I have been working with a long-time friend on re-developing my personal brand. I say “re-developing” because it is a process of reclaiming the energy, the passion, the purpose of why I do what I do. I started by reclaiming the title “Idealist”.
When I launched my personal brand in 2005 and gave myself the title Idealist, it had two meanings. The first meaning was that I helped my clients come up with and stretch the ideas of what was possible for their business. The second meaning was that I was extremely optimistic about the future and I embraced that my optimism was a bit idealistic.
Many people helped me grow my business. I learned a lot from them and am forever grateful for their time and insights. But in many ways I allowed their insights and advice to destroy my idealism and to sidetrack what I was trying to accomplish. Over the years, I began resisting sharing the raw personal stories that I believed were so critical to connecting with other people in the world. I dropped the title of Idealist in favor of “being taken more seriously” and I focused less on stretching ideas and more on outlining paths to the typical business metrics.
The silver lining is that I vastly improved my business skills and knowledge. However, the greater good that came out of my years of rejecting idealism was the void I felt. There was always a feeling of dissatisfaction after a job well done. There was the numbness I experienced as I went through the routine of mapping out a plan to meet a goal. It was obvious what I was doing was working, doing a job. I was back on the hamster wheel that once drove me crazy enough to leave a good steady paycheck and to leap into the unknown. I say this was the greater good because it was this void that reminded me of my purpose.
The darker the world got the more I realized my light was no longer shining. We are living in precarious times right now. I believe it is vital for each of us to find our light to shine our way through to better times. My light is idealism, whether it is in the form of helping people stretch the ideas of what is possible, being unrealistically optimistic about the future, or identifying the silver lining of tough situations. It is my purpose of why I do what I do.
There are two previous jobs that I have held that have taught me more about business and people than any other experience I have had to date. The first was my years of waiting on tables and the second was my first job out of college as an IT recruiter.
One of the things I learned while waiting on tables is that employees will do what is best for them no matter what the company policy says.
This can work to the benefit or detriment of an organization, depending on how well they understand and manage people based on this principle.
I often tell the story of when it was both the law and of course company policy to not sell alcohol to minors at restaurants. We were told to id anyone who looked under 30. The consequence of serving alcohol to a minor was the restaurant getting fined and potentially closed down. Most servers complied when they could. On really busy nights many people were not asked for their id. Why? Because it was not in the servers best interest to stop and ask for an id when they had so many other paying guests to serve. The consequences of such a decision were on the restaurant, not the server.
Fast forward a few years and the law was passed to “certify” servers to sell alcohol. If a server was caught serving alcohol to a minor that server would get fined, potentially go to jail, and not be allowed to serve alcohol anymore. All of a sudden, no matter how busy anyone was, it was in their best interest to ask for i.d.
I tell this story to illustrate the similarities in telling employees how to or not to represent themselves or their employers on the social web. The perceived consequences of most organization’s approach are that the employee could be disciplined and the brand would be harmed. This is not enough incentive for an employee to be conscientious to their online behavior. However, if organizations switched their message away from protecting the corporate brand and more toward long-term benefits and consequences to an employee’s personal brand than the end result would be both the organization’s brand would be protected as well as the employees perceiving that their company is looking out for their best interest.
The thing is, it has to be presented as benefiting the employee as a person, not just as an employee. For example, I hear many “egos” say that the consequences of losing their job should be enough of a deterrent, they do not need to coach their employees on their own personal brand.
Why is this wrong? Because people do not care enough about losing their jobs. Just the same as those servers did not care enough that not only would they lose their job but everyone who worked there could lose their job if the restaurant was closed. It was only when the consequence of not being able to get another, similar job and also having a mark on their record was imposed that people took note.
People are not in jobs for the long haul anymore. No one is working until they get a watch. That is what I learned when I was an IT Recruiter. I placed people in “permanent” positions. Our guidelines when reviewing resumes was if a person had not been at their previous jobs for at least a year, they were not stable. If they had been at a job for more than 5 years they were getting a little stale. That’s right – 5 years at a job made a person less marketable. We are conditioned that we will work several jobs throughout our life. The consequences of losing a job is not a big consequence when you expect to change jobs multiple times throughout your life.
Now, of course, I hear a few oldtimers talk about how terrible it is that there is no loyalty anymore…well 100 years ago, even Henry Ford had to confront his ego and come to the realization that he could not dictate to people how they should live their lives or represent their personal brand.
Below is a SlideShare deck of a presentation I will be delivering on Monday that compares the challenges Ford had 100 years ago to the challenges managers face today. What Ford learned and what today’s managers need to learn is “it is not about you.”
Social department to crazy bitch bingo
originally posted on Concept Hub
I often refer to things I learned from my first profession as an IT recruiter. Oftentimes I am asked who I worked for. That is when I shift from foot to foot and try to figure out how to answer such a simple question when the answer is not that simple.
Let’s see, the parent company was MAGIC, which stood for management alliance group of independent companies, but the publicly traded company was something else.
