- Who & Why?
I was most recently blessed enough to travel to Alaska for work. About 18 years ago, I visited Alaska on a cruise. So I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for again.
Boy, was I wrong.
They say that the world looks different for each individual based on where we each are currently in our lives. I totally believe this theory.
Alaska was an experience I will forever remember. I often run out of words to describe Alaska. The best I can do is to say that seeing Alaska was magnificent, majestic and awe-inspiring. My soul was singing. Words do it so little justice.
I’m even comparing Alaska to other parts of the world I’ve seen, like the Swiss and Austrian Alps and Prague and Vienna and Italy. Nothing compares, in my book, to the peace and grace Alaska’s scenic charm has to shower on a person.
It may be that compared to my last Alaska trip 18 years ago, I’ve changed careers and started to see the world very differently. I have a newfound appreciation for the simplicity and grandeur of life and nature. I’ve come to realize that nothing has to be complicated unless I choose to make it complicated. I’ve come to appreciate how much more alike we are as humans, choosing to let go of the negative thoughts that separate me from others. Life is good. Life can be magnificent, if I let it be.
Choosing to see the world from this perspective allows me to authentically live my brand- to project my values and my business and my career goals out to the world. The result is clear. The more authentic I am, the stronger my brand. The stronger my brand, the more I can be a contribution to others. The more I’m a contribution to others, the more successful my company becomes.
All of this is simple and yet not so easy to “be” and “do”.
So what does this mean for you? You don’t have to travel to Alaska necessarily. To enhance and evolve your brand for more success, just ask yourself:
- Where is the place that brings you peace and lets your soul sing? Go there as often as possible. Do it intentionally.
- How can you choose to see your world, and those in your world, differently?
- Where can you appreciate the simplicity of things in your life? Step back and look at what you make complicated in your life. How can you choose to see it differently?
In business, I’ve been referred to as, “too kind”. It’s always been by the opposite sex and I always chuckle. The conversation always goes something like this:
“Katy, I just have to tell you, you are too kind in running this business. It’s gonna hurt you somewhere”. To which, I always reply, “Thanks for looking out for me. I appreciate you. I don’t think I’m too kind. What’s too kind, anyways?”
My response and inquiry always stops the conversation. Why? Because it is a stumper. What does it really mean to be “too kind” in business? It’s such a subjective and judgment filled answer. Right?
In business, I’ve found our brands (we) show up in two ways: 1) either we don’t have well established boundaries and colleagues and clients just run right over us, leaving us angry and frustrated OR 2) we are very aggressive and competitive, leaving everyone around us angry and frustrated. Neither one of these scenarios makes for a great brand.
So the tip for today is to develop a brand for yourself that has harmony. What does that look like? Harmony dictates your brand is comprised of kindness AND a good ability to set boundaries. I call your boundary-setting ability your level of “confront”.
Being kind does NOT mean being a push-over or sappy. Being kind means having empathy and compassion for your direct reports, colleagues and superiors.
Having a high level of “confront” means holding firm to your ideals and beliefs and values while respecting others. It means taking action when you must and backing off when you can. What it does NOT mean is shoving your views down others’ throat nor treating them as you would not want to be treated.
This harmony will lead you to have a great brand AND lead to your team having a great starting point for brand culture development.
Remember, everything we recommend here is simple, but not easy. However, taking that first step is just choosing to see things differently for yourself and then for your team and organization. You can’t fail.
So stop and think to yourself, what is the first step you can take today to make this harmony happen?
I remember when I was a practicing securities lawyer. For the most part, I often felt like I was in the right job. I didn’t hate my work nor the people I worked with. I got paid well for what I did. Plus, my work was fairly routine and not terribly stressful.
So did that mean it was the right job for me? Not necessarily given what I do now for a living is really the right business for me.
In organizations, leadership often looks at whether an employee is in the “right” or “wrong” position. This isn’t always a full assessment of how to build a strong, profitable organization. The better inquiry is to ask whether an employee’s strengths are aligned with who they are in a particular position.
In my world of brand development and culture building in organizations, it is all about the people. The people drive revenues. If the employees are not engaged, then everything takes a hit. Sometimes management denies this fact and looks the other way. Sooner or later, if employees are not happy it impacts the organization.
In my opinion, the first thing that has to happen is that employees figure out who they really are- at work and at home. This leads to a natural understanding of their strengths. Once these strengths are deciphered, then we can look to see if the employee is in the right position.
Instead what often happens is that organizations choose to focus on an employee’s weakness. I say that’s a waste of time. Why would I focus on your employee’s weakness instead of capitalizing on their strengths? After all, their strength makes them happier at work. Happier employees are more engaged and lead to higher morale and productivity for any organization.
Oftentimes we find there is no “right” or “wrong” position for an employee, just a lack of understanding and cultivation of an employee’s true strengths and talents that would make them a great fit for their job. These strengths are not necessarily tied to their linear, analytical mind. These strengths are closely aligned with their personal story and upbringing and whether they are bringing their bad baggage to work with them everyday or not.
