I usually talk about how organisations can achieve a robust, resilient brand result. But every now and then I delve into the personal side. It’s not that different. Everything you do is also part of your brand result.
Last week, while having a coffee (well, tea for me) with someone I hadn’t seen for a while, I was reminded again how true that is.
As more people step out on their own, jump from gig to gig or find themselves moving jobs more frequently, the question of their brand becomes more present. My coffee companion is just about to take this step.
After several years in a senior leadership position, they had abruptly left their role. In the aftermath, many people had reached out to them to offer their support, well-wishes and interest in working together in the future.
As we talked about what tomorrow might bring, the topic of brand came up.
“I suppose I need to think about coming up with a personal brand,” they said.
I stopped, put down my cup of tea and gently reminded them of a few things.
“You’ve just left a role for ethical reasons. You have people vocally supporting your decision and applauding your integrity. You have job offers coming in. You have people who want to work with you again wherever you land. I think your brand is doing fine.”
There’s a whole industry around helping people “create” their personal brand. The approach usually comes with a big dollop of external image and a smidge of self-reflection. And while how you present yourself (the image thing) plays a role, it’s more like the front porch of personal brand than the whole house.
If you want a personal brand result to stand the test of time, it’s what’s inside that truly matters. What do you care about? What do you believe? How do those things show up in the way you are who you are? Everyday. All the time. Even when no one is watching.
Back to my coffee companion. They had been doing the work of building their brand without thinking about it that way. They understood what they cared about and believed. They had a solid foundation to make decisions on. Their actions reflected those things. And as a result, people saw who they were and responded.
This isn’t about “being authentic” — I’ve come to hate that trope. Sure, being real is important, it’s impossible to hide behind a mask for any length of time. But this is about a deep understanding of you.
So, for free, here’s my advice for a personal brand.
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- There are no shortcuts; you’ve got to get to know yourself.
- Do some self-reflection, give yourself time to think about you.
- Keep a journal even if it’s just a few sentences a day (John Quincy Adams‘ Twitter feed is a good example)
- Read books; biographies are a wonderful way of seeing how thoughts and actions result in a brand
- Take a course or two.
- Lie and look at the sky for a bit, a starscape can be especially humbling.
- Tune into how you act and what’s important to you; keep a list of your promises.
- Take notice of the small stuff.
Put your psyche under a microscope of your own making, see what you see then act accordingly. Yes, I know it sounds a lot like work. And that’s the deeply inconvenient and amazing opportunity of brand — personal or otherwise. The work is never done. Embrace it.
See you next week.