Don’t Be A Hothead: Unlock Your Toughest Relationships at Work

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There are times when we don’t put our best foot forward. As a matter of fact, sometimes we really foul up and behave badly – leading others to shrink away or withdraw and curse us. Not every person on this planet is a joy to work with, and we all have our share of difficult people on our teams. And sometimes, if we’re honest, we can BE the difficult person on our team! But no matter if you’ve found yourself blowing your top at someone, or getting into a yelling match, or even just quietly manipulating and tearing down another co-worker, chances are you’ve made a misstep at one time or another, and lived to regret it.

I certainly have. One person in my last job was notorious for being ‘difficult’ and I could feel hairs on the back of my neck start to stand up as I walked to meetings with him. It was an especially weird feeling because dreading an uncomfortable confrontation is not my usual M.O. I’m the kind of person who usually has no trouble diffusing tension, but after one or two meetings where voices were raised, I started to worry. Knowing that anything (bad) could happen in a meeting put me off my normal rhythm and made me doubt myself.

It can happen to anyone, and often does. But if you’ve found yourself thinking back on your day and feeling that you’ve exhibited two or three too many of these behaviors, it may do you some good to think about putting some new strategies in place for dealing with difficult people in your day to day work. Because if you’re blowing your top and then trying to disappear into the floor on a daily basis, then you can probably use some new tricks for defusing tough situations and getting these strained relationships functioning again.

Cool off

This is kind of a no-brainer, but it’s a good idea not to take any action when you’re angry or frustrated, so take a little time, if you can, and get some distance between you and the person that is causing the situation. Don’t assume that you can devise a clear, cogent plan of action while you’re still fuming. Sleep on it, or have a break over some tea, and make sure you can get calmed down before deciding on a course of action. Think about this time as breaking the cycle of reacting to the other person and allowing yourself to think clearly.

Get a 3rd party report

A fresh set of eyes on the situation can help clarify what’s really going on and make sure that you’re seeing the real situation, and not a wrong impression. Is there someone else at the office who has seen the exchange happen, and can offer their perspective on what is happening in critical moments?

There are a few warnings here, though:

1. You want to make sure to pick a reliable narrator, whose judgement is sound.

2. You will want to be brutally honest with the person you speak to, since any bias you give them may be tough for them to navigate, especially if they were not involved with the other person or situation.

3. Don’t go looking for a fellow complainer who will just agree with you. Running to a co-worker and having a tear-down session with them is probably not going to get anything resolved, even if it makes you feel better initially. Solutions take work, and taking the easy way out can turn around and bite you. So stay positive about getting a fair report from someone else.

Add real perspective

With your 3rd party report in hand, now try to see the long-term view of the situation. Just how important is the disagreement? Will one outcome over another really make any difference in the long run? Is the conflict just all about style or is there something deeper that could be addressed? That person I had trouble connecting with in my last job just needed some more face-time with me to start to develop trust. It seemed that the only interactions we ever had were in short, high-pressure meetings, and so we could never get on the same page and be helpful to each other. I arranged a few no-pressure get-togethers, and as soon as we had shared some down time over a coffee, we both relaxed and were able to more easily see where the other person was coming from.

An extra bonus of this tactic is that sometimes you can realize that the problem is you! We all have bad days and moods, and spending time considering your situation can sometimes point you back to your own habits. If you feel like you’re turning into a monster every time you interact with a co-worker, you’ll want to spend some time thinking the reasons through.

Practice not engaging

Sometimes we feel like the other person in a heated exchange somehow has the power to make us react.

I feel like a stupid toy robot, where he just pops a quarter into my slot and I start going at it! Why do I let this person have so much power over me?

But the truth is that we have more power and control than we give ourselves credit for. In these situations we have to train ourselves to slow down our initial response enough to make a different decision in the heat of the moment. It’s self-reflection, pure and simple, but we don’t often give ourselves the opportunity to do it when we’re under pressure. But if someone is turning up the heat on you, the best reaction might be to say to yourself (or indeed to everyone else as well) “Let’s slow down for a second. I might need a minute to think this through.” By asking for a time-out, you can avoid plunging ahead, and instead consider your options and the circumstances surrounding you.

When someone seems like they are just trying to push your buttons, it might be true.  Maybe they are. But people can also come across as aggressive when they are worried that they are losing, or not being respected, or feeling ineffective. In these situations it only takes a moment to consider why they are doing what they’re doing. And when you try to take someone else’s perspective, you’re almost certain to stop feeling that urgent need to respond immediately. Spending some time with my co-worker, I got to see how frustrated he was with his role in the company, and see how that helplessness was seeking an outlet in some of his behavior. When you pause to understand, you give yourself a chance to see more possibilities for resolution, and make better decisions.

Have the talk

If you still feel that this person is not getting it, and you feel you’re in the right to work it out with them, then you’ll need to have a face-to-face meeting, where you can put your concerns out on the table and work together to get to a resolution. Many people are not comfortable with confrontation or conflict, but there are ways to be direct and constructive at the same time. Try to focus on having a conversation, rather than a confrontation, but resist the urge to avoid discussing what’s causing the trouble. See if you can find some win-win situation with the other person, where you both can get to the bottom of what’s needed to move forward. Don’t feel that you have to go it alone, however, and in some cases a common friend or an understanding HR person can be a real help in keeping the conversation direct, fair, and productive.

Let It Go

Sometimes you do have to let your pride go, and just accept that some difficult people are going to be difficult. And unless you’re willing to walk away from your job over it, you might be forced to wait them out. In this extreme case, it can help to try to limit your exposure to the person, and continue to step away, if possible, when they start in on you. Eventually, they might get the hint that they are not using a winning strategy, and then you may have a chance get things straightened out.

The guy with whom I had the conflict in my last job? He left the company shortly after I made peace with him. By that time, I could truly say that I would miss him. (But I may have been the only one!)

