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Why leaders and entrepreneurs should focus on their personal brand.

Why leaders and entrepreneurs should focus on their personal brand. 3 reasons that might surprise you.

If you are a leader, an entrepreneur or a subject matter expert, your personal brand should give you a competitive advantage. Whether you are an entrepreneur trying to stand out in a crowded market or in a corporate environment seeking the next promotion, a great personal brand could be one of your greatest assets.

Most leaders believe they have a strong personal brand. Yet, if you were to ask the people around them if they could define their brand, they probably wouldn’t be able to. Often times there is a mismatch in perceptions. 360 conversations or surveys often tell the story. For example, one person believes they are a great communicator while the respondents believe the person is aloof at times. That is the unfortunate reality of self-awareness at a low point.

Great personal branding takes focus, self-awareness, commitment and energy and

it will define your brand of leadership.

Being “time-poor” is a great reason not to invest in your personal brand, but it is less about time commitment and more about how you focus your attention.

Let’s start with a simple definition of a personal brand – a personal brand is the experience people have when they work with you. In conjunction, there is alignment between your own perception of your brand and the perception that others have as well.

With social media today, there is an inordinate amount of emphasis on the brand visuals – that is, your social medial profiles, website, colours, fonts and photos etc.

The brand visuals play an important part, but the essence of your personal brand comes from a much deeper place. It is about authenticity and generosity. A great personal brand requires you to ask the question,

“How can I continuously develop, elevate and serve those around me?”

When you stop using the cookie cutter approach to what and who you should be or what others think you should be, what emerges? That is where authenticity begins.

When you are able to do that with effect, a great personal brand will give you a distinct advantage. People watch leaders and how they behave and interact with those around them. People gravitate towards certainty. And certainty of personal brand (and therefore personal power) is an extremely magnetic quality.

Here are 3 key reasons you might not have considered as to why leaders and entrepreneurs should create a great personal brand:

1. It raises the bar.    A personal brand that is authentic, relevant, disrupts the norm and is consistent requires a level of accountability to yourself and to those whom you serve or lead. When you hold yourself accountable to these actions, it shows other people the level of accountability and commitment to excellence that you expect. The upside is that this type of behavior can be a little “contagious.”

2. Maintain your relevance.   “How can I serve, develop, elevate those around me?” When you regularly ask this question and then commit to delivering on the answers, it means that you are constantly innovating. You are responding to the ever-changing technological and societal needs of your industry or organisation. In doing so, you maintain your relevance. Maybe you have heard the expression that someone is “old school.” While there are plenty of good connotations to that expression, it often refers people who have not altered their approach as technology and society have evolved.

3. People recognise the value of your contribution.    As a leader with a strong personal brand, you should always be aware of your contribution’s value and relevance. It is a powerful tool and never leaves people wondering, “what does he/she really do?” or “what is the benefit I am going to get if I hire you?” When you manage your brand effectively, quantifying and qualifying your value is front and centre.

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Does Self-Promotion Make You Cringe?

Does self-promotion make you cringe?

Self-promotion is dirty little word for some people. It seems to lack humility and nobility. It conjures up the vision of standing in front of crowds evangelising your own achievements, as if begging for a pat on the back and ‘followers’ to make you feel important.  I had one client say,

"the thought of self-promotion makes me feel like vomiting!"

While self-promotion was uncomfortable, he knew that his functional skills were among the best.  He held his head high because he knew his strengths and abilities outshone most people…

or did they?

Like many people, he believed that if his work was good enough, it should stand out on its own. He would be recognized, promoted and compensated accordingly… and live happily ever after with the career of his dream.  

But it just wasn't happening.

Strong functional/technical skills will get you through the first couple of promotions or transitions. But when people don’t learn how to leverage and promote themselves in an engaging, value-driven and authentic way, they often find it harder to get to that next level. Owning and managing your personal brand is a key element to pushing past the plateau.

I read in a recent article, both Deloitte and PwC both rate differentiation through personal branding as a high priority. Deloitte even went so far as to say, “aim to be famous.”

What is a personal brand and do I really need one?

In the age of digital information, the absence of a well-constructed career brand sticks out compared to people who have one.

A personal brand is simply a consistent and authentic way that you represent yourself in your professional capacity.

Consider reputation.  Are you the "don't talk to me before I have had my coffee" person or are you the high energy "morning meetings are best" person?  Either way - you are projecting your brand, albeit very differently.

