What is your personal brand and do you really need one?
In the sense I’m writing about here, your brand is the essence of you; your values, beliefs, personality traits, behaviours and capabilities that make you, you. It’s your reputation.
Brand YOU is like your own personal mini culture
An organisation’s culture is determined by the people who work there. When there’s an alignment between the purpose, attitudes, beliefs and values of the organisation, and that’s translated into the behaviours of the employees, customer perception will match the company branding and culture.
Your personal brand comprises your purpose, attitudes, beliefs and values as expressed through your behaviours, traits and your personality.
So, you already have a brand YOU. And even if you didn’t realise it until now, it’s important to take responsibility for it.
When perception and brand don’t match
We can all cite organisations whose stated values don’t match the behaviours of their employees. For example, yesterday: I spent 1.5 hours (yes, 1.5 hours!) on hold waiting to sort out a problem with my telephone company. Working while waiting was difficult, with the inane music playing, interrupted every 2 minutes by an automated affirmation telling me to hold the line because of how important I was! Somehow, I didn’t buy what they were saying!
Your actions and words should match. If they don’t, your actions (behaviours) will always speak louder than your words.
Brand YOU encompasses what you do, as well as what you don’t do
For example, do you genuinely congratulate friends and colleagues on their successes? Or do you feel jealous and ignore their accomplishments? If you say teamwork is important to you, do you support your other team members, or are you more of a maverick?
Creating brand YOU involves self-awareness and self-discovery
Identify your current personal brand by paying attention to what’s already evident. For example, how do people describe you? What do they tell you are your unique traits? Your friends have, no doubt, already shared what they like about you. For example, “You’re always so positive/funny/lively/witty, etc.”
If your brand is not so positive, someone might only share it behind your back;
“Watch out for Jim — he has some terrible moods.”
“Don’t tell Jane anything confidential — unless you want it spread across the entire company.”
These are the kinds of brand-damaging behaviours that need fixing — now!
Actions speak louder than words
Your behaviours will include how you communicate with others;
- The way you speak.
- What you say.
- Your tone of voice.
- The way you write.
- Your good or poor grammar.
- Even your handwriting says something about you.
Your behaviour online and social media (for example on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) also forms a substantial part of your brand in the 21st century. And because it sticks around in the ethernet, it becomes more difficult to manage. How many people have you ‘unfriended’ because you got fed up with seeing their negative comments showing up in your feed?
What are you passionate about?
Consider your answers to these questions:
- What excites you in life?
- Are you passionate about something unusual?
- What do you fear or worry about?
- Are you involved in rewarding activities?
- Who do you admire and why?
Examining these diverse aspects of your life can lead you to discover brand YOU.
Your surroundings say a great deal about you
What does your workspace look like? Does it resemble the aftermath of a tsunami? Or does everything have a place with everything in its place?
I used to work with an engineer whose office ceiling was seemingly supported by towering piles of folders and ‘stuff’. However, he had a phenomenal memory, and his superpower was that he could find anything from among these piles of files almost instantly.
My office, by comparison, was almost always clean and tidy. I can’t work in a mess, so I’d file everything somewhere. My problem was I’d waste so much time searching for the things that I’d filed. They never seemed to be where I thought I’d filed them.
Branding includes your style of dressing
Where staff wear a uniform, there will be some people whose uniforms always look crisp and sharp. The wearers seldom have a hair out of place. And there are others who wear their uniforms more casually. Perhaps there’s someone who always wears an accessory, so they stand out from everyone else. That’s part of their personal branding.
Neither of these is right or wrong — they’re just different. Just be aware of how you wear your clothes. When there’s a choice about what to wear, the styling and colours you choose say a lot about you.
Your personality, your particular strengths, your interests, your individual quirks — all these factors make you, YOU.
What type of people do you surround yourself with?
- Are they positive, upbeat, kind, and supportive?
- Do they take others down or build people up?
- What do you like and dislike about the crowd you hang out with?
- Are those things true of you as well?
- Is that how you want to be perceived?
In working with clients to develop their brand awareness, I’ve found that gradually they let go of the unsupportive, negative people in their lives, as they home in on, grow and own their brand. As they develop more of their potential, the separation occurs, with the realisation that they are rising above what would have previously dragged them down.
No, you don’t have to be perfect!
