Saturday, March 28, 2009

Branding Made Simple

I often have conversations with clients about branding, their personal brands and the brands of their organizations. It is usually a fun, creative, and empowering conversation. What do you stand for and how is this conveyed outward? What's the look and feel of your particular brand? What can people tell about your brand by your logo or reputation or web presence? Our brands are one of the ways in which we show up in the world (particularly the money-making world) and they are important.

There is a good little article in the Saturday New York Times business section about personal branding that provided an approachable look at this topic. Here's a digest:
" have to dig deep inside yourself and figure out what makes you you and not that other Brand You over there..."

"...“finding your niche is the key...”"

"...a four-step process — discover, create, communicate, maintain. That translates into: discover your passion and put it together with your expertise; create a “personal branding tool kit” (which may include a résumé, online profile, blog and portfolio of your work) that consistently reflects your brand; pitch your brand online and offline; and update and monitor any conversations about your brand..."

"...consistency is key..."

“...dig down deep...Look at your competitors. See how you differ.”

"...I develop Brand Me by thinking about three things I am good at, three things I am passionate about and three things other people think I’m good at..."
When I teach courses about corporate philanthropy (a term often dismissed along with military intelligence or jumbo shrimp) I will introduce a branding discussion by conducting a relay race of sorts with teams marking up flip charts with every corporate logo/icon they can draw from memory. In a couple minutes over one hundred logos and icons can be drawn. The discussion then leans to the omnipresence of corporations and their products and services in our lives and how we may know a graphic representation of a company but do we really know the company? The point to make from this exercise and from a philanthropic perspective is what part of a corporate brand is about giving, community, service, impact, philanthropy?

The brand is the whole thing--the logo, the icon, the look, the words, the tone, the image, the spokespeople, the philanthropy, the message management, the longevity, the reputation, the founders, the management, the programs and products, the staff, the mission, the impact, the costs, the capacity, the growth, the colors, the fonts, the word on the street. There is a lot of intention that goes into how we perceive a brand. Brand is both tangible and intangible and requires intentional, careful, enthusiastic, consistent management.

What does your brand say about you? What's next for your brand? What's needed? What do you value about your brand? What's it worth to you? How do you manage your brand? When do you ignore it or give up on it? What's at risk? If your brand has no logo/icon, what then? Imagine one! If your brand is all about one person, what then?

I think there is something to all of this. More than anything, the Gro(w)th Coaches brand helps me to focus my energy and tasks in the most meaningful way. I hold my brand with respect and intention. I think about the choices I am making and the impact these choices will have. My brand stands for something important and it is uniquely me.

Have a great week.

To Do

I took a great class last week at a Washington DC hotel and this was a note pad at each place setting. Clever (click on the picture to embiggen). How inspiring is your "to do" list? What do you notice about those items on this list that seem to roll over from one week to the next? I think traditional "to do" lists are really "shame" lists. Aren't they really just the lists of things we know we aren't going to do?

Reminds me of a meeting I had with a client last week. When we were writing up action items at the end of the meeting, the familiar process of simply writing things that need to be done clearly felt out of place given the intensity of the planning process we had just completed. So rather than write a list of tasks (write this memo, make this call, facilitate this meeting...) we stepped into bold commitment. The list became: I am going to write this memo by Friday; I am going to make this call by Monday; I am going to facilitate this meeting on April 12. There was a whole lot more ownership for accomplishment when there was a commitment made to what was going to be done. Powerful!

"To do" lists are out. "Commitment" lists and "Accomplished" lists are in!

What do you think?

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet 17

Turning 17 today.
As I look into his deep brown eyes,
I am reminded of endless possibility.

Happy Birthday, Seth.
Posted by Picasa

Now & Later: Not Just a Candy

Now! Later!

What do I want, now? What is important to me, now? What can I have, now? We need to send this to the board Now. We have to do that now. Buy me that, now. I'm busy right now. Can you take me to the skateboard park now? Now...this moment...immediately...impatient...I'll-die-if-I-can't-get-it-right-now. And it's all a bit confusing at times because there are, in fact, glimmers of the opposite; the close cousins of "Now" who are named "Inaminute," "Later," "I'll Get To It," "Let's Send the Matter to a Committee," "We Will Do That When We Have the Money," and "Wait."

