- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Personal branding’
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?
I’m not sure what is harder; working towards my goals or trusting that I’m making good progress to that goal. I mean, how much effort should I be putting in? Am I on even on the right track?
Take my efforts toward health and fitness. Around this time of year, everyone is into more health and fitness. For me, it is a life-long journey. But how am I supposed to know if I’m doing “enough”? Is it a weight loss goal? Is it inches lost or muscle mass gained? Or maybe both?
It can be maddening. Or does it have to be that way?
Judging our progress on business development and self-growth can be challenging. Self-doubt is a nasty habit that keeps us in self-sabotage mode.
I have plenty of clients wonder if they are making progress along our journey together. Sometimes our branding work is so seamless and painless, that clients wrongly attribute their growth and progress to something outside of our branding work together.
So how can we know if we are growing and if our brand is shifting and growing?
Simple. It’s all about self-awareness. Do you have some degree of inner peace that you didn’t have before? In other words, do you feel you are being more transparent and authentic in your business and career? Do you have less fear- fear of success, fear of failure, fear of not doing the “right” thing? Does whatever you are doing feel “right” deep down in your gut?
Try it on and let me know. This is all a process. Just stay self-aware and you can’t go wrong.
As my business grows and I’m blessed with new opportunities, I get new titles with each new position. Just last month I was on a site visit of various hotels in order to book a hotel venue for a conference I am chairing. The hotels put all the spotlight on me, since I am the decision-maker. If I say “yes”, the hotel stands to gain lots of business from my members attending the conference.
In all of this, I had to stay focused. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the moment and get an over-inflated sense of myself with each visit to a new hotel. I had to keep in mind the wise words of my mentor, James Espey, who brilliantly says, “it’s not about you, it’s about your title”. He should know. After all, James Espey spent many years leading the creation and building of some of the world’s greatest brands including Baileys, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and Chivas Regal 18. He’s been recognized by the Queen of England for his achievements to the spirits industry.
Wow, is James Espey correct as I learned and continue to learn each day. In my case, the hotels were not treating me like royalty because they liked me or respected me and my brand. The hotels were behaving in response to the title I carried. They would have treated any person with my title in that way. Kind of hard on the ego at first, and then it is very liberating to know who you are as a human is NOT your title.
Wealth is also not tied to your brand. I think many of us strive for wealth in order to get respect. However, once again I think people aren’t necessarily respecting YOU, if you are wealthy. They are attributing things to you based on your wealth- they may not even know you and your brand.
Just last weekend I was at a party- well over 100 people in attendance. Here’s what I noticed.
There were three very wealthy couples/families at the party:
Couple #1: Self-made uber wealthy people. Very down to earth and have worked very hard for their huge accumulation of wealth. They share it with others. People love to be around them and acknowledge this couple. Why? Because the couple is not just wealthy, but fun, easy going and humble. Their brand commands respect because they give respect.
Couple #2: They started out with lots and lots of family money. However, they worked very hard at two separate businesses to add to their wealth. In other words, they didn’t just eat mom and dad’s money. People acknowledge them and notice them at the party because this couple has worked hard to stay successful. They are also humble and never flaunt their money. They seem to recognize their wealth is not who they are. Others see this, too.
Family #3: This family is comprised of three adult children of a very wealthy father. Their father accumulated his massive fortune working with his brothers running a very reputable and honorable business globally. Their father has passed on. Unfortunately, the three adult children (now well into their 50s) have never done anything to “earn” their fortune. To my knowledge they have spent daddy’s wealth. As a result, the siblings show up “demanding” respect because they are their daddy’s children. It’s really sad to watch. One of them even raised her voice to me once and said I was rude to not go up to her and acknowledge her and say hello to her. Really very sad. This person was clearly wrapped up in her wealth– actually in her daddy’s wealth. People do recognize the three adult children. However, it is not because people respect these three children. It’s hard to respect someone who has never worked for their wealth and who demands others to respect them. I’ve come to realize if people recognize and respect the three adult children, it may only be out of respect for what their father achieved and not for their own brand values.
So what does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often are you wrapped up in your title or monetary status?
