Marketing Author Seth Godin has defined a brand as:
The set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
If someone chooses to work with you instead of choosing someone else, that choice represents the power of your personal brand: your reputation.
How’s that personal brand doing? Are you sure that you know?
Your belief about your personal brand is analogous to looking in the mirror; you see things the way they seem to you. Others’ take on your brand is like looking through a window; they see things as they perceive them. When it comes to your personal brand, the window trumps the mirror, every time.
How do you make sure the two views are the same? If they’re not, do you have someone in your corner who would tell you?
The importance of keeping your personal brand well in hand resonated strongly for me last week.
After leading a workshop all day in Houston, I was invited to the client’s formal dinner. After the meal, a “personal branding expert” (let’s call her Jane) delivered a keynote to the 200 new hires present on the importance of managing one’s own personal brand.
Seemed like a great idea. After all, teaching brand new employees to learn to manage their reputations from Day 1 is sound advice.
Things started to crumble even before Jane began her talk.
For starters, Jane couldn’t get the group’s attention. People were caught up in their dinner conversations (the meal was still going on) and there were no clear instructions to quiet down and focus on the speaker. To add to this, the sound system in the room was less than stellar.
To get the audience’s attention, Jane SCREAMED at the audience, and basically criticized half of the room (the half that I was sitting on) that we were so disrespectful to her, that she would never choose to hire us in a work setting. Her tone was harsh and condescending.
I looked around me. I could see visible upset on the faces of the people at the tables nearby. The vibe was very “class response after shaming schoolteacher”.
Jane continued. She went on to say that we should show more respect, because she had flown all the way across the country to be with us, and had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before. Then, she regaled us with her story about how a flight attendant on the plane here had been so incredibly unhelpful–so Jane had yelled at her.
I’d felt like I’d stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone.
It turned out this was just the warm-up.
Jane went on a roll–downhill. She went on to share inappropriate details about her whiskey drinking habits and general tolerance for alcohol.
The strangest moment came when she compared the group of new hires to a new batch of the ripest, tastiest fruit in the grocery store. Jane said: “You are fresh new talent, waiting to be picked.”
That was just plain weird.
This was supposed to be an expert talking about personal branding. Yet everything Jane did and said diminished her own personal brand as a professional worth of respect.
The irony was not lost on the people around me. In a breakout session the following morning, I debriefed with some of my participants who had been at dinner. Tim, one of the participants, summed it up best:
Well, I got a real good example of what I don’t want my personal brand to look like.
As leaders, we’re continuously under the microscope. What are others seeing? How’s your personal brand doing?
What lessons have you learned about managing your personal brand? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.