I am struck by the push and pull between Now and Later [insert *smile* here as I recall the taffy-like candy of my childhood called "Now & Later"...remember?]. How do we make the distinction between what is trying to happen Now and what is unfolding for Later? Do we prioritize in order to simply complete tasks of the moment or is there more to it? How aware are we of the sequencing of tasks Now in service to something else Later? For example, if I do this and this Now, I can then have (or be, feel, experience, get, go to, etc.) Later. Is success always deferred?

My daily experience in my life and in my coaching practice is with people challenged by Now and Later. The struggle is with finding deep fulfillment in Now while acting in ways that also guarantees some sort of fulfillment Later. It's not enough to be stuck in a challenging Now with only the hope that Later will be better. Nor is it sustainable to be in a really satisfying Now if there is a cloud of doom hanging over you because you fear Later will be horrible. Can we have both? Can we be both fulfilled Now and Later? What would it take?

I wonder: What would it be like to deeply enjoy my teenage son's young life and our relationship Now while also holding his bright, exciting, possibility-driven future Later? (the challenge here is that his teenage life and our relationship is often filled with challenge, conflict, hormone mood swings, homework battles, and a profound push and pull). For the founders of non-profit organizations I work with, what would it be like to fully engage in the challenge and the ugliness and the fear of Now as an essential part of the process while also holding the Later? Long range strategic planning does not ground you in the challenge you have and the impact you make Now. What if the Now was actually an end and not the means to an end? Would we try to make it count?

Spouse and I did all of our estate planning yesterday. We sat with the lawyers and signed reams of documents and talked about lots of tragic scenarios in order to grasp the complexities of the legalese. And what I learned so richly in this experience is that I do not want to lose the feeling I have Now of being prepared, feeling secure, being planful. I know Now that should a tragedy occur, everything is fine. I get the satisfaction Now of having done really important life work and my family will have the satisfaction of ease and clarity Later when the documents are actually needed.

There is richness to explore both Now and Later.

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lost: A Popular Culture Moment

Okay, I admit it... I do love the television program "Lost." What a fun, complex, provocative, somewhat exhausting weekly escape. Now in its fifth season, viewers first met the "Losties" when their plane crashed over the south Pacific and they set up camp on the beach of a tropical island. Quickly viewers learned this was not going to be a retelling of "Swiss Family Robinson." The survivors of the crash are awaiting rescue on an island that is moving in time and while they wait, they are a part of wild unfolding of a twisted story full of love, greed, leadership, faith, family, survival, redemption. What I love most about this show is that (usually after some wicked time travel sequence) the prevailing question is not "where are we?" but "when are we?"

When are we?

So when are you? And when are we as a country? When are we as a family? When is our organization? I have worked with boards of directors of non-profits that are solidly not in now; they are stuck in the past, action completely dominated by the long-gone Founder. I have worked with a married couple who are deeply rooted in their now while constantly looking at tomorrow. Coaching individuals is really appealing; there is often a very fluid dance between the past, the present, and the future the person dreams of. The challenge is dancing between time skillfully. In each case, it is about when.

I certainly believe that history is to be honored. I also believe that now is to be lived and the future is to be anticipated. But what's possible if you are firmly rooted in any one place in time? How do you be in relationship today if all you can reference is yesterday? What does it look like to do long range planning if all you can see is the demand of leading your organization today (I often hear "we cannot think about tomorrow; I have a grant to accreditation team visiting...and event to attend...we have no money or staff"). And what about a team or partnership or organization that pays no attention to the accumulated history and simply wings it? There is great value to at least considering the past.

So when are you? When is your relationship or partnership or team or organization? When do you find yourself relying upon the past to inform your present or future? What does it look like to use the past now? When do you move on? What do you notice when you are future focused and feeling really prepared (or not)? If you are a founder of an organization, what do you notice about your original intent and the demands of now? How do they meld together and how to they conflict? What is your experience traveling through time in your own life?

Have a great day...whenever you are!