It is a cold winter Sunday morning. I’m running 20 minutes late. Church starts at 11 a.m. It is 11 a.m. I still have to pick up a child I’m mentoring who lives 15 minutes away. I arrive at his home. Instead of sending my usual text “I’m here,” I anxiously, but gently blow the horn. He walks to the car, opens the door, and jumps in. While pulling the seatbelt, he says, “Ms. Renee, you are the only person that trusts me.”
Showing no emotion, yet completely shocked by his eyebrow-raising statement, I wait to hear the click sound of the seatbelt that lets me know it’s okay to begin to back out of the driveway. As I put the car in reverse I’m suspiciously wondering: Am I about to get punked by a seven-year old? Shifting to a mindset lacking emotion or judgment, I asked, “Why do you say that?” Without hesitation he said, “Because every time something happens, my mom asks me what happened, but when I tell her she doesn’t believe me.” Trying to be objective, yet wiser than the mini man, I threw out another question. “So why doesn’t she believe you?” I don’t know, he replied.
I understood his bewilderment. Like what many of my adult clients face, this young child’s quandary illustrated a classic personal branding issue based on past events and behaviors. I searched my mental database looking for an age appropriate way to explain his problem and how he could solve it.
After serious contemplation, I couldn’t decide. Hesitant to guide him from pure assumption that he had created some trust challenges that needed correcting, I waited to collect more data. Driving on to our destination, I decided that reassuring him with a list of people who trusted him would suffice for the moment. I did, however, bookmark his statement intending to revisit it when I could best serve him.
Later that day we went to his favorite place, McDonald’s. After eating a six-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal, a cherry pie, and drinking some chocolate milk, he claimed he was still hungry. Surprised, I asked, “Are you sure?” Nodding his head up and down I continued, “What would you like?” He pointed to an oversized color poster hanging on the window that advertised a 10-piece Chicken McNugget for $1.99. “I want that,” he said energetically. “It’s only a dollar ninety-nine.” I didn’t offer to buy it for him right away because I wanted to give myself more time to think and make a good decision.
Finally I asked, “And what else?” He added, “A small fry.” After some savvy seven-year old negotiation, I silently opened my purse and pulled out my wallet. Looking for $3 for the $2.99 meal, I began explaining to him how to go to the counter, place his order, and pay the cashier. Watching closely from afar, I heard the cashier say, “You don’t have enough money.” Thinking that I could have made a mistake and not wanting him to feel embarrassed, I rushed over to find out where I went wrong in totaling $1.99 + $1 = $2.99.
Puzzled by the miscount, I looked probingly into the eyes of the cashier and asked, “He doesn’t have enough money?” She confidently replied, “He ordered a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, a small fry—and a smoothie.”
I smiled at her, peered down at the mini man, and gave him my you’ve-been-naughty look. I requested that she remove the smoothie from the order. I then walked slowly back to the dining area to wait patiently and wisely for him. As I perused my mental database again for the best way to handle this defining moment, I suddenly remembered the statement he had made earlier. But before I could say one word, the 4’2” fella hopped up in the seat and cleverly declared that the smoothie was for me. “I wanted to surprise you,” he announced.
I thanked him for his attempt at generosity. Then I carefully constructed an illustration that explained why surprising someone with a gift by spending their money on what he believed they wanted failed to exhibit genuine kindness. I also revisited his opening statement for the day, “Ms. Renee, you are the only person that trusts me.” This led to his first free coaching session on personal branding and its impact on his present and future relationships and endeavors.
If you are like him, you may not realize that you have a brand that you’ve been consciously or unconsciously building since you came to this planet. It’s the reason you were treated a particular way in school by your classmates and teachers. It’s what’s causing you to be overlooked and underestimated. It’s your brand that is still tagging along with you determining your personal and professional advancement.
The most important point to recall is that you have a brand. At any moment, you can assess it, redesign, and launch a new brand, which is probably the reason you are reading The Bridge to Your Brand.
If you’re just beginning the branding process, I would recommend that you complete this exercise. Write down three adjectives you think describe you. Then select and ask three people to provide you with three adjectives that describe you. Consider a family member, friend, and co-worker. Ask a customer, neighbor, or pastor. Supervisors, spouses, and children are also great contributors to this fact-finding process.
It is important that you give them permission to be honest and objective. Tell them that you are trying to grow and need their help. This will ease their mind to share their honest thoughts and feelings with you. Do not punish them for their honesty by debating, defending, or forcing them to justify their submissions. More than likely, the adjectives that you see more than once or the synonyms to those words indicate the way you’re received and perceived by others.
Even if you don’t like, agree with, or want to accept the descriptors, you have to remember that it’s the way others see you that is important during the research stage. It’s like going to the doctor; a diagnosis comes through the process of elimination. You have to figure out what is and isn’t working for you. What you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. What you like about what people are receiving and perceiving from you and what you don’t like.
As I tell my clients, stop saying, “I don’t care about what people say about me.” That’s not a true statement. You may not care about what everyone is saying about you, but you care about what some people are saying about you especially those you depend on for support. And, everyone needs support from others.
Did the adjectives that you wrote down to describe yourself match the ones given to you by others? The data collected serves as a starting point to awaken you to the fact that people have a clear opinion of you. That opinion matters, especially in environments where you spend the majority of your time—at home, work, and in other social settings. Awareness is growth. Are you awake and aware of what’s going on around you? What about what’s going on because of you?
©2011 All rights reserved. The Bridge to Your Brand Likeability, Marketability, Credibility will be available in paperback beginning August 15, 2011. Pre-order your copy today.