In order to have a strong and attractive personal brand, we need to be able to handle conflict, even with extra-difficult people. Hopefully these strategies may help you the next time you run into that one person at work who seems to make everything harder than it has to be!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

The Death of the Performance Review: Why Personal Branding Matters More Than Ever

So it seems that Accenture, among others, has decided to cut the cord, and eliminate annual performance reviews. Plenty of pundits have weighed in on this being a good idea, with only a few people saying that it could cause some serious problems for the giant consulting company or others who have started to follow the trend.

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It does seem to make logical sense that providing more regular feedback throughout the year would be a better way to manage employees, determine performance, and set up rewards. Most articles covering the big shift mention that the current systems in place tend to cost the companies a lot of money and don’t tend to get the results that they want, i.e., better managed performance.

All very interesting points, but I’m more interested in the human impact. I’m interested in what it means for the average worker to move from an annual process to a more fluid, consistent feedback loop. I think it may bring an unexpected benefit in helping you to build your unique, personal brand with your boss.

A more frequent feedback loop means that the worker is expected to work on consistently achieving goals. Giving us the chance to focus on how we differentiate from the rest of the market, and how we can report on our progress in reaching those goals.

If your company is one of the enlightened few moving to this new paradigm, or even if you aren’t, here are some suggestions about how to have your personal brand see you through the performance review cycle, and reach your goals at the same time.

  1. Determine your positioning – Before you meet with your boss to set goals, start with what makes you such a contender. What are your unique skills and talents that make you successful? You’ll want to have these elements woven into the story you’ll tell you boss about your progress through the year. If you’re stellar at forming close, trusted relationships across departments, then make sure that you find a way to keep updating your boss on all the ways that your people skills are generating real results for him. I can’t emphasize enough: DO NOT SKIMP ON THIS WORK. This is the time to really do some digging and make sure you can talk about yourself in clear ways to play to your unique strengths, especially those that connect you to your team and to hard results.
  2. Set and clarify realistic goals and metrics – Clarify your goals with your boss, and make sure you don’t just talk about the raw numbers (that are important), but also the how’s and why’s behind the figures. That way you’re both aligned with what your boss expects to see as you start achieving them.
  3. Ask for feedback that will drive you – Let your boss know what kind of feedback helps you, and what kind demotivates you. Give them the tools to help you stay in the game, focused on what matters. Again, you have to be the expert in what makes you special, and you want to continue to have others interact with and appreciate that unique brand that is you. So tell them how best to guide you, and then show them how productive and successful you can be when you are given the right kind of input.
  4. Clear the calendar – Set up checkpoints throughout the year to touch base on progress and course-correct. Remember that these moments are important in continuing to educate your boss on your unique approach, and how your skills are being applied specifically to their business problems. Just like you want your boss to provide you feedback, these are the times when you give them something to provide feedback on, so prepare for them, and bring your a-game each and every time so that you’re giving the best picture of where you are. Your preparation here pays off in useful feedback, so you’ll get out of them what you put in.
  5. Listen with both ears – When getting intermittent feedback, it’s super important that you internalize and understand the direction and correction you’re given. Check your understanding with your boss to make sure that you’re receiving what they’re sending, and don’t let wires get crossed, or the benefits of frequent feedback can get lost. Being able to catch serious problems faster or spot big opportunities quicker is a key advantage of frequent feedback, so you want to get all the value possible from each meeting.
  6. Don’t fear the red flag – If you think you’re getting into trouble or falling behind on metrics, don’t hide it from your boss. You want your personal brand to be one that promises “No Nasty Surprises!” Keeping in touch doesn’t mean that you wait until your scheduled quarterly meeting to say that you’re missing targets. If you think you’re running into problems that merit attention, then step up and alert the powers that be.
  7. Document, document, document – Be sure to take notes on your progress for your boss or just yourself, so that you can be sure that you’ve got the facts ready for any spur-of-the-moment reporting. Different people learn and internalize progress differently, but a popular method for consistent score-checking is to design some kind of dashboard, which puts progress into an unequivocal metric that you can read at a glance. Consider putting together one of these dashboards for yourself, if not for your boss and team (more on these dashboards can be found here).

Doing away with the year-end performance review is not going to solve all your company’s problems or remove all the stress of managing employee performance. However, it can create an opportunity for you to develop your personal brand. So don’t let those quarterly touch-base meetings go to waste!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of personal branding. Find out more here.

Some Surprising Benefits of Being a Little Bit Weird

Al embodies it. Austin wants to stay that way. Gaga and Apple embrace it. And Seth Godin thinks we all are. But how can your personal brand benefit from being different or even a little weird?

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By definition, weird is outside the norm. it challenges convention and makes you do a double-take. At my last job, we set up an annual breakfast pitch-in called Baconpalooza to help break the ice across functional areas and get people talking to each other. On one special day a year, we would encourage people on our floor to bring in breakfast dishes featuring bacon*. Then at 9:00am we would pick a ‘winner’ who would receive a medal and ribbon. It was a little odd, and we only got sporadic participation for the first year or two, but by year three we had a good crowd, and the president of the company asking “When’s Baconpalooza this year?” And asking his admin to pull him out of meetings for it. It became an event that people appreciated, and it did the job we intended — getting more people across departments to talk to each other about what they were working on. We also had a co-worker who would show up to work in an outfit made to resemble two strips of bacon, so we knew how to turn a few heads if we wanted more attention.

“Did I just see that?”

And that’s what weird gets you. Attention. But, as we all know, it’s not always safe to be weird. People generally prefer things that reflect a world that they’re familiar with. And very few people typically invite the kind of attention that the truly eccentric receive on a daily basis. So being weird can be a double-edged sword — it can put people off your brand too soon, before you can win them over. We can call this Bad Weird. It’s ok to avoid Bad Weird.

