- Who & Why?
Right around this time of year most of us go into a bit of a panic. After all, it is a new year. What did we not do so well in 2016? How can we be better in 2017? Will it be painful and how can we ensure success?
I am guilty of this line of thinking, too, at the end of each year. Over the years though, I’ve fortunately managed to shorten how long I stay in the grips of fear.
First, I stop and realize that just because it is a new year, it doesn’t mean I necessarily have to do anything differently if I don’t want to do so. It’s a bit hard to get motivated in the dead of winter in January. I’m better motivated at the beginning of Spring. After all, Spring signals re-birth, the earth coming out of winter hibernation and fresh starts.
So does this mean you get a free pass for the next three months until March? Not necessarily, if you can help it. You can choose to see things differently at any time of the year.
As a personal branding expert, here are my top 3 tips to keep top of mind in 2017 in order to shine. Once you master these three areas, then your brand is more solid in general.
- Self-awareness– in my world the only brands that succeed are those with self-awareness. First and foremost, just be aware of: a) how you come across and b) how you want to come across to others. Is your real message coming across and resonating with your audience? If not, just step back and take a good look at what is coming across. Don’t feel compelled to change it yet. The first step is to just observe what is NOW. After all, if you don’t know what is and what isn’t working, how can you become better and improve your brand resonance with your audience?
- Clarity– There are “two Cs” in developing your brand for your audience in general. The first is clarity: are you clear about who you are? This includes who you truly are outside of work and how you want to be of real service to others.
As emotional beings, we only engage and buy from those with whom we connect. That emotional connection only comes when we, as your audience, really “get” the authentic you. Without being clear with yourself first, there is no way you can come across with clarity to your audience at all.
Finding and defining your brand with clarity may start off somewhat painful. Why? Because I’m asking you to go into the truth of yourself. This part really has nothing to do with your career or profession. That’s what makes it hard. The spotlight is all on you. I’m asking you to remove the cobwebs and search your memories to find the real you.
- Consistency- once you have clarity around your brand, now you need to share that brand with your audience consistently. We are all over-texted, over-tweeted, and over-caffeinated. That means our recall capacity is lower. So you need to ensure that you share your one true message with your audience with consistency. Consistency increases our feeling of safety with you. It means you are going to deliver what you said you would. It helps us trust you. In turn, this will help ensure I remember you.
Does that mean you say the same things over and over again the same way on your videos? No, not at all. That means you understand that we need to hear your true core message and meaning many times in order to have it trigger recall of you. Then I will be moved to act and follow up with you, engage with you, hire you, etc.
So what does all this mean for you and your brand? Ask yourself:
- Are you genuinely motivated to choose to see things differently in 2017? If not, then no worries. Relax, take the stress off yourself until you are ready.
- Do you have self-awareness around how you: currently come across AND want to come across with your personal and business brand?
- Do you have clarity around who you are as a person?
- Do you consistently share your clear personal brand with us.
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.
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.
As the dust starts to settle on yesterday’s presidential election here in the United States, my goal is to learn positive lessons about our own branding goals and challenges from the election. It is a great tool to use because the election played out nationally (and internationally, too).
One thing this blog is not meant to do is to make any political statement. As a former federal lobbyist, I am not expressing any opinion on the merits of the election results. I left those type of comments on the Hill steps when I left lobbying and Washington DC long ago.
Here’s the deal. Last night there was so much commentary from the “experts” regarding what this surprising upset meant and why it happened. However, there was one commentator that read my mind.
How and why? He spoke plainly about the slogans and tag lines of each party.
All along during the election, I have wondered why it was that the core of Hilary Clinton’s message (and tagline) was “Hilary Clinton 2016”, while Trump’s tagline was “Make America Great Again”. In fact, Clinton had about seven tag lines including “Stronger Together” and “I’m with her”.
Remember that 78% of everything we buy (including voting for politicians) is based on how we FEEL about them, and not necessarily the content of what we are buying. The only emotion that sells is happiness. It’s all about emotions, not anything else- especially in politics. Yes, despite how much we want to believe that it is about the platform and the agenda, it’s not.
So aside from the politics of it, which slogan motivates and emotionally resonates with you more: “Hilary Clinton 2016” or “Make America Great Again”?
I’m not saying that the slogan or tagline alone bought Trump the victory, I’m just saying there is a good branding lesson here for all of us. So what does this mean for you?
Stop and consider:
- How often do you forget that the only reason people buy your great brand (hire you, promote you, elect you) is based on how you emotionally resonate with them?
- How often do you instead focus too much on your substantive brilliance and left-brain knowledge?
- What’s one thing you can do to remember to emotionally resonate more and stay in your right-brain?
- How can you keep your emotional message consistent and in integrity with who you are? Remember, one tagline and slogan is all you need- one genuine one. More than one, confuses your audience and may make you seem insincere.