“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.
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?
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
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.
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…
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.