I was hired by CFSi – which had built itself up as a Financial recruiting agency, but switch to IT recruiting, so the letters had no meaning. We jokingly called it Chicken Fried Steak inc. Then we finally switch the name AND brand to the Technology Alliance Group, which of course had more meaning, but lasted less than a year. Ultimately I worked under the DMSR brand, which stood for Data Management & Staff Recruiters.
Through all of that, everything I had learned about branding and marketing in school was shattered and from the chaos came a solid understanding of the importance of my personal brand.
I was taught that companies were doing business with me and they really did not care who I worked for. This was proved to me when I switched over to DMSR and had been there for several months. One of my long-time clients had switched their accounting process and had to ask me who I worked for. We had been working together for 2 years, but they did not know who I worked for.
One of my advisers, David Cohen, is very passionate about the idea of developing your personal brand. I had the pleasure of passing his advice on this past week when I was presenting to 90+ people at the TAG Consulting Society.
The topic was, of course, about social networking or what I sometimes refer to as “networking in your PJs.” I was asked about the line between our personal lives online and our business lives and expertise. I had 3 responses to that.
1. I referenced my experience waiting on tables (another job I learned a lot from). I mentioned how I was a very good waitress but had the bad habit of not introducing myself. My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) convinced me that people tip better when you allow them to get to know you a little and that starts with telling them your name. To me, people were there to get served their meals, but I learned that service came with an experience, which was unique based on each server’s personal brand.
2. I asked how many people networked prior to the meeting. Of course everyone…so I asked during those conversations did they say anything personal about themselves, whether it was what the did over the weekend, restaurants they like, information about their family. We all blend our personal lives into our networking. It is how we connect on a more human level.
3. The final point was when I referenced my wise and talented adviser and said that what I learned from him is that if my clients are expecting a personality other than the one I have, I can not help them and we would be wasting our time.
Not only is it OK that people can find your hobbies and interests alongside your talents and expertise, it will actually enhance your business. You will have the opportunity to connect with your clients on many different levels, you will weed out those clients that will struggle to understand you, and your business will be that much more enjoyable.
I would like to share some information from one of his slides.
For a very long time, we have tried to separate our emotions from our work life, but the world is evolving towards greater and greater personal expression – think about what the MySpace generation will do when it enters the workforce
Have you ever tried to “manage” a relationship with a spouse or loved one? Perhaps that is why it doesn’t work with customers either
Abstract terms like audiences and targets are designed to remove our humanity from business, but more and more people are tiring of being called users and audiences and are demanding their humanity be respected
Do you want to work with anyone you personally do not like or respect?
This is a message that more and more business professionals need to consider. What a Concept! has sponsored Chris to be the keynote at SoCon08 where we will talk about the opportunities of social media, but with the understanding that the biggest opportunity that social media has enabled is to re-humanize the business world and to enrich each one of our lives.
Chris told me that after each presentation someone usually comes up to him and tells him his ideas are great and MAYBE one day we will get there. One day? he says. We can be there now if we just decide to.
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
– John Lennon
Posted by: Tony Stubblebine | January 20, 2008 at 06:24 PM
Excellent post Sherry – thank you so much for inviting me down to SoCon – I am really looking forward to the opportunity to connect with more great folks like yourself from the South!
Am not sure you ever saw my post on The Noble Pursuit, so I wanted to share it with you in the context of what you are referencing above – http://www.chrisheuer.com/2002/05/13/we-together-have-a-dream/
Posted by: Chris Heuer | January 21, 2008 at 08:34 PM
Queen Elizabeth triggered two very important concepts. The first was Britannia, the second the modern corporation.
Since the XVI that corporations have been evolving flourishing and in the 20th century, Britannia’s most successful off-spring, fine tuned it to “perfection” and exported as a gospel to all corners of the world.
Today’s concept of an organization is based on intuitive and easy to understand concept – average. If your organization hires Accenture or IBM, you have average possibility of getting your work done because these companies hire enough people which they sprinkle with real talent, so their AVERAGE of knowledge delivers the expected results.
Then came the internet and the experts within these organizations, as well as the newer generations started to shift the paradigm. Now it is possible to use the internet to build virtual corporations, which are made by the people you know (and recommend you) and that have worked by your side.
We have turned the organization inside out!
How many of the “inside-out” organizations can we look at any given time and decide which one to use??!? In the times of few organizations, it was easier… all it was necessary was to open an newspaper and allow marketing to do its work. What now?
Yes you guessed it! We need a way to REALLY capture whether of not these new-organization are doing what they say they are and that they are leaving behind happy customers.
In other words, we need a way to capture millions of EVENTS which will allow people to make their own interpretations.
So, looking at a personal brand is a way to go. Just make realize that pretty soon, there will be new engines that will determine whether of not what you say you matches with the results.
You will not be able to hide. Take the progress with all the good and the bad. Once you take, you cannot give it back…