In my book The Future Of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand, I wrote that even though Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken brand image had experienced several transformations over the years, its core specialty is and continues to be chicken. Go ahead and ask someone what comes to mind when you say KFC. Almost instantly they will say chicken . . . fried chicken.
Now why am I talking about the Colonel today?
If you have seen the recent series of commercials in which Colonel Harland Sanders has been reincarnated in the form of numerous famous actors and comedians, you will immediately know why. The commercials are a riot. The Colonel is hip!
Beyond watching the videos – by the way, be sure to check out the one with the guy giving his girlfriend a corsage with a crispy chicken thigh to be worn on her hand – I want you to also think of how you are, and how you want, to be perceived.
No this doesn’t mean that I want you to imagine yourself in a white suit with the Colonel’s black tie.
When I ask you to think about perception, I am talking about how leadership, colleagues and your customers view you in terms of your current day relevancy and impact on them. Specifically, are you able to project a newer and more up to date image, while still remaining true to your originality and those things that make you unique?
The Colonel certainly has. In fact, one might say that he has come full circle in that the franchise has returned to its origins, after spending years trying to find its place in an ever changing market.
During that period, when KFC attempted to introduce a new menu of “healthy foods,” it saw its once dominant market share drop dramatically. There was no familiar Colonel with whom the public could relate.
The brand lost itself in its attempts to adapt and compete, and subsequently drifted. It didn’t fit in anywhere.
Have you ever felt like that in your career . . . lost and uncertain as to where you fit in within your organization.
If you have, maybe it’s time to take a cue from the Colonel and rediscover and reenergize what originally made YOU great!
“People may doubt or question what you say. . . but will believe what you do.”
I remember when I first read the above statement, and how it immediately made me think “do my actions align with my words?”
Or to put it another way, do I “walk my talk?”
It is one of those questions that is simple, and for which there is an obvious answer.
While it would at this point be easy to fall into an “actions speak louder than words” commentary – which of course is true – it is much more important to take a personal inventory of what we do and how it aligns with what we say.
In this regard, there are three definitive rules for being able to walk your talk.
Rule No. 1 – Choose The True You Over The Expectations Of Others
What do people expect of you?
This is an important question in that more often than not you get defined and confined (or boxed in), by the expectations that others place on you based on theirperception of who you are.
Problems occur when you buy into someone else’s perception of who you are and/or what you can do.
You are in essence walking someone else’s talk.
If you are indeed letting others define you, then you have to find your own voice, no matter the risk.
When I talk about risk, I am referring to how people may react when you step forward to assert your real self. Some might be fully supportive, while others will resist changing their long-held beliefs as to who they think you are.
In this latter instance, you must stand firm, because anyone who does not support the real you, is doing so for their own purposes and best interests – not yours.
In the end, when you embrace the real you, you will not only become free to accomplish more within the framework of your own abilities and expectations, you will achieve a true alignment between what you say and what you do.
Rule No. 2 – Speak Your Mind
How many times have you remained silent against your better judgement?
How did it make you feel?
A long time ago, a dear friend’s father offered the following advice that has stayed with me to this day . . . say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Within these simple words is a powerful truth. You cannot walk your talk, if you do not talk your talk.
The fact is, it takes courage to speak your mind. It is like telling the emperor they are not wearing any clothes. You might be criticized for breaking from the pack of bobble-head consensus. Depending on the culture of your organization, you might be ostracized or, in the worst case scenario, fired.
However, and this is a possibility as well, you might also be applauded for your willingness to stand by your convictions, and state your beliefs in a sincere and confident manner. I have seen people gain a promotion through expressing their honest opinion.
Think about this last point for just a moment. I can only wonder what the emperor in the classic tale said to his “trusted,” high level advisers back at the castle, when he returned from his public humiliation. What do you think he said?
The point is, whatever the outcome, being known as a person who tells it like it is with both humility and integrity, will inevitably make you a valued member of any organization committed to excellence and success.
