Archive for December, 2010

Did You Get What You Wanted?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

girl-with-presentsSuccessful personal brands spend much time exploring their psyches and behaviors to arrive at a position that will be enduring, profitable, and satisfying. After all, your brand must be authentic, easy to communicate, and welcome in the tribes you select to lead or at least be among. A personal brand must embrace who you are now, the origins of your life you want to bring forward in your career, and give you stretch goals so you have a destination to keep you moving forward.

Your qualities and values matter

It is not so easy to identify qualities that will last a lifetime.  But it’s worth the time to agonize over; because it’s your qualities and values that matter wherever you go. We career coaches now talk about your having 5 to 15 careers, which is sometimes comforting – let’s say you hate your current job – or daunting – perhaps you fear your knowledge, approach or skill set will become outdated.

I counsel my coaching clients to think of themselves as fractions, not integers. You are not just a consultant or employee. You may be both, or even more fractions of your whole working day or life. You may be writer, blogger, web series star, media pundit, seminar leader, industry opinion maker, and oh the list goes on. Just like you would diversify an investment portfolio, you must diversify the ways you make your fortune.

Your brain may now be screaming: I can’t do all that at once. I’m not a dollar that can be broken into several coins; I’m a person with only so much time. Stop hurling birds using a catapult at a nest of explosives, or whatever games you play on your so-called smart phone. Convince your brain you want to get ahead, not kill time or birds.

On the journey of your life, the one thing for sure you will take with you is: you. You will lose jobs, outlive pets, and undoubtedly some of your loved ones, survive friends becoming enemies, and you may even go to war against the one you love now. In life and work, loss is going to come your way, on the way to your making gains. It’s who you are that matters through it all, because that’s the basis of who you can become. And that outcome should be good for you, in every way.

Consider what qualities will sustain you. What are you going to look back and say, it’s because I was (fill in the blank) that I was able to (fill in the blank). Actually, I was able to do (fill in 15 blanks).

Sure with personal brands, you need to get attention, ignite emotional connections and remain indelible in the minds of your tribe in order to leverage your brand for life. The brand you sell to others shouldn’t be one you have to sell to yourself. It should be yourself. Then, just add a hefty dose of resourcefulness and resilience, a nose for opportunity and a desire to work hard, and smart.

Getting what you want isn’t just reserved for Christmas. Although, I do hope Santa, or the bearer of gifts in your culture, was good to you this year.

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Narcissism: The New Normal

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

mouth-coveredToneCheck.com provides an email plug-in that flags sentences with words or phrases that may convey unintended emotion or tone, then helps you re-write them. I was kidding about that when weeks ago I introduced you to SocialMediaSobrietyTest.com. It’s an opt-in service that requires users of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube or Tumblr, to go through a series of online co-ordination tests before allowing access those services.

True email screening

Well, now email screening of your screaming is no joke. ToneCheck is here and employers are happy to see it. Not only does it stop hate, anger, sarcasm, rudeness and other negative comments from making their way from your screen onto servers elsewhere – it also embargoes the overly happy, ebullient messages you might send. After all, who wants you to document your appreciation for a vendor that pulled out the stops and produced a miracle for your company, if 90 days later you’re trying to find a way not to pay the bill?

Of course, the world won’t be completely whitewashed. For now you can still get a giggle when you pull up TextsFromLastNight.com, which allows you to read or report some of the dumb smart phone SMS messages you or someone else has thumbed.

Watch your mouth

Funny as these digital bloopers are to read, what you are saying and sending is no joke. Twice this week, I had to send messages to people I work with, telling them to delete among other things: the f-word and a comment that was meant to express disappointment about the Dream Act, with the unfortunate choice of words: “bomb them.” As we know from the Tribune Company’s innovation officer – who sent around pornography as part of a “frat house” mentality, poor judgment is an equal opportunity parasite on the careers of us all. That’s also something I called to your attention a few weeks back. It may explain why the Tribune is in bankruptcy, too much free time for the top executives.

