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You are a Chief Executive Officer. How’s Your Company’s Brand Doing?

September 12th, 2011

No matter what other title or position you may hold, you are still the Chief Executive Officer of brand YOU.

Typically, the CEO has responsibilities as a communicator, decision maker, leader, and manager. The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization’s management and employees; the decision making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader, the CEO advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization. As a manager, the CEO presides over the organization’s day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to year operations. (Wikipedia)

Let’s take a closer look. Your responsibility as communicator of company YOU, you must be clear about your message. Without understanding the values, messaging and value proposition, it is impossible to spread the word about your brand. In addition, you must be able to articulate the value proposition and overarching message in a way where people can relate understand the intended.

As the decision maker for company YOU, you (again) want to have a clear understanding of your values and your objectives. You will continuously use this as the basis for how and why you make decisions. For instance, you are asked by a co-worker to engage in a conversation with your manager to find out information that would help them make a better career decision. Seems harmless to some, but if one of your foundational values is transparency, then your decision would simply be “no”.

You are the commander-in-chief, head honcho, the leader. As the leader of company YOU, it is your job to set the direction of your life, personally and professionally. You are responsible for setting the vision. How else would you know which path to take or if you’re headed in the wrong direction, if you don’t establish the destination?

Acting as the manager of company You, is one of the most important roles. This is the role that keeps all of the other roles in line. As the manager, you will ensure that “the leader” has set the vision, “the decision maker” is making sound decisions to achieve the vision, “the communicator” is to disseminate the vision.

The message here is that, no matter what your title, you are the acting Commander in Chief of you. You’re building your own brand and get to decide how to articulate the authentic message. Take each role seriously, build a brand that is in line with your authentic brand.

Here’s to the growth and prosperity of your brand.

The Brand Barometer

November 14th, 2010

How do you know when your brand is working for you and not against you? After all, don’t most of us have a positive image of ourselves, our appearance, the way we communicate, our behavior, etc. Even if we’ve had to be mean or short with someone, we can usually justify why it “had” to happen. They made us do it because of the way they were behaving or that’s what was done to us, etc.

Unfortunately people don’t come and say “hey, I was going to offer you this opportunity, but . . .” They just don’t say anything and offer it to someone else. In many cases, it has nothing to do with whether or not they like you. If you someone asked a particular person to describe you, they may just say “oh, he or she is so nice. . .” The person may have even told you about a conversation they had about you where they described you as “nice”; which can be a catch all and avoidance of a more in depth description.

Now, if someone asks if you are dependable or knowledgeable or confident or committed, then the answer may be completely different. We hope not, but how will you gage your brand? The answer is feedback. Take a moment to find out how you’re doing around the various areas of your brand. Are you appropriately dressed? How is your communication style, diction, word choice, articulation, etc.? What are you known for? Is it the things you want to be known for? What would people change about you if they could?

Gird your loins, put your “big girl or boy pants” on and listen. Don’t listen to defend, but to understand. You want to understand how you are being perceived in the world. Get the feedback from several different people. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you are doing well and commit to improving upon the areas that you feel you need improving upon.

Expand the Brand

August 18th, 2010

While brand consistency is critical, having a brand that appeals to more than one group of people is equally important. Much the way Nike appeals to children, teens, young adults and older people, your brand should span a large group of people for the most impact (although never to everyone) and it should be consistent.

The key to expanding your brand is likability. This trait disarms people and allows them to become more familiar with other areas of your brand. If you made rounds from a group of public servants, to professionals to executives, would they all describe your brand in the same manner? Would you be likable? Or, would your lack of exposure to various groups of people cause you to behave differently with those groups, thus compromising your likability? Many people find themselves in this situation.

How do you expand your brand? One way is to understand the likability trait. It can begin with a smile. Sounds simple, but eludes many. Another likability trait is active listening. This means that you remain present in a conversation, let the other person know that you hear them and not interrupting. Another is checking the ego at the door. We are all great in our own regard; each unique in a special way. However, the best way for people to find that out is through our actions, others perception of us and allowing them to ask us questions. Offering up your “I’m so great” files is a quick way to turn people off.

Another way is to expand your knowledge base. If the only topics you can speak on have to do with your profession or the culture within the homogeneous group you associate with, there is a good chance that you will feel uncomfortable around other people, which will show. Likability can’t show up here.

The last trait I will mention today on becoming likable is authenticity. People can sniff out a fake like a bee can sniff honey. Instead of handing out false compliments and praise, find something about a person that you actually like or admire. Otherwise, save the flattery.

The point of expanding your brand with a few universal traits is to give you exposure to a variety of people that will ultimately increase your opportunities. I think you’ll find a universal brand can fast track your goals.

The Best Laid “Brands” of Mice and Men Often Go Astray

August 11th, 2010

Many of us have heard the saying “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. Well, so goes our personal brand.  We can envision ourselves ever so pleasantly and perfectly, presently and in the future. We see ourselves have a great life, lots of friends, warm, approachable, dependable, accountable, well dressed, articulate, I mean outright superstars!