Of even greater importance, it will ensure the continuous alignment of your actions with your words, and with it your creditability.
Rule No. 3 – Embrace Your Own Version Of Gump
Have you ever seen the movie Forest Gump?
The premise is wonderfully simple and sentimental.
Gump is a man who goes through life riding the waves of the changing fortunes of a chaotic world, in complete innocence. He is oblivious to his presence and impact on history’s greatest events. His success in life is based on his surrendering to circumstances as opposed to managing them.
In today’s fast-paced, hard driving business world, such sentiments are not only frowned upon, but usually subject to derision. After all, you make your own luck through hard work and intense planning. You don’t get to where you want to go, based on being a feather in the wind.
But here is the thing . . . Gump was being true to who he was.
He wasn’t trying to manipulate situations or for that matter himself, to fit a particular event.
Gump was just . . . Gump.
Often times, your talk and or walk can be challenged by circumstances. While I am not suggesting that you become inflexible in the face of needed change, you should also never compromise in terms of being your authentic self.
To walk your talk – to really walk your talk, you must always remain true to who you are , and for what you stand.
For anyone who remembers the show MASH, you will undoubtedly recall the episode about Hawkeye’s friend from home named Tommy.
He was a soldier on the front lines writing a book titled “You Never Hear The Bullet”, discussing how, unlike in the movies, death on the battlefield can be sudden and without drama. In a sad irony, Tommy is later shot during an exchange with the enemy, and moments before dying on Hawkeye’s operating table, tells his old friend that he had actually heard the bullet that hit him.
You might be asking yourself why is Roz writing about an episode from an albeit great but old television series?
The Brian Williams affair.
Beyond the immediate and obvious parallels in terms of both stories being set during an armed conflict, the fact that truth as the saying goes, is the first casualty of war, seems appropriate.
But, about which version of truth are we talking?
Contrary to Tommy’s book in which he contends that you never actually hear the bullet that brings about the end, Williams’ downfall appears to have been precipitated by a well intentioned PR announcement at a hockey game.
That’s right, a hockey game. In January of this year, Williams and Command Sergeant Major Tim Terpak, both of who were on the chopper that was allegedly attacked, attended a New York Rangers game together.
Sometime during the proceedings, a camera cast the two on the arena’s big screen, at which time the Rangers PA announcer recounted a story of how Terpak saved Williams and everyone’s life when they were struck by enemy fire in Iraq. The crowds cheered and gave both Terpak and Williams a standing ovation – which both graciously stood up and accepted.
Of course it should be noted that the story doesn’t begin at Madison Square Garden. Over the years there have been seemingly contradictory versions offered by different people – some present at the actual event, of what actually happened to the chopper that day. Williams himself has been somewhat vaguely elusive at times.
However, the January Rangers game – upon which I will focus today, represented the flash-point for an old story that ignited the public’s furor, and tarnished the newsman’s creditability.
So what happened? Did Brian Williams intentionally seek to deceive the public by acquiescing to a more heroic version of the story he has always told to elevate his own image? Or . . . did he remain silent even though he knew that the PA announcer’s version was inaccurate so as not to detract from his guest’s moment in the spotlight?
What is the actual truth?
While I believe that Williams did not intend to deceive, he did make an error in judgment by allowing the story to stand unchallenged both now, as well as in the past. In short, he was caught up in an unexpected series of moments that came back to roost at the most unfortunate of times. Of course, when would have been a good time?
Even if Williams was not directly involved in the ground to air firefight, he did put himself in harms way in an effort to report the news from hostile territory. Things just quite simply got away from Williams, and he failed to respond despite several opportunities, in a manner that set the record straight.
Though Williams finally heard the bullet by way of the PA announcement, he chose not take corrective action. You don’t always realize that what you put out there in the social media world can come back and hurt you . . . until it does.