Think of all the way people experience ‘you’ in a professional context: Day to day meetings and interaction,  your relationship building, presentations, 1-page bio, speaking engagements, industry papers/thought leadership, office workshops, networking,  one-on-one meetings, Linked In, publishing opportunities, resume etc.    

What do you experience when you deal with a great company – from the phone call with customer service, to a sales rep, email marketing, website, language, product, communications, media, marketing etc. Great companies are consistent with their brand, their values, their customers and their communications.  

And for the individual, social media has certainly accelerated the way in which a personal brand can drive impact and differentiation in your career.

Consider Nick Kyrgios and Roger Federer.  Two pro tennis players who’s personal brands could not be more different, but equally consistent with their messages,  values, behaviors and experiences.

Back to self-promotion.  
It's all about perspective and intention.

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great personal brand.

The productive, sexy zen life of single tasking

The Productive, Sexy Zen Life of Single Tasking

Can something as simple as single tasking at work make you super productive, twice as sexy and give you a Zen-like magnetism?

With technology, open plan offices, web-based chats, availability of information and research at your fingertips – multitasking has become every adrenaline junkie’s dream. Modern Gen Y ninjas with superhero powers, can deflect, consult, answer, tweet, ALT tab, listen to music and finish a spreadsheet within deadline, all at the same time. They almost know nothing different.

After years of research, multitasking now has a reputation for all the wrong reasons. This popular form of task management actually reduces productivity, leads to burnout, puts stress on the brain and can create a culture that feels chaotic.

Due to the construct of most jobs and the expectation of responsiveness, the ultimate challenge for employees is to stop multitasking and start unit tasking or single tasking. Urgent calls come through, a colleague has a crisis, a client has an emergency or the CEO calls for urgent information and yes, we respond accordingly. While genuinely urgent issues do arise, if you haven’t changed the structure of your day to create more single-tasking blocks of time, you should be looking forward to a more productive, streamlined, Zen-like world ahead of you. Test it’s success by delaying that “urgent” request by an hour and watch as people respect your focused single-tasking time.


The research is in. The brain is not capable of handling more than one thing at a time effectively. When your brain undergoes a regime of multiple tasks, this powerhouse of muscle can become stressed and more prone to error. This is ultimately less productive. Interestingly, when your brain is constantly jumping from one thing to another, focus is affected.

Studies indicate that when the brain to switch contexts from one activity to another, 15-20% of our time and productive brainpower is wasted. If you think of your brain as a tank of petrol and decide to waste 20% of it, you’ll have far less fuel to reach your final destination.

If you have not read the book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland yet, get your self a copy. The Scrum methodology is more than just single tasking. It has the theory of doing tasks in units at its core. The book advocates doing tasks in “sprints’ or uninterrupted blocks of time. The method produces amazing results and has Fortune 500 companies, governments and even military departments intrigued. This method is revolutionizing the way we work and produce results.

Confidence is the new sexy

Single tasking helps us become ultra productive, achieve goals, create confidence and build meaning into our work. Using this method we reduce the scatter-brained flurry of multitasking and achieve goals effectively. When this happens, we radiate inner strength and self-belief. This equates to confidence. Confidence is sexy and is alluring to men and women, the world over. Read any book on improving sex appeal and you will always find self-confidence is an important factor. Self- confidence is key and while the office is not Tinder, (nor should it be), there is nothing as empowering as sexy, radiant self-confidence.

You don’t need an important title to achieve this kind of sexy confidence. There are two ways to get it:

1. Via external status. E.g. An important title, money or responsibility. Think of it as an external reference as is often referred to as the “power of agency.”

2. Via inner strength.

The great thing about inner strength is that you have that you don’t need a fancy title to hold the attention of your audience.

The Zen Life

If you are a high level multitasker (4 or more media going at one time), regaining focus might be a challenge. Stanford Professor Clifford Nass reports that the brain physically changes with high level multitasking, making focus a challenge.

Break multitasking habits with the simple act of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and the antithesis of multitasking. It makes us 100% present with all of our senses and focused on a single task. When we practice mindfulness, we relieve stress, tap into creative sources in the brain and are better able to empathize with each another. Mindfulness helps us transform, increases behavioral flexibility and improves our ability to focus.

Get into a sexy, productive Zen life by trying the following:

1. Try 90-minute intervals of unit tasking at a time: Research shows our brains are in “premium mode” within 90 minutes of focus and then this mode starts to decline.

