REMAINING CALM DURING CHAOS: How to Position Your Brand During Transformational Change

The handwriting is on the wall–you have to pivot or reinvent yourself to remain relevant.

Photo by Hans Peter-Gauster

Author S. Renee Smith

As I talk with my inner circle of national leaders who are scrambling to identify solutions for America’s challenges, I’m clear that the time is now to be intentional about who you are, how you show up, and the work in which you decide to engage.

Even before coronavirus, America has had a pandemic and experienced an economic depression. And we have marched for equal rights. However, to my knowledge, NEVER have we faced all three at the same time. This is a peculiar time but many opportunities await those who intentionally package, position, and promote themselves.

Takeovers, mergers, market movement, and new leadership can come in a wave, storm, or tsunami. We are in the midst of a tsunami.

Therefore, you have to decide whether the direction of the company you work for is still a good fit for you. Most companies in transition will want to minimize the loss of valued employees, but they know everyone isn’t built for unstable, turbulent environments that transition often creates. If you decide to stay, position yourself so that leadership can see your commitment, stability, and faith in them and the organization.

This is how to navigate change, position yourself, practice executive presence, and increase your brand’s value:

Keep your eyes on your target. During drastic change, transition, and transformation, it’s typical to feel as though you don’t know what your next step should be. It’s traumatizing to feel disconnected, vulnerable, and at risk of losing your job and all that you’ve invested. Decide on your target and keep your eyes on it.

Know the focus of the organization. We are creatures of habit, but change is upon us. The people, the rules, and the system are in the midst of transformation. Clearly, what you’ve done over the last 20 years isn’t necessarily needed for the next 20 years. It doesn’t align with the new paradigm. Remember, when you were hired you were a part of the team who implemented a new way of doing business. Organizational change isn’t personal; it’s a deliberate attempt to keep the company relevant and competitive in the marketplace.

Staying in the past will only frustrate leadership and cause you to sabotage your career. Ask questions to understand why the leadership team believes the decisions they’re making are necessary. As best you can, stay out of the emotional pit, and put what you hear into context so that you see where you are, where they want to go, and how you can help them get there.

Realign your brand. Based on what you learn by being attentive, asking questions, and realigning your brand, here are some foundational basics:

During a transition, company leaders work to strengthen the infrastructure by streamlining processes, increasing efficiencies, and managing the negative impact of change. Leadership will tell you what they can when they can so remain alert and agile by keeping the following in mind:

Minimize distractions. Rumors will fly, and the volume of the noise will rise. Dial into your frequency, and find your guiding light. You may be on a need-to-know basis until leadership has a clear understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Don’t spend time on anything that doesn’t work for your benefit.

Control what you can control. Focus on what you’re accountable for each day and deliver. You’ll have strategic goals to meet. Push hard, meet the objectives, and the rest will take care of itself.

Brand positioning allows you to control your narrative. According to an article in USA Today, among the most common and up-to-date phrases in business, politics, and savvy American life is “‘controlling the narrative.’ That is, telling it your way before someone else gets to tell it—and possibly tell it better— their way.” The way you show up and what you say when you do, determines what people hear and respond to—even if you don’t whisper one word.

© S. Renee Smith helps employees and small business owners become more likable, marketable, and credible so that they can increase their income and influence. A branding and communications expert and author of six books, this blog is an excerpt from Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence. Check her latest free webinar: REINVENT YOURSELF: Build a Brand That Gets Results

3 MUST-HAVES TO REINVENT YOURSELF DURING ACCELERATED CHANGE

 you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you find, or what you find will do to you.” – James Baldwin

Author S. Renee Smith

I was scheduled to meet with a CEO at “The Metropolitan Club of the city of Washington.” The club is where Ambassadors, Senators, CEO’s and other dignitaries hold membership and build relationships without notepad pages flipping or cell phones buzzing—neither is allowed. 

We were meeting to discuss possible business opportunities and how I could best plan and position myself to sit on national boards. During our conversation, the CEO shared this:

Time is up for men who look like me (white). It’s becoming a woman’s world.

He was referring to the #metoo message that was surging as a leader in shifting power dynamics in the workplace. However, since then, the #blacklivesmatter movement has taken center stage. Protestors, advocates, and everyday people from all walks of life have united their influence on social media platforms to create radical change that is transforming workplace cultures.

What I’m noticing is that by joining forces, space is being created for employees who are marginalized to call leaders out for disrespecting them, and negligently hindering employees career success. Once an incident is posted on a social media platform and likes and retweets multiply, the national media picks up the story. With massive exposure, the offender comes forward with a sorrowful apology and submits a shameful resignation. 

Employee and customer power, what I call public empowerment, is even shifting company policies at drastically rapid rates.

According to reports, Starbucks reversed a standing policy that bans sporting gear that advocates for religious or political movements, including Black Lives Matter,” after staff and customers threatened to boycott. This recognition is also shifting the perspectives, strategic plans, and resources of organizations. Such as the case with Comcast, who posted a multi-year strategic plan on June 8, 2020, dedicating 100 million dollars to advance social justice and equality. And they aren’t the only one.

