7 steps to lift up your personal image

May is back and with it a need to change some things in your life ! Well, maybe it’s time to lift up your personal image !

“Esse est percipi” — “to be is to be perceived” said Irish philosopher George Berkeley 200 years ago already (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/). This is more than ever true today. In our society perception is more important than reality, each of us is getting about 5,000 info per day and our average span of attention 8-10 seconds (Hugues Rey, HAVAS group). So, how about you ? How do people perceive you ? What is your personal image ? As seen by others and…as seen by yourself !

The issue is not limited to business situations. It’s also related to your personal life. A number of studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life. See for example American psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Fredrickson). there is a strong connection between how people perceive us and how we perceive ourself (self-image).

Anyway, it’s all about perceptions !

But let’s be practical: how should you go about working on your personal image. Actually, it’s about marketing yourself. YOU are the product. Now YOU need a brand ! So here are 7 phases you should go through.

  1. Start by  a vision.  A vision is how you project yourself in the future. Write a scenario.Imagine you’re in a movie. The title is: “Me in 10 years”. Close your eyes and dream. Forget about constraints of day to day life like money, family, your boss or else. Imagine, then write ! You can imagine various scenarios. In strategy, we call that “scenario planning”. It’s important to write it down. Let it sleep for a few days, then come back to it and choose one. You can keep is secret. It’s between you and you. Or You’d like to share it. Whatever, it will be your driving force, it will give you a sense of direction and scope your ambition.
  2. Know who you are.What are your points of excellence ? Don’t spend time on your shortcomings, you’re never selling a defective product ! If you’re not sure, survey the market 🙂 Ask some friends or colleagues to mention 3 of your skills, or 3 words that come to your mind when they think of you. It’s full of interest. it will give you some insights on how you’re actually perceived now.
  3. Define your targets. If you’re in a business setting, it can be your management, peers or the team you’re managing. It can be your customers. It can be your funds providers. In life, it can be a social group you’re part of. People you want to seduce. Avoid it with real close friends: they like the real you ! Define your target(s) based on your long term vision. Set priorities: it’s never effective to communicate to several targets at the same time. So, go step by step.
  4. Have a brand. This is a tricky choice and most of you could be shy about it but it’s actually a great advantage for getting recognized. I have a Vietnamese friend called Huong. There are many people called Huong in Vietnam. But she’s different: she calls herself Bailey. Everyone knows her under that name, actually a brand name of a coffee liquor. It fits her personality. People remember ! So, think about a special name. Or stick an adjective to your name (Smart John, for example) but HAVE A BRAND. And why not a logo ?
  5. Choose your brand positioning. A brand is to be remembered but you will be more remembered if it means something valuable for others. Brand positioning is a classical strategic marketing tool. You can use the Unilever brand key model if you’re a sophisticated marketeer 🙂 Or just think about what you want people to think about you and write YOUR positioning statement. (http://cvg220.wix.com/marketing-basics-jpb#!positexemple/c7uy on how to do that)
  6. Be different. A the end, the most important is to know how different you are and how to promote your difference. It may be a unique competency (I’m the most creative accountant in my city) or a specialty (I’m the most specialized accountant for sports clubs) or something about yourself (I’m the most funny accountant to work with) but something should be unique about you and consistent overtime.
  7. Dress as how you want to be looked at. Dress for success is not a new statement but it’s consistently overlooked. Big companies seem to like employees who all look the same. Like kind of robots ! But we are humans ! Our way to dress, to speak, to appear sends signals ! It can be little things. I have been teaching a lot and for years I didn’t know what to wear so that I could feel relaxed and appear serious at the same time. Then I decided to signal my identity of “marketing prof” by wearing colored watches. Strangely enough, years after my classes, people don’t remember my teaching content but they remember the watches. Recently, I discovered an American couturier living in Saigon. He taught me how to think about my style after he asked me questions about my personal objectives. I became his client. He’s a master in business attire strategy (https://www.facebook.com/paths.to.success/)

Don’t forget this, as written in a Forbes article, developing your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader (http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/04/08/personal-branding-is-a-leadership-requirement-not-a-self-promotion-campaign).

After all, you’re the most important person on earth, aren’t you ?images-1.jpeg

 

 

 

Why you should fail from time to time

I met a friend of mine yesterday. Salma is a story teller and a content strategist. She told me: “Perfection creates no emotion !” I like that sentence. In my post: 5 reasons why you should stop trying to be perfect, I already evoked the fact that trying to reach perfection should not become a stress or an obsession. I’m more radical today. I advise you to fail !

There is no learning without failure. Scientists know that progress comes from analysis of failure. Look at a little kid trying to walk for the first time. Is (s)he running right from the beginning ? No. S(he) will fall a number of time before adapting the technique to reach an acceptable performance. Same when you learn a language or struggle with accounting for the first time.

It’s the same in business. Did you hear about the concept of “learning organization” ? Trial and error ? Lean marketing ? See http://theleanmarketer.com/about-the-lean-marketer/what-is-lean-marketing/ . All is about testing, checking, understanding, relaunching and so one.

I know a US company giving bonuses to their employees who fail ! Better reward those who dare and fail than those who do not dare!  Encourage your team to fail. Encourage your kids to fail. Encourage yourself to fail ! Do something, stop hesitating, move forward ! The train of life is not waiting for you. It’s already gone. Jump on it !5.jpg

 

Be jazzy this week !