If I’m calling these folks out on it, you can only imagine how many people are quietly disgusted with the ugly verbiage and the people throwing it around. But, it’s going to get worse. We’ve entered the new normal of narcissism, where the world and media is all about you and largely from you. After all, you tag yourself on your pictures, you make comments on them, and you go up on Facebook largely to see what’s been said about you or to you.

Enough about me – what do you think about me?

Narcissism has just been removed from the official list of personality disorders that therapists can treat (and insurers reimburse). Apparently, we’ve outgrown our concern about narcissism, which is on the spectrum to sociopathy. It’s no longer an aberration, because so many of us have it as a “quality.” This now pervasive quality previously was a serious psychiatric condition that we know is destructive to relationships with family, work, community, and society. Now, it’s okay! Who needs empathy anyway? It just gets in the way of increasing the value of shares.

We are in for a firehose of hedonism that inevitably will destroy what could have been called polite society. But, as long as we are hanging on to that fallacy, we can stick ToneCheck on your email, to give you a second chance to rephrase that angry missive – or overly affectionate one – that you are creating on company time.

Casual dress, professional behavior

I blame the demise of civilization not on the Internet, but on casual Fridays. A zillion years ago, I remember arriving at the office of my attorney on the first casual Friday I encountered. There was a sign on the reception desk: “Our dress is casual but our behavior is professional.” I silently added: “And, your fees are astronomical.” Then my attorney appeared with his middle-aged gut, wearing a polo shirt and jeans. He still charged me $550 an hour, with no discount for not showing up in a pressed dress shirt, silk tie, tailored pants and suit jacket. It was a long case and I suspect he saved enough on clothes and dry cleaning to retire early.

Personal brands: do you really want to be doing what seemingly everyone else is doing? Do you want to be identified with swear words, casually throw around hate language, tell us how “sick” your new bike is, and where you went with your “ho?” Do you want your so-called friends to be posting trash on your threads so your employer, prospective employer or client can see it? And, no your privacy settings don’t protect you.

Consider where you can or can’t go with the language you speak. And, I don’t mean it’s time to learn something new like Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, or French. Let your first language be your best language.

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Where Have All the Elves Gone?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

AA004822I had plenty of “they should get coal in their Christmas stockings,” thoughts when it comes to customer no-service at Macys, Bloomingdales, Mercedes Benz, and the City of Beverly Hills with its pothole on Sunset, as I was attempting to finish my holiday shopping on Sunday. I started out with a reasonable budget of money, time and patience. I was worn down and pretty shocked by day’s end.

Similar stories

You are probably having similar experiences, whether you are shopping or just running errands around this time of year.

What strikes me the hardest is the contrast between the “haves ” versus the “not haves.” Not when it comes to the attitude of billionaires versus the rest of us. The hardest attitude to stomach is from people who have work, especially holiday employment. In large measure, the people who have jobs don’t seem to be happy about working.  How can this be, when there are so many people who are out of work right now?

Haves and have-nots

I am an ardent advocate for working people at all levels, in part because I am the daughter of a milkman and a homemaker. I worked three jobs to put myself through UCLA from the age of sixteen. Believe me, I understand the service sector job stress. I worked in admitting on overnights at the UCLA emergency room, sold class notes during the day, and had a stint as an activity coordinator for the local board and care home for mentally ill patients – while I was earning my degree. Sleep was optional.
I have always worked for a living, and been glad for the work even when it was hard and my feet and smile were tired. I am disappointed in myself because now I am finally in agreement with nearly everyone else on how horribly consumers are treated.

Succinctly put, as my fiancé said after listening to my Sunday ordeal: “Service is just terrible these days. No one is nice and it’s nearly impossible to get someone to help you if you’re looking for something at a store.” What feels shameful about our attitude is that we both come from backgrounds where there weren’t money trees in the backyard. We are not “Good help is hard to find people.” We are “Get this economy going so everyone can take care of their family and build their careers” people.

