A few weeks ago found me lunching with a new group of women. These women were powerful. They could connect me to potential clients, potential opportunities.
They were also perfectly polished. Their nails, their teeth, their hair…all perfect. They spoke in high, delightful voices. Their laughter tinkled like bells.
It was like I was part of a show filled with beautiful, glamorous people.
I did my best to keep up for the two hours we spent together. When it was all over I got in my car and wondered why I felt so exhausted, so depleted…so crappy.
And then it hit me.
I’d wanted so badly to impress them, to get connected, to be successful. But let’s get real…anyone who knows me knows that my voice is not high. And my laughter…well, let’s just say “tinkling bells” doesn’t exactly describe it.
Alas, my show’s characters might be a bit…different.
I wasn’t invited back, nor did I want to be. No connections, no new opportunities. All of that effort to find new success was a completely failed mission.
Why? Because I hadn’t been true to who I was.
I’d forgotten my personal brand.
We all know what a brand is when it comes to a company. We look at the Nike swoosh and feel how it reflects the brand of movement and upward momentum. Perhaps we feel inspired.
What we forget is that people have a brand, too.
You have a brand. Your personal brand evokes emotion in others. It makes others feel something…trusting and comfortable…or perhaps challenged and motivated…or happy and carefree.
Why is this important?
Because, in the end, people won’t necessarily remember what you said.
But they will remember how you made them feel.
Your personal brand is your goldmine. It reflects what’s unique about you. It makes you stand out…gets you chosen for opportunities, jobs, relationships.
Your personal brand is what makes you awesome.
Come on now…say it with me…
Great leaders know the value of their personal brand, and consistently integrate it into their choices…in the way they present themselves, in their words, their tones of voice, their emails, their clothing.
The rest of us don’t think about it nearly enough, leaving it up to chance. Some don’t even know how to figure out just what their personal brand is.
I present to you five questions to help you figure out your own personal brand.
A few words of warning: the questions seem simple, but they take some thought. Write what first comes into your mind and try not to overthink your answers.
(For those of you who did this exercise with me just this week, take a second to revisit your answers and reflect on just how awesome you are. Then pass the questions on to others who need to identify their own awesomeness.)
1. What are your values and what do you stand for?
There are certain things that matter to you more than others. What are they? Security? Risk-taking? Innovation? Compassion? Success? Family?
2. What makes you different than anyone else?
What is your unique package? What experiences have you had in life that have made you the person you are? What set of skills and talents have you developed? What are your different passions? How do you share all of this with others?
3. What is the best you experience like?
When you interact with someone and you just know in your gut that you were on it, that you were on fire and everything fell into place, how would the other person describe it? How would they feel afterwards? How would they remember you?
4. Think of someone you respect. What do you admire about them?
How do they carry themselves? How do they handle stress? Success? Failure? What does this mean about how you want to carry yourself?
5. Taking everything into consideration, describe the you you want to express to others.
That last question will lead you straight to your personal brand. Boil it down into a few words you can remember. Integrate it into your conversations, into the way you carry yourself at work, with others. (You may want to run your answers and your brand by someone you trust. Chances are they’ll provide some insights and awesomeness you haven’t even thought of.)
My personal brand? Mild audacity. I say the things others won’t, but I do it nicely. My number one value? Authenticity. This means every conversation is honest and – while some might not love what they hear and won’t want to engage again – those who do will know they’ve gotten something real.
This is what I forgot on that fateful day, as I sat with those perfectly polished women and worked so hard to say the right things, tried so hard not to offend.
The reason I wasn’t invited back had nothing to do with the sound of my laughter. It had to do with the fact that I made them uncomfortable. I wasn’t the awesome me I wanted to be.
And they were on to me.
Recognize the true goldmine in your life. Define your personal brand.
Be awesome you.
And watch how people respond.
Now go do good…and do it well.