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  • Writer's pictureLev Mikulitski

You are your own brand! Develop It.

Your world will forever be intertwined with your personality and hence you must develop your personality and your personal brand. Today the world of self-branding is hot and kicking. There are hundreds of books on the subject, hundreds of experts. And I personally very much agree with this approach. In a world where there is constant abundance, our ability to develop a unique personality is simply a necessity.

And why do you ask ?! it's simple. I believe in mastering your own destiny and your personality. And, what if not? there will be others who will be responsible for it. How to begin? First, develop an ambitious awareness and self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge matters for many reasons. Knowing our values, helps us make some of the most important decisions we face in life. Who to love, where to live, where to work, and how to spend the limited number of days that we have here on earth. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses helps us make the most of our talents and work on improving our limitations. Knowing how we're perceived by others helps us understand the consequences of our behaviors on others at work and at home. Knowing our hot buttons, and how we act under pressure, helps us manage ourselves more effectively in stressful situations. Researchers have found that leaders who are self-aware are more likely to be high performing to meet their business goals and save on turnover costs. The cost of a lack of self-awareness can be high.

In one study, researchers collected data on the performance of 300 leaders in 58 teams, who were participating in a business simulation in an executive program. They also collected data on how well the leaders' self-assessment of their personal contributions to their teams matched others' perceptions of them. The researchers found that when there is a large gap between the leader assessments and how others experienced them, the teams made worse decisions and had poorer coordination.

Unfortunately, self-awareness seems to be in short supply in organizations. In a study of almost 7,000 professionals in almost 500 publicly traded companies, researchers found that nearly 80% of the professionals had at least one blind spot. Which the researchers define as a skill area that the leader perceives to be a strength, but others perceive as a weakness. 40% of the professionals they studied, had at least one hidden strength, a skill area that a person perceives as a weakness but others see as a strength. And having hidden strengths matters because it's hard to make the most out of strength if you don't know you have it. Some of the biggest blind spots were in areas such as making touch people call, demonstrating personal flexibility, getting work done through others, being too narrow. Doesn't inspire or build talent, and doesn't relate well to others.

When employees lack self-awareness, it hurts the bottom line. Researches tracked the staff performance of the 486 Fortune 500 companies, over 30 months. They found that the companies that had the highest percentage of self-aware employees consistently outperformed the companies that had the lowest percentage of self-aware employees, on return on revenue and other measures of company performance.

Benjamin Franklin once said, there are three things that are extremely hard, steel, a diamond, and how to know oneself. That said, there are several things you can do to develop self-awareness. Google for self-awareness tools and you'll find plenty.

The point is, that developing self-awareness is a critical life skill and it can be systematically developed with effort. Understanding your values, styles, strengths, and weaknesses helps you be more appreciative of how you see and act in the world, as well as more appreciative of the many other ways of seeing and acting in the world. Self-awareness can help you create a plan of action for leveraging your strengths and correcting the weaknesses that can hold you and others back from achieving important goals. You may appreciate this quotation from the Persian poet Rumi, who said, yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world, today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Self-awareness is the first step on a path to creating your personal brand. In the late 1990s, Tom Peters, propelled the language of personal branding into the mainstream business press when he published the article, The Brand Called You, in Fast Company magazine. Long before social media made it possible to craft an online presence through web pages, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, Peters reminded people that we each have a brand based on other people's perceptions of us, whether we like it or not. And we should take control over shaping how people perceive us.

Today, there are hundreds of books about personal branding listed on, all designed to help you create, package, and promote your personal brand. In his article, Peters boldly stated, regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies, Me Inc. To be in business today, you're most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you. You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. His article, while controversial, was meant to be a wake-up call for people who believed their work would speak for itself.

Keeping your nose to the grindstone and hoping people will notice your good work, may have worked when people stayed in jobs for many years, long enough for others to get to know them well. But by the late 1990s, this was becoming an increasingly risky strategy because layoffs were becoming more common, pensions were disappearing and lifetime employment was becoming a thing of the past. Quietly doing one's work and hoping someone would notice, no longer guaranteed job or financial security. Now, if proactively crafting your brand doesn't appeal to you, keep in mind that you already have a brand whether you like it or not. If you're on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or other social media sites, you're already creating your brand by presenting yourself as you like to be seen.

By choosing what to make public and what to keep private. But even without social media, the people you interact with are already making assumptions, true or not, about your interest, goals, knowledge, skill level, integrity, and readiness to handle a promotion or a challenging career opportunity. For example, researcher Susan Fisk and her colleagues found that people are likely to make assumptions about your warmth. For example, your kindness, your friendliness, your helpfulness, and your trustworthiness, as well as your competence, for example, your intelligence, knowledge, and abilities, within the first few minutes, even seconds, of meeting you.

Given that people make assumptions about you within seconds, it's worth considering whether you want to leave people's impressions of you to change, or whether you want to take some control over how you're seen. Creating your personal brand is a way of clarifying your values, your aspirations, your character, your expertise, and how you add value. Your brand can be an anchor in a sea of change and opportunity. Your brand helps you understand which jobs bring out the best in you and which jobs are best filled by someone else. You don't want to be the best-kept secret in your organization or field, nor do you want to make people guess what you want or what your interest and strengths are. It's your responsibility to let people know where and how you can make your best contributions. And your brand, if it's authentic as it should be, reflects the story of your life, your hope for your future, and the source of your strength.

Finally, to create your brand, Tom Peters recommends that you answer the following questions. What do I do that I'm most proud of? What do I do that adds remarkable distinguished, distinctive value? What do my colleagues and customers say is my greatest and clearest strength and most noteworthy personal characteristic? What I have done lately, this week, that added value to the organization? Do people view me as a dependable colleague and team member who is interested in the success of others? Are my skills difficult to copy? Is my work clearly aligned with the organization's goals, strategies, and priorities? And am I doing what it takes to make sure that my brand is not at risk of becoming out of date?

Clearly, a thoughtfully crafted brand is not the same as style over substance. If there's a gap between the brand you present and who you are, sooner or later people will recognize these inconsistencies between what you promised and what you deliver, and your brand will lose its power. Remember that your brand is built on what other people say about you, not just what you say about yourself. So now you know more about the importance of developing self-awareness and creating your brand.

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