What do these transitions mean for you? 

I believe they are ushering in a new consciousness and countless opportunities to make a difference in so many spaces.  

Companies are pivoting and will continue to be forward-focused and employee-centered. As such, it’s likely, what you did before February 2020 will no longer suit the needs of an evolving workplace.

For this reason, you have to reinvent yourself. I suggest you start observing where companies are headed and what role you want to play as an employee or as a business owner. 

Here are a few thoughts:

Rewrite your brand story.

  • The story you shared before the health pandemic, economic crisis, and racial awakening most likely will no longer fit due to the all drastic adjustments we all have had to make to survive. Rethink what new experiences you’ll share and craft an innovative message based on them.

Assess your brand equity.

  • How much is your brand worth? What have you learned from the current challenges, and what intellectual property have you acquired? Get clear on what you can offer and how much it’s worth to an organization.

Evaluate your network.

  • Although not impossible, as a result of being in quarantine, it’s difficult to build reliable, trusting relationships with new people. List the people who know, like, and trust you. Think about their brand equity and seek their assistance in helping you expand your brand and network.

As you pivot to reinvent yourself, take the time to craft, communicate, and market your message effectively.

© 2020 S. Renee Smith is an executive and communications and branding expert. She helps senior leaders increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable, and credible. She is also the author of six books on communication, branding, and self-esteem. For more tips, visit asksrenee.com. Want to reinvent yourself? Learn more about S. Renee’s upcoming workshop here.

WHY I AVOIDED THE “R” WORD

For the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

Author S. Renee Smith

Like many people, I’ve had anxiety about the pandemic and concerns regarding the economy. As I watched the murder of George Floyd and the unfolding events thereafter, I moved from sadness to anger to reflection to curiosity!

My personal interest and position as a Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer invited me to many conversations about racism, inequality, diversity, and opportunity. I’ve watched with amenity the protesters and their persistence to drive change.

I’ve even had moments when I thought of myself as a coward because I wasn’t among the thousands of people who risked their lives to march in the scorching sun, hold signs, and chant, “I can’t breathe” to demand a shift in racist behaviors. 

It wasn’t until family and friends reminded me that I was in the fight when I spoke up in boardrooms about over medicating black and impoverished children and the need to recruit more black police officers. And that each time I fought for my humanity by challenging leadership when I was mistreated due to the lack of inclusion, I was impacting change. Further, I helped gift the world with generations of future leaders when I founded an academic scholarship for black students (now an endowment at DSU an HBCU) needing assistance to help navigate university corridors that would otherwise have been closed to them.

I came to realize that by sharing my story in my first book, There Is More Inside (2005), about my three white friends who “came to me and said that they could no longer be my friend because I was black,” and in the same book encouraging diversity was my way of influencing transformation. Here some of what was published:

“In social situations, I notice that people segregate themselves. It has been proven that people are more comfortable with people who look like them, but it has also been proven that there is tremendous power, insight, and creativity in diversity. Because I believe in the power of diversity, I try to keep an open mind in all situations.

 In social situations, I make it a point to meet someone different from me. I’ve met some amazing people employing this method. I especially like going to tables where people are different from me. Yes, it can be intimidating, but I simply walk over and say, “Hi! Is anyone sitting here?”

It seems like time stops as they all look at me in a daze. I then hear, “Oh no, help yourself.” I do this because I think it is essential to send the message that I’m comfortable with you and myself — regardless of our differences — and that I don’t have to only be around people who look like me to feel secure. If you get to know me and I get to know you, our lives will be enriched because of our time together. Sometimes I’m received with friendly, open arms, and sometimes I’m not. And that’s okay. “

Today, I wouldn’t say it’s okay–because it’s not. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked confessions of white privilege, disclosure of disingenuous diversity and inclusion programs, and utterances of shame for failing to recognize personal biases and behaviors that uphold a system that mistreats people of color. None of us benefit from continuing to cause America’s soul to ache. We have to continue to press and push for equality and fairness in wherever space we occupy.

General C.Q. Brown’s (the first Black U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) speech What Am I Thinking nails it! As tears rolled down my face, I saw myself in his stories. I felt his pain, saw the distress in his eyes, and heard the impact of racism on him and his family.

Most importantly, for the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

General Brown’s power and eloquence in reflections provide “Why?” the time is now. This is a God glory moment. The United States Declaration of Independence declares that “all men (woman) are created equal.” In living the fullness of who I am, I want to live out that decree in love, understanding, and peace and I’m willing to do the work that will help get us there. How about you? 

If this article speaks to you, please like, add a comment and share it with others. Thank you in advance.

© All rights reserved 2020 S. Renee Smith is recognized self-esteem, branding, and communications expert, and author of six books. They include Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness – How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want and Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence.