Sometimes people tell me that they don’t think they have a brand or that they aren’t sure of their brand. If you fall in this category, let me be the first to say that you do have a brand and that it is up to you to be the best brand manager that you can be. You don’t need a marketing background, you just need to understand how you can take all the information that makes you unique and leverage it in a positive way. When people ask me how they should get started, I tell them that the first part is knowing and defining your brand.
So that it doesn’t seem like such a daunting task, I like to think of your brand as a big canvas where you are the artist sketching out your purpose and passion, adjectives that describe you, unique qualities that set you apart from others, and your source of authority or what would make others believe in your brand and give it credibility.
Like all paintings, you probably aren’t going to finish this one in a single sitting. It’s better to think of it as something that you can work on over time, adding or erasing subtle nuances as your style, your preferences, your experience, and your leadership evolve. I usually find that it is something that you should work on, put down, pick up again and discuss with people who know you well. There is also a lot of value in sharing this exercise with a few people who may not know you very well.
If you don’t know your brand, here are some examples and ideas to get you started. Remember that as you approach this, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Your answers just have to authentically represent you!
1) Your purpose and passion
Your purpose and your passion should apply both personally and professionally. Don’t confuse this part with your job description. Your job description is just a definition of what you do. If you feel stuck with this part, you can start with “It makes me happy when I know I have __________”.
I like the way a friend put this during the opening of a meeting when she said “how would you describe what “grooves” you? The answers were broad and included things like “I like to nurture people and make them feel better”, “I love to compete and win”, and “I inspire people to believe in themselves” all the way to examples like “I make things easier for people”, and “I love to make people laugh”.
Your passion and your purpose are what make you thrive, feel fulfilled, and yes even “groove” you. Once you define it, then you can see if and how it applies to your job description. Usually there is a way that you can think about how you can approach your job based on your passion and your purpose. For example, those descriptions could all apply to five very different sales people, all of whom approach their same given job description very differently, yet with great success. If you can’t find a way to apply your purpose or passion to your job, you might be in the wrong position, but that’s a whole different topic.
2) Adjectives that describe you
What do people say about you when they are describing you to others? What would your friends and colleagues say? How would you introduce yourself using just a few words? Are you funny, adventuresome, dependable, wickedly smart, or are you serious, content, spontaneous, creative or analytical?
This may be an area where having input from people who know you well in addition to people who don’t can be extremely helpful, especially if there are some areas of your brand that need “managing” or evolving. For example, if those who know you very well describe you as a “quiet thinker” yet those you just meet think of you as aloof, you might need to know that and manage that initial perception of your brand. First impressions count and are often the most difficult ones to change, so doing this exercise with some new friends and colleagues could help you identify potential “brand blind spots”.
3) Differentiators that set you apart from others
This part of your brand canvas is really about what you are good at, the environments you thrive in, and the types of situations, projects or circumstances that you would choose if it were up to you.
Some people can argue both sides of an issue very well and love doing so, while others may say that what sets them apart is their unwavering commitment to a cause. Maybe you love to brainstorm and debate possibilities while someone else has a bias towards taking action. Do you thrive in situations where the outcome is not defined ahead of time and there is a lot of ambiguity, or would you rather work on a project with clearly defined objectives and a framework where your role is to make an existing process better? Are you someone who is skilled at building a team from scratch, turning poor performance around, or making an already good team even better? Again, there isn’t a right or wrong answer.
What are the three or four things that make you unique —and not necessarily from everyone else, but from someone who might be sitting beside you?
4) Your source of authority
What gives your brand credibility? This can be something as concrete as an advanced training or a degree, or as subjective as a feedback you have gotten from your friends, colleagues, peers, or bosses. If your passion is winning and one of your differentiators is turning performance around, hopefully you have you been able to demonstrate that several times. If not, the challenge for you is to find ways to augment your brand, talk about it ,and demonstrate it to others.
Finally, I like to think that that your personal brand should include a motto, just like a product brand. When you put it all together what is your phrase, your slogan, or your battle cry? What would your brand T-shirt say? Think of this as the signature of your painting. This should be quick, short and powerful. Here are some of my favorites from those who definitely got their motto right.
“Live the life you love, love the life you live” – Bob Marley
“Screw it, just do it” – Richard Branson
“Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda
It’s time to get started on your own brand canvas. What will your’s look like?
If you are feeling adventuresome, come work on your personal brand in an exciting environment. This upcoming leadership adventure (Living Your Brand) is in Nosara, Costa Rica. Join a great group of people for a week of personal exploration and growth, experiential learning, and fun!!!