Going on vacation this summer?

You don’t have to take a break from growing your brand just because you’re on vacation.  

If you like to unplug on vacation like I do, you might not want to hear this, but…a vacation is the perfect time to work on your brand.

Why? 

Taking a break from your normal routine is a great way to get your brain in creativity mode. When we remove ourselves from our everyday stressors, we often remove those mental blocks that sometimes drain us of our energy without even realizing it.

Here are a few easy things you can work on while in vacation mode.

Daydream – Hopefully you have at least a few quiet moments to yourself on vacation. Why not use them to relax and let your mind wander? When I’m on vacation, I forget about my everyday realities and suddenly anything seems possible. When I’m not worried about the practicalities of say, a long commute or family responsibilities, I find that my mind takes me to new places I wouldn’t dream of during my daily routine at home.  

When you’re relaxed and your mind is free, daydreaming can help you crystallize your ambitions and help you trouble shoot new solutions. Let different scenarios float through your mind and pay attention to how you feel. Are you excited? Happy? Anxious about a possible change? Keep a phone or notebook nearby to jot down any new ideas that come to mind.

Research – You’re probably already scrolling through your Instagram feed, right? You might as well take some of that time to think about your brand. Do you love someone’s particular style? Are you always drawn to the same types of posts? Create a brand folder and save anything that catches your attention. I have a folder called “inspiration” where I save anything that interests me creatively or gets me excited to try something new.

Get yourself in the habit of thinking about your brand while you scroll and make a point to keep track of what interests you. It’s simple and over time you will have a catalog of compelling ideas to help you shape your own brand and interests.

Read – This one is obvious, but still I’ve gone on many vacations with a long queue of books on my Kindle only to come home with barely a book completed. Make a point to read those books, blogs, or magazines you’ve been meaning to get to. Reading is not just entertaining and educational; it makes new connections in our brains which allows us to create all kinds of new opportunities for ourselves.

Talk to people – Networking isn’t just for business meetings. New surroundings mean new people to get to know. Chat with the other patrons waiting for drinks at the pool bar or in that long line for ice cream after the beach. Take a few minutes to socialize and get to know the people around you. You don’ have to force it, in fact you can usually tell very quickly if someone is open to a conversation. If they are, get to know a little bit about them. Be sure to have a few talking points ready about yourself that clearly communicates your brand.

Take a brain break – Allow yourself space to think. Sometimes just taking a break from an idea you’ve been working on is enough to help you identify a solution. If you’re out enjoying the outdoors or exploring an amusement park with your family, take the time to enjoy the moment. And don’t be surprised if some new ideas appear. When they do, be sure to make yourself a note and then go back to having fun.

Vacation is about enjoying new experiences and taking a break from the ordinary. I encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day to get creative with your brand, and then set an intention to get to work on your new ideas when you are back to your daily routine. This way you can really enjoy yourself and know that you’ve made good use of your time when your mind is at its best.

The one piece of career advice I’d give my younger self

I often ask other women what career advice they would give their younger selves. I love hearing about other people’s journeys of self-reflection and the wisdom that comes with experience. Of course, I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on my own journey, professional and personal, and I’m never shy about sharing my own thoughts with others.

But recently I’ve come around to a new sound bite that just hadn’t occurred to me before.

Stop taking everything in business so seriously.

Work hard? Yes. Educate yourself? Yes. Find your genius zone and stay on top of your game? Heck yes. But if I could give my younger self only one piece of advice it would be this – chill out a little.

Conducting business is important. Building your career and perfecting your craft is important. Earning an income to fit your lifestyle is essential; but none of that means that you need to take your career so seriously all the time.

How many people are actually having fun when they go to work every day? I don’t mean the fun that comes from a happy hour after work or a structured team building day. I mean that spontaneous type of exhilaration that comes from doing work that you love, despite its challenges. Not many people.

Younger self, my best advice to you is this:

Be serious about your commitment to your growth and your craft, be serious about your commitment to the businesses and people you serve; but cut yourself some slack. It’s ok to be unsure about what you want to do from time to time. In fact, I applaud you for being honest enough with yourself to recognize when something you wanted at one time in your life is no longer serving your interests and needs. It’s ok to “fall down,” because you will always get back up and when you do, you will be an even better version of yourself than before.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Every time.

