Personal Brand: Objectivity, Ownership and Letting Go…

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

You may not have noticed, but I spent the entire weekend (or quite a bit of it) rebranding my website and social media. I say rebranding quite deliberately, because it was largely cosmetic, although it is a fore-runner to what I’m hoping will be some quite seismic shifts – not only in my personal brand, but more importantly in refining the value I offer, and clarity in who I’m able to offer that value to.

Personal Brand

That’s a really wordy way of saying I had a bit of an ‘aha moment’, and decided to do something visible to represent it.

Long story short, it was incredibly satisfying. When it was finished.

But upon reflection, I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I think could be helpful to those of you grappling with your own ‘personal brand’.


“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.” ~ Robert Morgan

So first up, let’s just be honest. It’s very, very, very difficult to be objective about your personal brand.

How do your colleagues see you? How would they describe you to a potential future employer? How do potential employers see you, based on how you present yourself in writing, online, in person…

Do you have a reputation within the industry you’re working in? If so, what for? Are you the ‘go-to’ person for something?

Personal Brand

One of the observations I’ve made in my coaching practice is how much easier it is for me to see potential options (heck, even entire business empires) that reflect my clients’ inspiration and intentions than it is to see the options available to me!

To be clear, coaching is more like archeology than engineering, so I tend to keep these ideas to myself, but it has been helpful to realise that there is always a path!

Anyway, I did find it hard to think objectively about how my website would appear to visitors.

So what do I think we can learn from this in relation to our personal brands?

Engage Beginner’s Mind

A good friend of mine shared a story of a Swedish chemist who solved an incredibly complex problem with the help of his ten-year-old son. In the article, the chemist was quoted as saying:

“I sort of knew too many things and when I tried to do it myself, your brain just gets exhausted by all the different things you keep in your head at the same time. With a fresh, empty brain so to speak, you can do something.” ~ Sven Hovmöller quoted on Pings in Translation

Beginner’s mind is the idea that by maintaining a genuinely open mind, with the mindset that you are coming at something new for the first time, you can ‘see’ it more clearly. It requires you to release your grip on ‘existing knowledge’ and embrace the idea that you could be wrong. It requires you to ask great questions. It requires you to live in the moment.

So ask yourself, with a beginner’s mind, how do others truly see me? Am I happy with the answers to that question? If I don’t know the answers, how could I find out? What would I like to be known for?

I have found that my meditation practice has helped with this, but it is never easy. In fact the more expert you are, the harder it gets…

Read Insight by Tasha Eurich

The irony is, almost all of us are not as self-aware as we’d like to think we are.

Eurich’s book is a veritable treasure trove of actionable advice for increasing your self-awareness. I highly recommend it, particularly sections three and four, which focus on how to seek out and respond to feedback, and how to foster self-aware teams.



“The greatest way to build ownership in a new project is to ensure those you want to feel a sense of ownership actually created it.” ~ Rebecca Elvy

There’s no doubt about it, I certainly felt like I ‘owned’ my website, and I’d like to think I own my personal brand – I certainly played a significant role in shaping both of them!

But ownership can be a double-edged sword.


Personal Brand

Ownership means you’re invested. It means you have to care about what happens, because you’re invested. And because you care, you become attached. This is usually a good thing.

But it becomes that much harder when the time comes for…

…Letting Go

Ownership makes it hard to let go.

You become fond of something, particularly if you made it, shaped it, grew it…

But if the change is driven by the right things, letting go becomes the logical next step.


Just a final parting thought about coherence and your personal brand.

We’ve all seen companies that have struggled to uphold a coherent brand identity…

  • When the product doesn’t match the promise in the advert
  • When the employee experience doesn’t match the customer experience
  • When the marketing channel doesn’t match the message

It leaves us wondering what else about that company lacks coherence… Their R&D? Their consumer guarantee? Their after-sales-service?

What I experienced in the course of a few days, was that once I fully understood my customer promise – or perhaps you could call it, my mission – the coherence of my website and social media branding became much simpler.

The exact same thing is true for your personal brand…

  • If your actions don’t match your words
  • If your efforts don’t match your potential
  • If your performance doesn’t match the hype

… people will notice.

Consistency and coherence matter when it comes to your personal brand at least as much, if not more, than they matter for a corporate entity. Companies can rebrand – it’s a heck of a lot harder for a person to recover the loss of trust that follows a personal brand train wreck.

6 thoughts on “Personal Brand: Objectivity, Ownership and Letting Go…”

  1. I think there is a lot of connection between coherence, simplicity and authenticity – just like people will know if there is missing coherence between your personal brand and what you do to support it, they will know if you are not authentic – and the interesting thing is, it is so much simpler to simply be authentic and coherent about it; then you will not have to strive to keep up with the appearance that you put up – it is so much easier to strive to be one’s best self and then be authentic about it.
    (Flying off on a tangent: being authentic and coherent also means from time to time that we will have to expose uncertainties, insecurity, flaws and vulnerability – I think the best thing to do is simply to let other people know that we can also be vulnerable and insecure. If such cases are put on display, it becomes much more trustworthy when we appear to be robust in other situations – because we are able to (and know to be able to) show weakness when it is there.)
    And finally – ownership: Most likely it is because ownership has an evil twin in possessiveness – the feeling that no one will be able to treat the topic for which we feel ownership with the same care as we do, and that sharing it will cause us to lose control. And once we become possessive, we have difficulties seeing that we might do better by releasing the object of our ownership and let it flourish under less restraining conditions. In isolation, the feeling of ownership will allow us to let things go (as soon as we see that they will be taken sufficiently good care of) – it is only when we become possessive, the problem occurs.
    So it is a good thing to consider, whenever we feel a strong ownership for something: is this actually turning into possessiveness, or would I be able to let go if it was all for the better?

    • The idea of possessiveness is intriguing Henrik. I think you’re on to something here. It’s definitely a very fine line, isn’t it.
      You want people to have ownership – to feel like they are connected and involved, but not to be possessive, such that nothing can every change, and nobody else can be involved.

      You’ve really got me thinking now!

      • That sounds good – there’s nothing better than when we make each other think.
        Which incidentally leads very well to what your reply made me think of: I cannot remember where I heard of it – but I remember someone telling about the trick they are using in order to make people feel ownership without possessiveness – they do not especially reward the good ideas people get, instead they reward those who contribute to making the ideas of the original idea generators even better.
        In this way, they make sure that the good ideas are shared, and in the same time make people feel good about sharing their ideas – because anyone knows that next time, it might be someone else’s bright idea that she has the possibility to refine.
        There might be downsides to this as well, of course, but essentially, instead of inspiring possessiveness, this approach breeds co-ownership and co-creation. Which is a good thing for two reasons – because, now that we are talking about “the ancestry of ownership and possessiveness”, there’s another unfortunate cousin in the family tree – the sentiment of “not-invented-here”, where people have an inclination to reject the ideas of others, simply because it is not their own idea. The rewarding of co-creation is also quite good against “not-invented-here”, as it inspires people to be open-minded with regards to the ideas of other people – because they might be able to make it better. It has a tendency to make people go from saying “No!” to saying “Yes, and…”, which is one of the pillars of creativity.


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