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Your Personal Brand is the cornerstone to your professional success.  Do you know how you are perceived by your colleagues? Supervisors? Clients?  Understanding this is the key to refining and developing the brand you want to portray. 

There are so many elements that feed into your personal brand and despite common thinking, the way you dress at work is only a very small factor.  Integrity, presence, communication and how you leverage your skills are just a few that can help you improve or shape your brand.  Understanding your brand and how it can both positively and negatively impact your career will empower you to be in control of your long term success.

Are you ready to maximize your brand?

In this episode, we’ll discuss these things and more!

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode.  Are you trying to figure out what your vision of success is?

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Read the Episode Transcript Here:

How’s everybody doing today?  Today we are talking about personal branding, wow talk about a concept that’s gone viral, right?  In the last, I don’t know, three, four years you hear about it everywhere…personal brand…personal brand, what’s your brand?  All over the Internet, it’s all over the news, you’re probably taking training on it at work, what is your personal brand, how do you set yourself apart in the workplace, in life, and social media, and pretty much anything you do.

So I think that personal brand is just an evolution of what we used to call your reputation.  How many of you out there remember when you were a kid, your mom saying to you…don’t get a bad reputation…make sure you have a good reputation, don’t be known for this because you’ll have a bad reputation.  But it’s true because the last thing you want to be known for is not having a good reputation and personal brand is very similar to this. I think that it was a forced evolution into something more all-encompassing because of social media.  Now you are present in so many different places in addition to just your home your social circles or your workplace we’re online on Twitter or on Facebook, we’re on LinkedIn, we’re chatting and commenting and posting and being involved in so many different communities online.  In forums that are cataloged for life, the things that we do and say online are there forever.

30 years from now when you’re retired or a senior so and so at whatever job you’re at, they’re going to be able to pull up a tweet or a comment that you made when you were 25 about someone’s crazy posts complaining about their dog in your yard.  Or whatever it may be and a lot of its benign, but it does bear consideration that whatever we say or comment or even do now, a lot of times with pictures really can follow us in both a negative and positive way. And your personal brand is the culmination of all of those moments of how you conduct yourself in a variety of situations.  

So from a career perspective, your personal brand is very much a reputation of who you are outside the office and how it follows you inside the office and how it impacts your ability to perform, lead, be productive at that position.  Because so many of us are connected online it’s difficult to hide, so if you’re online ranting and raving about whatever latest craze, there’s always the possibility of alienating a group of people for better for worse. I mean we’re all entitled to our opinion, we’re all entitled to our likes and dislikes, values and entertainment points, but we need to consider how that reflects forward.  So I always think of personal brand in a few different boxes and I’m going to break them down in the different boxes that I look at them.

And there will be future podcast on most of these separate boxes to get a little bit more into the weeds about how you can really break them apart and maximize your benefits from those elements.

So obviously the first one, the most baseline element of your personal brand is your integrity.  Integrity is something that is very difficult to reverse if it’s been seen in a negative way, you know we’ve all met somebody along the way in our personal and professional lives who has failed to meet the integrity test.  Specifically for professional reasons you know, I worked with a person years ago and they repeatedly would do things that were shady and sneaky. And you know, I mean, it’s okay if that’s how you want to conduct your career, but it puts the people around you in a difficult position especially if they’re in a leadership role and they’re looking for their team to carry on the shady behavior.  Because you get a reputation for being shady and that’s hard to shake especially within an organization. Obviously, if you moved to another organization, for the most part, you might be able to lose that reputation or that air of shadiness, but I think it stains you, it marks you, because it changes the way you look at things. And integrity is something that it’s not so much that you either have it or you don’t, but I think that once it starts to break down it erodes and if you set yourself standards when you start your career that, I’m going to be an honest, trustworthy and stand-up person in my career and over time things happen, right, I really want to get this promotion.  And if I do this project in such a way perhaps I might have to use some information that somebody else worked on or pass something off as my own or maybe I’ll just be a little sneaky about how I get some time in front of the boss undercut one of my colleagues. It starts with those little things and a lot of corporations and a lot of organizations nowadays foster that type of environment.

One of my first real career jobs was in a company that raved about team culture and nothing could have been further from the truth.  They loved to talk about team and train you on team but to advance and progress and move up the ladder it was all about screw your friend.  It was all about getting the best projects, dazzle them and then you get recognized and it doesn’t matter who you have to step on to do it. And it really forces you to reflect on what’s important you, and ask is my integrity worth moving up the ladder here.  Do you, can I sleep at night knowing that even if I don’t like my teammates, I screwed them over to get that accolade from the supervisor.

