Archive for September, 2012

What’s Wrong with Romney’s Personal Brand?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

urlOn NBC’s “Meet the Press,” The New York Times’ David Brooks shared a historical perspective that puts Mitt Romney in a unique position. The candidate’s unfavorable ratings are 50%, causing Brooks to pronounce Romney: “the least popular candidate in history.”

David Gregory, host of the show, attempted to define Romney’s personal brand:

“Personally, I think he is a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he’s pretending to be something he’s not, some sort of cartoonish government hater.”

That is perhaps the most generous, if incomprehensible, perspective one could have formed to explain Romney’s personal brand. If Gregory is correct, Romney engineered an inauthentic persona. He chose:

Stupidity. Pretense. Hate. To hide his kindness and decency.

In fact, if you look at both his off the record and on the record appearances, Romney’s authentic personal brand has nearly 50 shades of hate.  His personal brand consistently communicates sentiments that reflect disrespect, mockery, disdain, meanness, bullying, cynicism, anger and hostility, among other dark impressions.

This is not the first time we have seen a persona like this in US politics. Romney apes Dick Cheney’s dark side personal brand. But Romney lacks a loveable sidekick like President George W. Bush whose cowboy persona communicated that sure: a sheriff’s in town, but that sheriff is Andy Griffith, this is Mayberry, and Aunt Bea is baking a blue ribbon pie.

We’re seeing venom in Romney’s brand. Or as President Obama said, he “shoots first and aims later.” This careless but consistent attack pattern could be dangerous in a president.

In May, Romney is caught on camera castigating nearly half of the US people who only pay payroll taxes or sales tax, but not federal income tax. Romney indignant and incredulous, reports that “these people” feel “entitled to…. food…”

These people include the triple amputee solider who didn’t pay income tax on his combat pay. The elderly retired factory worker who worked 40 years paying into social security and Medicare. The single mother with two kids, working a fulltime retail job and taking an earned income tax credit on her minimum wages.

Even Romney’s humor is mocking and disrespectful.

On April 19 in Pennsylvania, Romney opines to a woman seated next to him at a picnic table at a Pennsylvania reception, “I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them,” No, no. They came from the local 7-eleven, bakery, or whatever.” Of course, the town’s legendary local baker John Walsh made those cookies for the gathering. Walsh suggested Romney, “eat cake.”

Review Romney’s ascent into politics and there are dozens and dozens of these mean diatribes, moments and actions. “Hey, I’m unemployed, too!” he tells a group of unemployed workers.

And who can shake the image that Romney took a family road trip with his crated dog strapped to the top of the car, vomiting?

If there’s anything surprising about Romney’s favorability rating it’s that half the country is good with hate. And, that most of these people are receiving the assistance that prompts Romney to say, “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” After all the 50% is likely to be in the 99%, not the 1%. But that’s the statistics wonk in me.

This is a personal brand looking to be hired by the American people. Can you imagine speaking the way he does, to your potential employer, investors or employees? And, it’s business that is Romney’s framework. As if we are working out a succession plan, Ann Romney claims on behalf of herself and her husband, “it’s our turn,” and the dissed and the haves would be lucky to have him “run the country.”

BTW, in America we say, “lead the country.”

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Does Your Resume Scare Recruiters?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Bad day at the officeA student asked me to review her resume. She had just failed my business development class because she turned in no work.

I always worry about the effect on someone’s career, student visa, chances of getting into another graduate program, and just their general state of mind when I have to turn in a failing grade to the university.

While students clearly know they aren’t turning in assignments during the semester, I try to remind them before the course ends, so there’s no question when the grade arrives.  In her case, the week before the class ended I confirmed with her that she was failing. When she arrived in our last class she announced to me that she was “good with failing.”

It gets weirder. Because the holiday took a day out of our course schedule, I offered a one-on-one half-hour to the students in class, for career coaching or my insight into a business development issue.

So, Ms I-Fail-And-Feel-Good-About-It scheduled her half-hour. Then, she emailed her resume to me before our chat last Friday. Let me tell you: it scared me.

Unless Ms I-Fail suffered from multiple personality disorder, this resume had nothing to do with the person I got to know over three months in class. She produced no work. She had barely spoken in the workshop portion of our weekly class, where each person shares their assignment and gets feedback from class members. I never knew when she was not coming or when she was leaving early. She even moved slowly and sat all bundled up in a chair by the door, in summer.

So you can imagine my shock – when I read the first paragraph of her resume.

High energy marketing professional. Dependable, detail-oriented, well-organized, genuine team player with great problem solving, communication, writing and researching skills.

Not a single attribute that her resume touted, had she demonstrated.

At our one-on-one meeting, I asked her if someone else had written her resume. Yes, she said. Had they met her? I just wondered that one.

What’s worse is she listed eight core competencies that had she actually commanded those skills, would make her a winning candidate for a group vice president of marketing at a Global 2000 company.  Unfortunately, when you read through her experience she’d only been a director of marketing for a few years, and before that an administrative assistant, and before that an IT trainer –someone helping other people learn the Office suite of programs.

This is why it scares every recruiter when it’s time to dig through the email– or the online job applications, when a job is posted.

People are sending virtual garbage that heaps up and soils every legitimate inquiry.

This is why you’re not getting found.

This is why you don’t get a personalized thank you or even a rejection.

This is why we are still saying that personal connections and referrals are the #1 way to get a job. People who have no business putting themselves up for the spot you deserve are crowding you out like weeds among roses.

So, time for a check-up. Look at your resume. Discard all the self-congratulatory nonsense about what a great person you are.  Discard any competencies that are hopes and not truths. And, never believe that someone else can write a great resume for you, if you haven’t told them your real story.  If they’ve inflated you, then deflate the rhetoric until it’s actually you that we find on that resume.

