Grow… A story about building a personal brand

Several years ago, I was undergoing a coaching certification training course that had an important and continues to have an important impact on my continuous evolution. During this time, I was introduced to a statement that took me some years to digest: We are responsible for everything that happens to us. Then I realized that for most of my life I have been playing victim and making other people responsible for my own tragedies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we can control everything that happens to us, but I do believe that we have more control over our lives than we acknowledge. One crucial part of attracting good into our life is to develop a personal brand. Over the years, I have been reflecting on this and found words that are commonly associated with a good personal brand. Words like driver, leader, reliable, efficient, effective and getting things done. I would invest great effort into adding these words to my personal brand.

I was privileged enough to be involved in a major transformation of the way the company who employed me at that time worked. I was one of the Project Managers during this implementation. It was about deadlines, budgets and getting things done. We were very good at that and received a great deal of recognition during this time. I asked one Senior Manager to give me feedback about myself with the intention of feeding my ego as I was expecting a great feedback session that would reassure how great I was. She told me “I will define you as the one who never misses a deadline, regardless of how many people you have to hurt in the process”. That was one of my lowest professional moments. All the effort that I had put into developing my personal brand had turned me into an awful person. I realized how wrong I was. A personal brand must highlight the best of ourselves. It’s about defining a person who happens to be a professional and not the other way around. My mother used to tell me everyday “treat others the way you want to be treated”. So, my personal brand cannot be far from the people who have been kind to me through my life. Here are some thoughts that will help your personal brand get closer to the beautiful person you can be:

Kindness

I have worked in the corporate world long enough to realize that we can do better by being kind to each other. But we need to take ownership and drive this kindness rather than complain about the lack of it. For several months I have been conducting some social experiments and paying attention to the results. Little things like greeting my colleagues with a hug in the morning, getting earlier to the office on a Monday to have enough time to ask as many people as I can about their weekend or wearing a bright yellow smiley face pin on my shirt. I realized that it is easier than I thought to make others feel good about themselves and to get a good smile out of them!

Empathy

It is easy to say put yourself in other people’s shoes. The challenging part is to take the time to truly understand their situation. When we take the time to see for ourselves the challenges our colleagues have, rather than judging them with very little knowledge of what they do, they will appreciate it. Go out there and get to know the people around you and you will be surprised in what you find out.

Be true

Once I participated in a training session at a call centre of our customer service department and the trainer was telling the operators to always smile when talking to the customer. Afterward, we listened to the recordings and we were able to recognize which operators were smiling and which were not, just by listening to their voice! My take here is that when you are not true, people around you will see and feel your true colours. If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it. Be true to yourself and your beliefs. A personal brand is not about faking to be a person you are not. A personal brand is a true reflection of who you are as a person.

Integrity

My 8-year-old nephew told me yesterday that he learned the meaning of the word integrity. I sat down and showed great interest to hear his story. He told me that he went into the neighbour’s yard to look for his football and after recovering the ball, the neighbour called out to him and asked, “Do you know what the meaning of integrity is?” He stood there not knowing what to say. The neighbour replied: “It’s about doing the right thing even when nobody is watching you. I knew you didn’t know I was behind you and still you closed the door after leaving the back yard as I have always asked you to do. You are a fine young man!” The face of pride on my nephew’s face was priceless.

Smile

Smile, smile, smile even when you don’t feel like it. Everything is easier when you smile. There is nothing more attractive than a smile, it is the best presentation card. I lead an Operations execution team and the ones that can smile under stress are the ones I enjoy going through the most difficult battle with. Nothing beats a good smile from a colleague on a cloudy day.

When developing a personal brand always remember that it’s never business, it’s always personal. Cheers!

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