Tag Archives | personal brand

The One Thing You Must Do To Present the Best Version of You

Last spring, I was having a “30,000 foot” conversation with a friend, sharing some of our mutual leadership and relational challenges. During the exchange, he shared a statement that resonated so strongly with me that it became a personal theme, a constant reminder that underscores an ongoing obstacle in my life:

I will be where I am… wherever I am.

This simple sentence is a definition of presence, which is the ability to give people the gift of your attention, the willingness to fully engage in every encounter–at every meal, every meeting, every conversation, every day.

The older I get, the more I realize how difficult this can be for me. I suffer from a distracted and overactive mind.

In an effort to improve, as I’ve unpacked this whole issue of presence, I’ve come to realize that being present starts with listening. I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but in an increasingly distracted culture, listening is one of the most difficult skills to consistently practice. And yet, if you are serious about building a strong personal brand by consistently presenting the best version of yourself, learning to listen–really listen–is non-negotiable.

Presence: Listening and hearing are not the same.

Listening and hearing are not the same.

How many times have you been introduced to someone, and, within minutes, or even seconds, you forget their name? (Don’t tell me I’m the only one guilty of this!) How can that happen? After all, you clearly heard the name, right? The problem was that you may have heard it, but you weren’t listening. Chances are, your focus was on yourself and the impression you were making. Or your mind was absorbed in the meeting you were preparing for, the weekend plans you were looking forward to, or something else that occupied your thoughts at that moment.

Instances like this cause people to say things like, “I’m bad with names” when the truth is, you’re simply unskilled at the discipline of listening.

Whether this example resonates with you or not, the key is to understand that listening involves more than just hearing words directed at us. Listening is an active process by which we receive, assess, and respond to what we hear–and the benefits are huge. As Mary Schaller explains in The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations:

People are often ready to listen to us only after they feel understood and heard. In a society full of folks who would rather talk than listen, people are starved for someone who is willing to move into their lives as a listener and learner. Being known as a good listener will cause you to stand out in our self-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me kind of world.

The stakes are high.

In an earlier post, I shared that today more than ever we tend to live in echo chambers where everything we pay attention to only reinforces what we already believe. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, Americans today are more polarized than perhaps any other period in our history. As a result, we are increasingly less likely to listen and learn from one another–at great potential cost to the health of our society.

In my upcoming posts, I will explore some proven skills to improve our listening, develop our sense of presence, and expand our capacity to present the best version of ourselves.

Are you listening?

How would you evaluate yourself as a listener? Are you, for example, comfortable with remembering names and noticing things? Does your mind tend to wander during conversations? Do you find it hard to concentrate in the midst of smartphones, social networking and other distractions? What would it mean to you and to the quality of your life if you could expand your sense of presence?

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5 Ways Reading Will Make You A Better Version of Yourself

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid reader. It started with magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated as a teenager, then evolved to include biographies, self-help, the Bible, business books and, occasionally, novels. As a self-described content addict–I even listen to podcasts while mowing the lawn–consistent reading has been an integral part of who I am. And among the many benefits, reading has helped me build my personal brand.

There are few life skills as important to personal development as reading. As author and business consultant Bill Zipp puts it…

Reading forces us to think. Really think. It compels us to consider different—sometimes radically different—perspectives. And reading provides us an inexhaustible resource of ideas and insight, wit and wisdom.

by Josh Felise | unsplash.com

If you’re looking to build your own personal brand, I believe that developing the habit of reading is indispensable. Here are 5 ways reading will propel you on your journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself:

1) Reading is linked to lifetime success.
According to a recent article in the Traverse City Record Eagle by the Education Trust-Midwest, the development of reading skills in elementary school children is vital to their development. “(It is) a predictor of everything from high school graduation and college success to long-term employment.” In other words, if you want your kids to succeed in life, helping them become avid readers is perhaps the single best thing you can instill in them.

2) Reading improves your Emotional Intelligence.
Defined as the ability to identify, understand, and harness your emotions to improve relationships, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is responsible for 58% of your success, according to research from TalentSmart. Biographies and novels help provide insights on human nature that, according to many CEO’s, has made them more empathetic and relational—two critical attributes of EQ. I can attest to that; in fact, in an earlier post, I shared how an article on Peyton Manning inspired me to start writing personal thank you notes to my employees, a leadership habit I’ve maintained for years.

3) Reading keeps your brain young and healthy.
Reading produces the same positive benefits to your brain that working out delivers to your body. According to a detailed study reported in Prevention, adults who engaged in reading and other creative or intellectual activities showed a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

4) Reading increases your influence.
Ask any effective leader and chances are they will share how reading has leveraged virtually every other skill. I have found that my consistent reading habit has helped me develop my writing, speaking and facilitation skills, all of which are important tools of leadership.

5) Reading improves your vocabulary.
Researchers estimate that 5–15% of all the words we learn we learn from reading. If you want to positively influence others, using the right language to cast vision, set direction, and simplify complex issues is critical.

“That sounds great… but I just don’t have the time to read.”

This is the most common excuse whenever the issue of reading comes up. My response, as I share in one of my presentations, is:

Imagine if, on New Years’ Day, I handed you a stack of 16 books with a challenge to read all of them by the end of the year. Chances are, you would either laugh at me or tell me to get serious. But what if, on January 1st, you committed to reading just 15 pages a day, which, depending on the content, might take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Allowing for two weeks off, by year end, you would have read 5,250 pages. And since the average book on Amazon.com is approximately 325 pages, you would have complete all 16 books and even started on a 17th book.

That’s the power of the Slight Edge–an excellent book on habits by Jeff Olson.

It also illustrates a parallel principle: the power of consistency. That is, consistent actions repeated daily. Before I learned this important insight, most of my reading happened on a plane, where I would cram in as much content as I could until the next time I traveled (which wasn’t very often). When I finally started to think in terms of small, incremental actions repeated consistently instead of occasional big moves toward my goals, my reading exploded. Today, I complete between 15 and 25 books a year–in the midst of a pretty busy schedule.

Consistency is one of the most overlooked forces not only in developing a reading habit, but in living the life you really want.

If you want to become the best version of yourself in 2017, reading is one of the surest paths to get there. It will help you develop important qualities that will have a disproportionate impact on every other area of your life.

Question: How many books did you read last year? What would it take for you to double your reading in 2017?

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Building a Strong Personal Brand

Do you recall this 2008 TV ad campaign for Holiday Inn Express?

I love this ad because the message is so simple and appealing: Stay at a Holiday Inn Express, and the next day you will be the best version of yourself.

Simple enough. But simple does not always mean easy. When I speak on the topic of personal branding, I usually open by asking the audience…

“Can you think of a day in your recent past–one day–when you were at your absolute best? You jumped out of bed in the morning full of energy and confidence. You were clear-headed, persuasive, and resourceful; you made a great impression on everyone you met. And as the day wore on, instead of gradually losing energy, you gained it. You were at the top of your game. And you went to bed that night with a deep sense of satisfaction because you knew you made a difference that day.”

My question usually draws a chuckle or polite smile from my audience, as if they’re thinking, “Yeah right–most days I’m grateful just to get through the day.”

But what if you really could live every day with this kind of passion, energy, and impact? What would it mean to you and to the quality of your life to present the best possible version of yourself each day to your world? Furthermore, how can you position yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to consistently live at the very top of your game?

In my experience covering the topic of personal branding, “presenting the best possible version of yourself” is the best description of what a strong personal brand looks like. Over the next several posts, I’ll share some insights and tools you can use to develop this capacity in the coming year.

I recall a popular breakfast cereal ad in the 1970’s that said, “Today is the first day… of the rest of your life, so start it right!” Although I’m not sure that eating sugary cereal is the best way to accomplish that, the message is right on target. Every day we have the choice to either step up to, or step away from our potential. A few key insights and practical strategies can make all the difference in living your best life… so stay tuned!

by Ashim D'Silva | unsplash.com

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How to Confidently Introduce Yourself in 10 Words or Less

Think about all the situations where you meet people for the first time: cocktail parties, networking events, plane rides, etc. In those situations, one of the first questions you will invariably be asked is, “So what do you do?”

When faced with this obligatory ice-breaking question, does your answer start a conversation or cut it short?

According to research, most people, especially those of us in sales or sales-related fields, interact with around three new people every day, which amounts to over 1,100 new introductions per year and over 80,000 in our lifetimes. Yet, despite the frequency with which we do it, not to mention the potential impact first impressions have on the relationships we create and results we produce, few of us pay much attention to how we introduce ourselves. If you could record your interactions, chances are you take too long, stumble and stammer too much, and lack confidence.

Here’s a simple 4-step formula to create a strong first impression:

“Help” (or some version of the word ‘help’)
Whoever it is you help
What you help them accomplish

Learning to describe yourself in a single sentence like this will make you more memorable, strengthen your personal brand, and, I believe, build your self-confidence.

Imagine, for example, you are introduced to someone at a party and he responds to your “What do you do?” question with, “I’m in I.T.” If you were interested in Information Technology, that might interest you, but if you weren’t, chances are you would either be looking to change the subject or looking for a way to exit the conversation. But what if, instead, he responded with, “I help small businesses utilize technology to build their brands and expand their markets.” Wouldn’t that leave more of an impression on you?

When I consider my own situation, here’s what I would say: “I help people present the best version of themselves.” Although my role as a business owner encompasses many other responsibilities, this introduction summarizes what I feel is my greatest contribution.

By Matthew Wiebe via unsplash

So how can you apply this formula to you? Here are some examples:

Commercial Banker: “I help businesspeople fund their dreams.”
Event Planner: “I create events people remember.”
Hair Stylist: “I help people look and feel their best.”
Realtor: “I help people find their dream home.”
Pastor: “I connect people to God… and to one other.”

Remember, creating a strong personal brand starts with making a great first impression, which starts with answering the question, “How can I best articulate the value I create for others?”

How about you? How can you best describe what you do and who it benefits? I’d love to get your feedback.

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