- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘“own” it’
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.
When I was a practicing securities lawyer, I had a very particular notion of what it meant for me to be a success. Being successful for me meant to either be a high-salaried employee, meet and exceed my billables each month and/or get promoted or find a new and better job within my industry. That’s it, I’m sorry to say.
As I always say, branding is a marathon with many iterations. We are never broken or “need” anything. We choose to see things differently and then grow and change. Dynamic brands that are open to change succeed.
Looking back on my previous career and life, I feel sorry for that iteration of me. I truly was “Version 1.0” of my brand. I wasn’t really open to change because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Until one day I wasn’t happy anymore as a securities lawyer.
That was the day I opened my eyes and was ready for change and growth. That was the day I decided to be truly successful. Was it easy? No. Change is never easy. Was it worth the ride? Heck yes!
As I look at the definition of “success” as a brand and as a person, I’m reminded of something I heard at Sunday service once at the Unity Center here in San Diego. “Success” is defined as a) continued happiness and b) reaching for worthy goals. In looking at what are your worthy goals, we were told to look for i) what are your longings in life? and ii) where do you come alive in your life? This really struck me as a healthy view of success.
Looking at it from a client-facing perspective, if you believe my premise that a great client experience is based on each and every employee having a great brand (having their values in hand, having empathy, knowing who they are), then a successful and happy employee MUST lead to a great client experience and higher revenues for any organization.
In life and at work, we put up such resistance. We fight the norm, we fight the establishment, we fight our boss, we fight our colleagues and we end up fighting ourselves. The result? Unhappiness.
All of this leads to so much friction and negative effort. We exhaust ourselves and leave others looking away from us. Our brand is spoiled.
At that Sunday service, I was reminded that the word, “Affluence” comes from the derivative, “to flow with”. So what if you let it all flow naturally? I guarantee you that you would be happier and more successful.
What does this mean for you?
Stop and consider:
- Are you happy? If you hate my question, there’s something really great for you in this query. Stay strong and be brave enough to look at it.
- Are you reaching for worthy goals? Stop and question your goals. Looking back, my billables were NOT my worthy goals in life.
- What are you longing for in your life?
- Where in your life experiences do you find you really come alive? Why?
- How are you nurturing happiness within your employee pools’ brands?
- Where can you give up resistance in your life and go with the flow towards affluence?
If this article resonated with you, please pass it on. I’d love your feedback.
Back in the days when I was a practicing lawyer in Washington DC, I used to straighten my very curly hair. Every day. I used to get up early, forsake sleep or a work-out, and stand there and sweat it out. Pulling. Tugging my hair. Struggling. Resisting my natural curls.
I thought that in order to be seen as a competent lawyer, I had to be serious. I assumed curly hair meant I wasn’t serious. Straight hair equaled serious and competent.
One day I woke up and changed careers. What followed was a return to my natural curls. No more waking up early to straighten the curls. My morning options opened up: I could sleep, meditate longer, work out more often.
Does that mean I am not as competent or serious anymore? Not necessarily. I’m definitely competent and you better believe I’m serious about my work as a brand strategist.
I just stopped taking myself so seriously and decided to lighten up. That meant accepting who I was naturally- curly hair and all. I stopped resisting my natural tendencies and started to “own” them.
You know what happened next? My curly hair became a part of my brand. Used wisely, I was able to balance curls as a complement to my branding strengths and talents. That meant in part that if my hair is curly, I made sure I offset the fun and free nature of the curls with a more smart visual brand (ie, no low cut tops, etc).
My curly hair is now part of my values and signals my creative and fun nature and expertise. No more resistance.
Yet, I regularly hear from so many of my clients that they want to seen as competent so they are working on being more “serious”. What does serious have to do with competence?
Being serious does not sell your brand.
Emotional resonance in brand development is what sells your brand. Emotional resonance is crucial. The only emotion that sells is happiness. So if you are telling me that your serious brand signals happiness somehow, then go for it.
Unfortunately, none of us really intend for our serious brand to be giving off a vibe of happiness. So our brand fails AND you are unhappy and confused, too.
Consider that our need for others to see us as competent is really our desire to be respected by others. It has nothing to do with being serious. Gaining others’ respect means we respect ourselves first. But do we respect ourselves enough first and foremost to own our own strengths (and curly hair)? No one can respect us otherwise- whether we are serious or not.
So what does this mean for you and your business, career, and your business brand, too? Stop and ask yourself:
- Where in your life and career do you think you need to be more competent? Why?
- Do you respect yourself to consider yourself competent?
