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Sheryl Sandberg’s Better Idea

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017


Everywhere you turn today you hear a reference to a person as a brand, with dozens of pundits telling you how to use social media to “build your personal brand.”

Four years ago, in another post, I said “In an oracular vision of the Twenty-first century Henry Ford said, “A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it.” These days it’s more accurate to say, “A bore is a person who opens their social media and puts their feats in it.””

The result is still a bore, but on a wider stage.

Branding yourself supposedly makes you more valuable, which is laughable, as is the current idea that being busy increases your value.

Sheryl Sandberg has a different take; she believes brands are for things and voices are for people.

The idea of developing your personal brand is a bad one, according to Sandberg. “People aren’t brands,” she says. “That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely. People aren’t like that.”

“Who am I?” asks Sandberg. “I am the COO of Facebook, a company I deeply believe in. I’m an author. I’m a mom. I’m a widow. At some level, I’m still deeply heartbroken. I am a friend and I am a sister. I am a lot of very messy, complicated things. I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.”

Focus on developing your voice, she says. Figuring out what’s important to you and being willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable. “If you are doing it to develop your personal brand, it’s empty and self-serving and not about what you’re talking about,” she says. “If you’re doing it because there is something you want to see changed in the world, that’s where it will have value and depth and integrity.”

Sandberg’s comments on building a voice are just part of her thoughts on how to have a career that is successful and meaningful.

Additional thoughts from Emily Esfahani Smith, an editor at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of “The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness” contribute to that goal.

Most young adults won’t achieve the idealistic goals they’ve set for themselves. They won’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg. They won’t have obituaries that run in newspapers like this one. But that doesn’t mean their lives will lack significance and worth. We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that.

It’s worth your time to read both articles no matter your age or situation.

Hopefully you’ll agree and send them on to colleagues, friends and the young people in your life.

Find your voice; live the wisdom that’s been shared, and help change the world for the better.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Ducks in a Row: Personal Brand / Personal Culture

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/phploveme/4684039656/Everywhere you turn these days you’re told to use social media to create an easily recognized persona that becomes your “personal brand.”

It’s supposed to be the “real” you, i.e., authentic.

It’s also supposed to be the best you, which usually means inauthentic.

Inauthentic, because people typically share all their upside, but rarely the downside.

They post all the fabulous pictures (even helping them along via photoshop-type editing).

Non-fabulous pics are a rarity, unless they are meant to be funny, e.g., morning bedhead before coffee, and those are screened carefully.

We’re not talking spontaneous, rather faux spontaneous.

In fact, everything is carefully curated to enhance and extend one’s personal brand.

But what about personal culture?

As with company culture, your personal culture is based on your personal values.

Values are much harder to curate, since they underlie all actions.

Fred Destin is the latest VC to apologize for his actions, along with Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck, 500 Startups founder Dave McLure, and Lowercase Capital’s Chris Sacca.

Apparently it didn’t occur to any of them that their actions towards women were unacceptable, which makes you wonder about their values.

There is no wondering about Donald Trump’s values, since he stated publicly that he could do as he pleased, because he is rich.

The take away here is that no matter how carefully you curate your brand your personal culture will eventually trip you up if your curation doesn’t accurately reflect your values.

Image credit: Jinho Jung

Entrepreneurs: 5 Keys When Branding Your Startup

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

matthew weeksOpportunities to publicize your startup through talks and interviews can be golden if you remember these basics.

  1. Create a set of no more than five sound bytes, i.e., brief, core points to make in all of your talks and interviews No matter what happens, be sure you get those four or five key points into the conversation and stick to them.
  1. It’s normal for the constant repetition of those points to become boring for you, but it’s imperative that you control the narrative and the discussion so that you can deliver your key points. You will survive boring.  
  1. The biggest mistake CEOs and founders make in these cases is to go in and “wing it.”  You need to use these opportunities in a carefully planned way and deliver your four to five key points every time.  That’s how PR and branding work…. boring repetition and strict discipline to stay on point, no matter what the venue or specific question asked.
  1. Just as critical is to access an advisor with experience delivering a consistent brand message, who will coach you, help you write your key bullet points and messages and practice with you to polish your delivery.
  1. If you create a founder’s video be sure to make it simple and informal. If it’s for a crowdfunding effort edgier and more “amateur” (less slick and professional) will resonate better. People will donate because they are swept up by the story and the emotion and the idea behind the deal.  Not the facts of the product or the “benefit” in a logical sense. It must be personal and emotional. Try using a camera phone, such as a high end Nokia, iPhone or Samsung, and it will be great—edgy enough to have good credibility and authenticity.