How are you doing on either side of the buying and selling or service relationship? Are you snarling at anyone at work? Are you diffident about whether someone buys something from your company? Do you resent answering some version of the question: “Could you look to see if you have any more in the back?”

Every moment counts

You may not be under the best working conditions right now. You may wish you were home by the fire or skiing in the Alps. You might be like me where taking off Christmas Day and New Years Day will suffice as my winter vacation this year – so every free minute counts.
I know we are not elves, born to be happy toiling all day and night. I do know if we are in business, either for ourselves or someone else – we are lucky to have work.  And, that attitude should show up when you do.

Consider that every time a sales person is rude to a customer, we all lose one more chance to build companies that will survive, much less thrive. Consider what you do on the job may be sucking the life out of your company, your customers and this economy.
Even if you are far from Santa’s workshop in the North Pole: try to make magic in this economy – just by pleasantly doing your job. Smiling shouldn’t be reserved for payday.

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No kidding: There’s Danger in Anger

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

TeenAngerCynicism, hostility, and anger are going to kill you. Actually, if they don’t kill you, they will definitely kill your career. Or, if you don’t have a career, these three demons may be what’s killing your chance of getting a job offer.

Demons that kill your chance

Author Redford Williams’ book, Anger Kills, documents how heart disease, blood pressure, and assorted health risks correlate with what I think can be distilled down to one word: hate. Now you probably don’t think of yourself as a hater. You think you are simply impatient. You think you are just smarter, faster and better at doing whatever it is you that irks you about waiting in a line or not being picked to lead that new project. Maybe you don’t think a word comes out of your boss’s mouth that isn’t stupid. After all, we all know that the higher up the ladder, the less in touch with what’s happening on the ground – and you may be the guy on the ground.

It’s an odd time of year to be talking about hate, anger, cynicism, and hostility. Isn’t it the Grinch who stole Christmas – and you like Christmas! The time off, the drinks, the office party (which is making a small sized comeback this year)…oh and the end of the year review where you’re told your bonus this year is you have a job next year. Some bonus.

If there ever were a good time to talk about your darker side, this is surprisingly a great time for two reasons.

Holiday’s darkside

One, everyone else believes that no one is hiring, promoting, or even working during the last two weeks of the year. So, that means if you are looking for work or looking to trade up the ladder or looking for a freelance gig, you have the least competition that you will see until next year around the holidays. Yes, pretty much everyone else has kicked it. But, if you are making calls on December 24, guess who will be in the office? The boss, certainly if he or she is a business owner. That’s when we get our work done along with New Years Eve day, weekends, and all the official holidays. The assistants and receptionists are home under the mistletoe or at Best Buy. So, calls come directly into our offices.

Two, you are about to make some sort of New Year’s resolutions. Oh, you might not make them official. But your brain feels one door closing and is looking to see what other doors you might open. So, it’s a good time to give you brain a really serious talking-to.

I had a coaching client in the office last Friday. Joanna had great experience in marketing and advertising. She had gone back to school to get a degree in interior design. She is now credentialed, capable, and experienced to create environments for brands, so consumers and prospects can experience the brand personality. This plays to hotels, museums, pop-up stores – the list is nearly endless.

What’s stopping her? Why is she only getting to the third and fourth stage of every job opening set up by her recruiter? I didn’t know, because she is so perfect in almost every way. So, then I had her talk about her past job experiences to me. Although she is a lovely person, she goes through her resume with a witty but catty, cynical or sarcastic comment on each job or boss. Each one accompanies the reasons why the company is great but there’s always this whiplash – always funny – but always angry.

Did she know that? No. Not at all. I might as well have told her she had a turnip on her nose. She had no idea. She didn’t even feel angry – it was just her “sense of humor.”

