What is your own personal brand?
Our lives are spent building or destroying our own personal brands, though many are not aware of it. The way people think of you, admire and/or despise you comes from the accumulation of interactions that you have. These interactions form the baseline of what people ultimately perceive you to be. When your perception of yourself differs from the perception of others, the deception gap created can ultimately hinder personal growth and distort your own self-awareness.
I have used a relatively quick and powerful exercise that you can do with your leadership team to help identify and understand what it means to live your brand. In a sense, how do you want to be known, and how can you live it every day?
[Items you will need: a list of positive personal attributes, a list of negative personal attributes, two lined pieces of paper for each person] Divide one paper into four quadrants with a pen or pencil. On the second paper, divide vertically with a pen, a line down the middle. On the upper left write “Positive” and upper right write “Negative” and at the bottom write your name.
In quadrant one [upper left] rank which attributes best describe you from one to six, with one being the most important and most representative of who you think you are and then continuing down the list with six being a positive attribute but not as important and prevalent as the ones above.
In quadrant II [upper right] write down the top six negative attributes you believe you have ranked from one through six with one being the most prevalent.
In the [lower left] quadrant write from one to six what you feel someone who knows you well would say was your positive attributes. Again, these are ranked from one to six with one being the most prevalent and positive attribute.
On the last and final [lower right] quadrant write down what you think someone who knows you well would say are your most negative attributes one through six with the same rules as above.
[Once these are all done, instruct your leadership team to fold the paper and set it aside in a safe place.]
Take out the other lined piece of paper with your name at the bottom. Instruct a member of your team to take these from everyone and shuffle them and redistribute them randomly to everyone in the room. Instruct everyone to look at the name on the bottom of your paper and with all honesty and respect write in the upper left line the most prevalent and positive attribute you feel the person written on the bottom of the paper has. In the upper right, write a negative attribute that you feel this person demonstrates the most. Once you are done crease and fold those answers back behind so all you can see is a fresh new line without any writing showing except the name on the bottom of the paper. Continue to pass the papers around the room ensuring everyone has had a chance to write their two attributes on each person’s paper, making sure you fold the paper back hiding your answers before passing them along. [when you get your own paper simple hold it and do not write anything and pass on the next turn.] Once everyone has completed this for everyone, hand the papers back in and instruct everyone they will be used later in the lesson.
Spend the next 15 minutes talking about perception, attributes, and understanding what actions cause people to be perceived one way versus another. After some good discussion ask if the most recent activity and discussion had changed the way they answered the questions on the activities before.
Ask everyone to imagine they were at their own wake hovering above the congregation looking at people they love and know best. Ask the group, “At the end of your life, with some of the most important people you know coming to the podium. What would you hope they would say about you? What would you like to be remembered as?”
[Pass out the last piece of paper, with the name on the bottom, to the rightful owner. Have everyone take a deep breath and have them unfold the paper revealing what others wrote as your most positive and most negative attributes. Remind everyone that this is meant to be a self-awareness exercise, do not look at what is written as a personal attack, but as an opportunity to see if you are truly living your brand. Have everyone read the answers to themselves, then have them compare these answers to what they wrote on the first paper with four quadrants. Ask if anyone was surprised by the answers. Lead a discussion with everyone’s thoughts]
Wrap – Up
Many people perceive themselves in a certain way; either the way they think they are or the way they want to be perceived. The disconnect comes when the daily actions and interactions they have don’t match up with the type of person they want to be. Most people want to see the best in themselves and hope that others see and feel the same way. Unfortunately, what often happens is that they do not live up to those attributes in their daily interactions and actions. Simply put, they want their personal brand to be something that their actions and interactions don’t live up to.
If someone thinks that they are an honest person but in their daily actions and interactions they are dishonest, people around them might not say anything but certainly would not say they are honest to a third party. This kind of disconnect can be hazardous to a persons growth and personal interactions. If that person goes through life thinking they are honest, but their actions and interactions prove differently, they can deceive themselves into thinking one of their great qualities is honesty, even though others around them would simply disagree. This perception gap can lead to missed opportunities, problems building trust and relationships, and even damage their perception of the world and people.
Instruct everyone to take a step back and not look at what they think are their greatest attributes, but have them ask themselves, What are the top six attributes I would want to be known for if I were at my own eulogy listening to a loved one share their favorite attributes about me?
It is this list that will guide you, and it will be your actions that will define you and your personal brand. It is what we do every day, actively preserving the attributes we nurture, by living and positively demonstrating these attributes in every interaction. If we are in tune with who we want to be, we can then work on acting and demonstrating this with every interaction and action we have. When your own personal brand is in-line with your actions you can truly start living your own personal brand. It can be a beacon to you as you navigate your professional career, relationships, and your daily decisions. I have found that when you are in line with your own personal brand and you are living it, opportunities present themselves, friendships blossom and true happiness grows. Just as any company feverishly protects their brand, so should you protect and enhance your own personal brand. Never tarnish or cheapen your brand by doing things contrary to how you want to be perceived. Hold your own personal brand as your most precious and valuable asset. Though it is not tangible, your personal brand can be far more valuable to you in your career and personal life than any amount of money or any title. Live your brand daily and you will see a whole new world of opportunity open up right before your eyes.