How to create a transformative personal brand

‘Personal brand’ is an overused, increasingly meaningless term. What it should stand for is clarity in who you are, and what you stand for. But it has been co-opted by the get-rich-quick-self-help crowd, and devolved into little more than superficialities – what you wear and who you hang out with.

So it was with a cynical eye that I opened an email from my friend Mark Busse, asking me to take a look at his personal brand document.

The document floored me. It was an intensely personal exploration into every facet of Mark’s personality, both vulnerable and bold.

I jumped on the phone immediately with Mark, who revealed it was an exercise he had conducted with a personal coach. Not only had it helped him gain clarity into what really mattered to him, but it provided a compass for decisions – both personal and professional – he might make in the future.

A well-defined personal brand is more than a superficial document - it's a brave, intimate study of what matters to you. Crafting one can immeasurably impact your professional, and personal life. Click To Tweet

In fact, Mark recounted that he had shown the document to a prospective employer. The employer was floored, and offered Busse a job on the spot. Tellingly, Busse refused the post, insisting the employer meet Busse’s wife and, together, they should dig deeper into personal fit before proceeding.

That’s when I knew I had to share Mark’s story. Over the course of two recordings, Mark and I explored his journey with the personal brand exercise.

marc stoiber brand strategy

The first recording was done before Busse and his wife had met the prospective employer. The second, after. I’m not going to spoil the podcast by telling the outcome.

I’m also attaching Busse’s personal brand template – you’ll find it under the show notes. I’m currently working through it myself, and have engaged a mentor to help me shine a more honest light on my personality and priorities.

Enjoy the interviews! And I hope your personal brand exercise is positively transformative!

Show notes

  • 2:15 – Getting in the mindset for authentic self-examination.
  • 4:50 – What’s the motivation for self-examination?
  • 7:15 – Choose yourself: why corporations hate you.
  • 8:40 – The trigger moment.
  • 9:55 – Think of the stories you’ve lived.
  • 10:42 – Creating a story map for yourself.
  • 13:00 – Mark introduces his personal values / career framework document.
  • 14:30 – Why brand expression goes far deeper than design.
  • 15:20 – The hard questions for corporations.
  • 17:30 – Why successful people fail to reflect.
  • 18:30 – The benefits of working through this with a coach.
  • 19:21 – Bringing outsiders into the personal brand development process.
  • 20:00 – Why a coach, and not a mentor.
  • 21:50 – Explaining the template.
  • 22:15 – The often challenging process.
  • 24:00 – Permission to dream.
  • 24:45 – Does the world really need your widget?
  • 25:30 – Why Mark recommends the book Designing your Life.
  • 27:11 – Why we should teach our kids this.
  • 27:30 – Why Mark also recommends Bury My Heart at Conference Room B.
  • 28:00 – The beauty of living by your values.
  • 28:30 – The 50 words Mark contemplated as values.
  • 29:45 – How Mark narrowed down his values.
  • 30:45 – Pressure testing your values.
  • 31:50 – From intensely personal to brand strategy.
  • 32:30 – Finally, write a job description.
  • 34:00 – Making it real – the experiment.
  • 35:15 – An intensely vulnerable document – should you share it?
  • 36:30 – Getting an amazing offer – and pushing back.
  • 37:45 – Change can be paralyzing.
  • 39:45 – What are great questions to ask potential employers?
  • 41:10 – Mark’s big reveal.
  • 43:45 – The best aspect of doing this document.
  • 45:30 – I have 74 questions I want to ask you before you offer me a job.
  • 48:30 – Integrity – the upside and downside.
  • 51:20 – Mark’s thoughts on how to do this right.
  • 53:50 – Why Mark recommends The Challenger Sale.
  • 56:00 – A radical new take on diversity and inclusivity.
  • 58:00 – An inside tip – would you introduce me to everyone on Slack before I start?
  • 59:25 – Starting on the right foot – bringing a perspective, even if it doesn’t kowtow.
  • 1:02:09 – Is the power structure coming undone? Are more people welcoming a breath of fresh air?
  • 1:07:20 – The personal values way forward for corporations.
  • 1:08:20 – Unlocking a much-needed way forward.