Sometimes things go as planned and sometimes. . .they don’t. Why does this happen? If this has happened to you, relax. You are not alone. Unfortunately, many of us do not receive the feedback necessary to know if we are on track to realize our Best Brand. You envision yourself being dependable; however you overcommit to a point where you can’t possibly get it all done. In your mind, you’re doing the best you can and shouldn’t people be happy that you said “yes”? No, not if they’re counting on you. I have personally had to learn this lesson. I was fortunate enough to recieve the proper feedback and was able to get back on track.

You envision yourself as well dressed and appropriate for every occasion. However, in reality your clothes are too fitted, too loose or downright unsuitable for various occasion. How will you know? You may not without feedback. Feedback can come in a few forms. You may notice subtle (or not so subtle) remarks about how “snazzy” you dress or WOW! look at you. Paying attention to the phrases and adjectives that are used, but more importantly those that are not used to describe your appearance.

You get where I’m going here. Assess your brand on a regular basis. Given that 75% of getting, retaining and advancing in a job (or otherwise put, 75% of your likability factor) is based on people skills (per the Dale Carnegie Institute). We need to put the same laser focus on ensuring that our own brands are the best and most authentic as we do analyzing others.

Remember that very few of us get most things right on the first try. We need feedback, strategy, execution and monitoring to ensure that we are constantly moving forward to our best brand (and in life). So plan the brand, understand who you are and how you want to represent  yourself to the world. Then understand that sometimes, we veer off of these plans. Feedback will help us get back on track.

Just say “okay”

July 13th, 2010

Sometimes to keep things moving, you have to just say “okay”. There are many situations that warrant a response, push back or the insertion of more information so that the other person can see your point of view. There are other times when we just need to say “okay” and move on. No every battle needs to be fought; as tempting as it may be (particularly when you KNOW the other person is wrong).

My reason for saying this is that there are just some people that won’t budge. They are rocks; pillars of stubborness, piles of strength. . .okay, you get the picture. They won’t agree or change their minds no matter how much information is presented. And then there is you, on the other side wanting to scream, shake them uncontrollably and beg them to listen or just use some mystical powers to change their mind. No matter where you fall, you have a decision to make. You can continue to stay and argue your point, or you can choose to say “okay” and move on.

You’ll have to keep the goal in mind. This is what should determine how much time you spend trying to convince the person that you are right. If all goals can be met (albeit more slowly or slightly more difficult) and that person can interrupt that, it’s best to keep the goal in mind, so okay, get it done and say NEXT!

Coo Coo for Communication

July 6th, 2010

I think that I am in the minority of people who want to “know” how I’m being perceived. It matters to me how I come across. Was my message received in the way that I intended it to be? Did I just offend the person I was talking to? Did the person understand what I was saying? How would someone describe my communication style? Why do I want to know?

Well we communicate to get our message across, to motivate, educate or persuade. If our intended message is not received, then our goal of motivating, educating or pursuading is not met. Depending on the circustances this could be catastrophic. . .and in many cases, it is. Miscommunication can often ruin relationships, cause uncessary disension, cause people to react in a way that they wouldn’t have had they known the intended message.

So yes, I’m coo coo for effective communication. Let’s talk about it. Tell me what  you thought I meant and I tell you what I meant to say. We communicate is so many different ways; through our appearance and body language, verbally, orally and through our words and actions. There are so many ways to communicate and we are never actually taught how to do it.

Since we’re figuring this out on our own for the most part, let’s try to be more effective. How? Well, in verbal conversations, we can actively listen to one another; clarify, ask questions and repeat back what you thought you heard in your own words to be clear, understand the power of perceptions by getting relevant feedback on what and how you are communicating, solicit feedback regularly about your personal brand. How people describe you, will tell you a lot about what you’re communicating through your appearance, verbal & written communications and character.

It’s not always easy to hear, but the rewards are priceless. Let us know what you think.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

June 15th, 2010

Good morning and welcome to EA Every Tuesday. We’re back!

Thank goodness that perfection is not a human goal; although so many us strive so very hard to achieve it. Despite the continual identification and publicizing of man’s shortcomings, our society still (generally) seeks the picture perfect human being. One without fault or blemish. We judge these people, we’ve found to be less than perfect, so harshly. We so easily look past our own faulty decisions, harsh words we say to hurt, lies we’ve told and outright bad decisions that we narrowly escaped the consequences of to condemn our fellow man for falling down. We do this in a time where he or she needs to be lifted up, encouraged to do better and told that they can resume the “right” path and that we know this because we too have fallen and gotten back up. There is something wrong with this picture.