In his TED talk, Derek Sivers explores how something can be really weird because it is just the opposite of what youʼre expecting, given your past experience and circumstance. This is a kind of weird that can be really valuable, because once you’ve decoded the initial shock, it all makes sense again, and it becomes a story that you want to tell over and over.

“You’d never guess how they number houses in Japan!”

One possible ‘good version of weird’ is where the mental model you’re proposing has a consistent logic that is compelling and true, even if it can be initially off-putting or seem contradictory.

This all means that there can be some benefits to being a little weird in creating and managing your personal brand. And some of these benefits can be pretty amazing.

Good weird can be freeing

Being a little weird can give you permission to lean into your passions a little harder than you might have thought. You are free to imagine a world where the normal guardrails don’t apply, and things can work very differently — and in your favor. What if your skill for playing the piano comes in handy at the company awards dinner? Maybe you never get the spotlight at work, but that one night a year, you could have everyone hanging on your every word.

Julia Mah has written that the things that we are weird about are the things that are sacred to us, and she’s right — when you don’t mind being weird about it, then you’re deeply involved enough not to care about how you could be judged.

Weird is memorable, and gets spread by word of mouth

You may forget what you had for lunch in the office cafeteria last week, but you certainly remember when someone shows up to your meeting and whips out a painter’s palette and smock: asking you to help them create a ‘masterpiece’ of a marketing plan. Come to think of it, just try to NOT to tell anyone else about it if something like this happens to you. I would be on my phone before the meeting was over, texting my co-worker friends to let them know about what just happened.

Weird is seldom boring

Weird is never the ‘same old, same old’ and so it can be refreshing, and feel like a break in the monotony that we sometimes face. Recently, Liz Ryan posted a plea for people to stop describing themselves in terms of soulless skills and boring, inactive traits in the profiles, and I think it’s a good model to follow for most of our interactions. There’s a time to use typical keywords like ‘working with a cross-functional team’, and a time when you should probably describe the group as a ‘rag-tag group of troublemakers, out to change the company and shake up the hierarchy.’

Weird can be innovative

Just last week, Suzi McAlpine wrote a piece about how dissonance can foster innovation. And when you think about it, you can probably come up with the names for quite a few products and big ideas that definitely started from a weird place. There once was a time when people had to be convinced that they could shop online safely, and it used to be a weird notion to buy or sell things like clothes or shoes on the web. Then Zappos made a name for themselves through an innovative returns policy that no other online store had ever dared to try before. They embraced weirdness as a way to try things that would scare their competition. And that’s a bet on good weird that paid off.

Weird can be about differentiation

Apple once said to Think Different. And the purpose behind that slogan was to consider something that was not just different, but could be better. And something which is fundamentally different to your competition is, by definition, ownable in the market that you’re in. When you’ve got a position that is ownable, differentiated, and unique — then you’ve carved out new territory that no one else has the right to play on but you. Finding this position for your product can lead to easier search engine optimization for your content, better breakthrough of your advertising, and higher recall amongst your target customers. And for a personal brand, well, it can create more and more equity around the unique person that is you!

So sure, there’s no reason to ditch convention completely. We all have to spend some time toeing the line and delivering on standard expectations from others. Besides, a little weird (like many things) can go a long way, so there’s no reason to burn your button-downs and start wearing latex shirts to work every day. But it’s important to realize that there are some gifts that only a little weirdness can give you.I recommend that you try to bring down your guard a little this week and take advantage of it.

A little bit of the good kind of weird might be just what you need to really stand out from the crowd.


* Baconpalooza welcomed dishes with other ingredients, too. We decided that swine wasn’t mandatory for participation, since it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as it were. After all, vegetarians and other no-pork consumers had to join the fun, too. Weird makes room for everyone!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of personal branding. Find out more here.

What is LinkedIn Good For? 15 ways to make it work harder for you

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Why should you have a LinkedIn profile? Why should anyone?

Obviously if you’re looking for a job, you want to put yourself out there and let recruiters know you have skills they might need. If you are a recruiter yourself, you need a channel to contact prospective clients or employees. Or maybe you just like networking with other business people, or want to round out having a profile on every major platform (and yes – there are actually some people for whom that’s a real reason).

But I’m thinking of another reason. A bigger one, for most of us.

I’m thinking that the real reason for having a profile on LinkedIn is that it is the only place you might have a public profile that’s all about your professional life and your unique personal brand. And LinkedIn allows you to craft this public, social face in any way that you please. It’s like having your own website, with all your professional information on it, but you never have to pay for hosting, and never have to purchase ads or search terms to drive traffic to it.

So the real value of LinkedIn for the average Jane and Joe is that it allows you to focus on your personal brand, and start to create a place for that brand to live. It’s a place for you to be purposeful about who you are, and where you’re headed. And it’s free. All it costs you is a little time to make it work harder for you, and you can have a knockout presence on your own little corner of the World Wide Web.

Here are some specific ways LinkedIn could be working harder for you, beyond the bare minimum of your job history.

