Snap, Crackle, STOP– What’s Your Brand?

Have you ever thought of yourself as a brand?

Most people associate brands with companies, services or products– but don’t always stop to think about their personal brand let alone how to build it.

This is a guest post from Jonathan Green.

“Jonathan is a culture evangelist who focuses on leadership development behaviors and communications strategies. His expertise is service models that provide world-class experience. He has worked in a variety of verticals including Finance, Utilities, Tech, and Telecom. Green has spent the last seven years working for a large Telecom provider and thoroughly enjoys the fast paced and ever-changing environment. Check out his blog at monsterleaders.com

As individuals, we actually have much more at stake as our brand is being observed, assessed and judged on a regular basis. In my work with young leaders, I carve out time out to help them consider their brand and to be deliberate about enhancing promoting it. The key is simplicity. Break it down into manageable parts.

1 – Image

2 – Behaviors

3 – Attitude

I usually start by relating the personal branding process to one of two topics that most of us have dealt with at one time or another: dating and cereal.

Dating

Consider the following:

When you go on a first date, what are you looking to teach your date about you?

… that your baggage is not as severe as that of her last boyfriend/girlfriend?

… that your brain functions at a normal capacity?

… that your hygiene practices are in line with conventional societal norms?

… that you are the kind of person they would want to live with until the end of time?

Your BRAND is on the line, and you are selling it. Your image is a mix of who you actually are and who you want the other person to believe you are. You don’t start a conversation with the worst decisions you have made in your life as you do not want to be defined by those. However, those are part of who you are, they are the scars and stripes that you carry with you all the time. So is your image true to yourself? Do your behaviors match your desired outcome? And most important, you have a choice in what attitudes you bring to the table is your attitude one that others want to subject themselves to?

Now, Mix in Cereal

Another way to look at it is to think of yourself as a brand of cereal.

Is it good for you? (do others want to be around you?)

Do you like the taste (do others enjoy talking to you, learning from you, sharing experiences with you?)

Is it made by a company that is safe and reputable (can you be trusted, do your behaviors build relationships?)

Some Easy Steps to get started

1. Ask yourself some questions
– How do I want to be viewed?
– What words do I want others to use to describe me?
– What words best describe the ideal me: reliable? intelligent? upbeat?…?

2. Reverse engineer your brand
– what behaviors must I exhibit to be viewed in this way?
– with whom should I be involved?
– where should I hang out?

3. Check it
– Do my behaviors reinforce my desired brand?
– What words are being used to describe me?

4. Who is promoting your brand?
– who is selling your brand, to whom and where?
– recruit some “sales people”

Encouraging young leaders to consider these questions can help set the stage for important inner dialogue and external changes. I have found that this work leads to amazing development, growth and a future driven by behaviors that matter.

Open-Space Leadership: When Less is More

Sometimes leadership is just about creating an open-space and getting out-of-the-way.

I love using Open-Space Technology with a large group to generate ideas. It’s an amazing, high-energy, low-cost way to hold a powerful meeting. Participants essentially create their own agenda and self-organize into groups to discuss topics that matter to them. Although it’s useful to have a trained facilitator help with the effort, I have found it works just fine with the leader serving both as host and organizer.

“We have discovered, through countless pointed lessons, that there is precisely one way to mess up an Open-Space and only one way. And that is to think that you are in charge of what happens, or worse yet, to act that way. Truthfully, the facilitator has little if anything of a substantive nature to contribute. No fixes, no interventions or at least not of an obvious sort. For a brief time at the beginning, the facilitator holds center stage (literally), and then it is essential to get out-of-the-way.”
~ Harrison Owen, Founder of Open-Space Technology

Open Space in Action: One Example

Last week, I held an Open-Space Meeting with over 100 participants discussing the topic: How Can We Be More Influential Leaders?

We started in a big circle, set up the process and guiding principles and we were off (see resource links in the post for more how-tos). WIthin 15 minutes we had generated 18 fascinating topics to be discussed throughout the next 3 hours in concurrent sessions. Team members stepped up to own and facilitate topics. Participants could move freely from session to session. The conversation was robust. We then ended back in the circle where each participant-turned facilitator shared highlights from the conversation and next steps.