While the idea of being perfect might be appealing, the reality is we’d be impossible to live with. And it’s not about competing with others, either. It’s really about discovering those aspects of your personality that make you unique — which are often our imperfections — and flaunting them!
It’s important to be authentic
It takes strength and courage to be authentic, because not everyone will love you.
You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t even try. Just be yourself. The people who have similar values to you, and who like what you stand for will stick with you. Others will find people with whom they resonate.
Identify those quirky things that only you have or do, and incorporate them into your brand in a positive way.
For instance, when I’m engrossed and working on something, I’m silent — or muttering to myself — depending on my level of frustration! When I finish a task, take a break or start doing something different, I’ll usually start singing or humming to myself.
I didn’t even realise I was doing this until someone I was working with started calling me Winnie. When I ask why, he said, “Because you’re always humming little tunes like Winne the Pooh.” I felt a bit embarrassed, but he quickly added that he thought it was lovely, showed I was happy, made him smile, and brightened his day.
After his comments, I became aware that I’d use singing or humming as a way of changing states between tasks. When I got Shaggy, my parrot, he would join in and try and hold whatever tune I was humming or singing. Or he’d start laughing. This made me crack up laughing as well. (Click here to listen to us.)
Now, if you’ve been reading my posts for a while or looked around the website, you’ll already know I have a quirky sense of humour, so what I’ve written above probably won’t come as a surprise. Other people might find my humming habit stupid, unprofessional, embarrassing etc. Those people are welcome to their point of view, of course. But I’m not going to change what is authentically me to please a few people who don’t ‘get’ it.
And neither should you
You can’t live your life trying to make people like you — you just become a waffly, people-pleaser with no brand at all. Be authentic. Find your quirky or weird behaviours and celebrate them, and you’ll find your tribe.
How to leverage brand YOU
Yes, there’s a lot to consider
When you understand what your brand is, and you monitor and adjust it, you develop more integrity and improve your reputation. You can use your brand to leverage your career or business. Over time, you can mould your personal brand into something that more tightly fits your self-perception. This is especially important if you’re an expert in your field — or would like to be.
Branding isn’t about changing who you are
While there may be some aspects of your personality or behaviour that you might want to improve or change, branding is about discovering the aspects of you that make you unique, authentic, and marketable. Once you know what these are, you can ‘sell’ those traits.
Sell them to whom?
If you decide to look for another job, a promotion or a new career, it’ll be important to know what sets you apart from the other candidates. Identifying your brand shows a level of self-awareness that many don’t have — an important attribute in today’s job market.
The ability to write about your brand in your CV and verbalise it in an interview can mean the difference between success and failure.
From another angle, knowing your personal brand enables you to determine if the job, the environment and the culture of an organisation will be a good fit for you. There’s no point in taking a job and then finding you’re miserable because you feel like a square peg in a round hole.
If you’re thinking of starting a business or practice of your own, developing your personal branding will play a critical part in its foundation. It will involve a lot more work than just what’s described in this post.
Your business branding will most likely be based on your personal branding, but may also incorporate an image or logo and an online presence that will appeal to your target market.
It’s worth considerable thought and usually help from experts to get right. If you’re starting a business with other people, you’ll have to create a brand from scratch, examining all of your values, your mission, and why you want to be in business.
It can be quite an undertaking, but worth the time and effort in the long run. A deep understanding of your brand will help you ensure that everyone in the business is on the same page, and any new employee knows and understands what you’re about.
Where to begin the branding process
Identifying the values of the business you’re starting is a key process for ensuring that initially, everyone agrees. I wouldn’t like to count the number of businesses that have hit severe problems and struggled to resolve them because they did not have sound values right at the beginning, resulting in insurmountable issues later on. Follow my process for discovering your values.
The way you each behave; everything you do and say, the way you conduct business, should all speak to your brand.
If you don’t know what your brand is, and how it fits into the marketplace, then others won’t have a clue either, and they’ll have no sound basis for decision-making.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming to discover brand YOU or develop a business brand, you’ll have realised by now that it takes a lot of thought, self-awareness, reflection and input to develop something that truly reflects who you are — or who you want to become.
A well-considered brand will form the touchstone for everything you do. It’s absolutely worth the effort because it keeps you honest.
Take your time.
Discover and build your self-awareness with the ‘Get Unstuck Self-Review’.
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