  1. Upload more than your resume – There might be significantly more important elements in your profile than just the points of where you’ve worked. Be sure that you’ve explored all the other areas of the profile that they offer, especially if they apply to your chosen field/specialty. For example, when I won some awards last year, I found that there was a special place just for these on my profile.
  2. Get it URL – You can get a specific custom URL on LinkedIn. It’s part of your contact data right under your main profile header. If you click on the little cog icon, you get a page where you can see Your public profile URL. You can create or edit this custom URL to make your LinkedIn public profile easier to find or type for other people. Many people edit this URL so it’s clear and attractive, then add the URL to other profiles or even their business cards.
  3. Link to your heart’s content – Look for the areas in your Contact Info that allow for links and use these links to direct people to other work that you’ve done, people you’ve helped, or things that inspire you. If you have a company website, then by all means link to it, but what about a portfolio on Behance.net or another site, showing beautiful pictures from a recently completed remodeling project? Or a link to a blog where you contribute to the thinking around a specific topic? Adding detail about what you’re interested in can round out your profile and add depth and personality. Just be sure to only link things here that add to your personal brand. If you have a personal Pinterest account that is not appropriate for business contacts to see, or is private to only you or your friends and family, then leave those links off. Think about these items as helpful additions, not confessing to every account you have online!
  4. Don’t forget to summarize! – In addition to your employment details, be sure to take advantage of the Summary section of your profile to talk about why you do what you do. That’s a key element of your personal brand. (Read more about defining your brand here).
  5. List results, not just responsibilities – When you add a job into your work history, be sure that you don’t just talk about what the role was responsible for doing, but describe how you improved things, and what you achieved for the company. Think about housing your accomplishments in each job, rather than reporting on the job description.
  6. Get endorsed for your skills – By now, you’ve probably had someone endorse one or more of your skills, but did you know that you can edit these? If you go to your Skills and Endorsement section and click on Add Skill, then you get all kinds of options to be included in recommendations to your contacts, and options to add, remove or manage endorsements. If you take a look at the list, you can probably find one or two that shouldn’t be there, and maybe one or two that should be!
  7. Pull out the big guns: Recommendations – One of the most powerful items in your profile can be recommendations from co-workers, bosses and employees. It’s a chance for other people to comment on your work, which greatly increases the credibility of the content of the recommendation.  They are basically reviews on the work that you’ve done, by the people you’ve done it with. For this reason, be sure that you only ask people who have good knowledge of your work to provide one. You don’t want a review that sounds like they barely know you, or are just friends with you.  The good news is, if the review is so-so, or not well constructed, you can work with the person to try to get it right.
  8. Pay attention to Karma – Don’t just reach out for endorsements or recommendations from other people, but return the love a little bit, and offer your endorsements or recommendations for other people that you’ve worked with as well. Stay honest, direct, and be sure to say What and Why, when you’re leaving feedback. Be sure that you don’t reveal anything you shouldn’t in terms of proprietary information, but try to be specific about what that person does well. If you’re associating with quality people in this way, it can only reflect well on you too!

  9. Share your stuff, but be wise
    – Sharing stuff that you’ve worked on is a great way to let people into your process and let them know what kind of product you produce, it’s like they can try you before they buy you. But do be careful here: there can be intellectual property concerns if you’re posting something to which you don’t have the rights. So be sure that you don’t post anything that you don’t own outright, so you can avoid damaging anyone’s competitive advantage. Lastly, make sure that the work is the best representation of you before you share as well, because you don’t want anything but your best work to be on display.
  10. Follow judiciously – There are opinion leaders, thinkers, and people who are generally ‘out there’ on all kinds of issues. And it’s helpful to know what the buzz is about. Seek them out, and follow companies and people that can inspire you. But do your homework and make sure you’re making the right bets when you choose to follow someone.
  11. Participate like a Boss – Go ahead and like or comment on the articles that people are writing or posting. Join a group or two, and start commenting on articles that other people in the groups are offering up.
  12. Keep the changes comingI’ve written about this before, but if you’re not keeping your profile updated, you’re probably missing out on some significant traffic and attention.  Plus, this means you’re not taking advantage of the platform to record your successes over time.
  13. Don’t forget the headline – Right under your name is a space for you to put some text, called your Professional Headline. Most people put their title in here, or state their occupation in some way. But this is prime real estate, digitally speaking, and you can take advantage of it for stating your motto, approach, core belief, or whatever can make the best impression about you and how you work. I’ve seen people put up to 116 characters in this headline (it holds 120), which is a lot of space to talk about what makes you special.
  14. ‘When it’s time to change, it’s time to rearrange – Pay attention to the order of your profile components on the page. Are you highly skilled in a foreign language, and want to showcase this skill? Then don’t let that profile component languish in the middle of your page – move it up! When you place your mouse over a section in your profile (in edit mode), an up and down arrow appears that you can use to drag the whole section to a new location.
  15. Become a PublisherOver one million people have now published on LinkedIn, and it’s a great way to get your voice out there. If you’ve got something to say, and think that your perspective can be useful to other people, then try writing an article, or post a link to a great news story or blog post. You may not have much of a network now, but it can grow over time if your content is interesting and relevant.

And here’s an extra bonus of something that may be working against you. Be sure to proofread all of your profile carefully. It’s sad to say, but one thing that can turn people off is poor spelling or grammar. Even small errors can make an otherwise great profile look sloppy. It’s a sour note than can spoil a lot of careful preparation on your part, so definitely take the time to double-check.

 

Maybe your LinkedIn profile isn’t the perfect spot to host your personal brand. You might prefer to have complete creative control over how everything looks, or add a bunch of pictures, or videos, or spinning cat heads, or whatever. But it has got a lot to offer you as a host for your professional content, and it just might be the right place to let your unique personal brand shine.


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

What’s the Difference Between Knowing Your Worth and Having a Huge Ego?

Used-ego and knowing your worth

Do you have to introduce yourself to someone at a business function (or worse – a NETWORKING function) and just feel like an ass for trying to describe what you do in an interesting way that shows you have real value?

Or around performance review time, it’s easy to feel reductive when thinking or (worse yet) talking about your own achievements. It can start to feel like you’re just exercising your ego, and trying to trumpet “I’m great! Don’t you think I’m amazing?! Let me tell you all about me me ME!”

But more and more we need to be able to talk competently about ourselves in a variety of situations. And the truth is more interesting and subtle than just “I sound like an ego maniac.” There is an art to being about to talk about yourself without sounding crazy. And the good news is that it can be learned.

