A colleague recently walked into my office looking refreshed with a great tan, relaxed physical demeanor and big smile, but he hadn’t gone on vacation yet. He began playing baseball in what he called the “old men’s league”.
“When we were kids we had a lot of activities that we enjoyed in addition to our job going to school,” he said. “As you get older, you have more obligations. Work, travel, children’s school, athletics and activities, spending time with your spouse and others. You lose sight of yourself because you focus on everyone else. “
As the creator of Brand You: A Strategy for Branding Personal Leaders (helping individuals build their confidence in the value they bring and aligning their walk and conversation), I had to think about whether typical brands for personal leaders have become two-dimensional – work and family?
I conducted an informal study with colleagues and professional friends and asked if work and family were enough to bring your brand to life, differentiate you, and enrich your brand. I heard things like:
“I enjoy my job and my family a lot personally. In a way, being a parent and spouse is still work. “
“It’s exhausting to be the ‘mother’ at work and at home all the time. Trying to make everyone else’s life easier leaves nothing for you. “
“Being with the kids and having fun is great and adds dimension. However, it is important to do something for me to keep learning, evolving and developing. “
“It’s refreshing to escape responsibility and feel like a kid again, and it gives me the opportunity to let go of the stresses of work and family.”
Here are 5 ideas on how to add a dimension to your personal executive branding plan to make you more engaging, strengthen your storytelling, increase your own satisfaction, and create new prospects for work. Pick one or two to get started.
- Develop a hobby: Think about what you liked to do as a child – soccer, baseball, tennis? Or something you’ve always dreamed of. And don’t be guilty if you are an hour away from family or work. Promise it will add dimension. My daughter and I have started taking a sign language class so we can work with the hearing impaired to communicate. It has always been a dream of mine and she wants to befriend hearing-impaired children. The class lasts 60 minutes, one day a week, an opportunity to practice with my daughter and has been the subject of many business conversations (which benefits my brand as a friendly, empathetic professional).
- Don’t be Flat Stanley when you travel: Think of the children’s book character and the Flat Stanley community project. He travels and sees the world and has great adventures just like us as professionals. Still, it’s flat and travels in an envelope to the places it goes. Don’t spend all of your time in a conference room when you travel. Go out with employees and customers, listen and learn – understand culture, history and decision-making processes. This will broaden your experience and deepen your storytelling with both the people you work with and those you network with. A colleague was in Chile for an internal meeting for two days. She had three hours and went to a supermarket to understand typical foods and spices, and then to Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize.
- Enjoy fiction: Temporarily put the business or self-help books aside and read or hear fiction from the cities, states, and countries you visit – or from authors with backgrounds similar to new people you meet. It’s a wonderful way to build perspective, understand others, and deepen your brand as someone who is well read and empathetic to other cultures.
- Play a role in your community: Although it borders on the line between work and leisure, activism offers the community an opportunity to make an immediate difference and find a sense of purpose and belonging. There are many needs in your community, whether it is volunteering in the library, running a 5k race, teaching kids to ride a bike, or a role in local politics. Try a range of activities and don’t give up if the first choice you make is not right for you. A sales manager tried to get involved in local politics but found it slow, bureaucratic, and unsatisfactory – he became a Boy Scout pack leader. While a lawyer volunteered for the environmental committee in her city and later ran for mayor.
- Make real friends: This was a tip I liked from a 2012 Forbes article that I keep in a folder on my desk titled “7 Pillars of Connecting With Absolutely Everyone”. Be human, vulnerable, genuinely interested, and real. Spend time listening to them and learning from them. Hear their points of view, even if they are different from yours. Having real friends offers personal enjoyment and new perspectives that inherently add dimension to your brand. One of my favorite friends has views that are opposite to mine. When we are in a group she will share her thoughts and others will discuss. I always say, “Try to understand her, don’t argue. You won’t win.” I may never win the debate with her. I won by learning and experiencing their culture. speak their language; and appreciate their views on politics and government.
Whatever you choose, take the time to think about what it means to you – what do you want to achieve? What are your motives? How do you know you are successful? What do these choices mean for your professional brand? And make sure it’s safe and doesn’t get you in trouble.