How To Build Your Personal Brand with Kristi Faltorusso

In this episode of the B2B Leadership podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Kristi Faltorusso, VP of Customer Success at ClientSuccess.
In this episode...

0:27 - Kristi's background - Kristi explains her role at ClientSuccess.
2:04 - A trip back in time - How did Kristi get into her first leadership position?
6:52 - Proactive problem solving - Kristi learned a key piece of advice at the ripe old age of 24.
9:08 - First leadership position - How did Kristi navigate to the point where she was leading a team of 15 people?
14:04 - The customer success world - Did Kristi enter the customer success world in a leadership position or as an individual contributor?
17:24 - Defining your brand - What are some of the most important elements of doing this from a leadership perspective?
19:23 - Navigating gray area - How was Kristi able to develop and implement a vision for her brand?
27:15 - Stories that stick - How do you go about telling your story with authenticity?
28:35 - Small tasks, big impact - How do you remain authentic when the work you're doing isn't significant?
30:29 - The art of storytelling - How does the storytelling element come into the picture when you're developing content?
34:50 - Social media overwhelm - What advice would Kristi give the listeners about sharing their voice?
38:27 - B2B Leaders Academy early adopter - What is it about Nil's program that gave Kristi the confidence to share the resources with her team?
42:37 - Kristi's advice to herself - What advice would Kristi give her younger self?

Connect with Kristi Faltorusso: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristiserrano/

Learn more about ClientSuccess at https://www.clientsuccess.com/

Learn more about your own leadership style at:
https://www.30dayleadership.com/

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This episode was brought to you by B2B Leaders Academy

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Click here to learn more about B2B Leaders Academy.

There are many ways to build your personal brand from a leadership perspective. But why do you even need to develop your personal brand as a leader?

In this episode, Kristi talked about exactly how she has built an amazing personal brand from a leadership perspective and why you need one.

Kristi's background

Kristi Faltorusso is the Vice President of Customer Success at ClientSuccess, a customer success management solution company, helping their customers in their journey from onboarding through retention and advocacy.

A trip back in time

How did Kristi get into her first leadership position?

Kristi shared that her career has two acts. Act one was all in marketing and act two was in customer success.

She started her career in digital marketing and online advertising. She was 24 when she got into her first leadership position in act one as a result of her being proactive in identifying a problem and providing a solution.

Proactive problem solving

How did Kristi navigate being proactive in problem-solving at the age of 24?

In the first three years of her career, Kristi learned a lot from the first company she worked for because she held a multitude of different roles and positions. She was also exposed to a lot of different leaders on that journey as it was a large global company with a lot of processes and strong leadership.

Kristi recalled that one of her managers at the time told her to "never go to your boss with a problem but to always approach him or her with a solution". That was the first time Kristi heard it and it has resonated with her since then. This concept her manager instilled in her played a big part in getting her first leadership role.

Remember that whether it's your first leadership position, or even up into the VP ranks, it's still about solving problems. You need to put yourself in the position of how your solution is going to help other people with their problems. That's the fastest way to get where you want to go. That's how Kristi got to her first leadership position where she became responsible for a team of 15.

First leadership position

How did Kristi navigate to the point where she was leading a team of 15 people?

Nobody innately knows how to lead people without some direction and coaching. This was Kristi's first leadership position and so she didn't know what it meant to lead a team. She didn't have any formal training. She thought that leading was taking all the credit for what your team did. So she initially led with a "me" style.

She had no idea she was doing it wrong. The only thing she had to go by was emulating leaders she had seen in the past. Good, bad, or indifferent. And she didn't always have strong leaders. She was still so young back then that copying what she saw was what she thought was the best approach.

She learned a lot about herself during this time. She learned about how not to lead through her own experiences and journeys. She learned that it wasn't a "me" show. She learned how to shift the "me" to "we". She learned very much about how to coach and guide that instead of telling people what to do, it was more important to bring people in and work with them.