A lot of it has to do with what you know about yourself. Knowing what your strengths are and being able to talk about them honestly doesn’t have to come across as being conceited. In the end, we all want to be valued for what we can bring to the table. And there’s a big difference between knowing why you’re a great person to be on a team and thinking that you don’t need a team in the first place. Part of that difference is knowing what unique attributes that you bring, and the other half is knowing (and being able to say) why you can (and do) contribute in a unique way.

People who shine from within don’t need the spotlight.

If you think about star performers that seem self-confident without being jerks, then you can start to see how their self-confidence is not grounded in just how great they are, but in how great their team is. Don’t they often seem really engaged in how everyone else is doing? That’s because they are trying to bring out strengths in other members of their team — and that is a great way to make sure that your team is going to remain a winner, by building up the strengths of every single one of the members. They shine their light freely, offering encouragement to others, and applying their own gifts jointly with their team. When these people win, you can’t help but cheer for them. When they talk about victories, everyone feels included.

On the other hand, if you think about someone who seems only interested in self-promotion, they don’t seem very concerned about anyone else on their team, right? Oftentimes they don’t even respond well when directly asked to help out someone who’s on their side. And let’s be honest, when you see someone who is completely full of himself cut down to size a little, it’s hard not to feel that a little dose of reality is just what those people need.

Another sure sign that someone is center-stage in the ‘Me-Me-Me Show’ is when they feel the need to define themselves as the ‘only person who does x’ or someone who ‘never does y.’ I have bad news for all those folks out there who think in terms of simple absolutes — just run a quick search on Twitter for the phrase “the only person on Twitter who” and just sit back and smell the hubris. People who are really unique don’t usually spend time talking about how unique they are. They are busy having a point of view that engages the people around them. And they can talk for hours (if need be) about their perspective. That’s their point of difference: it is a real, authentic viewpoint of theirs, not an opinion about how cool or rare their viewpoint is. They can talk without bragging, because they talk about the work, and don’t just describe themselves.

I’m a fan of Dorie Clark. I think her posts and books are great resources, and in one of my favorite posts she talks about how to promote yourself without coming across like a jerk. She explains how your attitude is a big factor in how successful you’ll be, and that after you get your facts straight, and pull them into a good story that resonates with people, then you can focus on making sure that you keep your ego in check while you relate to people.

I feel that the most important part of her advice is the admonition to stick to the facts when you’re finding the core elements about how to talk about yourself. And then you can move on to telling your story to people, and that’s when you bring in the “WHY.”

Telling people WHY you do things is the real secret to avoiding sounding like a braggart. When all you do is talk about what you did, you risk leaving people hanging outside of your story, and you don’t let them into your motivations for doing the work, or making the achievement, or climbing that particular hill. To talk about your WHY, you have to be willing to spend some time to dig up real insights about yourself, so that you don’t just list accomplishments, but you take people on a journey with you. Talk about the fact that made you decide to take on a project, or accept a job offer. it’s more engaging for people to hear about why we do the things we do, rather than just what we do. Which of the following do you think you’d respond to better?

A: I beat my sales targets for the last nine quarters. Eventually moving 100,000 units in 30 weeks. Let me tell you how I did it.

B: I wanted to see if our team could do more sales than we’ve ever done, 100,000 units, but also increase our engagement and have FUN doing it! Let me tell you how I did it.

No contest, right? Joanne Tombrakos runs a marketing consultancy specializing in social media, and she recently wrote a great article about how bragging isn’t really bragging if it comes from a place of truth, She ends her piece saying that there are only two times when bragging will not benefit you:

1. When you are lying.

2. When you don’t believe in yourself.

Which of course makes perfect sense — because if you’re full of yourself to the point that you can’t keep it real, and be yourself, then you’re not likely going to be able to come across well to others. So you have to know why you’re talking about yourself in the first place: knowing your unique self. And then you can focus on making that connection to another person in a relevant way.

That’s knowing what your worth is. it’s knowing why you do what you do, and why someone else should care.

Eventually, the difference between having a huge ego and knowing your worth will have an impact in how successful and happy you ultimately are. So it’s worth investing the time to fight against the bragging, and strive for the self-knowledge that can drive you forward.


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

Do You Need a Coach?

There’s a connotation to the word ‘coach’ for most of us. Something that harkens back to a dusty field behind a high school, filled with sweaty teenagers who would rather be somewhere else. Maybe you picture an overweight, overbearing loudmouth with a clipboard — droning and commanding and criticizing. Or perhaps you have a more positive view of someone who instructed you, and taught you valuable things. But whatever your personal image of what a coach is, there’s one thing that many of us think about them:

Great. They’re here to tell me how to do something.

And if they’re here to tell me how to do something, then obviously that means that I don’t know how to do it myself. All a coach does is assign drills that teach the fundamentals, right?

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OK, I’m being a little extreme here, but you get the point. When we run into snags in our career or life, sometimes people will advise that we could use a little help, a coach to help us get through whatever challenge we’re facing. And unfortunately we sometimes flash back to that picture in our heads and think “Nah – what are they going to tell me that I don’t already know?”

Call it pride. Call it embarrassment. Call it not being willing to expose our shortcomings to a stranger, but in many situations where we could probably use a seasoned, disinterested third party’s perspective, we resist. We talk to our friends, our spouses and co-workers, but we don’t seek out a professional’s advice. Because what could they possibly tell us that we don’t already tell ourselves? What can a coach teach us about our own professional life that we don’t already know?

But that’s not what a coach is for.  An executive coach or career coach, or social media coach isn’t there to make you train — to have you do practice drills and get yelled at. A good coach is all about raising your game, and helping you deliver your best.  I spoke to an executive coach recently who said that her job wasn’t about telling executives what to do — she wasn’t an all-knowing seer that felt responsible for knowing exactly what her client needed to do in every situation. Instead she said that she was there to help the person make better decisions based upon what they knew. In the process of working with her client she got to know what the strengths were of the client that they could use to attack the problem, and get to a solution. She provided an external focus and objectivity, married with a concern for the person and an extensive background in helping people make solid decisions. She was there to help direct the movie, but not to write the script.

