Personal Brands: Be Ready to Answer This

In Sunday’s New York Times, the least likely person in American business is interviewed in the Corner Office column.

She’s Susan Docherty, who “leads” General Motor’s US sales, service and marketing team. In case you don’t get the joke, GM is one of the more famous bankrupt companies in the US, based on its resistance to building cars that Americans want to drive. If it weren’t for their pesky rebuke of its target market, GM’s sales, service and marketing team would be doing just fine.

You might expect Ms. Docherty to be keeping a low profile, since GM has reported record sales in China, Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Russia. That would be everywhere except the US and Antarctica.

In terms of a personal brand stance, Ms Doherty personifies the concept of “failing upward.” In fact, like so many business leaders, she loves to hire people who have failed because she wants to see how they recovered, grew and changed.

She also wants candidates who have a great answer to this question:

“If you could be in my shoes today, what would be the top three things you’d do?”

For whatever other value this interview might bring, it was worth the read just for that question. You must be able to answer that question –for anyone you meet in a leadership position, your boss, clients, prospects, investors – heck, the head of the CIA, President Obama and the owner of your favorite football team.

If you were asked that question by the people who play a role in your success or failure, what would you say? Think about the people you aspire to meet, those you certainly will meet, and those who are on your “must meet” list. Get to know their lives well enough, their past decisions and their future leanings, so you are prepared to help them.

It’s really preparation for your brand to be known as an informed, interested and trusted advisor.

TO DO: Make a list of the people you want to influence. Then go about researching the topics that matter to them. Be ready for your opinion to be asked – or the opportunity to weigh in on the issues that matter.

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