De-Fogging Your Business (or Career)

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus – you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve been doing a lot of Clarity Therapy lately.

What is Clarity Therapy? It’s an intensive one-on-one time where we dig deep to uncover your professional DNA, and come up with your unique direction, story, and message.

Clarity Therapy is like de-fogging the mirror and the windshield. When we see ourselves and our purpose clearly, we move forward with confidence. <—(click to tweet this).

Clarity Therapy for businesses – a half-day or full-day session – brings us to a 20/20 view of the following:

ClarityONBiz

Clarity Therapy for careers – a half-day session for individuals in transition – gets us here:

ClarityONCareer

Our goal: defining a you-based business or role. AND – we use M&Ms for props. Because gaining insight should be delicious!

If you’d like to learn more, contact me (steve at stevewoodruff.com). I can forward you all the details, and about as many testimonials as you’d ever like to see (from people just like you who wanted an objective “therapist” to help clear the fog).

And, yes, we can do these sessions over Skype.

You want one huge bonus? Here it is – the clearer your message, the easier it is for people to connect and refer you. Including me, the Connection Agent.

Don’t Do These Three Things on LinkedIn

You have only a few seconds to grab someone’s attention and get across a clear message. That’s true whether you’re selling a product or service, or if you’re selling yourself in the job market.

That’s why you want your LinkedIn profile to be a help, not a hindrance. Here is an example of three things you should NOT do when describing yourself to potential suppliers (note: all identifiers have been removed):

1. DON’T position yourself as a jack-of-all-trades. It’s your responsibility to be decisive about who you are and what you’re seeking. Have a definite headline!

2. DON’T just talk about yourself – tell us what you can do. Save the “I am such-and-such…” for dating sites. Potential employers and customers are looking through one lens only: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).

3. DON’T pretend to have a baker’s dozen (actually, 15) specialties. Bullet-point lists like this give one message: “Will work for food!” If you have a bunch of competencies, then package them into one or two directions that someone can more easily digest.

Those three points above? The very same things apply for company positioning also.

LinkedIn can be a great friend to your career development, if you use it to tell your story. Seek to make an immediate impression in the first few seconds. Use word pictures. Say something – clearly. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do when you grow up!

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Do you have a clear story and direction? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> In Six Words, Some of the Best Business Advice Ever

>> Please Drop the Jargon

Following Your Passion: A Story

I came across this video of Ken Segall, who was Apple’s Creative Director for Advertising: Answer the Question: What is Your Passion?

(goes to a different page; just over 2 minutes – watch it now!)

Sharing it with a friend who launched his own consulting business a while back (disclosure: I helped him with business strategy and clarity therapy), I got back this response. It was so eloquent, I asked permission to share it:

In regard to the video by Ken Segall…..yes, absolutely correct…..but that’s why we NEED YOU….we can’t read the label from the inside. That is exactly what happened to me….in 2002 I lost my job with ______ as _____ was pulled from the market – so all kinds of bad things were happening to me. I will admit to you I was in a funk over spending 19 years somewhere and just having it suddenly end without so much as a howdy do and thank you.

I picked up a manufacturers’ rep job with a disease state management company – we sold turn-key DSM software programs to healthcare providers. I was well connected in the HMO community….and I did OK, but it was not my passion. What did happen, though – after each sale I would have to train the nurse or case management staff on how to use the software.

Oddly enough – my passion showed through – and I was getting training requests away from the DSM programming I was selling….BUT I was still under a rock. Then one day it happened – I just completed a training program for ________ – the Medical Director wanted a “management training program” for his staff…heck, I could do that! It went well and I had a ball doing the training….upon my arrival home, my wife said to me….”why don’t you just do that training thing if it makes you so happy?”  Then it hit me ….I absolutely LOVED that training thing…..the rest is history. I spent 4 awesome years at ______ in training, and three equally awesome years at ______…..and that prepared me so much for doing what I love to do! (which is a healthcare industry training consultant)

 But I would add one thing….I love training , but I still needed something special that gave me that edge. I needed a “product” – what made my launch into the contractor space comfortable for me, was knowing that I had this very special thing….this tool that could help people….so in my case it was a training methodology. It worked. I could reproduce it again and again and it kept working….so yes, find what you love, but DO SOMETHING with that! Something specific! And you just may end up being happy about it every day.Gerald Clor

It seems to be a regular case these days that I’m talking to people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who are, after years of playing different roles, finally getting in touch with their core passions and strengths and figuring out what they want to do when they grow up (and this includes me!). It’s never too late to do the discovery work and begin to map out a direction that flows in the direction of your passion.