People who want focus, need a coach.

Maybe you’ve gotten to a level of success in your profession, but you don’t know where to go next. Achieving high status can be empowering, but it can also bring you to a series of decision points where you might have to pick a direction that feels pretty final. And, unfortunately, when most people are presented with lots of choices, it’s been proven that our decision-making skills can actually get worse. Under pressure, our brains can try to multitask, considering all options, and worrying about all possible outcomes and scenarios. At times like this, a good coach can provide focus about what’s important, even when our natural inclinations are leading us to scatter our attention and avoid getting down to what’s important.

You can, of course, muscle through and do your SWOT analysis, but when the stakes are high, it can make sense to get a second opinion. And why wouldn’t you prefer to have that opinion be an expert? Especially if they are an expert in helping people to focus on doing the right thing.

People who want to be better, need a coach.

I read an article about Pantheon CEO Zack Rosen, where he talked about shadowing other CEO’s, in order to keep learning about the areas that he needed to grow in. He describes his need to be a “learning machine” — and as CEO of a start-up, he recognizes that his job is continually shifting and changing. If you work in a dynamic category or industry or company, then you know that you can’t rest on what you’re doing now. You have to keep reaching beyond where you are to stay ahead of the competition.

It’s probably important to state that in some cases, your manager can be a good coach. And I’ve had my share of good coach bosses, but while you probably can’t be a great manager if you’re not a good coach, the world is unfortunately not filled with brilliant managers, and if your boss isn’t one, you’ll want to get another perspective to get you to the next level.

People who are at the top of their game, need a coach.

Olympic athletes have coaches for a reason. These athletes can accomplish feats that precious few other people can even attempt, and yet they rely on coaches — coaches who would probably each say that they themselves can’t do these amazing feats either. In these cases, the coach is not there to tell the athlete _what_ to do, but to help them fully understand _how_ to use their talents to go farther. They provide a different perspective — literally, in the case of some athletes where the coach can stand in a different location and see that one arm movement out of place is pulling the whole body out of alignment.

And we have the same issues with our performance at work sometimes. One insightful manager (and a great coach) once told me that although my sense of humor was helpful in some circumstances, it could be distracting in others. She wasn’t trying to change how I operate, or alter what makes me great at my job, so rather than laying me out with a broad criticism, she provided this feedback in true, quality coach style — saying “Sometimes, Jay, all it takes is a smile!” It wasn’t an attack, or teaching me something that I didn’t know — she just provided me with another view on how to achieve what I wanted. Coaches can do this because they are truly on your side, and can keep your best interests in mind.

So when we are faced with adversity and challenge, we have to fight the suspicion that having a coach means that you don’t know what you’re doing. A good coach doesn’t just share what they know. A good coach brings out your best. And we all could use that, couldn’t we?


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

Focusing On What Matters Most: Gathering Insights About Yourself

Maybe you’re a star. Maybe you’ve got talent just shining out from every pore. Maybe you have always known exactly where you’re headed. And maybe you feel like you’re great at actually doing things, but you just have one key weakness. You don’t know how to talk about yourself. You’re doing great, and your focus is pure and powerful, until you’re asked to put the focus on yourself.

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And maybe that’s where you freeze up.

Or maybe, like me, you’ve got lots of work still to do to clarify ‘where you’re going,’ but still there comes a time when we all are asked to talk about “what makes you special?” or “what do you bring to this project?”

Many people find it hard to put the focus on themselves, and this struggle can make it especially hard to spend time thinking about how to describe yourself and what you want. But knowing how to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, and what you have to offer is an important part of having a personal brand that is clear, powerful and attractive to other people.

So how do you get past the weird feeling?

In some ways you probably don’t ever get past it — not really.  You just have to understand why it’s important to overcome the discomfort, and then discover the ways you can learn something useful about yourself anyway. I think that’s why most people tend to shrink back from delving too deep in ‘the big question’ that seems to rear its head in this situation:

Do I have to answer the BIG question: “What is my purpose? Why am I here on Earth?

Big question, huh? Yeah – I know. But I don’t think we have to solve world peace, you just have to identify some insights about yourself that can help you answer the less big-hairy-scary-questions that you’re faced with in more everyday situations. And it’s not that I think we should avoid big audacious questions — it’s just that in most cases you don’t have to write a book about your ‘purpose-driven life’ as much as be able to talk about yourself a little without sounding like you’ve never thought about what makes you a great worker or leader. It’s about knowing how to talk about your strengths and worth.

And that takes some time, and maybe a few tips and tricks. Here are some ideas about how you can put yourself under the microscope:

1. Figure out what you really need

Are you just interested in a quick elevator speech about your goals? Maybe just a quick way to run down your strengths for other people? Or are you looking to really craft a vision of where you’re coming from and where you’re going? Knowing what is the end-game for you can help keep you focused, and avoid an inward spiral.

2. Commit to the hunt

It’s important to recognize that this kind of work is not easy.  It will take some time to figure out the best ways to understand yourself as a brand, and be able to talk about yourself in ways that help you stand out for the right reasons. So start off your journey with a promise to yourself that you’ll put in the work to do it right, and push through the weird feelings. If you put unrealistic expectations on yourself to quickly throw together something genius, then it’s likely that you could feel defeated when it ends up taking a little while to get things crafted in just the right way. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you’ll get there eventually, and decide consciously to dedicate the time needed to get the job done.