Discover what’s killing you

Her homework now is to write all of that down. Then, tear it up and throw it away. Her next assignment is to write down pages and pages of why she loved each job, what she learned and why she admires the people she worked with and for.

If you can’t afford any other gift for yourself this holiday, give yourself the gift of time. Write away the thoughts that are killing you. Then, celebrate all that you’ve had and all you will.

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Your Personal Branding Trinity

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

868auditoriumIf you have been following this Tuesday column over the last two weeks, you know we are considering the trinity of personal branding:

Attention

Emotion

Memory

Get Attention: Raise your hand, say something insightful and move the gaze of the audience to you. I do this everyday on the LinkedIn discussion groups that I tend during my 20-minute per day regimen of social media maintenance for my personal brand. To keep it interesting, I belong to 26 groups and I let the emailed discussion updates drive my participation.

Most often, I seek out posts that I can take a contrary position to. I use a very polite tone. I approach the topic with salient facts and typically cite a recognized source so it appears I am just weighing in – not arguing. Every single time I do, another member of that group sends a request to be a connection of mine – and they almost always write a note that tells me what I said that made them want to reach out.  About every fifth time, someone in the thread mentions me by name; often acknowledging that I am a pivot point in the direction the thread was going. Super ROI, because it’s always people that I want in my “tribe,” which is why I’m in those groups.

Test out different methods

I test different methods for social media success all the time. In the last two months, this approach to LinkedIn posting is how I am getting the most positive attention from my target markets. You might try it in your groups and see if it gets you the type of attention you require for your business goals.

Ignite Emotion: Be generous, share your resources and get the crowd rooting for you. My area of expertise is communication. I watch for discussions and posts where I can offer some of my intellectual property (IP).

Recently I offered to send anyone in the group a list of values that form the foundation of a personal brand. Whatever I’ve offered, I tell them what their subject line should say so I know what to send. Every single time at least one person has reached out to request what I’ve got. This open-hearted, open-handed sharing ignites a positive emotional connection, and we continue to dialogue. Often this results in a business relationship I otherwise would never have. So far, the only downside seems to be erectile dysfunction spam, which is easy to recognize and ignore.

Developing IP is part of my work because I teach, train and write. I continually research and develop new material that I use in my coaching and consulting practice. You might not have those demands (and benefits) for your work, but you may want to take stock of what you know. I use Evernote to collect and organize all the bits I glean from a variety of sources during the week. Every Sunday afternoon I take some time to gaze at it, kind of like looking at tea leaves. Inevitably I have a light bulb moment that I jot down, and that helps form a new piece of IP that I can share in many ways.

A link to another thought-leader’s material that’s on point would also work, although that says more about your interest in a topic than your expertise.

Be Memorable: Stick with one topic, stay in your authentic voice and be relentless. I persist in propounding there is no problem that cannot be solved by people having superior communication skills. I concede that an earthquake can level a city, but I insist we are all safer if we can say clearly, crisply and compellingly what we need to put society back together. When people think about me, they remember that I encourage them to use their words to tell their stories and get exactly what they want.

In social media forums, I don’t stray from that position: I talk about communication in all its forms. That includes learning what to say to successfully make career transitions, get media coverage, develop sales, attract business deals, produce best selling books, create successful teams, and more.

From my earliest recollection, I have been engaged in reading, writing, grammar, and later: the sociology of conversation, linguistics, media, speech writing and delivery, sales presentations, advertising and marketing, broadcasting, publishing, and just about anything that has to do with the power of language. I don’t have to remember what I’m representing – it is in my bones.

What is it that we remember about the authentic you? What is it that indelibly defines you in our minds? What word, job opening, consulting gig, or life opportunity would immediately pop your name into our brains?

Consider what your personal trinity is.

  • Why are you getting our attention?
  • How are you making emotional connections?
  • What personal brand are you burning in our brains?

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