Never hide the parts of yourself that are unique. A flower shrouded in darkness only withers, it does not bloom.

You will be told to stay quiet. You will be told not to challenge the norm. You will be expected to be a templated version of someone else, because to be anything else will be seen as a threat to those who went before you. You are right to fight against those expectations that do not feel true to who you are.

But none of that even matters. Because my single piece of advice to you is now this – relax a little. You can build a serious career without taking everything quite so seriously.

I think this is important advice because the greatest gift you can give yourself in your career is to take more risks, accept more challenges and ignore any self-doubt. You need to allow yourself the confidence and freedom to explore every opportunity in your professional growth. It is difficult to do this when the stakes feel too high.

So – enjoy the process and lighten up – just a little.

Struggling with self-confidence? Try creating your own persona

Low self-confidence and limiting beliefs are barriers to achieving your goals. But they can be overcome.

Even when we are aware that we are holding ourselves back because we lack confidence, it can be difficult to transform our thinking in a meaningful way. Low self-confidence is a real barrier for many women when pursuing their goals.

If you suffer from self-doubt, you are not alone. Everyone struggles with insecurity from time to time. But if you are feeling like low self-confidence is holding you back from reaching for more, then it is time to make a change. You deserve to achieve everything that you aspire to, and it is possible.

There are many useful strategies you can practice to shift your thinking. Today I am sharing one of my favorites with you. This is to create a persona (“alter-ego”) for yourself, that embodies the person you want to become. For many people, this is the person you know you are on the inside, but you’re struggling to share with the world for fear of how you will be received.

The idea behind this approach is that by creating a persona that embodies the characteristics of the person you want to be, you are giving yourself some mental distance between your private insecurities, doubts and fears, and your aspirations. By taking your insecurities out of the equation and thinking about yourself as a character you want to play, you can transform the way you think, create, and behave. While this persona still needs to be authentic to you, it can help create the distance you need to forget your insecurities and focus on your strengths; on who you know you can be.

Performers often use this strategy to overcome stage fright or the overwhelm of fame. My favorite example of this strategy being used effectively is Beyoncé. In November 2008, Beyoncé appeared on The Oprah Show where she talked about her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce.

“Beyoncé says she crafted her stage persona to help her overcome challenges and give the best performances she can. ‘It’s kind of like doing a movie. When you put on the wig and put on the clothes, you walk different,’ she says. ‘It’s no different from anyone else. I feel like we all kind of have that thing that takes over.’ 

Sasha Fierce usually appears right before Beyoncé is about to take the stage. ‘Usually when I hear the chords, when I put on my stilettos. Like the moment right before when you’re nervous,’ she says. ‘Then Sasha Fierce appears, and my posture and the way I speak and everything is different.’

Your mind is your most powerful tool in creating the life that you want. You only have to get out of your own way to achieve your deepest desires. Beyoncé’s experience with Sasha Fierce is great proof of this. Over the years, as the pop star’s list of accomplishments and accolades grew, she presumably grew more comfortable with herself, and said goodbye to Sasha Fierce. 

In 2010 she said:

“The thing that’s interesting is I don’t need Sasha Fierce anymore, because I’ve grown, and I’m now able to merge the two. I want people to see me. I want people to see who I am.”

When you are consumed by doubt, worry and insecurity it can be difficult to take the bold steps necessary to achieve your goals. Because when you are too critical of yourself, you limit yourself from thinking and doing the big things that create real change in your life. Don’t let your self-doubt become your prison.

The first step on this new journey is to allow yourself to dream big. Don’t be afraid to create the person you know you are meant to become. Then take that big leap (or channel Beyoncé and step into that stiletto) and live your vision for your future self, even if you need to create your own Sasha Fierce to get started. When you live your vision long enough, it will become your reality. Once you have consistently pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone, you too will feel ready to retire your self-doubt and say goodbye to your “Sasha Fierce,” your insecurities, and your doubt.  

8 Steps You Can Take Today to Create a Meaningful Personal Brand

When I talk with people about their personal brands, I often hear the same things come up over and over. Most professionals have enough self-awareness to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. I also hear a lot of people saying that they would like to work on their personal brands, but they’re not sure where to begin.

If this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn a few of my proven steps to get you focused on building your brand with purpose.