 And while these five points sound easy and simple, the discipline to follow-through on them is not.

Matt Weeks is Currently VP & General Manger, Ecosystem at Planet Soho, the industry’s leading cloud-based business management platform for micro-business customers and creatives; co-founder and investor in WorkersCount and Advisor/Mentor at ZOOMPesa Systems & Technology: The Mobile & Online Money Transfer Service with a Heart and a contributor here when he can make time.

Brand or Bore?

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Welcome to the Twenty-first Century where “brand yourself” is the call to action, whether people are more narcissistic is hotly debated, and interest in selfies is skyrocketing.

Social media allows people to share the minutiae of their lives with a single click and no thought whatsoever.

And billions do so in the belief that others will be interested.

In an oracular vision of the Twenty-first century Henry Ford said, “A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it.”

These days it’s more accurate to say, “A bore is a person who opens his social media and puts his feats in it.”

Some things are constant, while others change with the times.

David Beckham and Your Brand

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gowestphoto/3921758575/In these days of social media too many people put more time and effort into building their brand and raising their Klout score than they do raising their kids or supporting their team.

Many personal brands rest on nothing than the person’s ability to manipulate social media (especially true about Klout).

But what really fuels my dislike is the arrogance and ego in which the same folks like to indulge, saying if it’s good enough for Larry Ellison, Donald Trump, LeBron James or Alec Baldwin it’s good enough for them.

There are many ways in which to build your brand, but no matter how you do it the result should reflect your values.

It also helps to have a role model who reflects similar values, so if your goal is to be admired, appreciated and just plain liked you may want to consider David Beckham.

Beckham was not merely an athlete; he was an international brand that smartly fused a handsomeness that bordered on beauty with athleticism, marketing savvy and an eager embrace of the role of pop idol.

Beckham just announced his retirement from MLS, but that’s unlikely to diminish his brand.

Unlike many athletes, Beckham’s brand isn’t tied to his sport, nor did he set out to build it. He had a dream of playing soccer and played his best for every team he was on, no holds barred.

And unlike many stars, Beckham never acted like, and probably didn’t think, that he did it alone.

The difference is that instead of buying into the frenzy surrounding his looks, talent and skill he stayed a nice guy; one that everybody liked.

Stefan Szymanski, British co-author of the book Soccernomics and a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, says, “Beckham is like that [the Queen Mother]. He never puts his foot wrong. He’s nice to everyone. You could never fault him for not giving his all. He doesn’t have enemies. It’s hard to dislike him unless you’re deliberately perverse.”

Beckham is proof that you can pursue your dreams and win big without being, or turning into, a jerk.

Flickr image credit: tpower1978

Leadership’s Future: What You Can Do About It

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

teflonMonday I wrote how people’s short attention span and memory plus general apathy enable the Teflonizing of brands that screw up, so that nothing sticks.

This is just as true of all the personal brands jousting for space on the planet.

Coincidentally to my plan for today’s post, Phil Gerbyshak Had a guest post Wednesday by Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate, called Powerdrunks: How They Got That Way, and Why You Might Become One.

Sally’s explanation on what drives a power trip makes additional comments superfluous, so read that post before continuing with this one.

Sally gives good advice on how to stop yourself from becoming powerdrunk, but what of all those who are not only powerdrunk, but Teflon-coated?

Think Bob Nardelli, John Thain, others on this list, the jerk in the next cubicle who was fired only to surface at the cool company down the street or any politician/any party.

How do they do it? How, no matter what, do they come up smelling like a rose in another position of power?

Like companies, they take advantage of spin, but rely mostly on charm, too many managers’ intense dislike of the interviewing process, including on senior levels where, it is assumed, the recruiter has done most of the work, and selective hearing when checking references.

Teflon goes on layer by layer each time there are no consequences for the actions; most people function on the what you see is what you get, so eventually invincibility sets in and the whole Teflon process becomes self-fulfilling prophesy.

But what can you do when the decisions aren’t yours?

You can actively remember; actively means reminding others even when they don’t want to hear it. You can learn to be honest and still legal when giving a reference. You can care about those around you and protect them from powerdrunks. And if they are politicians don’t vote for them and don’t allow them to hide behind their ideology—even when it’s yours, too.

In other words, change your MAP, since you can’t change theirs.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/portland_mike/4588219036/

Wordless Wednesday: You are the Brand

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010


Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryan_rancatore/4536626113/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryan_rancatore/4530067553

Ducks in a Row: First Impressions and Personal Branding

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowIt’s not just companies, these days branding is applicable on a personal level as never before, whether you are a rock star, a rock star CEO or a wannabe; a college student, new grad or a working stiff trying to improve your lot; everything is about “the brand.”

Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace has a good post on the value of first impressions, since research has shown that there may be a second chance.

Part of branding is the impression you make, so I thought I would share a multi-decade observation on the subject that applies to everything—interviewing, public speaking, personal relationships—the entire spectrum of human interaction. It is neither good nor bad, merely human.

First impressions are generally based on personal prejudices and chemistry.

I’ve found the former can change from negative to positive based on further interaction, but that chemistry only changes from positive to negative.

For example, years ago I spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco; afterwards a woman thanked me and told me that based on my appearance she almost left. (I am nearly six feet tall and although not model thin I wasn’t plus-size, either.) She assumed that I would have nothing intelligent to say on the subject based on my size, but instead found my material valuable and my presentation excellent. Obviously, I had crossed several of her visual prejudices.

Chemistry, however, is entirely different.

Chemistry is not grounded in anything rational, not even personal prejudices, nor is it irrational—it just is.

Think about it; you meet someone and have an instant positive reaction to the person for absolutely no reason you can figure out.

It isn’t sexual attraction, since the person can be of either gender; it’s a psychological reaction along the lines of I want to know that person better and then acting on the desire because the chemistry is so strong.

When the chemistry is mutual, you experience that heady feeling of instant connection, whereas with bad chemistry people can’t even hear each other. However, positive chemistry can change the minute the other person opens her mouth and every thought and word turns sours your initial reaction.

As your own brand manager, here are your three critical take-aways:

  • First impressions do count and shouldn’t be neglected on the assumption that you can change them later because you suddenly decide it’s worth the effort;
  • chemistry is chemistry and outside of your control; and, most important of all,
  • don’t hide behind chemistry and use it as a rationalization for not putting out first impression effort.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Brand Management and Teflon

Monday, July 12th, 2010

brand-onionBranding. The term is everywhere. No longer reserved for a product it refers to the organization itself.

Creating a great brand is an understandable and, at times, even worthy goal, but after creation it’s necessary to care for the brand, AKA, brand management.

Sadly, more and more effort is being made to ‘Teflonize’ brands and brand management has morphed into brand spin.

Anyone who watches TV knows that Toyota is spending a million dollars a day improving quality and, hopefully, fixing a culture that lost its way.

Then there is BP and its so-so-sincere promise to stay in the Gulf until they make it right—yeah, sure. Business Week offers an excellent view on the impact of the spill long before the oil even got near the shore.

Then there is the most Teflonized brand in the world, the Catholic Church, which I wrote about from the perspective of leader vs. manager a few months ago. The oldest and richest organization on the planet seems to be impervious—a true master of spin brand management. After all, what other brand could withstand the global sex scandals that are rocking the world and still see revenues (donations) increase since January 2010?

The purpose of brand management is to keep a positive image in the public eye, no matter how egregious the actions involved.

This is more easily accomplished than you would think, given the vast majority of the public has a short attention span, poor memory, a greedy nature—Louisiana already wants to resume off-shore drilling—and that’s when they are paying attention.

The question, then, is who will win?

The Teflon brands or us?

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shalabhpandey/4117173190/

Quotable Quotes: Brand Management

Sunday, July 11th, 2010


Everything today is about creating a brand and/or brand management. Whether a product, company or person, the brand is all important.

David Ogilvy understood this when he said, “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.”

Warren Buffett has a handle on what puts a brand at the top, “Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.”

Timm F Crull, Chairman & CEO of Nestle sees brands as the basis of successful marketing, “Long-term brand equity and growth depends on our ability to successfully integrate and implement all elements of a comprehensive marketing program.”

Harley-Davidson President John Russell sees a deed tie between the brand and its customers, “The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”

Robert Haas, of Levi Strauss fame, has a far clearer understanding of what constitutes a brand, “Companies have to wake up to the fact that they are more than a product on a shelf. They’re behavior as well.”

But it was ex Disney CEO Michael Eisner who offered the most food for thought when he said, “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures”

As you may have guessed, I didn’t randomly choose today’s topic; the quotes are a lead-in to tomorrow’s post, so read them carefully (there will be a pop quiz in the morning).

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43993720@N02/4742259901/

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