What does this mean for you? Whether you’re looking for yourself or your employees,, stop and consider:
- What are the strengths of an individual? What are your strengths?
- How can you capitalize on these strengths to impact engagement and cultivate a true culture that grows with ease and grace in any setting?
I went to my 6am spin class this morning. I do my best to show up every Monday. We have two fans in the spin room- one in front and one in back. Many people love working out with the fan right on them to cool them down. Many of us (me included) don’t like the cold wind/breeze on us. It dries out my eyes and I can’t catch my breath as I ride.
So many instructors have a rule: if you want the fan on you, then go sit in the back part of the room because the fan in the front of the room does not get turned on. Those of us who don’t want the fan on us, sit up front.
Today there was a new person in class. He sat right next to me up front. Ten minutes into class, he got up and turned on…the front fan! You got it, that’s a no-no.
However, this particular instructor does NOT have a “fan rule” for her class. Every once in a while an argument flares up- like this morning- over whether the fan should be on or not. If she just had a fan rule, then the students wouldn’t have to be making one up for her. It’s not our job, or our right, to do so.
What does all this have to do with your impact at work and in your entire life?
Courageous brands win. Having courage means being able to increase your level of “confront” and set rules and boundaries. Having courage means looking me in the eye with kindness and a sheer sense of calm and peace and stating your opinion and needs and….fan rules.
In so many corporations when this level of courageous confront does NOT happen, what happens is chaos.
I’ve seen so many managers not be able to set boundaries or rules. Nor do they enforce them. It’s natural for us to all want to be loved and accepted. The problem is the result is often not love. When we don’t increase our confront, it leads to confusion and poor communication in the workplace. The result is low productivity and low revenues.
Believe it or not, people like rules. We just don’t like it when the rules are shoved down our throat. So courageous brands also communicate in a 1) kind and 1) direct manner. Communicating without kindness, and just being direct, is being brash. No one loves a brash brand.
So stop and ask yourself:
- How do you communicate at work? Is it kind and direct?
- How do you work to ensure your level of confront is high enough so that you have quality boundaries such that you are allowing you and your colleagues to be productive, happy and in excellent communication at work?
What does it really take to have a successful career and happy life? How can we find an easier way to stand out, get attention and not stress so much? What if that’s just not your “thing”?
I regularly get questions like the ones above. I think they are all such insightful questions that deserve real answers- answers that are individualized to your particular nature and strengths.
Most recently, I was “interviewed” by a new graduate of my law school. She has just taken the bar exam and is so excited to succeed. As I was answering her questions, it occurred to me to write out my answers for my audience in general. As you’ll see below, the questions she asks are not just relevant just for a Millennial who has graduated law school. These questions are applicable to everyone, regardless of age, credentials or experience level.
Q: What do you think a person needs to become successful?
A: I think the most important thing we all need to become successful is our own definition of what is success. Otherwise, we are chasing something we can’t even define, so how would we even know we achieved success. Most would simply define success as “more money” or “the most money I can accumulate”. However, stop and think for yourself, is this the real definition of success for you? If so, why?
Q: What is most important when creating a personal brand?
A: The most important element to keep in mind when creating a personal brand is self-awareness. We all must have self-awareness around our desires (see the question above), how we come across to others and how we want to authentically and deliberately put out our message to the world. Without this self-awareness then we have no baseline for improvement. Static brands lose.
Q: How long does it take for someone to create their own personal brand?
A: Nothing impactful and genuine happens overnight. Branding is a marathon, not a sprint. Branding is an iterative process, where we have self-awareness, try on something new, evaluate the impact by looking at it very honestly and sincerely and then we course correct. This requires time, patience, honesty and creativity.
Q: How can someone emotionally resonate with his or her audience (or future employer)?
A: First, you must understand that no one is buying our intellect or how good we are at our job. That may sound demoralizing, but it is not at all. 78% of everything you and I buy is based on how we feel about the purchase. If I like the product because it makes me happy, then I’ll buy it and even spread the gospel. This same logic applies to professionals. If I like you, I’ll choose to talk to you. If I talk to you and you share your brand story well with me, then I’m so much more likely to hire you, date you, be your friend, etc.
Q: How long did it take you to create your personal brand?
A: It took me years and years to master my brand. It was hard work and I resisted a lot along the way. I questioned myself and I worried for no reason. While branding is never “complete”, I feel I’m at a place where I truly own who I am and how I impact the world for good. The goal is that it will not take you nearly as long as it took me because I have developed the tools to get you to your brand mastery much faster and with much more ease and grace than I encountered.
Q: Can you build your personal brand individually or does it require feedback from others?
A: You cannot build your brand alone. Part of my definition of personal brand is based on perception of your audience about your brand. You cannot ignore your audience, whoever they are. You must engage your audience to see how you are doing- -what needs to be tweaked and what is working well. Let your audience tell you what they need and want from you. If you ignore your audience, then you are effectively saying you live alone in this world.