The biggest challenge she encountered that she struggled with up until five years ago was leading people that were older than she was because she grew up in an environment where you have to respect your elders and you do what you're told. So she found it weird to tell somebody who's older than her what to do because it felt very unnatural.

She realized later on that the number of years and experience had nothing to do with it. You were put in this role because you knew how to do the work. So you should feel empowered to go and do the work that you need to do. Remember that this is just part of your growth and development.

As a leader, the honor is to lead your people, and how serious you have to take it and think about the team first.

The customer success world

Did Kristi enter the customer success world in a leadership position or as an individual contributor?

Kristi had stayed in marketing for the first decade of her career where she had grown into the director level, the most senior level she had hit in act one. And then another opportunity came up that led her to the customer success world, the act two of her career.

She entered the customer success world as an individual contributor. It started with her identifying a problem, presenting a solution, and positioning herself as the best possible solution to that problem. It's a lot easier to solve problems when you identify them first and it's easier to position yourself as the solution to the problem when you identify the problem as opposed to the other way around.

Kristi had to rebuild all over again because she was at a director level and then she came down to an Individual Contributor. However, for her, it wasn't about the title. It was more about the opportunity.

Defining your brand

What are some of the most important elements when it comes to defining your brand from a leadership perspective?

One of the most important elements that Kristi shared where she spent a lot of time thinking through was her legacy on how she'd be remembered by her team and the company she's working for.

Kristi also shared that her commitment and dedication to the team and the business helped her in defining her brand.

Being able to think through the lens of these helped Kristi in defining her brand from a leadership perspective.

Focus on the work that you do, and ultimately, transition your brand from each role, from each company to establish your personal brand.

Navigating gray area

How was Kristi able to develop and implement a vision for her brand?

In the first five years of her career, she worked so hard that she went from an Individual Contributor role to a VP role. She wasn't building a brand and only doing the work she needed to do. She kept her head down and focused on the work. And she had zero regrets. She learned a lot. She took away the knowledge, the experiences, and the life lessons with her that gave her the content to then share as she continued to move on.

The single most important thing to building your leadership brand was doing the work first, before ever building it.

Kristi wanted to share her stories so others could learn from them. It took her a full year to find her voice and feel comfortable sharing her stories on social media. And because she had been there and she had done it, her way of sharing her stories is authentic. Her stories aren't theories. They're coming from her own experiences.

There are a lot of people who are putting out content without authenticity because they feel like they need to be present and they are trying to build their voice. But if they did take some time to really just hunker down, and engage in a different way, they can still be present and engaging.

Build the experiences first. Build the expertise, build the credibility, and then come back with those stories. People will connect more with your stories than they will with just plain content that is regurgitated.

Sometimes it can feel like you're left out if you're not present or engaging but the reality is no, you're not. It's just that now might be the time to focus internally, get the stories down, and figure out how you're going to even tell your story to be able to communicate something that you know inherently that worked inside your organization for some part of your customer strategy.

And communicate that in an effective way where someone else can take away that learning and then apply it in their world. That is a very challenging thing to do and it takes time. So if you're out there, if you're thinking about your brand, know that it's okay to focus on yourself to get the reps in and to get sometimes years in. It does not have to be an all or nothing.

It's also not the worst thing to be known in the community as the number one learner. Be the learner brand. Be the person out there in the community who wants to take in all the information. You don't need to be the person pushing it all out. Take it all in and be known for that. Be the person who wants to be someone who is personally invested in their own professional growth.

Stories that stick

How does Kristi tell her story with authenticity?

Kristi just tries to be authentic and real. Her various experiences may not have always ended well but she learned a lot. And she wanted others to learn from it too.

When she moved on to her next role, she changed her leadership style and approach based on what she learned from her previous experiences.

Kristi thinks nobody gains anything from altering the story. People connect with the fact that everyone's human and nobody's perfect. People are all learning as they go. They're going to stumble and make mistakes. It's how you pick yourself up. It's how you learn from those, and how you do something different in the future.

Small tasks, big impact

How do you remain authentic when the work you're doing isn't significant?