There were times that I considered it, I mean everybody does I think, most people anyway and I consider myself to be someone with a great amount of integrity.  A lot of times it gets me in trouble because I am very black and white, it’s either wrong or it’s right and I don’t like to gray the the the edges of that. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t sit back and look at the benefits of graying those lines around the edges and it really makes it difficult in a lot of work situations.  Because if you’re not willing to do what needs to get done you lose in some situations and that’s a kick in the gut cause even if you’re busting your ass to give a 110% because you’re not willing to play dirty, you lose.

So with respect to personal brand and your integrity when situations like that arise, you have to really consider what it is that you want to portray, because we all work with folks like that and I’m sure you are sitting in a cubicle next to somebody or down the hall from somebody that everybody knows is that snake that would stab you in the back while he’s smiling at you or she’s bringing you a cup of coffee because they’re all about getting ahead.  And you know what, a lot of those people are going to rise and make it all the way to the top and never look back and they will claim victory on the fact that they did what had to get done in order to get to where they wanted. So okay if that’s the way you want to get it, that’s the way you want and it’s nice to not worry about what other people think. I’m a firm believer that on many levels you shouldn’t care what other people think because at the end of the day it’s your head hitting that pillow with those thoughts about what you did in that day and you’re the one that has to go to sleep knowing what you did.  

It doesn’t matter what other people think and some people can talk themselves into the fact that their shady behavior or selfish behavior or non-team-like behavior is okay and that’s fine too.  We all have to make those decisions for ourselves and they need to be informed decisions. You have to consider that every time you cut a corner or you screw over one of your co-workers it erodes a little bit of that integrity and at some point, there’s a price for that, and it may not be a high price for you.  You may get later on in your career and shake it off and be like, well that’s what I needed to do, but you also may get to later on in your career and you find that you have very few professional relationships, you have very few personal relationships that are true, lasting, genuine relationships with people who trust you and that you can trust and count on.  Because you chose the solitary route of just focusing on what you needed to get done.

So that’s integrity, the next box is presence and this kind of ties along with it.  You know, what is your presence in the office, you know, are you coming in confident but not arrogant, are you coming in accepting and listening and coming across as an empathetic and compassionate co-worker who is inclusive in their demeanor?  I mean that intangible, where you come in and you’re invading people’s space and you’re dominating and the way your non-verbals are coming across. Do you come into the office and you’re smiling, you’ve got a pep in your step and you’re saying hi to the receptionist, you’re saying hi to your cubicle mates, are you friendly when you go to the water cooler or to the fridge, to the cafeteria or wherever you heat up your lunch?  What is your demeanor when you enter a room?

I kind of look at this as the wake of a boat, you know, little boats throw a small wake as they drive past a pier and only little waves pass, small ripples and they spread pretty far but they’re not going to tip you over if you’re passing by.  Big boats cast a bigger wake and that has to go with personality, you know, smaller personality people cast of smaller wake and that’s okay because the ripples still push out far and wide but they’re not big they’re more subtle whereas bigger personalities cast that bigger wake, that again, they still go far and wide but they’re a little bit more disruptive and that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing.

But it does translate when you come into the office on how your presence is.  Are you a big presence are you a small presence and being aware of which one you are and being able to adapt that to your surroundings is a skill.  There are a lot of people that are big personalities and they just don’t realize that they’re a big personality and sometimes it can be really off-putting to smaller personalities and vice versa.  Smaller personalities come in and they don’t have a huge presence but it is impactful at heart but they are there they’re constantly wondering why am I not noticed, why are people not hearing what I’m saying…because their wake is smaller, their presence is more subdued and given the right situations they can have even more of an impact than those larger personalities.  But it’s all in learning how to maximize your presence in the office.

We start with understanding first what is your presence, you know what do you walking into a room…is your voice always loud, do you have a deep loud resounding voice, or do you have a really quiet voice and you need to really concentrate on making sure that you’re speaking clearly and in a tone, in a volume that people can hear, are you a personal space invader?  Those are my personal favorite people because I have a serious issue with my bubble I don’t like people inside my bubble.

I will try to give you a pass because I understand that some people are just clueless when it comes to understanding personal space, but I don’t like people in my bubble.  If you get too close and you’re talking right at my head and I’m kind of short, most people are taller than me and if they’re standing right over talking to me that kind of puts me off right off the bat.  And the best is when you take a step back and those people come back into your personal bubble like they’re afraid you’re not going to hear them even though they’re right above you talking in a very loud voice.  For the most part, as I’ve gotten older I understand that these people are just not aware, there are some people I think that do it because it’s more of an intimidation factor but most people are just unaware of their presence and that’s my point. 

Take stock of what your presence is, if you’re not sure or you’re concerned that perhaps you might be one of those people that are unaware, asked your colleagues, talk to your friends and family and say – “hey, am I one of those people to come in a room and you know, instantly takes over” and do all eyes go to me or am I one of those people that come into a room and no one notices.  And this doesn’t have anything to do with if you’re a looker or not, you know there are many gorgeous people that slip into a room and slip out and not many people notice because they have a very subtle presence right, or you know vice-versa.

