You should never be told to quiet your voice, limit your creativity or suppress your spirit because, “The Company says you have to do it this way.” The company or corporation does not have a mouth. Yet the company was built on values and a brand. To be successful, there has to be a match between your personal brand and the one that represents the team, alliance or organization you work with.
First, let me clear up what a company or corporation is. Underneath this explanation are clues to why you will either flourish or fade under your frustration at work. This definition can be applied to how you work with any group of people, including teams, communities and families.
In spite of what some politicians would like you to believe, a corporation is not a person. It is a piece of paper. It’s a series of agreements made by people. It does not have a thinking brain and beating heart. Although we can use metaphors to make the corporation appear to be a living being, a corporation survives on money, not food and affection. And when a corporation dies, there is nothing to bury or burn but the original paper that created it.
However, any work you do with someone else, whether it’s a partnership, alliance, small business or multi-national corporation, is regulated by specific beliefs that the partners or founders—the people—infused into the agreement when it was conceived. This gives the company the sense that it is alive in the form of its values, culture and living brand.
In other words, the team, company or corporation does not have a face but it has a soul, mirroring what is important to the people who came together to create something they couldn’t do alone.
To succeed and even to stand out at work, what you stand for has to align with what the company stands for in the form of the values and the brand that it lives every day. In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras explains that these values guide behavior in daily life across all levels of the organization. Whereas a person’s work values may shift based on their position of leadership, company values and what the organization stands for—the brand—are stable over time.
The core values stay stable even if someone changes the posters and business cards. The values and brand are present in how meetings are run, how people feel when they are at work and what someone tells you when you ask them how they like their job.
Therefore, no matter how good your work is, your success depends on how well you align with the values and brand—the soul—of the company.
I have left companies where it was clear my brand did not align with theirs. If I would have known this before I started the work, I would have moved on in spite of the money offered. Now that I work for myself, I have to be conscious of this alignment when I chose to work with partners and clients. If there is no match, I can’t do my best work.
However, when I was a company employee, my greatest success came when I realized how my best contribution—creating a workplace that is both fun and inspiring for all—aligned with the company’s core values of innovation, experimentation and team spirit. There were other values that didn’t match up to mine very well such as the value for crushing the competition, but when I focused on the match, I was a star.
This process of discovering how you can align what you stand for to what the organization stands for at its core is defined in Suzanne Bates’ new book, Discover Your CEO Brand: Secrets to Embracing and Maximizing Your Unique Value as a Leader (McGraw Hill).
The book is not just for CEOs. It’s for anyone who wants to institute change in a company that benefits both the bottom line and the people who achieve this. It’s about discovering your own values, brand and leadership style, and then determining how this will align with what your organization stands for so you can harness the two to work in concert. Or you can discover when your path needs to start somewhere else where the alignment is clear.
Suzanne says, “The brand begins with the story of you—the experiences that defined you, the lessons you learned, and the ways those lessons shaped your values and beliefs. Once you understand the essence of your brand, you will be able to communicate it to the world. It will become a powerful force, creating positive results. You will be able to leverage that brand of yours to drive tremendous value into your company.”
Personal branding isn’t just about marketing. It’s about your happiness. Know your values and brand and then have the courage to only align with people where you can stand by your brand. If you do this, you will flourish. Otherwise, you will flounder under the conflict with your partners, leaders and your own heart.