WHO Radio (1040 AM) in Des Moines is an Iowa institution. They broadcast at 50,000 watts, the maximum allowed. You can hear their broadcast from hundreds of miles away.
You are broadcasting at 50,000 watts, too, to anyone who might be paying attention. This is your personal brand. There are only two kinds of leaders – those who consciously know what they’re broadcasting and why, and those who don’t.
Effective leaders consciously develop their personal brand to expand their influence. It’s a combination of many elements, which collectively becomes a powerful tool to bridge the gap between what is and what could be.
Your personal brand increases your freedom because it helps you to be recognizable as uniquely valuable. Every human being in history is similar at the DNA level, perhaps as high as 98%. Yet, there has never been anyone quite like you. Have you noticed how teenagers are desperate to be distinctive and yet feel compelled to dress alike, listen to the same music, etc.? Becoming a mature leader is a series of steps to help you be comfortable in your own skin, and consciously using your personal brand to have a bigger, better impact on the status quo.
The key elements of your personal brand cover how you think, decide, and communicate. Many people focus on the externals – how you dress, handle yourself, write, speak, etc. Those are important, but your brand goes much deeper. You are shaped by your experiences. How you collect and process information, and your worldviews of what is important are the foundations of your self-expression that others see.
Here’s my suggested list of what goes into your personal brand. I’m limiting myself to things which you can shape, control, and revise.
- How you use your time, and prioritize it
- Your framework for analyzing problems and seeking solutions
- How you make decisions
- Topics where you have more-than-average knowledge and experience
- The way you share information and stories, with whom, when, and why
- The frequency and style of your interaction with others
- Catch-phrases and default behaviors
- Your approach to informal and formal presentations
I’ll share some of my history and things which go into my personal brand. Give these thought and consider how you might be able to consciously use your life history.
- I frequently share personal stories and things I learned from my grandfathers, parents, and mentors. For example, here are some things I heard my grandfathers say:
I was startled at how much my grandfather cut back when pruning the roses. “If you ask the rose bushes, they don’t like to be pruned”, he replied.
“Don’t argue with idiots. They like it too much.” I probably should have followed this advice more frequently in my life.
A simple framework for determining what’s wrong: “Don’t do things that make the devil happy.”
When I expressed that I was tired of working on a chore, my grandfather’s response was classic: “The work isn’t done yet.”
When I rationalized that he cut wood better because he had a sharper axe: “It’s the workman, not the tool.” Even at age 15, I knew he was right.
“Every driver thinks they’re above average.” One of my earliest insights into the fact that self-perception is unreliable.
“You have a belly button, Glenn, so you’re entitled to your opinion. That’s about all you’re entitled to.”
Commentary on a local figure caught in adultery: “He threw a lot away for a few minutes of fun with a zip at the end. A man does well to keep his pants on.”
- In addition to saying Thank You often, I use other frequent catch-phrases. “What do you need from me?” “Just wanted to encourage you.”
- I wear black pants and a navy shirt when I give an important presentation. I look good in these colors, and feel good.
- I use whiteboards to draw and sketch as I talk with people while thinking through projects and problems. I do this so often people have said that I can’t go through a whole meeting without working on the whiteboard.
- My presentations are intentionally different than the usual corporate fare. I use many images to make key points, and use the slide content to support what I’m saying. I’ll use a photo of my whiteboard if I can’t make a better drawing with my digital tools. Sometimes I’ll use a mind-map or a Word document with large font rather than a PowerPoint deck. I routinely add cartoons and dramatic pictures in many of my written reports. Humor works in live presentations, and is effective in written documents, too.
- My formal education is in molecular biology. I’ve also studied physics, neurobiology, etymology of words, system dynamics, persuasion techniques, and history – and draw from all of these in teaching and explaining. I am characteristically fearless in using this information for analogies.
- The people who work closest with me can predict that I’ll come at problems from a systems view, apply 80/20 thinking, and use the imagination engine to think of alternatives.
All these and more go into how people perceive me. Think about your own patterns and tendencies, where you are predictable to others, and where you are less predictable. Use this information to shape your personal brand and extend your influence.