Thursday, October 16, 2014

Be The Brand; Names Are Overrated

Last night, my company had an all-employee event at Soldier Field here in Chicago. The main purpose of the get-together was to announce our new corporate branding. At the event (and in the weeks prior), many, many employees asked me if I already knew the new company name, and then tried to get me to spill the beans. This was the big buzz prior to the announcement: "What's the new name? What are we going to be called?"
But after the presentation, I observed that my coworkers were far more excited about our new brand than just learning the new name. Brand is so much more than just a name. It's who you are: it's your culture, it's your market approach, it's your demographic. In short, it's your identity.
It's not a novel idea that branding applies equally as well to people via the concept of personal brand. We all have names, but we don't choose them (mostly), and they say almost nothing about who we are. Rather, our philosophies, interests, opinions, and actions define our personal brand to others. People generally don't see your name in print and decide who you are. Rather, they interact with you and then form their opinions.
Maybe this will seem reflective of my last post, but how your personal brand is defined ultimately boils down to choice. Who are you choosing to be? Are you living that choice every day, in every situation? What's challenging is that personal brands don't happen automatically once we define them; we frequently have to choose to "be the brand." We have to constantly work at it. Nike doesn't get to take a day off from being Nike, and neither does Coca Cola or Google or Apple. Likewise, you have to be consistent in living to the standard you set for yourself.
Every day, in every moment, you're choosing how you brand yourself and sending a message. I wonder how cognizant most of us are about the personal brand we're presenting in every interaction. I also think, just like with companies, some people can have a brand that isn't genuine. But genuine brands always win out. Consumers are brand loyal, and often to brands that clearly aren't faking it. So is the way it goes with people as well.
Be the brand, folks. It's not always easy, but it has a tremendous effect on your personal and professional relationships. When you find yourself in a challenging situation, stop, step back, and ask yourself, "Am I being the brand right now? Am I living to my own ideals?"
When you make the choice to "be the brand," that's called integrity, and people with integrity always find their way to the finish line, often at the head of the crowd.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Post About Excitement

This morning, as I get ready to welcome new employees to my company, I'm reminded what orientation means to me, and what it means to my learners.

It doesn't mean I "get through the lesson," and it doesn't mean I recite the employee handbook to these excited new recruits. Those are the best ways to transform a new hire's enthusiasm about a new opportunity into boredom and apathy.

Instead, I've learned that I need to soak these employees in the company culture. They should leave orientation knowing about who we are, what we stand for, and most importantly, they should have an idea about how they can personally contribute to the organization and grow the culture.

This is a chance for me to make a good first impression for the company as a whole. Maybe every last aspect of the session won't go perfectly, and maybe some learners won't leave ready to jump in feet first. But I have an effect on how they feel when they leave.

More than anything, the attitude and enthusiasm of the facilitator are key to successful orientation sessions. I spend time before class listing things I love about my position and my employer, ready to share them at a moment's notice. I get pumped by listening to music that makes me happy (Blitzen Trapper at the moment), and, most importantly, I choose my attitude.

That's right. Most orientation days I'm tired from the weekend, have been at the office since 6:45 AM, and have a million other projects and tasks on my mind. I'm spending every spare second answering email, putting out fires, and chipping away at projects. But I make the conscious and careful choice to be enthusiastic, positive, and happy to help my new hires take their first step. And I've realized that what I'm choosing is to be myself.

Choose to be yourself. Everything works out better when you're genuinely, unabashedly, enthusiastically you. It's also easier than putting on a show.