3. Review the evidence

In looking around your current online profiles, resumes and even job performance reviews, look for snippets and phrases that stand out as being particularly apt about you. Maybe you had a really good bio written for a conference you recently attended. I still play around with my little bio on Twitter to see what just ‘looked right’ as a description. You can always try purchasing a book about researching your strengths – some Marcus Buckingham books are great for this. Or maybe you’ve got an even better sounding board, which brings us to…

3.5. Interview likely allies

(We only made this 3.5 rather than 4 because it just a continuation of reviewing the evidence.) Now you will want to review the evidence through other people’s eyes, and gain their perspective. Identify some people who know you well, and talk to them about how they view you and your talents and working style. Be sure to choose carefully who to involve, because you’ll want them to talk about how you come across, and what they really appreciate from working or living with you. You’ll want them to be fully honest, so make sure the conversation isn’t just about how awesome you are, but try to get a real picture of how you are perceived. Clarity at this point is crucial, because you’ll want a firm foundation to build on.

4. Craft a story

Using all these inputs, the really hard work begins. Can you put these traits and attributes together into a story? The Story of You and how you fit into the world. I like to think about it as a shortened way of telling my life story, focusing on what I see as my overall purpose, my unique strength, and then how I perform the best, or how to get the best from me. You may want to tell your story differently, however, and you’ll want it to match your personality, background and style. Don’t worry about being a hero in your story, just make sure it’s about who you really are.

5. Try it on and talk it out

Eventually you can just think about it, and you have to try it out. Again, starting with friends, maybe you can give the concept or statements a trial run with some friends. And if all goes well, then start using the insights to talk about yourself in all kinds of situations, like job interviews and performance reviews. Be aware of how your words are coming across, though, and always ask yourself: “Is my story truly communicating the essence of me? The best of my authentic self? Are they ‘getting’ me through this story?” If not, you may want to back up and try again.

6. Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Don’t assume you won’t ever have to revisit your story. Go back and take a look at your trusted sources for self-insight on a semi-regular basis to make sure you’re still being honest about what makes you tick. To make sure you don’t forget, you can give yourself a little calendar reminder each year to go back and see if any aspects of your insights are falling flat, or need some more attention to perk them up.

Let me know how it goes!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

10 Ways to Improve Your Unique Personal Brand

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Since the early days of Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and even GeoCities, people have been using the internet to express themselves, and share content on topics that interest them. And the earlier you joined the digital world, the more you have probably experimented with different platforms and tools. All this cavorting on different systems may have taken a toll, however, and now, when you’re trying to be taken seriously, someone may be able to google your name and come up with something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.47.10 PMYes – this image to the right is the fabulous social site Twoo, and yes, the page has been translated from Urdu and yes, I apparently still have a profile on it.

I don’t think that this profile is doing much to help me define my personal brand, however. The page is mostly blank, I only have connection to one other profile on the platform and I can’t remember ever signing on to this page before in my life.

And I have no idea what that picture of me is supposed to be about, but I am certainly giving someone or something a fierce side-eye.

So – there’s a lesson here about clearing out the crud in your online profiles, but what are some other important steps that you can take to improve your personal brand? Here at MetaMorph, we’ve put together these 10 ideas that you can implement right now to get yourself on the right track to improving your personal brand, and achieving your goals:

  1. You could spend some time thinking about who you are and what your goals are. What is it that you want your personal brand to do for you? What about your brand makes you special? Are there any keywords or specific phrases that you can start using to bring that special point of difference forward in your online social media profiles?
  2. You could remove old profiles that are out there that you don’t use, as we discussed in my example above.
  3. You could look back over your old performance reviews from your work to see what themes may emerge in how you work and have developed over time. What are the areas that people say are your strengths, and what keeps coming up as a good area for you to develop further in?
  4. You could check your LinkedIn profile (and other profiles) and see if everything is up-to-date. See if there are any pieces of the profile that you can fill out but have left blank. Do you have any skills not called out? Any projects you can describe? Can you update your profiles across all of your social media sites to have a consistent voice and theme?
  5. You could self-google and run your own privacy audit.
  6. You could find a coach or mentor at work (or church, or wherever), and set up times to meet with them to talk about your personal brand. After doing this for a while, it can also be helpful for you to become a mentor to another person as well, just don’t rush into this before you’re ready.
  7. You could get a great haircut and take a new profile picture if your profile pic is too old, or too informal, or just plain bad. Yes, it’s superficial, but in many cases your profile picture is the first impression that someone may have for you online, and so it can be important to look your best.
  8. You could start a blog, talking about your perspective on the most important topics in your field.
  9. You will want to read everything that is written by the most influential people in the topic area. And then start commenting in online forums that deal with your chosen field of interest. By participating, you add your knowledge to the discussion and can get responses from others who may have differing views, which can help you hone your own opinions and thoughts.
  10. Lastly, if you have built your expertise in your chosen field to a point of authority, you can start looking for places where you can teach others on a large scale. Speaking at colleges, community events, conferences and exhibitions are all good outlets for building your unique brand and authority.

As we all grow in our respect and knowledge of the importance of our online brand, we should take steps to start maintaining our unique brand in the ways that can work for us.

Good luck!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

What Is a Personal Brand? (And Why Should I Care About Mine?)

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In today’s world, there seems to be competition everywhere. Competition to get into schools, to get into companies, to get ahead in companies… One friend of mine was talking recently about competition between non-profits for the charity dollar! And when you think about it, it makes a certain sense that we are all competing to get the best for ourselves and our families. We want to succeed and make the most of our lives.

This situation of constant pressure isn’t always fun or pleasant, but it does bring into focus the need for clarity — clarity about what it is that makes us special. What makes us stand out from the competition. And some aspects of competition can be positive, because they can ask us to strive to reach higher, loftier goals and be ambitious about what we’d like to achieve.