2. Remove distraction: Remove visual, audio and vibrate alerts, close down all apps and set mini goals for this 90-minute period.

3. Put up “walls” in the office: Metaphorically. In my open plan office, I established a “walls are up” expression. It wasn’t rude, in fact we laughed about it. If you have a deadline and need to “single-task it” until finished, a supportive team should respect when “the walls are up.” It may not be realistic for those ‘virtual walls’ to be up all day, but this works perfectly for blocks of time and effective in getting stuff done.

4. Break it down: Some tasks are too big to tackle without devoting time to other responsibilities. Create mini projects. Tackle the most important tasks first and do not move onto anything else until the first priority is 100% finished. You will become a productivity guru.

5. Discipline and organisation: Discipline is key. Start with small blocks of single tasks and build from there. Multitaskers are always open to communication – ping me, ring me, email me anytime. When you change to single tasking, organize yourself and let others know. If you need to, create an ‘out of office’ for half the day. Sign out of your apps so that people see that you are not signed in. Try to defer that ‘urgent’ request by 90 minutes and watch as you are still able to get the most valuable tasks completed.

6. Mindfulness: There are plenty of free resources on the Internet for learning more about becoming more mindful and how you can amp up your focus. Anyone can practice this ancient way of thinking. Once you delve into the practice of mindfulness, you’ll be surprised by how many ultra successful people use this discipline to positively impact their careers.

What does procrastination really mean?

You know it when you are doing it.

You know you should be on top of it.

Yet, you find ways to justify doing other things instead.

You convince yourself you just like the adrenaline of time pressure and put it off.​

We all procrastinate at some point.

What’s it really telling us? Procrastination is nothing more than avoiding some level of pain or negative feeling associated with doing something now. It’s almost like we say to ourselves, “I’m avoiding doing this now, because the negative will disappear if I put it off.” Ridiculous, right?

The stress or anxiety you feel does not get better with avoidance. It just delays it and in some circumstances, escalates it.

Somehow the pain we believe we will incur now is preferable over what might pain we might experience in the future. When you break it down, it is pretty naive thinking.

What sort of “pain” might you be avoiding and does it mean?

If you worry about how people will react to your work or fear criticism, if might mean that you have a fear of failure. Therefore, you procrastinate in order to avoid the pain that you associate with failure.

If you think about how success might result in your increased visibility, level of responsibility, create more demands of your time or if you worry about people getting to know the “real you,” you might suffer from fear of success.

It’s possible that you are a perfectionist and you fear not being perfect. Not being good enough. That might be the case if you think that it is only worth doing if you do it if you are the best or if you find it difficult to push through a barrier if a project is not going well.

Thoughts or beliefs concerning self-doubt, failing, shame, guilt, perfectionism, and are often the root cause of procrastination.

One strategy might be to change your thoughts and beliefs. It’s possible with coaching, counseling or simply a great book or online program. Specialists indicate that any forward action helps. Here are my top 5 tips to taking forward action and moving out of procrastination at work:

  • Accountability partner – find someone at work or a mentor who can help you stay on track. External ‘forces’ often help us.
  • Do the most difficult task first. You will be amazed by how much this lightens your load. I had a manager years ago who taught me this and I have never forgotten it. Truly a blessing.
  • Associate negative feelings and emotions with procrastination. In other words, the pain of procrastinating is greater than anything that might happen in the future.  Changing the habits will help shut down the self doubt and build self confidence.
  • Chunk it down – major tasks or projects can seem over whelming. Chunk it down into smaller pieces. Take action and build momentum by making the job at had smaller.
  • Important v urgent analysis. We can get caught up in urgency.  Empowerment comes from engaging with the truth about what is important and business critical.  

Stand out in the hidden job market

Time to find the hidden job market.

Time to find the hidden job market.

People who get the good projects and opportunities do these 5 things better than the rest.

Have you wondered why some people simply seem to get the good projects, promotions and opportunities?

After working in Talent Acquisition and HR and interviewing 1000s of people, I can assure you that the landscape has changed dramatically over the last 3-5 years.

The forces that have created that change are largely due to the availability of data, systems and networks and how people use them.   Agencies used to have the ultimate databases of tens of thousands of candidates that were not available to companies unless they paid a hefty placement fee. But today, platforms like Linked In make this data available to any company seeking talent.

But the question is how do you stand out so that you get the best opportunities?

Once upon a time, when you wanted to make a change in your career, the first thing would be to update your resume and start applying.