So this is not to be construed as America’s top model walks into the room, of course, they have a big presence and because I’m not beautiful or I’m not handsome, I’m never going to have a big presence, they have nothing to do with one another, this has to do with your non-verbals and your ways about walking into room.  Some people just have swagger.  You know these people, they just walk into a room and you wonder, did they work on that walk, how did they just walk into a room and command attention without saying a thing not everybody has that quality you can certainly work on it and you can improve that but it’s also not necessary everybody doesn’t have to have that quality.  I mean if everybody walked into the room with that kind of quality those people would no longer stand out.  You have to find what helps you stand out in a room.

I have someone in my family who is a very quiet personality and they walk into a room and you always know they’re there, not because they’re loud and have swagger or have major presence, it’s more about the the understated presence that they have you know?  That they’re there and they’re listening to everything that is going on and it the least likely moment they join the conversation with something insightful.  Usually it’s not a whole lot of information, it’s not a whole lot of words, short, succinct and to the point and it’s not even in a very loud voice but it’s impactful and those few words cause people to take notice.  And now you know somehow it’s just an air when they come into the room, you know you’re going to leave that room with some kind of impactful insight…you have no idea what it is, but it’s almost like you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see what it is that they have to say.

So that leads to communication because what you say and how you say it and when you say it really matters and it really matters to your personal brand.  There are people that like this person I was talking about who can say very few words, they’re not loud, they’re not crass, they’re not particularly eloquent, I mean we’re not talking about fancy words but the insight behind the words is measurable. 

Probably at one point in your life you’ve worked somewhere where there’s that person that is in every meeting and they have the bosses ear and they’re talkin all these big words and they’re rambling on super fast.  And it sounds like they have tons of insight and half of what they’re saying you’re thinking gosh didn’t I say that the last meeting but no one listened to what I said.  But now they’re saying it with all these fancy words and they’re getting heard because the boss is enamored by the way in which they communicate.  That happens right, that’s just going to happen, but you can improve your delivery by how you communicate.  Consider what type of language you use. On a lot of levels I think big fancy words aren’t necessary, right? 

I worked internationally for quite some time and you work with a lot of interpreters.  It was important for me to get my message across in a clear way so that my counterparts were receiving the message clearly. Okay, we were we were discussing things that you needed to be clear because there were agreements being made and different levels of complexity to the discussion.  It was paramount that whatever we were talking about was crystal clear and it puts a huge burden on the interpreters to make sure that they’re getting your message across.  And when you’re throwing in fancy jargon or fancy words or acronyms it becomes very complicated for them.  And I always worried that if I wasn’t clear there would be ramifications afterwards because my message wasn’t clearly communicated.  So I’ve developed a very simplistic discussion style as a result of that, I have one of those word of the day calendars, I love it.  I love learning new words, I love trying to work them into my daily communication and there are people that I’ve worked with over the years that I was impressed with because you would be having a discussion and they would throw these words into conversation with an ease that was just impressive.  And I thought wow, you know they didn’t even have to think about that.  Clearly that’s a word they use frequently and I’m talking to some of these folks they had those word of the day calendars too right.  Some people are just really able to weave those fancy words into their vocabulary and sound very eloquent and very educated in how they communicate. 

Other people do not, other people sound like they had a word of the day calendar and they’re trying to fit in to their conversation – don’t be that person.  Practice your word of the day words at home, work those into your communication style and then when you’re confident in them, then trial run them at the office.  Or maybe you have some friends at the office, work them into those kinds of conversations, because when you’re in a conference or meeting and you’re working these words in and you’re not confident in what it is you’re saying, that comes across.  And a lot of how we communicate is confidence, a lot of how we present ourselves and speak to our colleagues at office meetings across the cubicle wall, conferences, workshops, networking events, a lot of how we communicate is our level of confidence. 

And you want to come from a place where you are confident, from the very base level you want to be confident and what it is you’re talking about.  So why complicate things by trying to throw in fancy words and jargon that you’re not completely confident in because that is going to affect how you communicate with people.  If you’re talking about topics at work that you don’t really understand, that affects your confidence level. 

I had to do a presentation a long time ago, 10 years ago, on a topic that I knew absolutely nothing about and it was in front of a lot of people, I mean couple hundred people.  And it was kind of a pinch-hit for somebody that was sick or had a family emergency, I don’t remember why, but they weren’t able to go to the the conference so I had to.  I was already there and they said, you know can you cover my presentation for today and I thought, sure you’re a scientist, I’m not, and I’m going to get up there and talk about your sciency stuff and I’m going to look like a buffoon.  And then they’re going to ask me questions at the end and I’m really going to look like an idiot.