- Do you find your real brand shines through at these times? Or does it feel fake and forced?
- If you are considerably “wealthy” (define it however way you wish), do you allow your wealth to be a “silent wealth” where you show up humble and down to earth? If so, this is the only way you can garner real respect and positive attention from others. This is also the way to be a role model for others.
- If you have an important title (define “important” however way you wish), stay aware to distinguish when the limelight is on you, the real person, and when the attention is directed at your title only. There’s a big difference, as James Espey so beautifully points out.
In the brand development world, the goal is to create a brand culture that resonates the business brand well with clients and your audience. This goal involves the most important attribute of any business- its’ employees.
To that end, I’m always working with employees to develop a sound individual brand- one that vibes with, and lends itself well to, the brand culture that will make the business succeed emotionally. There are so many factors we address with employees because there are so many contributing factors to employees “owning” their best brand and being happy at work.
One factor that doesn’t get much airtime is the actually physical office setting and structure/layout of the office. I think people assume two things: 1) who cares? sit in your office or in a cubicle- just get the work done; or 2) Google had it right- everyone in all offices are better off sitting in an open-office format because Google does it.
A lawyer client of mine was commenting last week about how her office is switching formats in their actual office layout- instead of high cubicles, they will now have an open-office (bull-pen) style format. She was really worried about morale and the spread of gossip and a deteriorating brand for her firm.
Was she right? I think so.
Some business cultures (and types of businesses/professions, dare I say?) do not lend themselves well to certain business processes. I would agree with my client; law firms are not the best atmospheres to introduce open-office formats. A 2013 survey found that such offices often lead to distractions that decreased performance. In the world of law firms, I define “distractions” as gossip and posturing for power among employees.
In addition, in law firms you need privacy for certain transactions and the type of work we do as lawyers involving client confidentiality. The counter-argument is that staff in open-office layouts are easier to “watch” and monitor. Indeed- and this in an of itself could lead to low morale and a disjointed brand culture. After all, unless an employee has given you reason to not trust them, why don’t you trust them to not watch them all day long?
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- What type of brand culture and environment do you work in?
- Does the physical layout of your offices lend itself to a healthy brand culture? Why or why not?
- What type of business do you work in? If it is something like the practice of law, consider the personalities and type of work that is done, then create the physical atmosphere.
Just the other day I was forcing an issue with my husband. We were at a restaurant ordering lunch. Being a typical woman, I wanted him to “share” a burger and a salad with me instead of us both ordering a burger. It’s my attempt to be healthier and still eat what I love (a burger!). I kept suggesting it to my husband…. Over and over again. I wanted him to do what I wanted him to do. Free will was lost. So, he pushed back and we both got burgers.
Sound familiar? It should. Stuff like this happens so often.
What if I had just stopped and chosen to see the situation differently? Instead of “suggesting/forcing” my views on my husband, what if I had “allowed” the situation to be and allowed whatever was going to happen, to happen?
I guarantee you the end result would have been different.
Maybe we still would have ended up ordering burgers, but I wouldn’t have let myself down and expended so much negative energy pushing and shoving my will on my husband. I could have been happier in that moment.
Successful brands don’t force anything – on themselves or on others.
Anytime we force anything, we have active resistance around anything in our lives,. Then there is tension. Tension even shows up when we are “achieving” or “earning”.
Tension amps up our stress. Our stress amps up other peoples’ stress. Then people don’t want to be around us anymore, much less hire us, buy from us, promote us, date us. You name it. The game is over.
Instead, successful brands recognize that allowing life to happen sets everyone up for more success. Allowing life to happen, allows us to “be” with ease and grace. Ease and grace is the only way to let your brand shine and get us to stop, notice you and gravitate naturally to you.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often do you force your way and will in life? Next time, stop and have self-awareness: is it really working for you? Be honest with yourself.
- What if you stopped trying to “achieve” or “earn” and just “allowed”, instead?
- What would your life be like if you just “allowed” yourself and others to be? Where can you make subtle adjustments to allow more and force less?
Call or email me to discuss this strategy in your brand and life.