The topics were an interesting mix of leadership development, business-processes, how-tos, and best practice sharing. Some topics were inspired by challenges, others by success. Some chose to teach and share, while others chose to facilitate through lots of questions. We ended with many ideas and actionable next steps.

The spirit and the energy in the room was palpable. This was a group inspired to change things.

Why it Worked

I asked the team why it worked. Here’s some of the thinking:

  • I had a chance to think about the topic I would share in advance, and I came prepared with some ideas on how to facilitate the discussion
  • I chose a topic that I was passionate about it was cool to see how many others shared that same interest
  • We got to talk about exactly what we needed to, with the people we needed to
  • It was intriguing to see where the interest was which topics attracted the biggest following.
  • Now we know what matters most to our organization for future work
  • It was cool to see how many people in our remote group are all sharing the same experiences.
  • I found kindred spirits
  • I was heard
  • Some fantastic ideas were shared that I can take back and use immediately
  • Even though only a few people showed up to my session, we got started on some important work and I have already set up a follow-up conference call to build on our actions

A Leader’s Perspective

Our topic of “Influence” lent itself well to this technique. By stepping back as the leader and providing space for the conversation to emerge, I could model some of the most important parts of influence– listening and understanding. The team became the teachers. The spirit of this exercise can be translated in other ways as they go back to their daily work and provide influence in those environments.

We also set this up in advance as an important developmental opportunity for the team. Open-space sessions are a gentle and friendly way to practice facilitation and public speaking. I was delighted with the preparation and delivery of the team.

I was inspired by the opportunity to travel freely from session to session as a participant. It’s great to experience such inspired thought leadership from people at all levels and roles within the organization. If I had built the agenda myself, I would have overlooked some of the most popular topics.

Charisma Questions and Answers From Olivia Fox Cabane

If you are just tuning in to our Charisma Experiment, a group of my readers and I have been on a journey exploring the concepts and techniques discussed in Olivia Fox Cabane’s book, The Charisma Myth.

After reading the original post, Olivia graciously offered to answer questions that emerged. You can learn more about the book, the concepts, and our challenge by clicking on the above links.

This wonderful group included leaders from a variety of contexts (corporate, executive coaching, and high school). We read the book, and then each picked several techniques to use in our leadership.

Our Charisma Experiment Findings

The most frequently chosen focus areas were: strategic use of head nodding, mirroring, use of silence, and eye contact.

Some found that staying more still and nodding less made others “work a little harder” in the conversation. This resulted in deeper and more meaningful conversations. Mirroring other’s body language had a similar impact. Mirroring actions reduced inhibitions and invited others to be more open.

Use of silence and sustained eye contact were more tricky for both angles. We were tempted to fill the silence with chatter to reduce discomfort (ours or the people we are talking with). Eye contact created intimacy quickly, which can be uncomfortable, particularly in talking with people of the opposite gender. One participant tried, “counting the blinks” as Olivia suggests, and found this to help a great deal. We all recognized that there is indeed value in create more space and more connection through these techniques and will continue to leverage them.

Our Charisma Questions and Olivia’s Answers

Q: How can we be more charismatic via email?

A: By email, you’re going to be going for influence, not charisma. The best book I know on the subject is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Q; When working with your clients, what kinds of tools or techniques do you put in place to help them sustain their new behaviors over time?

A: That depends on the behavior! Many of the new behaviors are so intrinsically rewarding (you immediately see the great results they provide) that they self-reinforce. For others, each behavior has its own reinforcement.

Q: What are some ways for a leader in a position of “authority” to become more comfortable and charismatic in that “authority role” when authority charisma does not come naturally to them (they much prefer the other styles)?

A: When you’re in the situation, do the “big gorilla” exercise. You can also visualize ahead of time, pre-hearse the situation while in an assertive stance, and see it play out the way you would. You can also role-play with friends, and work on becoming comfortable with the authority stance and voice.

(a) physical: take martial arts classes. I really recommend Brazilian jiu-jitsu for this.
(b) mental: take improv classes. Learn to step into different roles.

Charisma Side Effects

A salient side effect of this work is that each of us was much more in-tune to our own actions, and were more active in seeking out feedback from others. We all agreed that staying authentic is the most vital part of any of this. Adopting techniques that do not integrate well with our true personalities will backfire and will actually diminish charisma.