I like speaking, I like engaging an audience, I like discussing things and when I know what my topic is, I really enjoy the whole concept of having a discussion with a broader group.  Sure I get nervous, your hand starts shaking a little bit, you get that feeling in your gut just before you go in front of the group, but once you get going…I really enjoy it.  And this was an incident where I had that feeling in my gut and I’m standing up there thinking I am not going to be able to get this to go away because I have no idea what I’m talking about.

I was honest, I’m not sure if I made that decision consciously before I got behind the podium or if it was an on the fly thing of sheer panic, thinking that I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about here and I’m going to stand up here and shake and I have no idea what to say.  I got right up there and said, look my colleague had a family emergency, I’m covering, I’m not going to read these slides to you, I’m going to give you the non-scientist version of this presentation.  I’ve seen him give it enough times and he’s explained it to me with football analogies so that I can kind of break it down but I’m going to do my best to give it to you in the non-science version.

Now this is a room full of probably half scientists, there were some chuckles and I gave them my best layman’s version of the presentation.  We had a ton of questions at the end and what I found interesting is they adjusted their language to me in their questions.  There were one or two people that asked super sciency questions and I just had to say you know I I got to defer that one, here’s my card email me and I’ll pass it along to my colleague and he can answer you with the real answer.  But the rest of the folks that were asking questions, they adjusted their language to my speed if you will and I really appreciated that.  I felt like we connected even still, did they get as much out of the presentation as they might have with my scientist colleague, probably not. But that wasn’t the point, the point was, I was genuine with how I communicated with them, with my style, I didn’t try to be the scientist because I’m not the scientist.  I tried to be honest with them and just let them know that I’ll give you whatever information I can and they responded in kind.  They didn’t throw giant science words at me and their questions for the most part and we really were able to have a constructive conversation. 

The reason I bring that up is when we communicate at work we need to be aware of our audience.  We need to be aware of the people that we’re talking to, how we come across to those people is paramount.  If you are meeting with a senior member of your organization and they’re kind of a good ol boy, see you at the golf course, awe shucks, kind of guy and they swear a lot it’s okay for you to throw out whatever jargon and curse words and speak at their level.  But if you’re talkin to, you know someone a little bit more serious and demure and polite you probably want to leave the golf course talk at your desk okay?  The language that we choose to use with people is important and not just because how it reflects on us but it’s how it makes the other person feel.

The way you communicate is also very important, you know are you talking with the people or you’re talkin at them?  Your tone of voice, your level of volume, all of those things fit in.

So I’m going to use it a lot of golf analogies here, I’ve been playing golf for the last couple of years and I’ve been learning and one of the most infuriating things I find about golf is that there’s apparently 625 different things you need to do in 1 swing.  And I can’t keep any of them straight.  Personal branding is a lot like that to me because there are so many different things that feed into your personal brand that you need to be constantly gathering data on, paying attention to how people are perceiving you and how people are reacting to you, around you as you speak with them, as you enter a room, what you’re wearing, those kinds of things.  That perception has so many different levels and mentally data-gathering people’s reactions watching their nonverbals, watching their facial expressions, watching how they move, you know the personal space invader…if you move towards them and they take a step back. 

Paying attention to all of those cues is very important to how you develop and refine and master your own personal brand and it’s complicated and there are parts of it that you can hone and you can master and you can improve upon little bit by little bit.  But there are also the bigger parts that you can work on there are so many different training classes that we can take to get better at communication to learn more about personal presence and networking and interacting with people.  There are so many different tools out there that we can use to improve our personal brands.  It starts with looking inward, talk to your friends talk to your co-workers, talk to your family, and ask them if you were to describe me in 5 words what would it be, am I organized, do I seem disheveled, am I obnoxious, am I quiet, am I dynamic, am I a personal space invader, those inputs that you get about how people perceive you can be invaluable.

Do you come across as confident?  If not why, ask yourself some questions, why am I not confident and is it the whole package that I’m not confident in or is it just parts.  That way you can really address and fix maybe communication isn’t your strongest suit but you are very social and you’re able to make friends so you’re upbeat and you’re energetic, but maybe your communication skills just need a little work, right?  Maybe you are not a very good dresser and you try really hard and you feel like you don’t look professional that may just be your perception, other people may see you as looking very put together all the time.  So take some time ask the questions of people that you trust and ask them to be honest with you, that you’re trying to develop your personal brand and consider how it’s impacting your interactions in and out of the office.  You have to remember that part of what makes you, you is you and your personality. 

So in trying to develop your personal brand please understand that nowhere have I encouraged you to be something you are not, because that comes across too and that is not sustainable.  We Are Who We Are for a reason and our personality is part of our charm, it’s part of our flavor, it’s part of that secret sauce that makes you you.  The idea of personal branding is taking that essence of you and making it shine through in the best possible way.

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