertise your business needs in your key area.
If you want to know more about taking the steps to developing your personal brand, we’ve got a free webinar that you can access at any time.
About Stephanie Morgan
Stephanie Morgan FLPI is the Director of Learning Solutions at Bray Leino Learning. Stephanie a skilled public speaker has extensive experience in Learning and Development and is passionate about helping people thrive in an ever changing world!
One particular passion is helping people progress their careers to board level. Stephanie believes that learning is at the core of becoming a great leader.