Big Brands have long known that a strong, differentiated brand is required to compete in the wider marketplace. Since John Pemberton first invented Coca Cola and found ways to talk about its unique properties to pharmacists in Atlanta, Brands have been looking for those rare attributes that can catch our attention as consumers. Companies spend millions to share and communicate those features to us. And it works. We buy Brands that are strong, unique and special. We buy Apple, and Coke, and Amazon. We buy into the ideals of these brands, because they stand for something special, and we identify with them.

“But I’m a PERSON, dang it! Not a brand!”

True! We aren’t products, sitting on a shelf and requiring broadcast channels or loud labels to tell our stories. We are complex, beautiful, messy, constantly learning, sometimes conflicted, and imperfect people. And that fact frees us to be even more deliberate as we think about our personal brand, because we not only have to know it, and be able to describe it, but actually LIVE IT as well. The things that differentiate us are also things that we form relationships with in those around us. And as we live, we create stories about ourselves that show ourselves uniquely. If you wrote down all the stories that have happened to you in your life, you’d start to get a clear picture about what is at the heart of this Brand you carry with you. Because it forms the heart of how you interact with the world.

That’s why your personal brand has to be authentic to you. Not a whitewash of what you think you should be about, but a concise statement of who you really are, and how you connect with the wider world. Figuring out your brand isn’t about being perfect. It shouldn’t be a mask, or something that hides the real you. It’s about knowing yourself, and being able to offer that to others. And I use the word ‘offer’ on purpose, because we don’t have to be reductive about what it means to be human, and the idea of all this competition driving us doesn’t have to be “zero sum” and heartless — we can cooperate, and be helpful to each other.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s critical that we are helpful.

Because in our world we depend on each other. And to get things done, we have to make judgements about the people around us. We have to choose who to put on our teams, and in our companies, and up the corporate ladder based upon what special qualities we think they have to bring success to our endeavors. To make these and other decisions, we look for special qualities in people like: Mary has great leadership skills, Joe has spectacularly sound judgement, Matt is caring, Daniel is considerate, Laura has great foresight, Michael offers a critical eye — I could go on and on. These qualities are the essence of a personal brand. Your personal brand is all about how you fit in and offer something special for others.

In today’s world, managing your own unique, personal brand is more important than ever. In order to reach your goals, you need clarity about who you are, and about what makes you special. It’s important both for yourself, and for those around you who depend on you and what your personal brand can offer.


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.

Why You Should Run Your Own Privacy Audit (And How to Do It)

You’ve heard the stories, the nightmare scenario where an intern calls the office to say he’s sick, and then posts some party photos where he’s surrounded by laughing friends and empty shot glasses. Then he’s called on the carpet to answer for his shenanigans, and finally is made aware of the shocking (to some) truth: that what you post on social media can impact your job! Well, unfortunately it’s not just young interns who sometimes forget about the importance of privacy filters. Sometimes it’s CEO’s and Directors of large companies. And the results can be more dire than just embarrassment or a reprimand.

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And yeah, maybe you don’t have a lot of pictures of yourself swinging from a chandelier. But even if your social media profiles are pretty tame, you may still not want to have your private life on view for absolutely everyone. So the bottom line is that privacy settings on social media are important, and all of us should probably be spending a little more time making sure they are set up correctly.

So for the average Joe, how should you protect yourself? What should be the steps in your own personal privacy audit? At Metamorph, we know that the image you project online matters, and so we’ve put together a little guide for how to examine your online profiles, and start to get your online profile working for you, not against you.

Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Figure out your exposure – On which platforms do you have a presence? Did you set up a Pinterest account a few years ago and haven’t looked at it since then? Go through each one (here’s a list, and here’s a bigger list) and see if you have an active account. Then, download a new browser (if you usually use IE or Chrome, then download Safari, etc.) and start googling your name in this new browser to see what comes up. The idea here is to see how you may appear to someone you don’t know, and so you’ll want to avoid signing in to any platforms (any of them, even webmail) on this ‘clean browser’, so that it can remain your objective view into how you appear to a 3rd party who’s searching for information on you. Take a note of everything that comes up in the searches, and make some bookmarks of sites that you’ll want to return to for more digging.
  2. Clean house – Delete any profiles you don’t use anymore. Usually there is a feature to delete your account, but also look to see if you can delete all your content you posted as well. Sometimes you don’t actually remove your posts by deactivating the account. Double check that unused accounts are inactive. If appropriate, contact other locations that your searching turned up and ask them to remove your data from their site. (This can take some time the first time you do it.)
  3. Put in the time – For the sites you want to keep personal information on, spend some time to see what the controls mean. Most sites have pretty good features to help you understand how the filters work. Use this Help Content to build your understanding of what you need to do to keep your public face clean and clear, and your private life, private.
  4. Get a fresh set of eyes – Once you think you’ve gotten your privacy controls correctly configured, use your ‘clean browser’ to check your work. And if you can, also ask a friend for help too – have someone you trust (but who is maybe not a Facebook friend) run a few searches on your name, and have them try to find your vacation pictures or a post you recently left on a social media site. If anything has slipped through your filters, go back and take a look at why it is still available, and adjust as needed.
  5. Schedule tune-ups – Now that you have completed your initial audit and clean-up, all you need to do from here on out is maintenance. Save the steps and tools you’ve put together on your computer and set a recurring appointment with yourself to do a refresher on a regular basis. Every 6 months is fine, but every 3 months may be better. Use your frequency of social media use and number of systems you post to as a guide. The more you post and the more places you post it, the more often you should be verifying your privacy controls are correctly set.

You know that large companies value this kind of vigilance for their own brands. They consistently hire agencies and advisors to examine their company’s digital footprint, and look for stories or complaints or posts that could get them into trouble. So why not take a page from the big company playbook and institute your own privacy audit? It could take as little as 5 minutes each quarter, a small price to pay to make sure that you’re keeping pace with new platforms, new terms of service and new ways to embarrass yourself!


MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of personal branding. Find out more here.