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Do you know the difference between jazz and classical music ?

Well, classical music is about having a strict agenda and always be the best professional, the best interpreter, with the hope to work under the direction of a great director : no place for improvisation here !

On the opposite side, jazz is about having a clear theme and being able to play around it… A jazz band can play the same tune each night but in fact it’s never the same. You can recognize the theme, musicians know what they are getting to but they innovate at every moment.

Today business is like music, but the environment is so changing that a classical way leads to nothing significant. You should be jazzy : have a clear strategy (strategic choices are your themes) but be subtle and flexible in the execution (that’s the interpretation). Playing that way, you will delight your customers, surprise your competitors and have a clear direction at the same time.

If you’re not sure about what I’m saying, go to a jazz club for 3 nights in a row to listen to the same band. There are a number of them in every city in the world !

Be inspired !

 

 

 

5 reasons why you should stop trying to be perfect

Perfection is what we all thrive for. We’ve been educated with perfection in mind. At school, at home, everywhere, always we were told to be perfect. Perfect child, perfect scholar, perfect girl, perfect boy. We’re also asked to be perfect daughter & son, then perfect mom & dad, perfect sister, brother, friend and life partner. At work it’s the same. Be a perfect employee, perfect colleague, perfect boss ! We all know it’s impossible but we’re running after perfection all our life.

Well ! It’s not impossible, it’s counter productive. Today, being perfect is a handicap !

Trying to be perfect in all is dysfunctional. We focus our limited resources on behaviors that we will never be good at instead of focusing on our strengths. So we become average in all.

Trying to be perfect brings a continuous stress. We’re always struggling to reach a goal with no hope of being successful at it. We run to catch an ever flying bird ! But we go on and on…

Trying to be perfect gets us to care about non important things. We plunge into details to reassure us that we’re good. It makes us loose “the big picture”. In business, it’s a real pity. Thousands of people forget about the important to focus on some stupid details.

Trying to be perfect kills our creativity. Today, creativity is vital. No company or organization will survive without a good deal of idea generation. But more than generate ideas, we need to implement them. Imagine, implement, fail, understand and try again. That’s how we should learn today. By the way, this is how little kids learn to walk !

Finally,  trying to be perfect is boring ! How many days of our life have we spent at school with boring teachers trying to make us good in everything. The more bored we are, the less we learn and the worst we are.

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Forget about your shortcomings and focus on what you’re good at. This is true for people but it’s also true for businesses and any organization.

Be inspired !

Why whiz kids need an uncle !

I watched a nice movie in the plane getting me back to Europe. The Intern, with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It’s the sorry of a old man joining a startup company founded by a young woman.

It’s sweet and fun but, moreover, it made me think about 2 things I want to share.

  1. Women leaders need a mentor. They are strong, free and successful but life is not always rosy ! It’s hard for them to be perfect in all. Perfect boss, perfect mother, perfect daughter, perfect, perfect, perfect… Society want them to conform to an ancient role while they struggle to lead better than men. It’s tough and they need to talk to someone neutral. Not a colleague, not even a friend, not their loved ones. Friends and families should be havens where you forget about job turbulence. A mentor can listen, reflect, advise without judging. It helps think clearer and make wiser decisions. This is what Robert De Niro character does for Anne Hathaway.
  2. Every company managed by young guys should hire a senior ! In this movie, Robert De Niro character seems out of date at the beginning of the film. His young colleagues look at  him with amusement. His way to dress, to act, to talk seem of another age. But then, they realize that his experience help them solve number of life problems. They become better educated and better in general. They get wisdom.

Watch the film, reflect and be inspired !12801339_958490804205755_4450148449954357009_n.jpg

Lou Gerstner inspired me

Lou always inspired me. I taught a case on his leadership style even before he joined IBM nearly 25 years ago 🙂

He’s the man who turned around IBM at the worst time of its history at the end of the 90’s.. Before that he also revamped American Express and other companies after having started his career with McKinsey. Lou is now 74 and still comment on corporate leadership   http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/leadership/lou-gerstner-on-corporate-reinvention-and-values

I always point out Lou Gerstner when I’m teaching the evolution from sales-oriented  to customer-oriented companies. He showed the way to change in corporate culture as a core ingredient of strategy.

Read his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (HarperBusiness), it’s now a classic ! ibm_200x399.jpghttp://www.forbes.com/2002/11/11/cx_ld_1112gerstner.html

Be inspired !

We all need mentors: it’s a question of good balance, better performance and…happiness !

Mentoring is sharing experience for a better performance and a better being.

Mentoring is a one to one interaction, based on trust and understanding.

I provide personal advice to younger managers and entrepreneurs on how to approach business problems and life at work. My preferred format is one two-hour kick off meeting followed by 10 to 12 one-hour sessions (mix of on line and off line meetings). I also mentor small teams of 2-3 co-workers.

Ask for a trial session free 🙂

Thuong, 35, chief strategic officer of a major construction building  group:
“When I was put in charge of this new job, I didn’t know where to start. Should I go over this merger and acquisition proposal immediately or write a strategic plan before ? Should I hire consultants or have my own staff do the job ? I had so much in mind that I couldn’t sleep. Happily, I could book a few hours talking and working with Prof Baeyens, my ex-prof of strategy. He became my mentor. I could speak, he would listen. I got advice, I found the way to solve the problems in a structured way.”