Numerous companies in the Czech Republic are confronted today with the threat of losing their best people to competition. On a market with the lowest unemployment in Europe Czech companies have reached their limits for horizontal expansion. This takes the competition for talent to the next level of intensity and recklessness, with significant impacts on the sustainability of the Czech economy. What can companies do to prevent bleeding talent and at the same time secure their own potential for innovative growth in the process? The answer might be more counter-intuitive than you might think.
Years after years, first as a journalist, then as a strategic communications consultant I saw companies trying to build their future stars. In the HR departments I heard endless complaints about people not being willing to do what it takes (moving from a city to another, taking expat assignments, joining company boards as women) to grow in their careers. In the PR departments I heard the same complaints; only this time they were tackling people’s unwillingness to share their know-how for company communications. So I was wondering what was going on.
Personally I don’t know one single person who is self-aware and who wouldn’t like to do purposeful work that contributes to the benefits of the whole – the project, the team, the company.
The more I mulled over the topic, the more I realized that the keyword in the reflection above was the word self-awareness. People are not willing to grow in their careers – and thus willingly accept more exposure and vulnerability either as leaders or communicators – simply because they are afraid they can't stand up to the new challenge and will make mistakes that will end up costing them dearly. The inner world of such people – vision, values, sense of one’s own strengths, weaknesses and core competencies – is simply not aligned with what is expected from them.
That’s why so many brilliant people would rather spend time inventing excuses on why they can't engage in the next project - or leave the company altogether is the pressure becomes too high - rather than, well, simply go for it. As long as our inner world and sense of self is not aligned with what we experience on the outside, in life and work, any opportunity coming towards us feels like a burden, like a curse.
Personal branding = Self-promotion?
How to move away from this labyrinth, I wondered.
The answer to this conundrum came to me this year when I stood in front of a personal challenge. I wanted to bring together everything that I learned and whom I became in my career – my journalistic and media relations expertise, my ulterior education in Enneagram, personal development and emotional intelligence, and a strong inner drive to do work with meaning. The answer that came to me was apparently simple: in order to unleash their full potential in leadership and communications, people could use something – a toll, a strategy, a process - that would allow them to deeply align their inner world with the leadership and communication requirements from them in the outside world. I called this tool, this process Personal Branding for Thought Leadership, Career and Business Growth.
Before moving forward I must make a distinction between personal branding and self-promotion.
As opposed to vainglorious, ego-driven self-promotion I understand personal branding as the strategic, deep and complex process of individual communications from the inside out. Personal branding for me is the process of finding the best in yourself and sharing it with the world for mutual, far-reaching benefits. It means that, in order for someone to be wiling – and ready – to communicate, to go out there and put his or her name at stake for the benefit of their organization – they first need to go inside and do the deep work necessary – clarify one’s vision, mission, values and means of creating purpose in work and life. Then we can take this unique individual "material" and learn how to communicate it.
Strategic communication skills – from the most overlooked such as listening and asking for feedback – to the most obvious – presentation skills and media relations – become thus strategic tools in the toolbox of the self-aware thought leaders. Like any good artisan, the future thought leaders become able to pull out the right communication instruments – approaches, messages, channel - and use them in full confidence regardless of outer circumstances for the purpose of the common good.
As opposed to spending time inventing excuses on why they can't use the opportunity in front of them, self-aware thought leaders take a step back, explore the opportunity, decide if it’s relevant for them and the whole (their group, team, organisation). If yes, they sit down and make a plan – they craft their message, choose the tone of their communication – then they simply go for it, fully aware that each communication interaction is a learning opportunity that will take them to the next level.
A multiple win solution
Thought leaders rejoice in the benefits of their communications. It is this joy of achieving something for the service of all parts involved, including my organization, that keeps today's employees in companies. It is the satisfaction of achieving something major, something that I couldn’t have achieved on my own that is the glue keeping good people in their current organizations. If this emotional glue doesn’t exist, a decision about staying or leaving an organization goes down to the basics – the payroll, which throws companies in an unsustainable talent rat-race and spiral of salary negotiations with no guarantee of long-term retention, engagement and sustainable success.
So what’s the solution? If you're a company concerned about losing your best people because of intensifying competition on the labor market do what you need to do to spot your future thoughts leaders and encourage them to become their own brands. Give them support and a framework for their personal development. Hold their back while they are exploring what’s truly good and unique about their talent. Once found, encourage them to put their unique life gifts to your service.