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Our professional brand is defined in two ways:  The first is by the decisions we make, the actions we take and how we conduct ourselves. The second way is by how others perceive what we do, say or how we act.  

In today's rough and tumble "new normal" economy in healthcare, executives who ignore the importance of professional brand management do so at their own peril.  

In the coming months and years, CEOs and members of their senior leadership will be forced to make tough choices as payors place more pressure on health systems, hospitals and physicians to improve their performance in the crucial areas of quality, safety and satisfaction at the same time that Congress considers additional funding cuts because of the country's serious national debt crisis. These two events will produce some tough sledding for us all.

When I think of the worsening economic/reimbursement storm, and the impact it will have on executives in far too many healthcare organizations, the title of Marshall Goldsmith's wonderfully instructive book comes to mind:  "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There."

The first step for a CEO or other senior leaders is to take stock of their current professional brand.  Begin by talking to your Personal Assistant.  Not only do they interact with you as much — or more — than anyone else except your spouse, but they usually are good listeners to the organization's informal news channels.  They are a treasure trove of information, both good and bad, regarding how you are perceived. (A cautionary note: if you are a CEO with a reputation as someone who hates to hear the truth, then do not expect much honesty from your colleagues. Reach out for a professional coach who can help you get a handle on this very important issue. There are some outstanding people in the field who can help you sort this out as well as plot a successful branding strategy going forward.)

An important hint: while you can get away with this kind of candid conversation with your PA without much advance warning — she is probably used to it — develop a plan for talking with members of your senior leadership team.  Be mindful that a sudden burst of self-reflection might ignite panic or a wave of rumor regarding your or THEIR future.  Take the time to explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.

If you truly want to succeed in developing a gold plated professional brand, do not immediately reject as misguided those criticisms that surprise or irritate you. It is infinitely easier to point out the problems with someone else's leadership style or performance than it is to take stock of our own areas for improvement. Dismissing that with which you disagree can be a big mistake.

This process can and probably will be uncomfortable.  When I get negative feedback about elements of a speech –an idea or construct that I particularly liked, it frustrates me.  Like many of you, I start looking for the push back button. I know that if I am going to move into the top tier as a professional speaker (FYI: I plan to keep my day job as an executive recruiter) I must be willing to examine the good, the bad and irritating critiques and force myself to rethink the issues in question.   

So must we all.  We can no longer take for granted the importance of our professional brand. We will all need a full reservoir of good will and support.




© 2011 John Gregory Self

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