I have actually written about this “getting away” phenomenon as I call it, in my 2-Part post The Wildfire Effect or How Social Media can destroy a brand as fast as it creates one. Here are the links to both Part 1 and Part 2.
In this ultra connected world where the flow of information and misinformation moves as fast as a lightning bolt, we have to be ever vigilant in terms of protecting our brand. The fact is, social media can stir up public opinion before all the facts are known. In this regard, we are sometimes the author or co-author of our own misfortune, and at other times we never see it coming.
My family and I have been a huge fan of Brian Williams for many years, acknowledging him as a trusted source of information as the face of NBC News. Today, it is truly unfortunate that many people have concluded that he intentionally lied. Even if Brian William’s errors are just casualties of a faulty memory, through a single and unexpected event, his reputation has now been impacted and his credibility is questionable. Whether it is fair or not, we usually only remember the soundbite moments and flashy headlines as the enduring representation of an individual’s life and accomplishments.
While we should all strive to show compassion for those who stumble – especially when it is unintentional or through an aberrative error in judgment, vigilance with regard to your own image or brand should always be the order of the day. Even at a hockey game.
TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR BRAND REPUTATION:
- Be diligent: Devote the time to make sure you have the correct information or evidence
- Validate: Seek insight from others to make sure you are all on the same page
- Research the past: Don’t confuse memories with facts
- Invest in passion, not exaggeration: Make your content come alive using your personality
Do you know the difference between the fear of success and the fear of failure?
My guide How To Make 2015 Your Breakout Year will not only help you to recognize the common obstacles that befall all of us, it will also enable you to take action within the framework of your own unique gifts and abilities to make this year your most successful ever.
Charles Caleb Colton coined the phrase that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” But is it really?
My mother, who I lost two years ago, would always tell my brothers and I that when values are clear, decisions are easy. She went on to add that you must be able to look yourself in the mirror and like what you see, because then you will be able to walk with your head held high.
But can you like what you see in the mirror if the image reflects someone other than yourself?
In this context, there is a kind of irony regarding today’s post given that I was recently involved in a discussion in a National Speakers Association group about using the same seminar title as someone else.
The person posing the question to the general group asked if there would be a problem if she called her seminar Bringing Your “A Game” To Your Career. The reason she asked is that she had discovered that a well known speaker offered a seminar under the banner “Bring Your A Game To Work.”
It was a lively exchange to say the least, in which many different points of view were offered including violation of trademarks and proof of first use, concerns regarding plagiarism, as well as the similarities and differences in each seminar’s content.
While some expressed the opinion that it should not present a problem in terms of the speaker using a similar title, others were resolute in their protestation that such use would be wrong.
What was most surprising, however, is that despite the diversity of opinions, the general consensus was that the real issue was one of originality and authenticity as opposed to rights. Specifically, and in a demonstration of unanimous solidarity amongst all speakers, everyone wondered why someone would choose to use a seminar title that was clearly associated with another individual. In other words, why not blaze your own trail in terms of establishing your own unique brand, as opposed to risk confusion with someone else’s.
It was a great revelation, a kind of seeing the forest despite the trees perspective.
Why would anyone want to risk being seen as a facsimile of someone else, as opposed to being a unique and powerful brand in their own right?
I found myself asking this question the other day, when several long-time clients contacted me to tell me that they received information for a seminar they thought that I would be delivering. Upon closer review, they discovered that I was not involved with the program at all, and that it was being offered by someone else. The source of the confusion each repeated, was that this other seminar had an almost identical title, with the same focus in terms of audience. It did not help that within the list of topics to be covered, several were either identical or close to those I have been delivering to audiences around the world since 2001.
Putting aside the necessary action I must now take to address this matter, and thus avoid any future confusion, I can only hope that this individual’s encroachment on my established brand was unintentional.
Regardless of motive, this experience underlines the importance of creating and building your own unique and authentic brand.
In my case, having established my brand in this area of expertise, I was able to find out about the other conference from loyal clients who cared about my track record and values. I felt very fortunate to learn that people associate me with the subject matter being presented.