One participant remarked, “I am feeling better about myself and that is making me show up stronger my team tells me they notice a difference.” Which of course is entirely the point. There is nothing more vital to charisma than coming from a confident place.

Note

I am grateful for the open spirits and warm hearts who engaged in this journey, and took some risks by trying on new behaviors and talking about them with “strangers.” I will work to provide more opportunities for such leadership experimentation. I would appreciate your joining the conversation via comments.

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Also, I would appreciate your sharing and tweeting the links to get others involved.

The Reluctant Leader: Why Confidence Matters

Sometimes people find themselves in positions of leadership before their self-confidence has caught up with them, and are reluctant to lead.

Helping reluctant leaders to see themselves as the leaders they are, can make them more powerful. Here’s a story of why confidence matters.

Yesterday I herded cattle.

Not by myself, but with an eclectic group of 7 other novice city slickers out to try something new.

As we began our journey, I overheard our reluctant young cowgirl guide tell her friend “you know this is just so hard for me, I am not a leader, I am much better at following.”

She then proceeded to guide us on a journey which involved the complex balancing act of leading horses, cows, annoyed bulls, and inexperienced, unconnected strangers. Everyone followed. She knew what she was doing and she taught us well.

Under her competent leadership, we all worked together and herded the cattle just where they needed to go— having fun along the way. When one of us would get mixed up in the middle of the mooing mass, she would shout “you’re a cow!” That was our signal to move to a more productive and safer space. She used everyone’s name, and constantly checked in with each person on their feelings and how they were connecting with their horse.

She was indeed a leader.

Except for one thing.

She lacked confidence which surfaced in the way she spoke of herself.

“Oh, I am not very good at getting people’s attention.” “I really talk too much, it’s not good sometimes I just can’t stop talking.”

I watched as people were leaving, and I am fairly certain this impacted her tips.

She was teaching people what to think about her.

As leaders, what we say about ourselves matters a lot.

How can we help young leaders to feel more confident in their abilities?

 

Kermit the Frog as Leader? It's Not Easy Leading Green

Growing Leaders of All Ages:

Part of my mission for this blog is engaging leaders of all ages in the leadership conversation.  Today, I present a guest post from Jared Herr, age 12.  If you are a leader of any age, interested in collaborating on a guest post on leadership, let’s talk more.

Kermit is a strong leader in many ways:

  • He works to make the muppets the best that they can be
  • He is inspiring because he always tries his hardest
  • He brings misfit animals together and makes them a team
  • He always has a plan
  • He is a collaborative decision maker 
  • He is self-reflective 

What are Kermit’s leadership challenges?

  • He takes things too personally
  • He has trouble giving tough feedback
  • He needs more work-life balance

Jared’s advice to Kermie

You are a caring amphibian and always try to make others the best they can be. You put the muppets in roles where you know the can succeed.  You are a role model of hard work, and get all of those crazy animals pulling together as a team.  You inspire them to care about one another.

Kermit, one of your greatest strengths as a leader, self-reflection, is also your challenge.  You may want to check out Karin’s post (is strength your weakness).  For example,  you will double and triple check yourself to make sure every muppet is in a part of the show. But when things go wrong, you take it out on yourself. You always point out things you messed up with or things you should have done. I think you feel a lot of pressure being a leader.

I wish you could have more confidence in your decisions.  Once when you fired Miss Piggy (she deserved it), you ended up face down on the floor (of course, that may have something to do with dysfunctional love, but that’s another post).

You are so nice.  I worry sometimes you have trouble confronting or giving the tough coaching messages.  You always lead to victory in the end.  You might save some time if you could give more direct coaching along the way.

Kermit, you sure seem to face a lot of pressure as leader of the muppets.

I worry that you feel like as their leader, you need to be with them 24/7, and you don’t get much personal time.

All said, it is not easy leading green.  And you have a nice track record of results.  Keep up the great work.  I know you will continue to grow into an amazing leader.

Kermit the Frog as Leader? It’s Not Easy Leading Green

Growing Leaders of All Ages:

Part of my mission for this blog is engaging leaders of all ages in the leadership conversation.  Today, I present a guest post from Jared Herr, age 12.  If you are a leader of any age, interested in collaborating on a guest post on leadership, let’s talk more.