- How are you trying to achieve this competence by being more serious?
- Where in your life and career could you show up more happy and sell more happy?
- What would your own brand and your business/career brand look like if you were more happy and less serious?
It’s always scary to stand out and shine. No doubt about it. I’m always working on ways that I can live what I teach, ie, shine and “wow” folks with my sincere and genuine brand. Most days it is easier for me. Some days it is a challenge.
Because I don’t want to seem overbearing and scare folks- or worse yet, be seen as the “weird” (and wild?) one that always has to do things differently. I can’t say anyone has ever really given me the impression that this is their impression, perception or thoughts about me. Yet, it still shows up every once in a while for me.
Because I’m human and as humans, we all have illogical fears that our ego uses to mess with us- ego keeps us from seeing our own greatness.
Here’s an example.
One of my clients went on a pitch with 3 other colleagues. Let’s call her Jane. Two of her colleagues pitching with her were partners (service partners). One was another senior employee, much like Jane. Jane was involved in the pitch initially because she knows how to shine and “wow” prospective clients. The two service partners- not so much.
Here’s the deal- when it came time for Jane to step up and shine and wow during the pitch- what do you think she did? You know the answer because we all do it at some point or another.
Jane (who was sequenced to speak third after the two service partners) backed off her pitch and did not “wow” or shine.
She didn’t feel right outshining and out”wowing” her fellow senior colleagues. She didn’t want them to look bad and be better and maybe overbearing. Makes sense, right? So instead Jane backed off and delivered a rather uneventful pitch when her turn came around.
The company didn’t win the pitch. On top of that, on the debrief the two service partners told Jane all the things she could have done better during the pitch. Never once did they look at their own lack of “wow” or take ownership for themselves. That’s pretty common, though, right?
The beauty of all this: Jane had enough self-awareness to know exactly what she didn’t do AND to know what she would differently next time! That’s the key: to stop and look at your actions and brand and ponder, “why”? I guarantee you next time she won’t make the same decision to lay low and not shine.
Here’s the deal: when you allow rank, seniority, family order to take the front seat, you lose your personal power to shine and sell your brand well with integrity. Your voice is not being heard and your brand is not resonating. You are stifling yourself. You are not helping the company any, either. We must respect rank and order- so don’t go rogue.
However, just because someone is your senior, does not mean you can’t mentor them and act in a way where they can learn from and follow you. Leaders are everywhere and all ages. You just have to be brave enough and step up.
What does this mean for you? Step back and consider:
- where are you playing it safe and coming from fear in your career and life?
- where is your brand not shining because you don’t want to “show off” and shine?
- where is your brand not shining because you don’t want to offend your senior colleagues, boss or hurt your family members?
Remember, in the end your actions likely will have the opposite impact than you want: contributing to lost pitches, babying family members who could learn from you and not leading/guiding your colleagues to their own success and that of the company/business.
Hard to do? Of course. Branding is simple, yet not easy. However, I’m your biggest cheerleader. You got this. Call or email for support. I’m always here.
Aside from being a wife and family member, I am blessed to have several leadership roles, including running a branding company. So often I’m trying to figure out how to lead well. If I trust my gut and stay self-aware, it’s easy. If I start to analyze and agonize, it quickly becomes very hard to lead- much less to stay present.
What’s the right thing to do in any leadership opportunity situation? Should I say something? Should I stay quiet and let those I lead figure it out? Should I say just a little bit but not give away the farm? What if they don’t like me anymore once I open my mouth to lead? Worse, what if they hate me?
And on and on and on….it can get maddening if I let it.
Here’s what I’ve learned through my trials and tribulations in developing a leadership brand that works for me.
First, I’ve discovered I have to have a general goal. My goal (and I recommend it for you) is to aim to have my leadership style resonate my brand. This really means making sure that your only goal is to develop a brand culture for whatever group you are leading.
This brand culture must come from values development. How? It involves the human element- does everyone you lead have their values identified? Are they allowed and proud to own their values? Do their values seep into the organization’s brand culture?
For instance, my number one value is integrity. My number two value is to have fun and be happy.
Once I’ve set my leadership branding goal, I now have a pattern to compare all my actions as a leader. This ensures my brand values (and company brand culture) syncs up with, and consistently resonate, all my leadership actions.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about what to do from this point to ensure a strong leadership brand for you and your organization/employees.
For now ask yourself:
- What are my brand values?
- Does my leadership convey my brand values?
- Do those you lead (your employees and/or colleagues) know their brand values and “own” them well?