Personal Branding: It’s All About Creating Great Footprints in Our Life

This winter has created a terrible snow situation here in the New York City metro area. There is snow everywhere.

I looked outside this morning and could see footprints of various animals walking through the snow. Their footprints were all visible showing the directions that they were headed.

As many of you who follow my blog know, my daughter recently started her first post-college job. In resigning from the two part-time jobs that she was working, she did her exit interview. She was so excited that both companies said that they would rehire her. They told her that anytime she wanted to come back part-time, they would accommodate her.

My response was “you created a great brand during your stay and you made the connection.”

It is all in the brand whether it is the organization or you personally.

I told my daughter a story about how I was invited to lunch a few months back by a very good friend Mark Winkler, VP Circulation at Martha Stewart Living. We decided that, rather than meeting at the restaurant, I would come up to his office.

This was the first time that I had been there since I left in 2008. I was a little hesitant at first since I had been gone so long. I knew the company had gone through a lot of changes and there were a lot of new faces.

But there were still lots of people that I was looking forward to seeing. I had kept up with them by e-mail, Facebook and all the social media tools.

Creating footprints

As we go through our professional lives, sometimes we lose track of the “footprints” that we have created. We become so occupied in the pursuit that sometimes we do not look back at the climb and how we got there.

  • Did we create a lasting impression?
  • Did we make the right connections?
  • Did we go beyond our job descriptions and really touch someone.
  • How would someone finish this sentence? — “The thing that I remember most about XXX is?”

As we manage our careers, we sometimes lose track of these type of things. We get caught up moving through the day almost on auto pilot. We sometimes take small steps (and sometimes big ones), trying to constantly move forward one our “path.”

We must keep track and be aware of the human element on our path now more than ever, whether this is in hiring, coaching, mentoring, or just making the connection. In making this connection, it is now always about the higher ups.

Making the connection

After 9/11, the security in buildings throughout New York drastically changed. You could not go to any company unless you checked in downstairs and showed your company ID badge or some type of official ID.

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On one particular day, I was coming back from lunch with one of our Senior VP’s when she suddenly realized that she did not have her badge. She began to panic, “How am I going to get upstairs?” I told her no worries, we would make it happen.

When we got to security, I saw Jose who I knew from sometimes stopping by just to chat and get the latest updates on his kids. I greeted him and we talked for a few minutes like old friends. A few minutes later, he waved us through.

As we got out of earshot, the Senior VP asked how I knew Jose. My simple answer was that I introduced myself to him when I first started working in the building years ago, and that I speak to him personally each day when I come in. I made the connection, sans rank.

There was another time that one of our senior executives was leaving the company because her husband was being transferred. Her team planned an event one evening in the conference room and invited all the senior officers. Two people showed up but stayed only an appropriate amount of time before leaving. It did not matter that these invites had been sent a few week prior. The connections were not made.

Creating a great footprint

My revisit to the company recently was unbelievable. The word had gotten around the week before I came in.

I will never be a rock star, but the response to me made me feel like one. Everyone came by to speak, get a handshake, or just to say hello. People were stopping in the middle of conversations to come over. Our van driver heard that I was upstairs and left his van just to come up to say hi to me.

After Mark and I had lunch, I smiled all the way home. I was so thankful that I had created a great footprint and I was damn proud of it.

Everyone is important in our lives and it is OK to let them know that.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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