Know who you are. The key here is to take the time to reflect on your past experiences and where you are now in your life. What were the defining moments that shaped who you are today? What do you want to carry with you into the future and what is best left in your past?

Part of understanding yourself is accepting that we all have flaws and limitations. Some of these limitations, such as a fear of public speaking, you can work through. But sometimes the best path forward is to accept what you cannot change and let go of the expectations that do not serve you in creating your best self.

Clearly define your brand goals. Set realistic goals for yourself and create a step by step plan to help you achieve them. One of the most important parts of setting realistic goals, is to take the time to consider any potential hurdles you might encounter. You can then make sure you have the right tools and support at your disposal to help you on your journey.

Understand how other people perceive you. This is a tough step for many people. One of the greatest threats to your success is to assume that people see you the way you want to be seen. This is not always the case. Be sure to take the time to really understand how people perceive you in various situations. I know this can be an intimidating endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. Remind yourself that this is a valuable step in your personal journey of self-discovery that will help you achieve your goals.

It is helpful to enlist trusted friends, colleagues and family members in this process. I find it useful to write a script, this way you can be confident that you are clearly communicating your values and goals for getting the feedback you need to grow. When you are asking for help, be sure to clearly define how you would like feedback and what you plan to do with it. If you’re not comfortable having these conversations directly, you can use email or a free online survey tool like Survey Monkey to collect this feedback anonymously.

Examine your behavior. Does your behavior clearly demonstrate who you are to the world? When people engage with you, do they walk away from those encounters with an understanding of who you are? Your values? What they can expect from you?

As you go through your week, keep these questions in the back of your mind. Check in with yourself periodically and evaluate whether you are demonstrating your brand values through your behavior. Are you late to every meeting? Do you spend more time staring at your phone during conversations than looking at the person you’re speaking with? When you take the time to go through your week more conscientiously you might be surprised by some of your patterns of behavior. Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, get to work immediately on strategies to resolve these discrepancies between your real behavior and your intended brand.

Communicate your brand. Don’t be shy in communicating who you are with the world. When we talk about brand communication most people think about their verbal and written communication skills. These skills are important, but don’t forget there are many other ways to communicate your brand. These include body language, your physical image (such as your style and personal grooming choices), and your listening skills. Take the time to work through each of these areas of your brand. In what ways do you think you communicate well? Where do you think your brand communication needs some improvement?

Don’t forget that our digital world is still real life. I know it sounds obvious, but I am still surprised by the number of professionals who manage their personal brands well in person only to stray from their brands online. A good example of this is how you use your social media accounts. I don’t care what your social media privacy settings are, if it’s online, it’s not private. Don’t fall into the trap of believing otherwise.

Make sure that the words you use and the images you share online (and that includes what you like and comment on) are really aligned with your values and the goals you outlined above. Nothing has the power to derail your reputation faster than an off the cuff comment online. Don’t let your future self be the victim of your carelessness today.

Show up consistently. If you want people to really know who you are then you better show up consistently. When you behave inconsistently you erode the trust you’ve built with others. We all know someone who we dread having to work with because we don’t know how they are going to behave from day to day. Make sure that person is not you. Stay clear on your personal values and then make sure that you are living them every single day.

Love yourself, love your brand.  I realize this might sound trite but self-acceptance, and self-love matter. This looks different for all of us, but the principle remains the same. Before we can share our authentic selves with others, we must be comfortable with ourselves. We all have weaknesses. We all suffer from self-doubt now and then. And we all fail at some point in life. These things make us human.

Creating a personal brand is not about creating a false image of perfection. Why? Because there is no such thing as perfection. Creating a personal brand is a journey of self-discovery. It is a process in which you reflect on who you are, what matters to you, and what you want to achieve in life. And then it is about going out into the world and letting people know – unabashedly – who you are and where you are going.

Ready to take the next step on your personal branding journey? I’d love to hear from you to discuss how I can help.

Personal branding is good business

Talent branding.

Sales enablement.

Customer experience.

Employee engagement.

Brand ambassadors.

Professional development.

Employer branding.

Brand experience.

There are many ways to talk about the same business challenge we all face in today’s connected world. This collective challenge is how to maintain control of your organization’s brand and your marketing message when you are relying on a countless number of stakeholders to deliver the message for you.

