Archive for July, 2010

Personal Brands: Let Me Entertain You

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

IKEAMonsoon[1]We’re having a BBQ with about 50 people up at my house in a few weeks. It’ll be in August, which weirdly enough, is when about a full third of my family and friends are born. So it’s always a big party, featuring crowd favs like ribs, beer and cake.  What could be bad? Nothing if I survive my drive to entertain.


Among the characteristics of my personal brand is “entertaining” and not just for guests at home. I speak, train and teach at venues where audiences are no longer satisfied by being educated or enlightened. “Adult learners” must be simultaneously entertained as they graze on facts and analysis.  Someone coined a word for what we do now in the knowledge transfer business: “edutainment.” I don’t have a casual relationship with this concept, because I believe it the single most important factor in moving people forward. With all my might, I relentlessly edu-tain.


Personal brands aren’t something you can turn off and on at will. Qualities that are authentically you will come through in most every venue.


For example, I am known for throwing really great parties because I believe that you must entertain guests. I see it as part of the job when you host a party. I have developed a formula. I like to splurge on a real bartender. He makes signature drinks and margaritas with that tiny shaved ice, like Slurpees (I bought the machine). We have live music (I live in LA where musicians are desperate for an audience much less a pay check). And I always add in something novel to up the cool factor and kind of make it a scene.


This summer my cool factor is futons instead of chaise lounges. It’s got that Beverly Hills Hotel cabana, Hollywood’s Hotel Roosevelt bottle service cum Vegas Rehab with beautiful people lounging vibe.

This is where it gets ugly.


The best place to buy cheap futons is IKEA. If there’s a store that’s more grueling to move through, filled with more screaming children and surly customer no-service people at the checkout, then it must be in hell.


Other than hell, which I can only imagine is IKEA without air-conditioning, there could be no other place where you are trapped with hundreds of other lost souls, as your brain is assaulted with the smell of damp Swedish meatballs and you try to find your way out from the moment you get in. On the floors you see arrows, but they return you to the same places you came from.

Okay, it gets worse.


We persevere, gripping our soiled list of product numbers, plus awkwardly juggling a tower of assorted doo-dads we picked up on the way down.  How could you resist? They force you to pass every single item ever made in Sweden on the way, three stories down, to the self-serve warehouse.


We arrive at the beginning of the end. We make our way through a maze of towering aisles and pull hundreds of pounds of futon assemblage and mattresses off the shelves, only to push them around in a side-less steel cart that hits you right in the curve between your leg and ankle.

It’s still not as bad as it’s going to get.


We pay after fumbling with what looks like a taser, and is actually an optical scanner that only works at a very specific distance and angle. We wobble our way out to pick-up zone.


Therein lies the difference between IKEA and hell.


Above our heads – like lettuce in a supermarket – is a power shower of wet mist pouring out of a cable strung all across the overhang between the store and the curb.


This is where you must wait with your cardboard and plastic covered, yet to be assembled furniture. Now we know it’s not hell, because we’re wet and freezing. We are literally standing in a monsoon with our cardboard shack and plastic tarp wrapped mattresses, all soaking wet.


“It’s to keep you cool,” says the lone attendant. Now if you don’t know, Los Angeles is about 78 degrees by day and 65 degrees by evening during most of the summer, with no drag of humidity. This is not Phoenix, Orlando, Houston or anyplace where having buckets of water thrown at you is really the only way to manage your body temperature outdoors.


Blame it on my personal brand. I endured because I must entertain. The show must go on. The mantra doesn’t waver when you are authentically what you are, no matter where you are.


In case you are navel gazing about your own personal brand, ask yourself this. What do you endure that tells you who you are?

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Personal Brands: Thoughts and Tears

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

sombreroCountry western music makes me cry – in part because it’s my daughter’s favorite genre (which is a mom-thing, stuff that reminds your mom of you makes her cry, too). I also cry because they tell such poignant stories about heartache, ambition and simple living.

What’s remarkable to me? Unlike any other genre, country western lyricists work Jesus into songs like he’s a neighbor. It’s not the same as Christian music where Jesus is central to the message. Country music sings about Jesus, in the same song where they sing about beer or driving really fast.

From Brooks and Dunn’s That Red Dirt Road:

“That’s where I drank my first beer. That’s where I found Jesus. That’s where I wrecked my first car, tore it all to pieces.”

It’s where I found Jesus

They sandwiched Jesus in between the real life of a young man’s drinking and driving. Hopefully they’re not insinuating doing both at the same time  – although that might be when Jesus is much needed, under the circumstances.

Point is: without a doubt Jesus is a thought leader. He’s a famous person who appears really accessible and meaningful to many people.

Now who are you singing about?

Who are the thought leaders that should be on your lips? Who are the key opinion leaders with whom you need to have an intimate relationship? You may never meet them. You can access them by reading their books or blogs, applying their teachings or perspective to your work/life – and maybe attending a seminar they lead.

Point is: you need to access people with knowledge and perspective that is superior to yours, so you have a way to get more comfortable with the challenges you face – and have the courage to actively seek out greater objectives.

Make A List

I have a long list, some famous like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, and some less so like Ichak Adizes and Rick Maurer. I enjoy a bit of an unfair advantage – I hosted International Business on public radio plus done lots of other media: so I’ve gotten to interview, and share a stage and editorial space with many thought leaders.

But, no one has an excuse to be under-informed. Now it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to intimately know anyone: philosophers and kings, corporate titans and corporate critics. Go online, find, review, apply and repeat your new perspective.

