This past week was a hefty week of workshops for me. From leading a discussion around Executive Presence for the Center for Women and Enterprise to a session on Owning First Impressions for our internal Latino Inclusion Network, I have recently experienced a true deep dive into the reality that part of personal brand management includes managing perceptions. While this is a basic reality in the process of personal brnanding, this week’s experiences too me back to something I heard Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, once shared at a conference I attended:
“Perception is the co-pilot to reality.”
At the end of the day, what this really gets at is the fact that what is true is always linked to what is “true”. Confused much? I know. So here’s what I mean: How we show up in this world when we commit to being authentic, owning our brand, and being truly comfortable in our own skin reflects our true selves. Essentially, with this approach and mode of operating, our core is reflected in what others see. The challenge is that our true selves are seen through the filters of other’s perceptions of what is “true” to them. The opportunity here is to keep in mind that with an intentional effort to “show up” as your most authentic self, representing yourself at your best, living your brand, you can definitely influence perception.
The most important things to keep in mind as you direct your “co-pilot”:
No matter what others think of you, what’s most important is what you think of you. At the end of the day, when no one is looking, no one is around, when you’re left standing in your different moments of solitude, reflecting, what do you think of you? Are you happy with who you are and how you’re showing up? Is how you show up in line with how you want to be perceived, or are you operating a façade that makes you more “acceptable” to others you interact with? Be good to yourself and gift you the gift of self-acceptance based on living true to you.
Perception, when shared, is nothing more than feedback. You determine if it actually becomes direction. Most recently, I was advised to use more humor when I present to a particular audience that I work with every now and then. The feedback was that with this group, I tend to be a bit too formal. While the person is someone whom I really respect, admire and greatly appreciate being very candid with me as a friend and coworker, I’ve accepted her feedback but not yet committed to applying it. Definitely taking it into consideration, but not direction to operate, or “show up” in a way that I’m not yet comfortable. This is what it means to truly own your brand-being open to feedback but being very clear with yourself about what adjustments and evolutions will be made for your own growth and development.
There’s no short cutting to brand/perception management: To really show up intentionally, in alignment with your personal brand, you’ve definitely got to go through the process of self-discovery, definition and distinction. Really take the time to discover what it is about you that makes you unique, determine how you want to be perceived by defining how you show up, and committing to how you will impact everyone you interact with. Ultimately, you’ve got to make a commitment to meeting our own expectations around this entire process.
There has been so much going on for me as of late, more than I’ve ever imagined, and I am totally overwhelmed with it all, in the most positive way possible! I have wanted to share so much and actually have too many drafts of LFF Factor #40 to count and it’s all because I’ve tried to capture my next “soundbite” as perfectly as possible. What I’ve learned in the drafting process is that sometimes, it just takes a bit of rambling to get out the message we intend, and it usually results in an even greater impact than we could have hoped. So, let’s just dive into living life to the fullest.
I think the first time I was cognizant of this message that we are all familiar with was in high school. For whatever reason, I just remember so many of the adults in my life at the time stressing the importance of seizing opportunities, living in each moment, appreciating the season…living life to the fullest. I can’t honestly say that I did anything different than what I would do, but I do remember being on highs all the time. The highs of
connecting with people
experiencing new things
always feeling out of my comfort zone but being motivated by that, and
daydreaming like mad about what was next!
So as I reflect back and simultaneously look at all that is in the here in now, many years after being that high school kid, I realize that that is really what living life to the fullest is all about…..
Connecting with people: Anyone who knows me knows that I would literally talk to the wall if the wall would talk back. I’m a story seeker. I love learning about others’ experiences and hearing what their interests are. I often picture our lives as movie scenes interwoven through unexpected connections. I love it! It adds a lot of flavor to life and I wouldn’t change it for the world! So, consider how you connect with folks. No, I’m not saying you need to make friends with everyone who crosses your path, but I have found that just listening to any piece of someone else’s story that they’re willing to share and sharing what I’m comfortable sharing has always improved a moment, a day, a week….life.
Experiencing new things: Man oh man has 2014 already shown me the benefit of this point. So far, I’ve spoken to three new audiences that I would never have imagined being able to, set the goal of just auditioning for a fabulous play and then actually got the role that I auditioned for, and then was in the play (still baffled and truly grateful), and just this past Friday, I did a 5k with my friend Alesha. Sometimes, I seriously sit back and think “Farah, seriously, you’re doing this?” And then, I’m totally stunned by what I’ve done that I never even thought of doing. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “everything that is now possible was once thought impossible.” This has been enough motivation for me since my AP History Class with Mrs. Joseph junior year at Fontbonne Academy when I first came across this quote to be open to experiencing new things. This year has just been a more continuous revelation of that. So, what new things are you going to let yourself at least consider today?
Stepping out of your comfort zone and being motivated by this: On some level this is a bit sick. I was just recounting to one of my peers at work that the reason that I took the job that I’m in now was because it actually scared the mess out of me. I’ve never operated in the space in which I’m in now and never had as high a level of accountability in such a senior role both locally and nationally. I “knew” that I didn’t have expertise to bring to the role but I also knew that that would be enough for me to be as driven and motivated to excel in it. The yielded results are beyond what I could have ever imagined. As I’m now getting comfortable, I know it’s time to start finding ways to get uncomfortable to maintain that drive. What’s your comfort zone? How are you going to get out of it and be motivated in the process.
Daydreaming like mad: I have learned and experienced the power of visioning. Last year I was really diligent about taking golf lessons and one of the things I remember the most was how the coach would tell me to “take a practice swing every time, not just to practice but to picture the ball going exactly where you want it to go.” Every time I did that, the ball always went exactly where I wanted it to go….exactly!!! At the same time, I’m also seeing being in the role I’m in now as the result of daydreaming about being as successful as Claire Huxtable when I was eight years old…..about being on a stage when I was ten years old, even though I had to quit dancing because we just didn’t have the money to continue lessons, I just kept daydreaming about the stage, envisioning myself on it again…..about getting fit and focusing on being healthy and starting to get involved in more fitness-related activities even when I was the most out of shape in high school and not as involved in sports as I had been previously. And lo and behold 2014. Just yesterday I was coaching a client, “Rachel”, and she has had a goal of getting back into shape and being healthy. We didn’t start with what she would do today to start to get back on track. We started with “imagine what “Rachel” May 2015 looks like. Tell me about it.” As she started to daydream out loud, we acknowledged how much she liked that picture and she committed to that. Then we stepped back to determine today’s next step toward that. She’s taking her practice swings and I have no doubt her “ball” is going to land exactly where it needs to and I’m so excited about it. I belabor this particular point because I have experienced the power of it. So, what are you giving yourself the opportunity to daydream about?
I’d love to hear what you’ve got to share so much so that I’m still on a high from all the complimentary sessions I did last week that I’m offering one 30-minute complimentary session to the first person*to comment on any one of the four points that they’re going to commit to. Let me hear you!
Soundtrack of the Week: This was such a popular song during my high school years that it seems most appropriate here. Enjoy Green Day’s Time of Your Life