I chose this topic for my first blog because I have been personally “living it” for the past six months and would like to share what I’ve learned through my journey with you. Here’s my story (and thoughts), and I hope it provides some insights and inspiration for exploration of your own brand…
We all have a personal brand, whether we realize it or not. My definition of “brand” is aligning who you are on the inside (your values, strengths, passions) with what people see on the outside through your actions and behaviors. We’re inundated by brands everywhere we look, and we form opinions and buying decisions based on what these brands represent to us. The same is true for one’s personal brand. People form their opinions of us based on their observations, experiences, and what they hear from other people. In today’s interconnected world of social media, our reputations precede us. Before we even have a conversation or meet someone, they have probably looked at a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page, found you on Twitter, or done a Google search. And, often times, that person uses what they’ve learned to make a decision as to whether they want to initiate a connection. So, building your brand is ALSO about knowing and managing your reputation by discovering whether other people’s perceptions of your brand are what you want them to be.
A few months ago, I started working on my branding and website – actually, in reality, I began building my brand from the first day Innovative Performance Strategies was launched almost 14 years ago. When I got really serious about creating this website and redefining my brand about midway through 2012, I went through a pretty intense process of self-reflection and feedback gathering. I asked myself three questions:
- What value do I add for my clients?
- How can I differentiate myself from other learning and development consultants?
- What impact do I want to have?
I pulled out my original consulting business plan that I wrote when I was completing my master’s program as a starting point. In this plan I had identified my core values and did a lot of writing about the vision and focus for the work that I wanted to do. It was really affirming for me to see that what I had defined almost 15 years ago still holds true – my core values, my emphasis on relationships, and my hope for the impact I wanted to have with my clients. I also went back to a lot of writing I had done over the years describing the different types of work I’ve done and what I enjoy doing. Everything I wrote about led back to a passion for growth and transformation, which you’ll see purposefully reflected throughout my website in my vision statement, my logo, the images of clients, my three E’s of “Emerge – Engage – Evolve”, and even the color scheme for the website. It was very affirming that, as I sought feedback from others about what they perceived my brand to be, there was alignment in many areas and additional insights in others. I also had a trusted friend and colleague who became my coach along the way. She asked some very thought-provoking, sometimes tough, questions and helped me keep the momentum going by holding me accountable for what I had committed to doing and celebrating each milestone with me (thank you, SD!!!). This was a strong testament to the power of coaching and a great personal story that I now share with my clients.
What I have come to realize by going through this process myself is that everything I have done in my work with clients has helped to build my brand. And the same discovery happens for clients, whether it’s in a leadership development program or a career planning workshop or an individual coaching session. Through a variety of activities designed to raise their self-awareness, people get valuable insight into how they’re perceived and how they want to be perceived. A couple of years ago, I was facilitating a workshop for graduate students in a health services program, many of whom were planning to start their own practices. They completed a visioning exercise in which they brainstormed words and statements to describe their vision for their practice. Then they used these words to create an actual picture of their vision. The outcomes of the activity were varied – those who had already been thinking about their vision were excited and energized (a few even created images that they were going to incorporate into their logo and branding), while others discovered they had some work to do to more clearly define their vision.
In another example, I frequently coach individuals who are going through a 360-feedback process. They complete a self-assessment and request feedback from peers, managers, team members, etc., to learn how they are perceived by others in comparison to their self-perception. This process of discovery is often times affirming and encouraging when there are areas of agreement, and can also be humbling and challenging when differences in perception are revealed. No matter what the outcome, it provides great insight into one’s brand and generates action on how to build and manage that brand.
Building your brand is an ongoing process, and every day in everything we do, we are influencing people’s perceptions of us. I hope this writing has given you something to think about in relation to your personal brand. Hopefully it has generated some thoughts about what’s working well and where you might want to focus or get additional feedback. Bottom line – we are all the captains of our own brand and reputations. As you think about this, I’ll leave you with this question to ponder: “What do YOU want to be known for?”
See you next time, when I’ll be writing about “taking a leap of faith” and the role that trust plays in every aspect of our lives.
Thanks for visiting the “Planting the Seeds” blog!!