Challenges a Manager Face in Personal Branding

Eureka moment of personal branding struck me around twelve years ago standing in one of the stores of my employer at that time. A customer was aggressively rebuking one of the Customer Support Associate for something which he had no role to play. It was my second day in the organization. I tried to intervene but only thing happened was direction of his ire got diverted towards me.


Organization is an established Indian MNC with diverse business interest spread across the world, but the business operation which I was part of, had started the operations around six-seven months back. I can vouch for the fact that everyone I met during those two days and had been meeting earlier also were doing the maximum best to create the best consumer experience. But since this operation was expanding at break neck speed, many a thing which needed attention was not getting attended on priority. 


The customer probably had a grudge towards new generation of professionals who are career oriented and keep striving for financial growth. His views were preposterous but since he was the customer, I listened to his verbal aggression patiently, appreciated him for taking time out to register his protest, immediately informed the concerned Category Manager and assured him to address his challenge. Initially I disliked his words about the professionals like me but when I pondered over the event and his outpouring against us and not towards the business owner, I realized that the business owner has reputation consistently build by him and his previous generations over more than hundred years which we don’t have and that’s why this customer and many others like him are ready to put their faith in business owner and not in us. After that I started taking my personal brand a bit seriously. Though certain exigency took my time off from my endeavour towards building a solid personal brand but I kept talking about it with other professionals since then. I also started helping them in crafting their personal brand strategy. Since then I have talked to more than a thousand people and have realized that only leaders can think about creating his or her personal brand, not the managers. Managers live their personal and professional life with many self imposed mental constraints. Some of the prominent mental constraints I have come across are as follows: 


- Managers dislike questions- You are a leader when take your people along, lead from the front and relegate yourself in the background at the time of claiming the reward. Once I came across an incident where new CEO of a reputed organization gave continuous lecture to employees about integrity and scope of the meaning of integrity according to him. He forfeited the incentives of all the middle management and lower level employees to the extent of seventy five percent in the name of poor financial condition of the organization, but rewarded himself with the hundred and twenty percent incentive. This news of course got leaked in the organization led to disgruntled murmurs but since it was the time of financial crisis due to US subprime crisis and many were losing jobs across the industry and in the said organization also, so no one talked and eventually this act got buried down in no time.


They doesn’t entertain their critical evaluation from their people to make themselves more likeable and approachable. This is something which is missing in the managers. They assume that they have been hired by the management to guide his team to targeted result and that’s why they must have all the answers ready to not to let any question arise. Though they like to call it being pro-active, but they create the question beforehand for their answers.


-Managers hate criticism: - Criticism, even the honest one hurts the emotion of managers. Since they are know-all people, they don’t accept the fact that they can go wrong. They have strong confirmation bias, where they often lead their decisions to. Recently I posed a question on social media to a senior professional about something related to his area of expertise. I agree to the fact that though question was related to his area of expertise but it required to think thoroughly before giving the answer. Since that professional falls into second level of my network, I got the feedback that he was afraid to answer my question in the fear of going wrong and inviting either a counter question or a rebuttal. This is just one of the many examples. 


-Managers don’t create a feedback mechanism unless and until it is forced upon them: Due to above two reasons, managers don’t create feedback mechanism unless and until it is forced upon them. Even in the case of forced feedback mechanism, organizational culture doesn’t entertain criticism of senior professionals in the name of discipline. This leads to strengthening of behavioural status quo bias among managers.


 -Managers like controlled environment where only they can talk:- Though managers pretend to encourage discussion and opinion sharing but they don’t appreciate it in reality. They like the controlled environment where only they get the chance and authority to speak. 


In 2017, a Google employee James Damore wrote an anti-diversity memo at an internal platform, which was considered misogynistic. Somehow it got leaked in the media and employee was fired. Sundar Pichai, CEO of the company, came out with a statement in media that he don’t misogynistic opinions and comments in the organization and that’s why that employee was fired from the organization. My point is; the organization like Google, which has invested billions of dollars in neuroscience research and has infinite permutations of human behavioural data, could have countered the arguments with facts and research, instead he was fired unceremoniously. Had he been countered by the organization with research data and facts, it could have settled the debate of difference between man and woman in tech industry probably once and for all.  


Steve Balmer groomed Satya Nadella for the position of CEO of Microsoft. If you read the book “Hit Refresh” written by Satya Nadella, you will find him very critical of the organizational culture he inherited from Steve. Not only he brought in three sixty degree shift in organizational culture but reversed the business decisions of Steve. You listen to Steve Balmer and you will find nothing but praise for Satya Nadella and pride in his achievements.


-Managers don’t appreciate something which doesn’t fit into their scheme of things: For a manager, everything is a resource which he has to use to achieve his objective. If something is not serving a manager’s purpose, it won’t be appreciated even if it is highly valuable to someone else or had been highly valuable to the same manager in the past.


I was talking to my ex-boss sometime back. He told me about the organization where he worked and helped to build robust sales figure for seven years. Two successive government decisions of demonetisation and implementation of GST brought in huge shock in the market. These decisions impacted also impacted his business and initially he was cold shouldered and ultimately had to leave the organization. I asked him whether he was disappointed the way he was treated. He said that initially he was of course disappointed but accepted the fact that he is just a resource which has to return the value of salary being paid to him.  


If anyone wants to stick to above points as their core guiding principle of professional life, then they can be successful managers but not the business leader and definitely not fit for creating personal brand, because people will follow their business success not him.

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Abhay Kumar
Nice observation....insightful....
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