Kristi says it's important that you find the lesson. Create content that's going to teach somebody a lesson. Something that people can take away. Stories that teach people how to be a better version of themselves as a person and as a leader.

Those are the things that drive more value for the community and although they might not have the "clickbaity" headline, you can use your marketing techniques to come up with something that will entice people and draw them in.

It's all about storytelling. If you can tell a story effectively, you can convey a really strong message that will resonate with the masses. And finding the lesson is a great tip for anybody to put into action when you think about what you are sharing on whatever social media platform you choose.

It's the lesson you have to find because people connect with lessons when they want to hear your story.

The art of storytelling

How does the storytelling element come into the picture when you're developing content?

When Kristi is developing content, she bases it on her real-life experiences. Sometimes they're in the past, and sometimes they're very much the present.

All of her stories follow the same framework of what she's going through or had gone through. And what can other people as somebody who's reading this, go and take from this if they're navigating a similar situation.

That's the structure of all her content. It helps humanize her and it gives her her own personal authentic voice. It's giving people a little bit of her story so they can relate to her through content, but then giving them things that they can apply today that will make them better.

Connecting at the personal level, and humanization is so important. But the thought process you go through before creating content is also important.

This isn't just about sharing what you know. Every piece of content that you will put out there should have an intended purpose, whatever that purpose might be. The more you share from that perspective, the better, and the more human you are, the better. People will love the fact that you have that consistent framework that works for you.

You will always find something from somebody's story. It doesn't matter what level you're at. You never stop learning and everyone's experience is going to bring and shine some light on something new for you if you listen to it.

Social media overwhelm

What advice would Kristi give the listeners about sharing their voices?

Kristi says you have to find your level of comfort. You don't need to go jump in with these life stories and lengthy posts. You can go find content that really resonates with you and be very thoughtful in how you're commenting and engaging with that content.

If you're uncomfortable with being in the spotlight, you can contribute and engage in a very thoughtful way that starts to build your voice and your level of comfort with social media. If you don't want to start building your own posts yet, maybe reshare a post and then add all of your thoughts along with that shared post.

It's not going to perform the same way as an original post of content because of the way social media algorithm works but it's a baby step toward creating a post. You're using somebody else's content to be that launchpad for your voice.

So you don't have to worry about creating your own content that's going to resonate enough with people but you're going to have a POV on somebody else's content. You're going to amplify their voice, which helps. And then you're also going to start to share your opinion on things.

And when you get to a point where you feel like you've got your story, understand the voice and the brand that you want to contribute to the community, go out there and start posting on your own. And don't be afraid of it. Just stay consistent. Consistency is key.

B2B Leaders Academy early adopter

What is it about Nils' program, the B2B Leaders Academy that gave Kristi the confidence to share the resources with her team?

Kristi shared that she loves the content of the program. She said that B2B Leaders Academy was one of the most engaging and thought-provoking leadership training she had ever gone through. It took a lot of what she thought she already knew and it took her to another level and gave her the tools to go and apply it in her day-to-day life in a way that was manageable. The tools are there when you're ready and when you need them.

Knowing her previous experiences coming into people leadership were not great, she made a promise to herself that if she had the ability to prevent that from ever being the case, she would.

So when Kristi got a high performer in her organization who wanted to move into a people leadership role, she enrolled the individual in the B2B Leaders Academy to help her grow and demonstrate that the company is supporting her professional development.

If you are going to be promoting people into people-leadership roles, whether it's their first time or not, you need to take that seriously because of the impact on them personally, the employees that report to them, and the business. There's just too much at stake to let that go uninvested in. Never make that mistake as long as it's within your control.

Kristi's advice to herself

What advice would Kristi give her younger self?

Kristi would tell her younger self to ask for help and guidance. Lean on other leaders around you and ask for advice and coaching.

You don't know everything and you'll never know everything. But asking for help will transform your leadership style, your ability to be empathetic, and everything about who you are. This also makes you a continuous learner. So go ask for help.

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