We’ve all been talking about Personal Brand Leadership for several years now. Yet it was a relatively obscure concept when I first proposed an idea on it during a networking keynote in 2008. At the time, I was helping networkers understand that every connection could perceive you in a certain way. Now we hear it everywhere. It seems like every presentation and take on personal branding varies to some degree. However, the essential insights are the same:
- Personal branding is about you being your own corporate brand.
- Personal branding can and should be entirely owned by you.
- Personal branding is an ongoing, evolving process.
- Personal branding defines how you live and engage both personally and professionally.
Great, but how do I figure it out?
What most people don’t talk about is how to figure out what your personal brand is. What is the process? Several months ago, I was sitting with a friend at Starbucks, and she was telling me about her struggle to find the right brand for her website. So, first I asked her a few basic questions about herself – dove into her feelings – and within 30 minutes, we had come up with several personal brand elements and a personal brand statement. She looked up at me and said, “Wow, that was pretty cool… and super fast!”
I said, “Well, that is a nice beginning,” but thought to myself, “How the heck did we just do that?”
Since that time, I have done this for thousands of people and delivered hundreds of talks on how to create your own personal brand. The critical piece is understanding that discovering your personal brand takes time but is a worthwhile investment. When your personal brand is aligned with who you are, then every moment of your life, both personally and professionally, is fulfilling, valued, and happy.
Isn’t investing 100 hours of your time worth 450,000 hours of happiness?
The best investment is you.
The best time to invest in you is now!
Here is a simple five-step recipe to start figuring out what your personal brand is:
Step 1: Know Yourself
Self-assessment is the key piece here. You need to analyze various aspects of who you are, how you behave, what motivates you, and what you want to achieve. In particular, you should look at:
- Personality type
- Experiences, both memorable and noteworthy
It is critical here that you are completely and brutally honest with yourself. There are many tools out there to help figure out some of what’s listed above. For example, when it comes to personality types, I would suggest a combination of several tests like Meyers-Briggs, Strengths Finder, and Enneagram. Remember that these tests are just guidelines and they do not define you completely. For the rest, you can make a large list, and then break it down to your top ten, and then finally rank your top five.
Step 2: Get Feedback
This takes your self-assessment further by getting feedback from real people. Often, the way we assess ourselves is not the way others see us. I once did a test called the “Leadership Circle 360° Profile Assessment™.” The test specifically showed the gap between my assessment and that of others, which was very insightful. The quick and easy way is to get feedback from a broad range of people. This could, and should, include:
- Family members
- Fellow students
- Anyone you have worked for (manager, director, etc.)
- Anyone that has worked for you when you were a leader or manager
- Close friends
Ask these people to assess you in the categories mentioned in step one. Then also ask them:
- What are some words or phrases you would use to describe me?
- What are my top three strengths and my top two areas for development?
- Can you think of someone famous, historical or fictional, that I remind you of?
Step 3: Extract commonalities
Now you have to look very carefully at the information you have. First, see if there are any particular words, themes, images and ideas that seem to stand out with your own assessment. Second, look at the feedback for words and themes that describe you. Third, check for any similarities between your assessment and the feedback. Last, look at your experiences and see which ones align best with the words and themes you have extracted.
From these commonalities, you should be able to pick out certain threads within your stories or experiences. Determine what words and themes stand out.
Step 4: Hone in on the key elements
Try to come up with a list of your top five brand elements. Try to rank them. Then think about the following:
- What are you best at? (your value)
- Who do you serve or wish to serve? (your target audience)
- How do you do it uniquely? (your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP)
- What is your why? (your purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do)
Remember that it’s okay to revisit the previous steps if you want to dive deeper or want to refine or adjust.
Step 5: Develop a Personal Brand Statement
Now you are ready to attempt a Personal Brand Statement. I say “attempt” because it’s not going to happen magically on the first try. Just like Neo in the Matrix, his first attempt to do a super jump failed. Eventually, you can craft a statement that says who are you, what you do, how you do it and, most importantly, why you do what you do. This statement is the promise delivered to every person you meet. This statement is the main thing that everyone knows about you or gets about you. This statement is likely a consistent piece that most people will agree on. Hopefully, you can get something like this:
Bobby is a meaningful connector who nurtures people to discover their purpose and authentic journey, and then helps them achieve personal and professional leadership.
Now, if you can throw in some nice imagery, emotions or words to help people visualize what your brand is, even better. I liked what I first came up with, but what I love even more is my latest:
Bobby is the Beacon of Light who Helps ‘Lost’ Leader-Ships ashore to start an Authentic Path of Passion and Purpose.
Words can be a powerful form of expression. So, too, can a personal brand be a powerful beacon for you and others. But most of all, each of you can be a leader. You just need to know who you are, know what you want, and then ultimately make that positive impact with your brand, your promise, and your legacy.