In today’s world, it is estimated that 80% of jobs filled come from the “hidden job market;” that is, the jobs that don’t get advertised. If you are still of the opinion that the best thing you can do is update your resume and start applying, I would challenge you to think differently.

The people who are getting the great opportunities are doing things differently. My top 5 differentiators are here:

They value relationships.

Intentionally, I used the word “relationships” because people who get the best opportunities, value their networks like real relationships.  People who build and leverage their networks and relationships will find the hidden job market easily.

Make networking a regular part of your managing your career and engage with people in a meaningful way. If you only network when you are looking for opportunities, you are missing the point.   Invest in mutually beneficial relationships.

My #1 rule when it comes to networking is give first. Get in touch with colleagues or people in your network and give something of value. Remember what is important to them and when you see something that could be of value (an article, post, job opening etc.) send it to them. Connect with people on Linked In and always be thinking about how you can give first. If you are adding value to others first, when it comes time for someone to add value your way, it is an easy conversation.   People like to give opinions, so be sure to ask them who else you should be talking to. If you are seeking opportunities, let them know.   There might be someone in his or her network who could be seeking someone just like you.

They manage their professional brand.

If you have not been in the job market for the last few years, this might seem like a foreign expression.   Whether you like it or not, Professional Branding is here to stay, thanks to Linked In, Facebook, Twitter etc.   It simply refers to managing your messages, your content, thought leadership and visuals in a way that is authentic, professional and consistent. As a first port of call, you should amp up your Linked In profile so that you stand out. It means more than just adding your current title. There is now a way for you to represent more than just words on a page by including video, presentations, white papers etc. If it is too daunting of a task, employ a career coach to help you with it.

Companies like hiring people who come through referral networks. They can avoid advertising and find someone through the ‘hidden channel.’ It is cheaper, quicker and comes with an added element of assurance because of the recommendation.

 They believe in being the best they can be.

You can be a great networker and manage your professional brand well, but if you are not highly competent in your field, everyone will know it when it comes time to reference checking.   Ultimately, you have to be willing to be your best and whatever you do and whatever level you are.

 They understand the power of engagement.

I can promise you one thing is certain – disengaged employees do not get promotions and great projects. They get sidelined.

Engagement comes from truth. People who get the best opportunities are well connected to their truth, vision, values and goals. They are well aligned. And when people are aligned with their truth, it is easy to perform well at work. Work is enjoyable. Even in the face of difficult times, they can connect with what they love doing and stay engaged with the outcome. Engaged people are good goal setters. Every hiring manager and HR manager out there are seeking people who can set stretch goals and outperform their objectives.

They invest in themselves.

There is a fundamental difference in careers between people who believe they know everything and people who approach challenges with a sense of learning.   The people who get ahead in the career stakes value learning and investing in themselves. They believe there is always something to learn or improve.  Whether it is increasing their EQ, leadership development, coaching others (or having a coach) or further technical/discipline training, they continue to stretch their capacity. When we stretch our capacity and corresponding output, we continuously grow.   We assure our relevance. It does not matter if it is someone who is seeking to climb the ladder into leadership or someone seeking to be the best at a particular discipline, the world continues to change and therefore, we must change and adapt as well.  Finally, if you are continuously evolving in your career, you will have greater visibility and attract the hidden opportunities more easily.

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5 ways to kick the Midlife Crisis

5 ways to kick the midlife crisis

Identity crisis is probably a more accurate description. We’ve seen identity crises before, but this time we are not talking about teenagers. It would seem that wisdom, and life experience should lend themselves to a higher sense of self, but it is not always true as we hit our 40’s.

The midlife crisis is marked by the time in life where we discover loss of youthfulness, disengagement with life’s progress and lack of personal and professional satisfaction. And while grey-haired men driving flashy sports cars with women half their age paint the stereotypical picture, the research shows that the midlife crisis targets both genders, a wide range of socio-economic parameters and spans all parts of the globe.

Misalignment is at the crux of the midlife identity crisis. Often times, we find ourselves on some sort of pre-determined life or career plan that a parent, college advisor or successful family friend mapped out for us. Maybe we glamourised a life and profession at an early age and chose that path. Many times, that fabulous plan has no real connection to our current values and strengths. But no one can deny “it looked good at the time,” before the weight-bearing commitments and challenges of marriage, careers, home ownership, ageing parents, debt, children etc.

Averting or climbing out of this midlife “identity crisis” starts with congruency between your own personal values and your decision-making. Having a clearer sense of who you are means that you can reduce the threat of the identity crisis.