For the other person, it raises a red flag in that the many points of similarity between my established seminar and the new one, suggests that they may not be an original thinker and therefore have little to offer relative to additional insight.
I believe you should always seek ways in which you can both differentiate and distinguish yourself as a unique brand in your own right. By the way, the title of the seminar I have been offering since 2001 is The Art of WOW Conference. Accept no imitations.
This brings us back to the group discussion, or for that matter any situation in which someone positions themselves to claim credit for your accomplishments? Is it flattering? How should you deal with someone who imitates you or, attempts to capitalize on your hard earned intellectual property. Should they be ignored or confronted?
A few years ago, I read a book in which the author suggested that the world would be a better place if we all behaved as if we lived in a small town.
The main premise for his thinking is that in a small town everyone knows everyone else. So, for example, if when driving down the street you accidentally go through a puddle and splash someone on the sidewalk, you are more likely to pull over, stop the car, and get out to apologize because you know them. You would probably even offer to pay their dry cleaning bill.
If however this same thing happened in a big city, and the person you splashed was a stranger, you might feel bad, but because you don’t know them you are not going to stop the car and get out to apologize.
I thought about this for a moment when I first read it. I consider myself to be a decent and caring person, and I would like to think that in both instances I would pull over and apologize. But I did recognize the underlying point the author was trying to make. Specifically, his not so subtle suggestion was that we treat people differently based on whether we know them or not, their position, or level of success and influence in the community etc.
Throughout my entire career as an executive coach and branding expert, I have always said that a key tenet of trust is consistency. When I talk about consistency in the context of today’s post, I am referring to the way we act when we think that no one is watching or, when there isn’t anything to be gained from a personal interaction. In other words, do you treat the mail delivery guy the same way you treat the company CEO? Or to put it another way, what if you didn’t know that the person with whom you were talking was the CEO?
At this point I usually like to share the driver cut-off story.
An individual, while on his way to an interview, was cut off by another driver. Rather than let it pass, he sped up and started honking his horn and making hand gestures that were clearly visible to driver in front of him.
Satisfied that he had let the other guy know how he felt, he continued on his journey to the interview. He didn’t notice that the driver who had cut him off was headed in the same direction. Nor did he take note that the same driver entered the very parking lot he was pulling into. He was even oblivious to the other guy’s steely eyed stare as they both entered the same elevator to go to the same floor.
Confident that he possessed the required experience and skills to land the job, he strode into the office of the interviewer, hand outstretched, with a big smile on his face, and offered a hearty “good morning.”
The gentleman on the other side of the desk quietly nodded.
Just as he positioned himself comfortably in his seat, ready to impress the person who would become his new boss, the gentleman asked a simple question . . . was that you in the car behind me who repeatedly honked his horn and made rude gestures because I had inadvertently cut you off?
What would you do in this situation? More importantly, what lesson would you take away from this experience?
One day I will share with you the outcome of this story – which may surprise you.
In the meantime, and going back to the author who in his book suggested that a small town mindset is something we should all adopt, are you the same person with everyone regardless of whether you know them or not? How do you feel about someone who treats people differently such as a manger who is gracious and pleasing to their boss but treats their subordinates in a dismissive manner?
How about a co-worker who is rude to a desk clerk at a hotel, or the wait staff at a restaurant?
Aligning who you are with the way you are perceived by others is important. This is because your brand is the sum of every experience others have had with you either directly, or by witnessing your interaction with others. Whenever there is a disconnect in this area, you lose credibility and ultimately trust.
Think of it in this way . . . someone, somewhere may not always be watching you but, it is always a good idea to conduct yourself in a consistent and respectful manner as if they were. I am not talking about being fake or putting on an act. You have to be authentic, but you also have to be mindful.
