As an SME owner, your personal brand is front and centre of your business success. Expecting that 100 per cent of people you come across will like, trust and resonate with you, however, is as likely as pigs flying in the sky or never having to pay taxes again.
Sad but true – especially the tax part.
In the public speaking circuit, it’s the norm for most speakers to receive a 30-30-40 audience feedback: 30 per cent will really love the speaker, 30 per cent will dislike the speaker, and 40 per cent will be swinging away on the fence.
It’s mostly same for how others experience you and your personal brand (written, verbal, and in person).
People experience everyone differently, based on many factors, including conscious and unconscious biases, fear, hope, needs, past situations and environment. And if you are a person with passionate opinions and is a disruptor of any kind, it’s a given that you will not be everyone’s cup of tea or mug of coffee.
While we all would prefer a utopian 100 per cent tick of approval, it just won’t happen. And nor should it really, as it is part of natural business selection in drawing in our business tribe – mostly.
When I say mostly, I caveat that with a disdain of an attitude of “I couldn’t care if you like me not, I don’t need to impress anyone”. That often comes from a place of arrogance and lack of EQ, versus self-esteem and self-reflection.
“People always know how you made them feel, not necessarily what you did or said.”
We should always treat people well, irrelevant if we want them [or not] in our circle or business – it is human decency.
But for the growth of your SME, you need to ensure that the content, purpose, motivation and intention of your personal brand are consistent with how you are experienced by those people you want to attract and maintain relationships with.
You want to ensure that those you seek will experience you as positively and as intended. If they don’t, then you need to refine and re-tweak how you are showing up and what your personal brand really is.
So before you check in on how you are being ‘experienced’ by current and potential clients, staff, suppliers and networks, get some clarity across these three core branding elements:
- Who you are: character, personality, values, beliefs, skills, knowledge equity, networks, physical and visual presence, voice tone, mannerisms, USPs, what you stand for and want to be known for.
- What you want to achieve, attract and develop: what is your ideal market, the type of clients, staff, suppliers and networks you want to attract and maintain, i.e. your business ideal tribe/s?
- How you really want to be perceived and remembered: How do you want your market to truly feel about what you do, say, believe in, show and physically present.
And it’s the HOW that flows in a wave across intention to people’s perception. For example, if you want your personal brand to exemplify being a great listener, and others experience you as disconnected or you wish to show up as analytical and formal yet are perceived as super casual, then something is clearly amiss or incongruent.
So how do you go about getting honest feedback?
Firstly, grab a big dose of courage and then ask curious questions in a non-pressured way. You want to encourage others to speak their truth without fear; you want to attract, not repel, with your personal brand to your ideal market and audience.
Many people shy away from delivering unpleasant feedback, so you have to make the questions and framework ‘non-threatening’. Focus on creating an environment of implicit comfort that sharing truth and feelings will not be met with negativity or adverse ramifications.
And doing that can also be pretty scary. It is a very vulnerable place to position ourselves where we could hear things that may not be great. I too get a lump in my throat or knot in the stomach when I ask for feedback on how I am experienced. We are all human after all.
Some starter questions could be:
1. I know that everyone has a different viewpoint, so I would really appreciate your help and honest feedback. And no, don’t worry, I won’t take offense if it’s negative. I would really like to know how you have experienced working with me.
2. Hey, I am curious. Can I ask how you felt about what I said/did/wrote? Would be great to hear your experience and feedback.
3. I would really value your personal thoughts. Can I ask how you honestly experienced my service/talk/coaching, etc? What did it feel like for you?
Once you have the ‘experience’ feedback, you will know if your personal brand intentions have met reality and is working to your advantage as intended. If not, then you have a wonderful opportunity to re-tweak and step up and out again.
So how is your personal brand being experienced and felt by your clients, colleagues, networks and tribe? People always know how you made them feel, not necessarily what you did or said. Be courageous.
Sue Parker is the founder of DARE Group.