Mike Wagner, President of White Rabbit Group, recently skyped into my MBA class on Leadership to answer questions on personal branding. The following are some of the questions from the students and the answers given by Mike in this very informative session.
Question: Where do I start? How do I get going on defining my brand?
Mike: Look at your personal brand from both a public and private aspect.
The public brand consists of difference (what distinguishes you from others/what gets people’s attention), relevance (applies to your career and marketplace), and intentional invitation (the promise, what you get when you hire me).
The private aspect is truthfulness (don’t promise what you can’t deliver) and ownership (discipline).
Many of us are in the mediocre middle. By moving out of the predictable category, you break expectations. Understand the need of the moment but solve the problem in an unique way. Think “relevant surprise.”
Question: How do you have a personal brand without being perceived as a joke?
Mike: Career branding is an art. It’s not about me or self promotion. It's about your performance, not the image. You behave your way to a great brand.
Mike continued by drawing three circles. The largest circle is, “What do you do?” As he notes, 100 percent of us can usually answer this question with our job title. I’m an accountant. I’m a teacher. I’m a lawyer.
Within that circle is a smaller circle: “Tell me how you do it. Mike says fewer of us can articulate this. This doesn’t mean we’re not good at what we do, but that we are unconsciously competent at doing it.
Within that circle is the smallest circle of the three which asks, "Why do you do it?" Mike continued by saying that building your personal brand is all about discovering the why. Think about your purpose, what is motivating you to action.
You make your brand different and relevant based on your why. Mike recommends reading Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, to help with figuring out your why.
Question: You’ve shared that you have had a number of careers (minister, Saturn executive, IT strategist, and now consultant and speaker). Has your brand been consistent or have you had to rebrand yourself for the different careers?
Mike: Good question. Personal branding is something you discover over time-a series of increasingly relevant skills that demonstrate you can deliver value. I think of it as intentional purposing. Part of it is realizing that relevance as part of your brand is a moving target. What I knew and did in 1999 in the tech field is not relevant today.
Question: How do you stay current?
Mike: I consider myself to be a constant learner. Every three months I challenge myself to learn something new that I can apply to my business. Right now I’m all about visual learning. I read a lot on the internet, follow several bloggers. Keeping current and learning new things is part of being relevant and different.
I believe that creativity is going to become a leadership competence because of today’s dynamic environment. An area I am very interested in is design thinking – a methodology being used for creative and practical resolution of problems or issues.
Question: How do you know if your perception of your personal brand is the same as the perceptions of others?
Mike: Ask them three questions: What do I do that you think I should stop doing? What do I do that you think I should do more of? What am I doing just right?
Mike Wagner, President of White Rabbit Group, is a skilled communicator, facilitator, and business coach. The White Rabbit Group is a performance branding consultancy which helps organizations strengthen their unique brand, engage their employees, and grow their bottom line. Mike focuses on the topics of leadership, personal development, creativity and organizational branding. He has worked with clients ranging from small and medium size businesses to Fortune 500 companies. He blogs here.