Kermit is a strong leader in many ways:

  • He works to make the muppets the best that they can be
  • He is inspiring because he always tries his hardest
  • He brings misfit animals together and makes them a team
  • He always has a plan
  • He is a collaborative decision maker 
  • He is self-reflective 

What are Kermit’s leadership challenges?

  • He takes things too personally
  • He has trouble giving tough feedback
  • He needs more work-life balance

Jared’s advice to Kermie

You are a caring amphibian and always try to make others the best they can be. You put the muppets in roles where you know the can succeed.  You are a role model of hard work, and get all of those crazy animals pulling together as a team.  You inspire them to care about one another.

Kermit, one of your greatest strengths as a leader, self-reflection, is also your challenge.  You may want to check out Karin’s post (is strength your weakness).  For example,  you will double and triple check yourself to make sure every muppet is in a part of the show. But when things go wrong, you take it out on yourself. You always point out things you messed up with or things you should have done. I think you feel a lot of pressure being a leader.

I wish you could have more confidence in your decisions.  Once when you fired Miss Piggy (she deserved it), you ended up face down on the floor (of course, that may have something to do with dysfunctional love, but that’s another post).

You are so nice.  I worry sometimes you have trouble confronting or giving the tough coaching messages.  You always lead to victory in the end.  You might save some time if you could give more direct coaching along the way.

Kermit, you sure seem to face a lot of pressure as leader of the muppets.

I worry that you feel like as their leader, you need to be with them 24/7, and you don’t get much personal time.

All said, it is not easy leading green.  And you have a nice track record of results.  Keep up the great work.  I know you will continue to grow into an amazing leader.

Won’t You Be My Mentor?

So, you want a mentor. Now what?

Where? Who? How to approach?

First, let me say this. I have NEVER been offended by anyone who has asked me for career advice , or wanting to know me better. I love to help. I have always said yes to anyone who approached me with the “M” word (although those folks usually don’t stick around when they approach that way it’s normally because someone told them to, or they just read a book).

Also, I have NEVER had someone tell me they are too busy to talk about such subjects. Every time I ask, I get a great story, and often a life long friend.

If you are feeling scared just ask. The results may surprise you.

Once they say yes, like a good first date, have a plan.

Some questions to consider in your preparation:

  • Why are you here? Why them?
  • What do you want them to know about you? (Once again, time for that Elevator Speech)
  • What do you want to know about their story? Ask some questions.
  • What is your big career plan? What are your next steps?
  • What do they already know about you (what is your brand with them, with others?)
  • What worries you most open up a bit
  • Does this feel right? If so, ask if it would be okay to meet again?

Two Things That Will Get You Promoted

I am often approached by leaders looking to get promoted.

 “what characteristics do you look for when hiring for the top positions in your organization?”

Stairway to Promotion

So, I run down my list.

  • unwavering integrity
  • confident humility
  • passionate vision
  • strong track record of results
  • teamwork down, up, and sideways
  • energetic creativity
  • change leadership
  • zealousness for employee development

Which then leads to the next question.

“How do I become better positioned for a leadership role?”

Again I have a list (all subjects for future posts)

  • Develop a gaggle of fantastic mentors
  • Look at leaders you admire, and learn those skills
  • Pay even closer attention to leaders who annoy you, and figure out why
  • Take lateral moves that make you an all-terrain player
  • Volunteer for special projects
  • Talk to people who are doing your dream job, learn what it takes, and express interest

But that’s just me.

The other day I was sitting in a leadership development meeting (this time, being developed) and those same questions came up.  What are the things peopled need to work on to get promoted?

HR began their list of advice Similar to that above.

Then, one of the most senior leaders in the meeting stood up and said.

“I hear all that But at the end of the day if you are looking to work for me,

I want to know 2 things:

  1. What are your results?
  2. What do your people say about you?

Hmmm, that’s pretty clear.

And in fact, all the other things I chat about are all means to one of those ends.

Kind-of like an elevator speech, see (Glass Elevators: Why Elevator Speeches Matter.)

Next time, maybe I will use those (or maybe not, depends if I am in an elevator).