For more pointers on what NOT TO DO on your resume, email me with the subject line: Resume Don’ts. Email address is [email protected]

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How Does Your Personal Brand Sound?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

listening-string-cupLike breaking glass accompanied by nails on a chalkboard, this lovely girl at Sephora talked to me while I bought $358 of hope in a jar (actually three jars of faux lifting and smoothing bamboo sap based gunk from Amore Pacific for my face).  She was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and screeched like tires on dry asphalt when she opened her mouth.

Her words so badly hurt my ears; I backed away like she had a gun. I ran to a register line, clutching my attempt to reduce redness and improve collagen production via what I hope is a renewable source from the rainforest so I’m not denying the flying monkeys and man-sized insects their rightful place on earth.

But the aural nightmare continued in the name of excellent service by this well-trained Sephora employee. She walked to an open register, screeched some syllables that somehow indicated she would ring up my purchases. I slunk over to the register and got guillotined by the sharp blade of her shrill, piercing shriek, “Let me get you some free samples.”

, in her high pitched, catfight voice, she drove me to the brink of fleeing the store without my stuff, as she went on about how everyone at the store loved the brand I was purchasing. Then, she tried to insist I trade in some of my Sephora points that I somehow collect by virtue of knowing my daughter’s name and birthday. But, I closed my eyes, shook my head and murmured/begged, “Please, I have to go.”

When the air hit my face as I exited the store while clutching my black and white bag of goo, I felt liberated from the torture of being her well attended to customer.

I also felt so sorry for her. I’m sure I haven’t been the first person in her life to run away from her. Yet, I couldn’t do anything more for her.

How do you tell someone, “Your voice hurts my ears?”

No one does. So like the bad-breath person, the smelly clothes person and the guy who never washes his hair: we just endure your presence if you’re suffering from a malady you don’t detect.

You never know why you don’t get ahead at work. Why no one wants to ride with you. Why you aren’t asked to join us for a drink unless we can somehow separate you from the herd, without hurting your feelings.

Sights and sounds matter. Your personal brand is defined not just by the values and qualities that create meaning in our lives. Your personal brand is not just your Facebook posts or your blog. Your personal brand is not just what you’ve Pinterested or thrown onto Google+ for us to digest.

Your personal brand is all of you.

If you have strangled voice syndrome, there is help for you. Get to a qualified speech therapist. If you just haven’t thought about what you sound like, record yourself. Not just when you’re practicing a speech, but also when you are on the phone speaking (your side of the conversation only, please) or conversing in your office.

Some self-help remedies? Listen to broadcasters, voiceovers on commercials and your favorite (non-punk) recording artist. Think Sting not Black Flag. Deborah Harry not Wendy O’Williams. Sean Connery not Fran Drescher.

Find a role model, figure out what he or she is doing that you can imitate until you’ve perfected the personal brand that sounds like the one we can’t wait to hear from.

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What do The 10% do Differently?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

imagesFrightening but true: only ten percent of people who’ve undergone radical surgery to save their lives actually change their habits to benefit from the operation. From Harvard Business Review, we learn that those clotted, fat-filled arteries are pretty much refilled with more grease and cheese, rather than kept open with a better diet and exercise program by people who’ve survived heart bypass surgery.

If nearly losing your life doesn’t change your behavior, what will?

You probably can’t answer that question, because 90% of us wouldn’t change a thing. We’d just get back on the pork express.

But say you were among the 10% who are able to look at deeply troubling issues – and make changes to better your chances, what would you do? Where would you start?

Of course, we’re not talking about your physical health. We’re talking about reviving or restyling your personal brand, your career, your relationship skills, and other qualities like resilience, perseverance, and setting achievable goals.

What would you change, if you could?

One way to approach the notion of change is to imagine what a better life would really look like for you.

The fastest way to get into this deep dive is to start by plucking out of the muck what is working for you. This is of course, assuming you’re human. You’ve done a lot of stupid things. You have a lot of bad habits. You lack some useful fundamental qualities like follow-up, attacking big projects by chunking them up, and prioritizing all the tasks that could make up your day, week, month, year and life.

So look away from the sheer awfulness that is the common human condition, and let’s focus on what you like.

I treat this exercise like a game of “pick up sticks.” If you don’t know it, it’s a game where you get a bunch of eight-inch long sticks, each about the thickness of a toothpick. Typically, there’s an equal number of each of the primary and secondary colors. So, there might be six each of red, blue, yellow, purple, green, and orange sticks. To play, you dump all the sticks into a heap on a table and then try to remove just “your” color from the mess of them, without upsetting the positions of the others.

If your best traits were the red sticks, you’d just pick out those.  Your red sticks might be honesty, clarity, objectivity, thoroughness, focus, and attention to detail. You might stop right here and identify 6 of your positive traits. If you need a list, I have 555 traits you can have. See my offer at the bottom of this post.

Pick up the good ones

Start off your recovery by posting your 6 positive traits where you can see them. Before you get on the phone, online or into a meeting: look at them. Before you start a project, ask for help with a project, or finish a project: look at them. Take another peek before you go to sleep, when you awaken and during your lunch break.

Can you see how organizing yourself with your best traits in mind will revive a faltering personal brand, a business relationship and your attitude about your work? When you focus on your best self, you’re likely to choke off the oxygen to your worst self. That may help you avoid more serious interventions at the hand of someone else: a boss, client or colleague.

Eat right, exercise, sleep, breathe, relax and work hard. You’ll live longer, better and richer.

Want a list of 555 traits? Email me with the words: “555 Traits” in the subject line. Send it to [email protected]

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