EditorialsLeadership

Build your brand with smiles and a firm handshake

published by the Nashville Business Journal

You are your brand. Everything you say and do communicates your brand—your mark, identification, label, distinct characteristics—to everyone you come in contact with, so do all you can to build the strongest brand image possible for yourself. Each time you interact with others it sends a message, and you want your message to convey your ethics and essence. Here a few thoughts on building your personal brand.

Look sharp. Your appearance is the starting point. We have all heard that a first glance often becomes a lasting impression, so get it right every time. Dress for your position or, better yet, dress for the positon to which you aspire. Check yourself in the mirror before you leave for work. Any doubts? Dress one level up. Not sure about appearance? Get some help from a mentor—a friend at a higher-level position or a professional coach.

Shake right. An appropriately firm handshake sends a clear signal of confidence and character. A weak handshake could imply that you are unsure of yourself. However an overpowering handshake makes others uncomfortable and raises other questions about the authenticity of your character. A sweaty handshake might give away your nervousness in your own skin.

Make eye contact. Direct eye contact sends a message of strength. When you look down it may suggest you have something to hide. When you’re constantly looking elsewhere the message you send is that you are disinterested. The right amount of eye contact conveys sincerity, interest and honesty.

Get acquainted. Make sure introductions are clear and that names and, and in most cases, job titles or responsibilities are understood. In large groups name badges are often helpful for breaking the ice and encouraging follow up. You don’t want people leaving asking themselves, “Who was that person?”

Stay engaged. Don’t get sidetracked. Stay in the game and concentrate. You earn respect when you listen and pay attention. Digest what is communicated, ask good questions and wait your turn to participate. Looking distracted and unfocused will only work to damage your brand, leaving people with a poor impression of you.  

Trash distractions. Turn the cell phone off or, better yet, leave it somewhere else entirely. Nothing can end a meaningful interaction faster than one party stopping to answer an almost-always-less-important call. Get out from behind your desk and away from your computer so you are not even tempted to look at the latest email. If something does distract you, write a quick note, put it away and continue with business.

Smile a lot. The old expression is so true: “Smile and the world smiles with you.” A smile instantly communicates warmth, confidence and character. A stern look or frown may send a message of insincerity and lack of interest; still worse, to some people it could convey deceit and dishonesty. Just think how much better you feel when talking with a person who smiles.

Your brand is everything and only you can build and shape your brand. The thoughts above are just part of your life-long brand-building mission. Be positive about all you do and diligently work to project that image to others. It is not just an image—it’s you. 

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