I see being a chameleon as someone who cares enough to adapt to others communication style, to read the temperature of a meeting, for example and change to be able to resolve issues, make people feel comfortable and so on. It doesn’t necessarily mean changing who you are but being socially and/or politically savvy to understand that we need to be flexible – Roz Usheroff
The title to the introduction of my book The Future of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand is Before We start, Remember . . . To Thine Own Self Be True!
This is a principle that I have, over the years, written and talked about at length for good reason. Beliefs or “perceptions of self” determine your values and ultimately the goals you both set and work toward achieving in terms of your future success.
It all seems pretty straightforward, yet oftentimes it is not. Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we mistakenly confuse being adaptable to surrendering our own beliefs and values as a means of fitting in.
The problem as described above arises when we deal in absolutes, or attempt to define ourselves and the world in which we live and work in terms of being either black or white.
In this context recognizing, as the old saying goes, that there are always three sides to every story or position, is good advice.
Another challenge presents itself when we lose sight of our motives.
The Difference Between Reasons and Motives
As a case in point, she writes about George, a Malaysian executive in an auto parts company who, after his company was acquired by a large multinational corporation, bristled at his new boss’ suggestion that “he needed to sell his ideas and accomplishments more aggressively.” Not being comfortable with this approach, George felt he was being put in the position of having to choose between “being a failure and being a fake.”
Talk about a black and white view of a situation.
The real question George’s story raises is simply this; does the ability and/or willingness to adapt ourselves like a chameleon, to a changing environment, mean that we have to compromise our personal values or beliefs?
In other words, when we are required to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable or forces us outside of our comfort zone, do we automatically sacrifice our authenticity if we comply?
Confronting this question represents the fork in the road between reasons and motives.
George no doubt had very good reasons for not wanting to follow his new boss’ direction. Prior to it’s acquisition, his old company “valued a clear chain of command and made decisions by consensus.” In other words, there was no need for promoting oneself as every decision was reached by way of a collaborative team effort. George was comfortable with this approach.
However with his new company, “George found himself working with peers who saw decision making as a freewheeling contest for the best-debated ideas.” Individualism and intrapreneurship were both encouraged and rewarded. This was something with which George was both unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
Based on his personal view, in resisting his boss’ direction George was taking the road of reasons, and in the process lost site of the motives for why he was there in the first place.
This is an important distinction in that our focus should be on the motives for why we do what we do, and the desired outcomes we want to achieve.
For example, a friend of mine does not always like going to the gym 3 times a week, but he does enjoy the benefits of being healthy and having more energy. His motives are to live a better and healthier life.
Given his busy schedule and the fact that he is often tired at the end of the day, he would no doubt have what many would consider to be good reasons for not going to the gym. But if those reasons prevent him from achieving his end goal, even if they have a degree of legitimacy, they ultimately undermine as opposed to strengthening him.
Or to put it another way, authenticity is not based on only doing those things with which we are most comfortable or enjoy doing. Authenticity is remaining true to your motives or intent while working towards a worthy and honorable goal, that serves the best interests of others as well as your own.
Does this mean that George has to overnight become a whirlwind of self-promoting energy, shedding any remnants of discomfort with stepping into the spotlight? No.
What it does mean is that instead of finding reasons not to do something, George should assess his actions in the context of his original motives for doing what he does.
If his motives are based upon helping his company to succeed and in the process develop into the best executive he can be, then by becoming intrapreneurial, he is actually maintaining his authenticity.
Conversely, and by choosing the road of reasons i.e. I have never worked like this in the past or we have never done things this way, represents more of an excuse than it does a stance.
Have you ever encountered the fork in the road between your reasons for not doing something and the motives that drive you towards your desired outcomes or goals?
What did you do? Which road did you take?
Over the many years that I have been an executive coach I have found it interesting that for the majority of my clients, the job interview is still one of the most challenging experiences to master.
For some, it is like a student who after studying for an exam, suddenly goes blank when the test paper is placed in front of them. They freeze in the interview and end up walking away replaying “could of, would of, should of” scenarios over and over again.
