Personal Branding: It’s All About HOW You Do What You Do

Mary Rosenbaum | January 20th, 2011

I am sure you remember learning about the 5 W’s of writing when you were in school – Who, What, When, Where and Why. The 5 W’s for report or article writing were ingrained in all of us as a means of communicating enough information so the reader understood the facts.

In Personal Branding, the best way to communicate your differentiating values and skills is to answer the questions: What, Why, and How. In a past post I wrote about the importance of Why – your passion – in having others understand what motivates you to do what you do. The background story provides a stickiness and makes it memorable in the mind of the listener. It helps them connect with you on a deeper level as the Why shows rather than tells them about your values.

The What consists of your skills, abilities, education, experience, talents – everything that I call table stakes. The What is what gets you in the game. The What is not what makes you stand out. What you do can be replicated and ultimately commodified with time. There are many lawyers, doctors, accountants, financial analysts, coaches, etc. whose What equals or surpasses yours. What they do may not be identical but it may be a good substitute for what you do. This is not meant to minimize your abilities but to recognize that the way to stand out and be memorable is through your Why and your How.

The How enables you to form the bonds and the relationships that result in developing the trust and like-ability you need for someone to recommend you, use your services, promote you, or hire you. As much as your Why shows the listener what some of your values are, the How shows them the way your values lead your life, your career, or your business.

I was at someone’s home a few weeks ago and a client of my husband’s firm was there. She is not only a client, she is one of their brand ambassadors. She recommends the firm to others whenever she has the chance. I asked her why she recommends them and what she says about them when talking about the firm.

She began describing what I knew to be the values the firm espouses and that each member of the firm is aligned with, and they include the following:

- positive working experience – everyone in the firm with whom she has worked has made it a positive experience every time

- generous – they are inclusive, generously sharing the work and the credit

- reliable and consistent – have always delivered on their promise of value

- creative – they are always looking for new ways to solve existing and recurring problems

- caring – they partner with their clients and genuinely feel their pain

There was no mention of their skill set, the results they delivered, or their knowledge and contacts within the industry. Those were a given. They were the table stakes of what got them in the game. The attributes and values she focused in on were the ones that made the overall experience of working with them rewarding, professionally and personally. In fact, she readily admitted that there are several competitors who have similar skill sets and can do a fine job. But the How of what my husband’s firm does is what tips the scales in their favor. It’s what makes them stand out from the competition.

The How of what you do reflects your values and the values of your organization. So it’s important to understand what your values are and determine whether the How of what you do authentically represents those values.

Here are some actions to take to discover whether you are on target and to gain a better understanding of how your values impact those around you:

1. Get input from your tribe – colleagues, referral sources, clients, bosses – How does what you do affect their opinion of you? Conducting a 360 assessment is probably the most effective way of learning what others think of you. Get those opinions that don’t focus on your expertise – your what – but on your how and why.

2. Do a self assessment – What are the values that are most important to you?

3. How do your values line up with those of your company – are they synergistic or in conflict? How does that affect your work and perceptions of how you perform?

4. Are you in alignment with your values? Is the How of what you do an authentic representation of what you believe in and the way you want to work – or do you feel as if your life is bifurcated, you behave one way at work and another outside of work?

Understanding how your values affect How you do what you do requires both introspection and external feedback in order for it to be meaningful. It is an important part of unearthing your Personal Brand and will lead to more informed behavior on your part and improved success in communicating your unique promise of value. Without it you become a commodity and then it’s all about the price.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum empowers careerists and entrepreneurs to gain greater clarity and more effectively communicate their unique promise of value. Strong leadership means leading with your strengths. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru

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