There are those who hold to the look of picture of perfection so tightly, like a morsel of food in times of famine. It’s the look they’re going for not the content. They say all the right things, drive the right car, have a “good” job, smile all the time, answer “great” every time you ask how they are doing, and suppress every urge to share a shortcoming that might actually free them and you. They live in “The Land of Make Believe”. I know a lot about these types of people. Several years ago I was one. I am, in no way, suggesting that people stop and tell strangers on the street their every whim or burn up the ear of every relative, friend or significant other who asks “how are you?” This is called a complainer; they are time suckers and ungrateful people. (Sorry, yes I just made a judgement call, but that is a hot button for me :) ). I am, however, suggesting that we share a bit more, about where are in the moment, with those we care about and who care about us. The purpose is not just to have someone to listen (although that is sometimes helpful), but rather to begin to work through this space and time to get to a better place. The interesting thing is that talking it through is usually not only good for the person going through, but therapeutic for the person helping them through.

The other side of this coin. I’ve been doing brand and communications work long enough to know that situations are rarely picture perfect; although sometimes very, very close. The thing is, we are the ones who get to define what the “picture perfect” life is for us. We sometimes project our own insecurities on to others thinking how we might feel in their situation; when really they are happy doing it their way. Some people need to see the shortcomings, insecurities and faults of others to feel good about themselves. They complain that certain people’s situation seems to perfect and the thought that “it” (whatever it is; marriage, job, family, etc.) is, makes them feel insecure. Let me just say for the record that, that is about YOU. Stop looking around so much and work towards you’re own happy life. 

So the question is not “what’s wrong with this picture?” as we look on to see how others are doing, it’s “where am I right now?”

The Depth of Character

June 9th, 2010

Please forgive the delay of this blog post. I was on hold for a while since my website was being recreated. We are back to EA Every Tuesday. Thank you so much for your comments thus far. I will begin responding tomorrow. I so appreciate your honest feedback; the good the bad and the ugly. It’s the only way I can grow.

Today’s blog (EA Every Tuesday on Wednesday) is dealing with the depth of our character. There is a scripture in the Bible that talks about knowing a tree by its fruit. I liken that to people. I’m not big on talk, but the actions of others. One can say that they are a hardworking, considerate and compassionate person. Well, watching them take a break every chance they get at work, blast their music and shun a homeless person is enough for me to make my own decision.

There are lots of fast talkers in the world. Many look good on paper. How do we know who is real? Their fruit, or the depth of their character. People show you the real them over time an under the right circumstances. Being congruent is one of the most respectable spaces a person can be in for me. Your thoughts, words and actions all match. There isn’t much guess work and they have a high level of integrity when it comes to acting out who they are on the inside.

It’s easy to take the low road, to dismiss a service person, to walk past an ederly person in need of assistance, to join the gossip at the office, etc. It takes depth of character to become the person you are in your mind. I’ve never heard a person describe themselves as someone who never keeps their word, untrustworthy, a breaker of confidences, inconsiderate, etc. Most people describe themselves in a positive light. There is a constant want to be and do better. It takes depth to be better.

The next time you are faced with the choice to dive deep into your character or take the easy way out, pause, line up your thoughts, (words if applicable) and actions and act according the person you want to be.

Brands Don’t Always Have to Be Likable to Be Effective. . .Part 2

April 28th, 2010

This week we continue our discussion from last week on effective and sometimes unlikable brands. From financial services companies to obnoxious celebrities, authenticity is critical. How many times have you been in a conversation with a person who is describing the brand of an organization or celebrity and you think it amounts to a negative brand perception. However, the person describing it resonates with the brands authenticity. The catch is the long term effect. While you don’t have to have a likable brand to be effective, you have to think about what your goals are and your interest in longevity. Most brands that do not resonate positively will not have a long lifespan.

Brands Don’t Always Have to Be Likable to Be Effective. . .

April 20th, 2010

they just need to be authentic. You may have run across people who have a seemingly bad brand; or at a minimum they display qualities that do not contribute to a positive brand. However, they seem to be loved by many, appear to be successful and often described by both their negative and positive qualities. What is that?

Authenticity. These are the people who make it clear about where they stand and where you stand with them. What you see is what you get. You may have someone in mind right now that you can describe this way. They may tell you the truth even when you’re not looking to hear it, bring up a difficult topic in a meeting that is going seemingly well, dress “inappropriately” for events, refuse to flatter people unnecessarily, among other things.

The goal in all of this is to deliver your authentic self respectfully. Our culture does not often promote authenticity. Look at the celebrities who have “disappointed” us after we found out that they aren’t as perfect as they portrayed themselves to be or that they are out of money after trying to keep up with the Joneses. Think about the everyday people you know who are one way with their family, another with their coworkers and yet another with you.

The reality is that you won’t become friends with everyone you meet. Every person you come into contact with will not enjoy your style and or personality; however most will probably appreciate knowing that what you relay through your words, actions and choices is authentic.

Stay tuned for next week’s EA Every Tuesday where we will continue on the subject of Personal Brand Authenticity. . .