Do This

Make a list of whom you should know or at least brush up against, by looking at their material. Let the best of them influence you. Interact with them on blogs or forums, and most importantly let great thinking (theirs, yours or an amalgam) be a natural way for you to produce great work.

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Personal Brands: Do Ask. Don’t Tell.

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

566782_its_a_secret“When is it appropriate for me to criticize my co-worker?”  I got the question from a young manager in my course: Pitching the Perfect Presentation, on campus at UCLA last week.

I felt flooded by the power to disabuse an entire group of people about an entirely inappropriate – yet pervasive – kind of communication: delivering unasked for criticism. I thought I’d expand on my academic platform and let you in on the etiquette.

Have you ever asked for permission before you criticized a colleague, friend, family member, neighbor or significant other? And not, “Hey, it’s time for me to criticize you: ready?” Nor telling them to brace themselves, “Here’s a heaping cup o’ criticism, coming your way!”

The concept of delivering “constructive criticism” is often obfuscation. It masks the intention of unloading a gnarled mess of “perspective” on someone who is (or is not) living out your dream of how their job (or life) should be done.

Maybe you don’t think you need to ask. After all, if your personal brand is “boss” or “know-it-all” then: fire away, right? Or, because your personal brand is defined as “role-model for those behind me on the path,” you have a duty to be corrector-in-chief, doncha?

So, I stood in front of the class and thought about the God given right to criticize. I thought about when God would give it. Other than “back away: the stove is hot!” do we have a duty to admonish someone on something where we know better? Or, think we know better?

It is a funny question because I teach. I coach. I talk at people from inside the television and tell strangers what I think they MUST do.

My personal brand and my job title invite people to come to me when they want to move further and faster in their careers. When someone signs up for that, I make sure I’ve been deputized to deliver feedback as part of our working relationship. In fact, I make sure that honesty isn’t optional and that I’ll only talk about what I know at a world-class level. Only then can I deliver feedback.

Feedback is not criticism.

What does feedback look like? Direction. Encouragement. And, when necessary: the recommendation to change course, see additional choices or consider that one choice obviates another. You cannot be both an astronaut, and Kate plus 8.

So what’s the difference between criticism and feedback? The giver and receiver must think of feedback as a gift. You wouldn’t package poop and hand it to someone as a gift. You wouldn’t accept that as a gift.

And, you must have permission. As my friend Bob Gregoire says, simply ask: “Would you like my feedback on that?”

Here’s my feedback protocol.

1. Share what you see as positive and powerful about what your receiver is doing – or wants to do – or has made an effort toward doing.

2. Then, share what would strengthen their performance, product or presentation.

And, if you are throwing a lateral – interacting with a peer, co-worker or friend – be as quick to ask for feedback, as you are to give it.  That will slow down the urge to share, won’t it?

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Personal Brands: Hate and Disorder

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

298459_packing_casesHow are you doing amidst the piles you’ve created? You know, the piles of old bills, dirty clothes and detritus of your hobbies (like your carnival stuffed animal collection or unusable swag from less than stellar events)?

Maybe it’s not your clutter. Maybe it’s your roommate’s mess, or your office mate’s. Maybe you inherited it from a well-meaning relative who filled up your place with her old furniture or your work ancestor: the person who sat at your desk or cubicle before you arrived.

Are you worn down, filled with disgust and furious while living in the small margins of space that aren’t covered with dust or mold or worse? Have you come to hate the space you occupy? We know if you have, even if we haven’t seen the place you’re at. Hating disorder and not taking action to clean it up is fomenting a negative attitude toward the world, and making a marked, negative impression of your personal brand on us.

Things that would be trash often surround us in life. Why does this make us mad – either crazy or crazy plus angry? Because it is irrational to be burdened by garbage you must face or sift though in order to do something rational: like live well or work smart.

Don’t kid yourself that someone in Haiti might need a pair of running shoes that are stained from two years of roadwork, accompanied by the molting socks you left in them. Anyway, stashing them in a pile in the corner is not serving the needy, who are not so needy that they want to wear your garbage.

Maybe Your Space is Clean but Your Mind Holds Toxic Waste

Some of us enjoy near pristine physical environments while surrounded by virtual trash: like brain litter born of mean-spirited emails and IMs. Our minds are juiced with the debris of unfair accusations about our talents or intellect. Our honest accomplishments are stacked up on a musty, dusty foundation of “you are less and I am more” reviews of bad bosses, jealous colleagues, dysfunctional family members and BFFs who have breached what you deserve: a sarcophagus of self-worth.

It is my experience that people who come from clutter: space wise or brain wise, speak the angriest and ugliest words. It’s like a haze of brown and grey smog infects them and thwarts oxygen or common courtesy from entering their brains. And, we all have experienced GIGO: garbage in and garbage out. Garbage doesn’t require a fancy algorithm to display results. Garbage is a pretty straight-forward producer of more garbage.

So, how are you doing, as we turn the corner on the second half of this year? It is too late for Spring-cleaning, but you can still lose weight for summer. That is: take the time to toss the stuff that is weighing you down before the days get shorter on their own.

Personal brands: unburden yourself now and let the sunny side of life lift you up and past your old behavior or the behavior of people who should be dropped off in the don’t recycle bin of “toxic people I used to put up with.” Go through your so-called friends or followers and hold onto the real, good ones: the nourishing, wise and in-your-corner ones.

With the spaciousness you create in your real, psychological and social media space you’ll re-gain the ability to map out what you really want in your life. If you got a holiday day off or two, come back into our lives free of the clutter that’s made you mad.

Infuse and surround your personal brand with the best stuff: inside and out.

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