Get in touch with what you’re passionate about. Listen to what customers and more objective others tell you about yourself. Find the “hole” in the marketplace. Develop a clear offering and message. Make it happen.

___________

Are you struggling to discover your passion? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Make Your Life a Story, not a List

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

Make Your Life a Story, Not A List

I was on LinkedIn again yesterday, in preparation for a call with someone who had been downsized, and found myself sighing, for the umpteenth time, over the format of an on-line resume.

Another list.

This job title. That company. This short list of tasks. Even some undefined insider acronyms. Just swap out the particulars and you could be any one of a billion commodity people.

Don’t undersell yourself. You’re not a list!

When people hire me to help re-write their LinkedIn profiles, I employ some of my Clarity Therapy process to extract three things from them:

  • What they’re really good at and want to do more of;
  • The story of how they got to where they are;
  • The key point of brilliance they want to “sell” to their next employer.

Then, we go back through the profile and turn it into a story. The main themes leading to the new desired role are woven into the past job responsibilities, highlighting the individual’s greatest strength and accomplishments, and showing how they lead in the direction being pursued.

Bullet points and biz-speak words don’t paint a clear picture. They leave you undifferentiated. A resume should not merely be a summary of facts; it needs to tell a story. Your story. And it needs to strongly suggest what your next chapter should be.

Your next employer doesn’t have the time to help you figure out who you are and where you’re going. That’s YOUR next job, before you seek your next job!

___________

How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Transcendent Communications

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

My Business Vision

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written a stirring and helpful blog post about gaining a vision for our personal and business lives (Three Steps to Create a Vision for 2012). And, this is our theme for the final #LeadershipChat of 2011 – Vision. Not goals, not resolution – but the inspiring picture of “what could be” that fuels purpose and feeds action.

I liked what Lisa wrote so much about the three steps that I decided, for my pre-chat blog post, to simply apply her principles and see if I could articulate my vision. Here goes:

I strive toward a future where talent and creativity are unleashed to produce remarkable lives and results. I see a workforce driven, not by time clocks and paychecks, but by the internal fires of desire and unique ability channeled into creating value for others.

I see a day dawning where trust networks of real people outstrip the legacy efficiencies of hierarchical corporations; where handshakes and proven character hold more sway than lawyers and regulations.

I long for the day when people choose their career direction because of inherent fit, and where the pathway to success is paved with character, responsibility, diligence, and readiness to provide value.

I look for a time when long-term commitment triumphs over the compromises of short-term thinking.

I am committed to kindling these fires by building networks and business models that are disruptive to the status quo of short-sighted inefficiency, liberating people of talent and ethical character to do their best work and live remarkable lives.

There’s the vision. It has taken shape over decades and is pretty well set in my mind and heart. When you’re in touch with your core beliefs and values (see this excellent post by John Jantsch), your vision begins to take shape.

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How does that look when you step forward to a mission statement? Something like this, I guess:

My mission is to be a Connection Agent.

I am connecting people and businesses with their true identity and message; with creative opportunities to grow and succeed; and with other people and resources to bring about increasing success.

I want to leave behind a network of people who are richer because of these connections, and who will follow that example by enriching others.

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And how does all that flow out into activity?

The manifestation, so far, is the creation of business referral networks; a self/brand awareness consulting practice (Clarity Therapy); and ongoing tribe-building (LeadershipChat is, in a very important respect, tribe-building). The first two are current sources of revenue; the latter is my long-term commitment to bring together people who want to revolutionize business and life through purposeful use of social networks.

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OK, so how about you? Can you take some time this week to go through a similar exercise? Perhaps invest an hour tonight (8 pm ET) on Twitter for #LeadershipChat in order to discuss Vision with some smart, like-minded folks as you look to a new year? Hope to see you there, and to see your vision spelled out in the coming days!

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff if your identity and message need clarity (Clarity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

You – Projected.

Over the past few weeks, there has been some blabbing going on over the social media networks about Personal Branding. I won’t attempt to re-hash it all here – a prior post on MarketingProfs Daily Fix gave a bit of a summary, with some of my thoughts on the subject.

