We have all heard the argument for creating our own personal brand “elevator speech”, a 30-second commercial that communicates who you are, what you’re looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization in the time it takes to ride the company elevator from top to bottom (should you find yourself riding with the top company executives).
Although creating an elevator speech can be a useful exercise in examining your role in moving the organization forward, it is unlikely that 30 seconds with the right connection will catapult your career. Your true personal brand, however, is already preceding you. If you are looking to find your personal brand, you will need to start with examining the one you have already established. Asking yourself this series of self-reflective questions can help you to discover if the brand that you already have, is the brand you want to develop.
Who are you? Who are you really?
Who do you think you are as a leader and how do you think others perceive you? You are your own personal brand by action, word and deed. We tend to measure ourselves by our intent but others measure us by our consistent actions and daily encounters over time. Personal branding is not just for the next great internet start-up. Every encounter that you have in a professional and personal setting begins to build a perception as to who you are, what you stand for, and where you fit within the tribe you interact with.
One of my favorite sayings that I share with internal candidates that are seeking a promotion within the area with which they already work is “You have been interviewing for this position every day in your former role”. The truth of the matter is we are all constantly being weighed and measured. Your personal brand, and how it resonates with your core values, is yours to own. It is not enough to believe that you are presenting yourself as you would like to. You must validate your perceptions with those that interact with you daily. Think about your overall message on the different communications platforms you have in place and have one narrative with every interaction. It is important to share who you are and what you want to convey in the world.
Who do others think you are?
This question is trickier. We all know who we want others to think we are. We all hope that others see us as we see ourselves. The only way to know for sure is to ask. How to ask, so that others feel comfortable giving feedback, can be complicated. 360-degree evaluations can be helpful, but not necessarily truthful, if those giving feedback are not empowered to do so. No one wants to tell their boss they are a micromanager. Or a bore. Or a tyrant. Perhaps your spouse or your parent (or sibling) may tell you who you are- but they may not be able to separate you the professional person from you as the family member.
One helpful exercise that I learned from Dorrie Clark, the author of Stand Out, is called the three-word-exercise. Described as a “stripped down version of a 360” it is a great option for those of us who don’t have the luxury of hiring a personal executive coach. This is something you can do on your own. Ask a cross-section of people who know you to describe you in three words. You will begin to see patterns in the descriptions people choose. Perhaps 2 out of 3 people say “creative” or “driven”. More likely than not, your describers will highlight your strengths. These can be the cornerstone of your personal brand. Review the three most common themed words with the three you would choose. Are they similar? If so you are projecting the brand that you intend. Are they vastly different? How so? Are there strengths others see in you that you may not see in yourself? How can you begin to highlight these strengths in your everyday encounters?
What is your image?
Image is everything. Every day, every encounter, every email (every post on social media) builds consistency in your brand. It either reaffirms what you intend your brand to be, or it diminishes it. Being true to your inner authentic self is the key to successfully living your brand. Trying to be someone you are not will never last. Being the best version of yourself will lead you to seek growth opportunities aim to be the best version of yourself.
What is your passion?
Finding your passion is the cornerstone to amplifying your brand. What do you talk about every day? What excites you, drives you, and provokes curiosity? For me- it is the pursuit of helping people discover their inner leader and effectively connect and grow their teams. I could talk about it for years (just ask my husband) and never tire of learning new techniques, theories, and principles for people management. One of my three words that others describe me by is “determined”. Pursuing this passion of mine, both professionally and personally, is evident to all that know me well. I am determined to get my message across and that determination has led to this blog and the future book that I am authoring presently. What is your passion? Let that core drive be the foundation for your personal brand.
Who is your tribe?
You are the average of the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. This claim, attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rhon (the Mentor to Tony Robbins), suggests that these five shape who you are. If you are looking to nurture and develop yourself and the personal brand you want to project and live by, ask yourself who are those five? Are they lifting you up, encouraging your dreams, holding you accountable and making you a better version of yourself? Or are they weighing you down, discouraging what you are working towards, asking you to ditch the efforts and making you feel bad (or worse guilty) for wanting better for yourself?
What is your story?
Develop your narrative. To have a clear, consistent personal brand you must develop your narrative based on what values you hold most important in your life. This is not about scripting an elevator speech, this is about identifying those personal and professional goals and passions that are inherent in every fiber of your being. This exercise may take some time to craft as many of us are driven by emotions when it comes to passion. Emotions are created in the limbic system of the brain, a place where there is no language. We must tap into those emotions and filter them through our pre-frontal cortex to craft words and meaning to what it is we want to achieve. The following 5 steps will help you to begin to understand what your story is.
Step 1- Identify the times in your life in which you were the happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? For example: for me it is when I am coaching, mentoring, or inspiring people to do remarkable things with their lives. This includes writing and sharing personal stories. I know that my personal narrative includes being an inspiration and a source of motivation for others.
Step 2- Identify the times in your life in which you have been the proudest. What factors contributed to this pride? Did you accomplish something that required time, patience and delayed gratification? Was it centered around helping others? What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride? Was it self-pride? Or pride that you made others proud? Understanding and thinking through these questions will help you to identify the source of motivation in your narrative.
Step 3- Identify the times in life in which you felt most fulfilled. How did that fulfilment give your life meaning? Did you feel a sense of higher purpose? Identifying our own personal “noble cause” and emotional heartbeat as to why we do the things we do is the passionate part of the personal narrative.
Step 4- Find the words. Find the descriptive words that will help to help identify those values that should be part of your personal narrative. Identify the top 6-8 that you most identify with. Now circle the top 2 that, if you had to choose, would be the only ones on the list. Those two values should be the foundation for your personal narrative script. Here are some examples to get your juices flowing but don't limit yourself to these suggestions. Get out your digital thesaurus and really find the words that resonate with your core beliefs and values. Collaborative, influential, resilient, forward-focused, risk-taking, connected, international, visionary, diplomatic, intuitive, precise, servant, enterprising, ethical, genuine, accessible.
Step 5- Never stop developing. Your personal brand is ever evolving and growing as you continue to grow. Always be an eager student in the pursuit of your passions and your commitment to develop will become the life-force of your own unique individual brand. Pledging and role modeling continued development increases the value of the work you generate and help you find your own unique niche in this world. Your personal brand precedes you, defines you, guides you, and anchors you. Find yours today before it finds you.