'Know thyself' - Socrates
In 1997, management guru Tom Peters wrote a ground-breaking article in Fast Company magazine in which he argued that the secrets to building great brands like Nike and Apple should also be adopted by individuals if they wish to differentiate themselves in a crowded workplace and, over time, build a personal brand profile that would enable people to charge more for their professional services and cultivate a better sense of resilience in an increasingly turbulent world of work.
But how do you go about uncovering your very own personal brand? Where do you even start the process of self-reflection to define accurately who you are and how you might be able to make an increasingly valued contribution to society for which you will be rewarded and valued?
These are the questions I asked myself in 1997 - and over the past 23 years I have been refining my own process in an effort to come to some kind of conclusion, which has resulting in the creation of a simple framework to guide your thinking.
The intention of this framework is to give you a tool which you can use to systematically construct an understanding of your very own personal brand which you can then use as a platform on which to explore your professional life with a bit more accurate purposefulness.
In compiling this framework, I have synthesised the ideas and suggestions from a number of the world’s leading management consultants, systems thinkers and personal reflection researchers including Tom Peters, Peter Drucker, Edward Deming, Russell Ackoff, Ken Robinson, Brene Brown and others.
What is a brand?
Firstly, it's important to understand what a brand is and why it important in the modern workplace.
A brand is an intangible mental model or representation of how we personally feel, think and act towards a company / organisation, a product / service, country or person. Brands are created over time and are created in the minds of people through the purposeful design and consistent application of strategy, process, visual identity, value delivery and culture.
Why are brands important?
Brands are important because they allow you to differentiate yourself from your competition, which means that you can command favourable levels of demand and profitability. Without a strong brand you are relegated to being a price-taker and will be seriously constrained as to how you want to grow in the future.
Great brands initiate a response - that could be an emotional response [as is the case with super brands like Nike and Apple] or a response which compels somebody to take out their money to buy your product - or come to your show - or book your accommodation - or trust the news that you put on your site.
The framework prompts you to answer a series of simple questions - each is contained in the individual petals of a giant flower. Each question will no doubt produce a number of answers, which you can write on Post-It notes and stick onto the individual petal.
- What do you want to explore?
If you consider life to be a journey, in which you can choose to explore any discipline or activity to the maximum from now and for the rest of your life yet to come - what would that thing be?
If you were forced to choose just one area that you think will capture your imagination and inspire you to become the best you can be at it over a period of decades of investigation - what would that area of interest be?
- What are you good at?
Right now - what do you know you are really good at? What are you naturally skilled at doing? If you had to ask your colleagues / family what you are good at - what would they say? What is your ‘features- benefit’ model?
- What are your values?
Values are how you do things and those things that motivate you without thinking too much about your behaviour. Some people are naturally curious, kind, cheeky, energetic or loyal as an example.
What then are your key identifiable behaviours that you think others assign to you?
Some examples of common core values include:
- What does the world need?
Outside of yourself - what is the world in short supply of? What does the world need right now and what do you think the world will demand more of in the future?
- What do you want to be known for?
At your funeral - what do you hope will be said about you? What do you dream gets said about you in the news? Ask yourself - ‘What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value to the world?’
What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? If you’re going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of, and most important, that you can shamelessly take credit for.
- What will people pay you money to do?
Based on your current abilities - what do you know you can charge money to perform successfully? What’s easy for you to sell right now?
- What is unique about you?
What is it about you - that nobody else in the world has? What makes you one-of-a-kind? What make you distinct not just different? What can nobody else in the world do, but you? What skills in combination do you know only you possess. How are you distinctly different from your colleagues, your competitors? What makes you stand out?
- What do you love?
Even if nobody would ever pay you a cent to do it - what would you do anyway because you love it so much? What is it that makes your heart happy?
- What will be achieved as a result?
For you - what will be achieved by focusing your efforts on the areas you have selected? What is the overall outcome of your focus in your life?
- How will this serve society?
How will your work make a valuable contribution to society. How will your efforts make society a better place for everyone?
What you'll end up with - if you print the framework out and paste onto your study wall - is a sheet filled with lots of answers on Post-Its.
Select just one Post-It from each petal that resonates the most with you in the answering of that question and move it towards the middle 'Your brand' section of the flower.
The synthesis of all of the ideas that you have selected to form part of the centre circle of the framework can then be used to create a personal brand manifesto which you can use to define and guide your personal brand.
Defining your personal is the first step in the process. Once you have some clarity as to what your brand looks like, you can then begin to think about how you are going to physically design and consistently represent your brand from here on.
It's a fun process of self-discovery. Take your time, answer honestly and enjoy it.
This framework is useful by itself, but if you prefer to have a session with yourself or you team facilitated professionally, then please do get in touch with me here for availability and pricing.