I don’t question the concept of personal branding. I think the idea is valid and valuable. But semantics and varying definitions can confound the discussion.

projectorMy feeling is that if a concept is valid, we should be able to distill it down to a very few words that capture it well. So, with personal branding, here is my take. Two words. You – Projected.

Having narrowed it down, now let’s blow out each word a bit:

You – the real you. Not some faux image you want to project. Not some imitation. If it ain’t authentic, it’s worthless as a “personal brand.”

You – all of you. Not merely your words or pictures, but your personality, your tastes, your values, your thoughts, and your experiences. The most powerful personal brands create attachment because people gravitate toward whole people they can relate to.

You – unfolding over time. All brands take time to establish themselves, and there is an evolving process of growth and expression. The more that others see you over a long stretch of time, the more strongly your brand will make its imprint.

Projected – pro-actively. Personal brands can “just happen” I guess, but anyone involved in any kind of branding knows that you need to actively put forward your identity. I won’t go into the myriad of ways in which this is accomplished; just note that building a personal brand, like building anything, is not a passive endeavor.

Projected – accurately. If you’re a down-to-earth person, then writing blog posts with flowery Victorian language (even if well-crafted) will not be an accurate projection. The person you “see” in a picture, an avatar, a profile, a series of tweets, and on a blog must be the very person you meet in a restaurant.

Projected – by others. Here’s your reputation. Ultimately, the power of a personal brand multiplies when you have a great reputation among others. And when others actually do have an accurate knowledge of you, and word-of-mouth you to others, your brand is on its way to being well-established.

As simply as I can explain it, that’s a personal brand (at least from my perspective). What do you think?

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Your Personal Brand – Does it Matter?

I was at a facilitation workshop last week, at which I gave an impromptu “from the heart” mini-talk on personal branding.

People often question if they “need” a personal brand. Here’s the news – you already HAVE a personal brand. The only questions are, what is it? And are you projecting it effectively?

When people see you, think of you, and relate to you, words and images and feelings come to mind. That is your personal brand. If people who know you think “friendly,” “diligent,” “kind,” when they see you and talk about you, you are well on your way to possessing a positive personal brand. Of course, you can easily see the flip side of this as well…

So, you have a brand. Do you know what it is? What distinguishes you from the teeming hordes of humanity? What are you known for? Here, you need some self-examination, maybe some personality profiling (I found the Gallup books on Strengths to be particularly helpful), and some honest friends to help you distill it down.

What you’ll find is a constellation of qualities, and perhaps 1-5 characteristics that really stand out. Those are what you build your brand on. And, once you really have a grasp on it, you can communicate to people much more effectively what you’re all about. Where you fit in. Even what your future business endeavors should look like. You project your brand NOW – but you can project it more effectively when you actually know what it IS, and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Here’s another reason why identifying your personal brand is so important – it frees you for paralyzing comparisons of yourself to others. Yes, there are many people whose gifts and abilities I’ve envied and still envy (sorry, 10th commandment breaker here) – but I’m reconciled to being who I am, and tossing the only hat I really have in the ring – my own.

What is my personal brand? I listen, analyze, distill, and rapidly find the core, then communicate it fairly effectively. There’s a lot more to Steve Woodruff, the brand, but that is the chief distinguishing trait. And, it’s a gift. It’s a hard-wired capability that I’ve been given, sought to cultivate, even built a consulting business around. The fact is, it’s just ME. And as I look to short-, mid-, and long-term personal & professional goals that brew in my mind and heart, the areas of endeavor that I’d like to pursue always have that personal brand at the center. Because it’s who I am.

Let’s make one distinction. There is your personal brand essence, which is that grouping of personality traits, character traits, strengths, and capabilities that make you you. Then there is your personal brand role, which is how you function in the world and marketplace. Your role may change, but your essence remains the same, and hopefully, your functional and professional role is increasingly aligned with who you (essentially) are.

I’ve had live and on-line conversations with several people in the last 2 weeks who are wrestling with how to define themselves, and project their personal brand. As it turns out, my core competencies of analyzing,  distilling, and expressing makes that a very enjoyable and meaningful exercise.

You don’t have to be a personal branding guru, or a consultant, a blogger, or an entrepreneur, to have and project a brand. You simply have to have a pulse. And a willingness to discover what really makes you tick. You DO have a brand, and you DO have something to offer. What endeavor could more rewarding and noble than identifying that brand and running with it?

(Update: some related thoughts on differentiation from blogging friend Jane Chin here)

Related prior post: Personal Branding

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