Organizations are often siloed, frequently with conflicting priorities. Oftentimes, a brand or marketing team owns the central marketing message, while a corporate communications team owns the message to employees, sales teams own the message to customers, and human resources owns the message to prospective talent. Does this sound familiar?

When companies are structured in this way, it often makes it challenging to instill ownership and a sense of responsibility for the brand across so many groups.

Here is a situation that I have seen many times.

A new product is launching within a company. The brand or product management team is responsible for the launch, which includes educating internal and external audiences about the new product. Because the product team doesn’t own the various channels they need to use to communicate their message, they collaborate with the key groups that own those channels. Typically, this is a mix of sales teams, corporate communications teams, HR groups, distributors, and public relations teams. These groups typically put together a launch plan and get to work on distributing the workload across the various teams, usually with the bulk of the burden being carried by the product team.

The big day arrives, and the launch plan is executed smoothly – employees are rallied, the media is engaged, sales teams receive new messaging, everyone gets some new branded swag – and launch day is soon just another checked box on everyone’s to do list.

If you have experienced this situation, as I have, you might be thinking…what’s wrong with that?

What I have learned through my experience is that there is a gap between these traditional programs and employee’s own individual interests. Why is this important? Because every one of your employees has a personal brand – and their individual brands matter to your business success.

Not only that, your employee’s understanding of your corporate brand, your mission, the products or services you offer, and your organizational culture all matter to your business success. This becomes an issue when you are trusting that your launch program was effective and that all your employees now fully understand the product message, what is expected of them, and how to execute on your organizational goals.

What is missing from these programs is a focused effort to educate and empower employees at an individual level. Every one of your employees has the power to build your brand or destroy it. This is because how your employees manage their own brands – their communication and people skills, their image, their social media profiles – matters to your business.

For organizations that spend millions of dollars a year on marketing and advertising, employees are a brand asset, as well as a reputational risk, that should not be overlooked. This is because your employees must understand your marketing message; accept your culture; care about your mission; feel prepared to deliver your message; and, feel incentivized to deliver on your brand promise to customers. And they need to feel motivated to do all of this for you while also doing the difficult work of identifying their own professional goals, remaining focused on their individual performance, and  ensuring that they are investing their time and energy at an organization that is best aligned with their needs and lifestyle.

When I talk about empowering employees at the individual level, I am talking about not only educating employees on your organizational brand, mission, and values; but taking the time to help employees understand the power of their personal brands. When you help employees identify their own mission, vision and values, and coach them through the process of aligning their values and goals with your organization’s, you help them connect the dots between organizational value and their own. This helps them understand how they can contribute value at the individual level in a way that is meaningful to them.

It’s common these days to see organizations trying to answer the big question for employees – “what’s in it for me?”  Why not take some time to help your employees understand the value they offer and why that matters to your organization’s success?

If you have responsibility for financial performance or other business metrics at your organization, I hope you’re thinking about this issue. Personal branding is a valuable professional development tool for individuals at all levels of their careers. But it is also a valuable brand management tool that can help organizations engage their employees, empower their sales teams, educate the marketplace and mitigate risk.

Personal branding is not just a concern for your employees. Making sure that your employees effectively manage their brands is just good business practice. When you think about your business in this way, you must take the time to ensure that every one of your employees understands your vision, your mission, and your brand values.

If you’re interested in managing your brand with the help of your employees, here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Evaluate the current situation within your organization and identify any potential gaps that should be addressed.
  2. Take the time to engage the different groups who have ownership of the brand to discuss the value of personal branding at the employee level.
  3. Create a personal branding marketing strategy for employees. Identify opportunities to coach them on developing their own personal brands. Create educational elements to ensure that they understand and have embraced your brand at the organizational and product levels.
  4. Provide training programs that allow front line employees to practice your marketing message, as well as their own. Be sure to offer useful feedback to help them improve their delivery.
  5. Create metrics to help you demonstrate the value of these programs to your various constituents.
  6. Track your organization’s progress. Survey clients and prospects where possible.  Build evaluation criteria into your employee assessments that motivate employees to effectively represent your brand.
  7. Be sure to properly incentivize and reward your employees.
  8. Share what you learn with others. Help more people understand how to effectively create personal branding strategies for their employees in their own organizations.

Click here to learn more about my workshop and training programs or contact me for a complimentary call.