- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘“own” it’
By Sarah O’Rourke, guest blogger
Whether we know it or not, our fears and insecurities can keep us from truly connecting with others. We want to be known for who we are, and have confidence in our decisions. But how do we actually start to gain this confidence? How do we grow?
I remember stressing for weeks over confronting one of my roommates about the state of our shared kitchen towels. My roommate and I used them constantly, but no one seemed to be cleaning them. They were only towels, after all. It may seem like a small interaction now, but at the time it felt like the end of the world.
My avoidance of the confrontation made a common, apartment-life issue into a real problem.
This is how many hard confrontations happen. When it finally came time to discuss a hard topic, I found myself anxious and unable to communicate.
Here’s the one thing I found helpful. I found if I was vulnerable with my roommate, it made things easier. Approaching someone without vulnerability makes confrontation even more uncomfortable.
When we approach others with vulnerability, we put ourselves in a position of fear. But vulnerability can actually help us constructively confront others. We connect and just put it all out there and they sense our genuineness. Our self-confidence grows, as a result.
This is true in business and in life.
The same stressors that make confrontation difficult in our personal lives are present in business as well. When I was working to re-structure a writing tutor position, I noticed that we were having problems scheduling appointments. The problem was that our students were not able to work in a quiet environment on the first floor. This is especially problematic in tutoring, where you need the full attention of a student. But I felt intimidated by my manager. I seemed aggravated. But when I finally admitted that I was worried about something we shared, she met me in the middle. I made myself vulnerable with her, and she and I were able to brainstorm new ideas.
My manager approached me with later with the same problem, and our vulnerability was courageous. She owned her worries, and the next time I needed to fix a problem with our appointments, I approached her with the same humble courage. We agreed that our students needed their own room for appointments. By prioritizing both of our needs this way, she and I ensured our mutual success. Plus, it made us happy.
Fear and happiness lie at opposite ends of the same spectrum, and sometimes the scariest thing we can do is confront ourselves and be vulnerable and able to change. But owning and accepting your insecurities earns you a great deal of respect and increases your self-confidence, and allows you the room to grow.
Sarah O’Rourke was born and raised in San Diego and has a passion for art. She recently received her MBA from Point Loma Nazarene, and hopes to keep writing, drawing, and helping people tell their stories. She is an animal lover who will usually stop what she is doing to say hello to a cat or dog. She can be found by the beach, and is always looking for opportunities to learn something new.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone and they seem to send very different messages within the same communication? I know I go nuts just trying to follow the conversation. Heck, sometimes I’m actually the one with the messy communication, where my message and my brand are garbled.
Just the other day, a client asked how their law firm could tell if their message was consistent enough. Good question.
There are 2 ways to tell:
1) Are people listening to you and engaging with you? Are they even noticing you? If so, you can take that as a good sign that your message is consistent. If your message wasn’t consistent then you would be confusing your audience so they wouldn’t even stop and notice you, much less listen to your message.
2) What do your formal and informal survey and feedback suggest? Your organization must survey and get feedback from people asking them if they:
a) understand your message; and,
b) find it compelling enough to:
i) stop and listen; and,
ii) take action and connect with you and your company.
In essence, you are asking your audience if they trust you. If your message is consistent, then your audience will feel safe with you (they hear and see the same thing each and every time so they know what to expect) and thus, trust you.
Once your audience trusts you, then you’re almost home free. Trust grows over time, so you must make sure you are authentic in your resonance with your audience. So every bit of what we just discussed here rides on each and every person within your organization, band, and/or business having a solid and authentic personal brand.
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?
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.