Before making taking any potentially regrettable actions, do these 5 things:

Values + Goals

Do a deep dive into your values. Rank them. Set a couple realistic goals that are aligned to your top 3 values and that you can achieve in your daily/weekly life. Our brains are wired to achieve something, beginning with our most basic survival needs like finding food and water. Setting and achieving goals that align with your values strengthens your sense of identity. It may even result in an awakening that your life is not as bad as you think it is.

Who, not what.

Can you answer the question, “who do you have to be” in order to achieve one of your goals? The most powerful and most overlooked part of achieving goals is who you become as a result. Focus on affirming your identity, rather that what you get as a result of achieving your goal. Remember, the midlife crisis is all about redefining or discovering identity. Journal your discoveries.


If career is at the centre of your crisis, evaluate your career in terms of how it aligns with your values. It might be that the essence of what you do is at odds with who you are (think BIG career change). Or it might just be the culture and values of your

employer don’t align with you any longer. Either way, be realistic in understanding that every job and company has its skeletons. Can you tolerate them?

30-day Experiment

Set aside 30 days and make daily decisions that support your values. If adventure is one of your top values and you cannot afford a trek to Kathmandu, find a local activity that will give you sense of adventure. If connection with others/love is a top value, reach out or schedule an activity with a loved one.

The point of the 30-day experiment is to change it up, get out of the rut, push out of your comfort zone. Discover ways that daily life can align with your values and therefore help you engage with your identity. Journal what you learn.


The old adage – a problem shared is a problem halved. Talk to a friend, coach, counselor, mentor or even a therapist.

Mindfulness at work – Is the corporate blue suit going hippy?

If there has been one seriously hot topic in the workplace gaining momentum over the last twelve months, it would be mindfulness at work.

Bearing witness to your colleagues in a meditative and spiritual space can be a bit like the first time you see them in running gear – or worse, lycra… or worse yet a Speedo at the corporate triathlon. Once you get past the initial awkwardness, it is seemingly ok.

Some of us have been tapping into our hidden brain matter for quite some time – through personal or executive coaching, meditation, yoga, mindfulness or other similar disciplines. What has changed is that these practices are merging into the workplace.

Why Mindfulness?

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a thought leader in this space, having practiced and taught mindful techniques for decades. He is widely known for developing the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His studies, those published in the American Medical Journal and other experts have shown that mindfulness helps:

  • Relieve stress
  • Tap into creative sources in our brain
  • Help us relate and empathize with one another
  • Can be the basis for transformation
  • Increase ability to focus (without random thoughts distracting us)
  • Behavioral flexibility (not flying off the handle)
  • Increase self awareness, intuition and help overcome fear

What is it and how do you do practice it?

Mindfulness is simply the discipline of being fully present, absorbed in the moment. It is having the ability to be aware of what is happening both within and around us. It means doing something with your whole being. It is the antithesis of multi-tasking.

Without mindfulness, we are rarely 100% present in a given moment. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who regularly checks his or her phone, zones out when you are explaining something important or misses the point completely while still nodding and smiling? Familiar, I know. When we are not 100% present, we are prone to multi-tasking, thinking ahead of what is being said, making judgments, finishing people’s sentences and we fail to recognize important details and people’s reactions. We miss important details all because we are not 100% fully in the moment.

If I think about its application in the people I have worked with and some that I have coached over the years, this lack of awareness to what is really going on at work would be a real career staller. And most people would not even notice it, maybe because they are too busy multitasking.  Could it be that lack of awareness or mindfulness prohibits smart professional people from going the next step? Is this is serious part of the equation for success? Even at a more “operational level” the research would tell us that mindfulness could be a technique that could help regulate emotional responses or overcome fear of public speaking and presentations. Presentations without shortness of breath and pit stains could be a real bonus for some!

There are exercises or programs that you can do and many large corporates offer them as part of personal development. But once you learn how to practice mindfulness – and yes, it is a learned technique – you don’t have to DO more or fit it into your schedule – you just have to BE. Mindfulness helps us with our state of being, how we choose to experience things throughout the day.

And with more mindfulness, it might be the case that we can create work cultures that foster more empathy, regulated tempers, creativity and less stress. Is that your kind of utopia?

If you are one of those people who consistently multi-task, rarely give something your full attention, forget pieces of the conversation – it might just pay dividends for your career if you can “up” your ability to be present.