Monday, January 19, 2015

The Branding Experience

“I am the greatest!... I said that even before I knew I was.”
                                                                        - Muhammed Ali

“The Greatest” is probably one of the most well-known and successfully used personal brands with which we are all familiar.  However most people either don’t know or don’t remember that Ali created this brand himself before he had any evidence or agreement that that’s who he was... or as he said, even before he knew it!

Personal branding and its central idea of defining and declaring who you are in the world has been a theme of many books. Creating a summarizing statement to use as a self-promotional tool, much in the same way as a company promotes its products, has become part of many self-development and leadership programs.  And yet, as I meet with executives, I witness that while many have grasped personal branding as a must-do activity, when it comes to the mechanics of defining their brand powerfully and effectively ­­­­ they struggle. 
“I’m one of the most senior executives at Cisco Systems, and first and foremost, the key to success is knowing your personal brand.”

I then asked this Senior Vice President what her brand is, and she went on to speak for 5 minutes.  She said that her brand is to empower people, with direction, inspiration and integrity.  She said it was about doing the ‘right’ thing rather than just doing things right.  She said it was about being a leader that she herself would be willing to follow.
It was a description, a wish list, a character study, a resume, but not a brand.
It’s not just a case of finding a zingy one-liner; I’ve heard many clever words that fall flat from the lips of those who still haven’t truly nailed their personal message and mission. It’s about finding the only one-liner it could be; the statement that clearly lights up the whole being of the individual who speaks it.

Think of where the word brand comes from, we’re thinking here of a cowboy taking a metal rod, sticking it into a blazing fire until the metal with the ranch insignia is not merely red hot, it’s white. The cowboy then takes the metal from the fire and places the fiery end onto the butt of a cow.  You can smell the skin of the cattle being seared; you can hear the hiss of it burn.  The “brand” of the BarC  ranch is sizzled on the cow’s behind.  This was and is still used so that from a distance, it can be distinguished as to which ranch the cow belongs.  It had to be clear, simple, distinctive from others… and short enough to do all this and still fit on a cow’s butt!
When I am working with executives on finding their brand, I tell them, “You want a brand that leaves an imprint on others even when you walk away.  It has to be powerful, clear, succinct and memorable.”
The purpose of your personal brand is not only to distinguish yourself from the other “cattle”, but as a reminder to yourself about who you have declared you are going to be in your job, your profession, as a leader, a contributor, a trend-setter, or even as a citizen, community or family member.  It’s a “call” to being your self-authored higher or bigger self.  It’s a declaration of being intentional versus just reacting to the situation.

In 25 years of working with executives across the globe I have created a process to connect individuals with their true purpose and motivation and help them capture the essence of who they are in a simple, impacting and empowering statement.  I have been honored to witness many emotional moments when, through the techniques and activities I use, people have come to truly “get” themselves and be able to communicate this confidently – and with contribution – to others.
My first key to realizing success has been to ensure that those I work with see branding not as a purely self-promotional tool – but as a calling to higher action.  They are given a chance to self-author and then create a better self – from the inside out in a way that authentically connects with their most intimate sense of who they are… a person who always takes the higher ground.  They are able to imagine the person they want to show up as in the world.
My second key has been recognizing that while defining and declaring your intentions in a powerful and memorable way acts as a powerful catalyst to action, people can then stumble with what they then need to DO to actually live their brand.  Again, through many years of working with executives across the globe, I have developed simple insights and techniques that help people quickly make the shift from having defined who they know they are to actually being that person.
The results of my approach have been a privilege to witness. The effect on individuals’ confidence, career success and fulfillment and the quality of their relationships both within the workplace and the family have been transformational. Individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and work and life experience, of various ages and both sexes, have made dramatic shifts towards living the life they know they were meant to lead.

If it be for your career, your development as a leader, or  to empower yourself to live an extraordinary life, and you would like to get your brand and how to use it in your life, please contact us at: