A cold New York January day seventeen European Consul Generals were gathering for their monthly “3rd Monday lunch” at the European American Chamber of Commerce office in the New York Times building.
The topic was personal branding.
For most people, including diplomats, our job and our role have an overall frame we work within, including success criteria, targets, and budgets. We get trained in being excellent at performing in this role, and we might even get trained in leadership and management ensuring others perform in their role.
Seldom, or never, do we get trained in what our personal brand has to do with our professional role and our professional success. It is for us to fill in the blanks.
Let me make one thing clear: Personal branding is not a matter of being an introvert or extrovert. It is not a matter of a constant narcissistic social media hype. It is not about copying anyone!
A personal brand is your personal guideline. When you know what your personal brand is, what you would like to be known for, your legacy, first then can you prioritize! Prioritize what you say yes and no to. Prioritize your energy. Prioritize how much time you spend on different activities, tasks, and people.
Without a clear and conscious choice of your personal brand, you might find yourself spreading yourself too thin, spending time on things that do not fulfill you or you lose your drive and zest because you do not have a clear direction.
Personal brand equals identity. The major advantage of having a sharp identity is that people can read us, they know us and we know what we expect of our self and others.
When I was pitched by Yvonne Bendinger, ED of European American Chamber of Commerce NY, on the idea for this lunch about personal branding for diplomats I immediately thought that it would be valuable if we could have a diplomat that full-fledged used personal branding to brand her or his country.
One person immediately came to mind: Rufus Gifford, Former US Ambassador to Denmark. Rufus came to Denmark unknown and left a much loved and respected celebrity.
When Rufus Gifford was appointed US Ambassador to Denmark, I was living in NY, and (sorry Rufus) I paid no attention to who was appointed ambassador to Denmark.
However, when I spoke with friends, they asked me if I had heard about Rufus. They spoke warmly about him. Not one friend, not two friends, but several friends. When it really dawned on me that this man did something very extraordinary was when I spoke with my aunt, and she said: “oh have you met this charming ambassador Rufus? Now I understand why you want to live in New York.”
One of Rufus’ personal goals as ambassador was to break down barriers, strengthen relationships and break down prejudices and stereotypes that the Danes had about Americans. He wanted to show the Danes that the USA is a diverse country. For that President Barack Obama had given him the advice that he should: “just be yourself, go tell your story.”
Rufus embraced the advice. The job as ambassador has, like most jobs, set target and goals, and he used his personal brand to leverage this. When he left Denmark, the Danes had gotten a much broader view on America and the causes both the Obama administration and Rufus wanted to focus on. He managed to brand USA via his personal brand.
Maya Angelou famously said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I always think that people that I meet at dinner parties that are the most interesting are the ones that give something of themselves. It could be knowledge, emotions or honesty. Those who are not afraid of showing who they are, not afraid of being authentic. One thing that those positive, memorable people have in common is that they make people feel good. They do not bully or leverage themselves on behalf of others.
Knowing how you make people feel is part of knowing your personal brand. Rufus made the Danes feel good about themselves, he made people feel good about him, and thereby also made people feel good about the USA.
Since most of us have not learned how to brand ourselves, we have to fill in the blanks ourselves. Using a systematic approach makes it a feasible and fun journey. The Personal Business Plan™ is an excellent tool for that. In ten easy steps you will be taken on a guided journey and work with:
It is a personal choice whether we want to go as big as Rufus or use personal branding on a smaller scale. There is only one right, and that is what is right for you.Insight and clarity about your personal brand will make it much easier for you to prioritize what you say yes and no to. Prioritize your energy. Prioritize how much time you spend on different activities, tasks, and people.
Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken! Oscar Wilde