For others, there is the desire to get as much of “their story” out in the shortest time possible – leaving little room for actual dialogue with the interviewer.
In some instances, and rather than lacking confidence, some blow an interview by begin overconfident. These individuals act as if the position is already theirs – which is a good thing as I will discuss shortly – but make the mistake of coming across as being a know-it-all or arrogant.
In the end, whether you miss the mark in a job interview because your lucky suit was ruined or, present yourself as being tentative and unsure, the key going forward is to learn from your experiences and follow these simple tips to WOW them the next time;
It’s Not About You
We ultimately become self-conscious when we focus too much on ourselves and not on the other person. Even though this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity representing your dream job, the focus of the interview should not be about you, but about the interviewer’s needs and how they can best leverage your skills to help them to succeed.
When you focus on someone else’s interests and needs, you will be amazed at how quickly a feeling of nervousness dissolves into a sense of purpose and confidence.
Think back to when you were actively searching for your present job. Did you research the companies with whom you hoped to work? While far too many people make the mistake of looking for a job or position as opposed to seeking out the “right fit,” you probably targeted those organizations for which you could provide a needed expertise.
In your efforts to select a company, did you seek to understand the challenges that you could address? Were you effective in explaining how you could deliver a solution based on your skills and value? Were you convinced that your expertise and ability could best serve the company’s future vision?
The fact that you landed the job speaks to the effectiveness of your efforts.
Being prepared means that you cared enough about the opportunity to learn all you could about the company. This positions you to ask questions and truly engage the interviewer in a meaningful dialogue that builds rapport and understanding regarding your potential fit within the organization.
Don’t Rely on Your Resume To Do Your Talking
According to the Forbes article titled “Hire For Attitude” by Dan Schawbel, “when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill”.
In short, while having the prerequisite skill sets are important, demonstrating that you have the right attitude for the position is becoming the key to being hired.
This means that you have to seek ways to demonstrate that you are a perfect fit outside of simply listing your past positions and experiences.
You have to come across as an individual who views your day-to-day work as an opportunity to earn your place in the world, and that your passion and enthusiasm will continue even after you get the job.
In this light, consider the following questions when you are talking about your work history:
- What difference have you made in the past? What difference are you making right now?
- What key projects are you seeking out today that will result in greater value and importance to your organization’s (or business’s) future?
- How well have you worked with others in the past. Are you seen as being a team player who’s values align well with the culture of the company?
A Passion for Success?
I have always believed that passion is as much of an attitude as it is an emotion. This is an important distinction in that being passionate without focus and execution is simply wasted energy.
When you are passionate about something , be it a job or a hobby or for that matter any part of your life, you do everything you can to learn everything about it. In essence passion fuels commitment and commitment delivers results.
Before you walk into that interview ask yourself the following . . . am I passionate about this position. Does it provide me with more than a paycheck?
If you answer yes to these questions, then you will come across as a candidate that is not looking to land a job, but to make a difference in the lives of those with whom you hope to work.
Speak As If You Already Have The Job
Earlier I talked about the difference between arrogance and confidence.
I have always believed that confidence is the result of knowing your audience, being prepared, having a proven track record, and being earnestly passionate. When all of these elements come together, you are able to effectively communicate your value in terms of helping others to achieve their goals.
This means that during your interview, you will not speak from “this is what I would do if I had the position” perspective but, “this is what I will do when I have the position” certainty. In essence, you will encourage the interviewer to imagine that they have already decided to hire you and that you’re ready to forge ahead with a strategic plan of action.
Given that a study by Leadership IQ reported that out of the 20,000 new hires they had tracked, 46% of them failed within 18 months, means that the interviewer likely feels as much if not more pressure than the interviewee.
By following the above tips, you will be able to demonstrate that you are indeed the best fit for the position, and in the process provide the interviewer with the confidence to know that you are the right person for the job.