Mark Busse’s Personal Brand Template

  1. Where are you now?
    1. How do you describe what you do in the world currently? Consider how your current situation relates to important issues such as health, work, play, love, etc.
    2. Are there dangers present you need to be honest and face bravely?
  2. Where are you going?
    1. What options, choices, opportunities lie before you?
    2. What will you not carry forward?
    3. Are there skills, capacities, behaviours, goals, etc. that I’m keen to retire and leave in the past? Where would you most love to play if you could?
    4. Of the myriad issues that confront humanity/the world today, what pisses you off the most?
    5. What does that tell you about where you should invest your energy and capacity?
  3. What time is it?
    1. Why is now a moment for change for you?
    2. What is going on in the world that needs your attention?
  4. What are your personal values? Consider the innumerable values often commonly used to define beliefs, personality, and character, and choose no more than a dozen that best define you. Ignore established definitions of what they mean and write your own. (this list was borrowed from Stan Slap’s “Bury My Heart at Conference Room B”).
  5. What are your core values? Considering many people share similar values, which three or four values MOST define who you are?
    1. Pressure test them to move from intellectualizing toward a more visceral, emotional response by asking: Why is a particular value so important to you?
    2. Can you think of specific examples of when that value has been present?
    3. What happens when that value is absent?
    4. What happens when that value is achieved?
    5. Specifically how does that value form your identity?
    6. Why those values?
    7. Got any proof?
    8. Go deeper and ask yourself why you choose these values from so many options?
    9. How do you know they are most important and inform your identity in some special way?
    10. Reflect and share any memories or stories that can serve as “moments of truth” where your core values were challenged, informed key life decisions, or resulted in the most peaceful moments when they were satisfied?
  6. What are your strengths and resources?
    1. Keeping values in mind, what do you do particularly well and what can you draw upon to achieve success?
  7. What are your challenges and blind spots?
    1. Now that you’ve pressure-tested your core values and reflected on strengths, what are the areas you tend to struggle with?
  8. What is your vision?
    1. Consider your purpose as it relates to an imagined aspirational future state you want to see happen in your lifetime. If you could self actualize and achieve your best version of yourself, what would that look like?
    2. What do you want to accomplish?
  9. What is your mission?
    1. If vision is a future state, then what are your actions you take in pursuit of that vision?
    2. If you think of vision as the horizon line, then what path are you taking to get there?
  10. What does this all mean?
    1. Considering all of the above, what are you seeking in life above all else and what do you want to accomplish with your time and skills?
    2. What professional goals (measurable achievements) do you want to accomplish in the next few years?
    3. What personal goals (measurable achievements) do you want to accomplish in the next few years?
    4. What audacious goal might seem impossible today but would be amazing if it happened a decade from now?
    5. How could this function to guide your choices and behaviours moving forward?
  11. What is your personal manifesto? Summarize your core values and beliefs in a bold declaration of what you want in life. Don’t hold back and try to express what’s important to you and what you want to achieve.
  12. What is your ideal role? Based on all of the above, write a description of an ideal professional opportunity that aligns with your values, vision, and mission.
    1. Whom would you serve?
    2. What would it involve?
    3. What would you require?
  13. Where are you going?
    1. What options, choices, opportunities lie before you?
    2. What will you not carry forward?
    3. Are there skills, capacities, behaviours, goals, etc. that you’re keen to retire and leave in the past? Where would you most love to play if you could?
    4. Of the myriad issues that confront humanity/the world today, what pisses you off the most?
    5. What does that tell you about where you should invest your energy and capacity?
  14. How will you test fit?
    1. What probing questions can you ask potential employers, partners, or collaborators to establish values-alignment before jumping into a commitment? Try to be specific and get beneath the easy answers and ubiquitous business language.
      Note: the addition of the last question about test fit. This is where I came up with questions about company vision, leadership style, decision-making, communications, diversity/inclusion, reconciliation/decolonization, community, culture, and ultimately the request to meet with senior members of their team and have dinner with my wife before entertaining any offers.

Want more?

If you enjoyed this podcast, here are some more you’d like:

Building your own brand? Start with my book BrandDIY, and my BrandDIY facebook group.

Want my insights straight to your inbox? Sign up for my newsletter.

And please, if you enjoyed this show, share it on social media and review it on Apple Podcasts.

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