Why Be Ordinary?

The first step to becoming extraordinary is simply to stop being ordinary.

Here are five suggestions to help you:

  • Avidly collect firsthand experiences– Sherlock Holmes’ greatest claim to fame was his power of observation. Make the effort to observe and understand the nuances of what is going on in your organization. Just one among many leaders? You are still the only “you”, and you know your experiences better than anyone else. Get out from behind your desk, and know what’s happening out there. First-hand observations are critically important-make it a part of your regular routine to gather them.
  • Have a “beginner’s mind” – set aside what you know and be open to looking at things with a fresh perspective. You have extensive education and experience, you may understand tradition, you probably have preconceived notions about things. Don’t forget the importance of starting with a blank page when confronted with new opportunity.
  • Keep an “idea wallet” so you don’t lose momentary insights– anthropologists carry a notebook and camera to record their discoveries. Try recording ideas in real-time – make use of current technologies like your mobile phone with camera, or do it the old-fashioned way with a journal or index card. When you see or hear something interesting, record it for later development and exploration with your team.
  • Become a proactive “idea-broker” and practice continuous cross-pollination– Develop solid, trusted relationships across departments and lines in your organization so that you can understand and apply the lessons you learn in one context to another. Combine learning and collaboration so that you become a conduit for fresh ideas for your team.
  • Embrace the power of storytelling – telling a story has an emotional appeal that transcends the raw data we often collect. Listen to your team. Encourage them to listen to those they come into contact with. Let the stories that come out of those conversations become the vehicles for communicating your message. It will be powerful, memorable, and uniquely yours.

Stop being ordinary TODAY. Reject routine and set yourself and your team on a course to becoming extraordinary.

The world will notice.

inspired by and adapted from The Big Moo, edited by Seth Godin

The Big Moo


Developing Your “Brand You”

All leaders are in sales.

You may not be selling a widget or a gizmo, but you are “selling” vision and ideas and momentum, and dozens of other powerful intangibles that are very real.

One of the keys to being successful in sales is being memorable. One important way to be memorable is to have a personal brand. Valerie Sokolosky, an executive coach, recommends that professionals build personal brand equity in the following 5 ways:

Brand yourself through your professional presence. First impressions count! What messages are your clothes, grooming, and posture presenting? Your outside appearance speaks volumes before you even open your mouth.

Brand yourself as a valued partner. What do you know about the group you are leading or the project you are trying to tackle? Take time to do research on the people, places, and process involved, and when you lead, you will be doing it from a solid knowledge base.

Brand yourself with strong communication skills. Learn how to quickly gauge the people and environment you are in. Is it appropriate for small talk first or is it time to get right to business?

Brand yourself by staying one step ahead. Anticipate what the group wants or needs. Anticipate what may be going on in the team. Be fully prepared for questions, and always be truthful when you’re asked something you don’t know. “I don’t know but I’ll find out” is always an acceptable answer.

Brand yourself as being socially savvy. In today’s world that means both interpersonal and digital skills. Be a good conversationalist, mixing and mingling as appropriate. Ask open-ended questions, and really listen.


How are you going to develop Brand You today?


Who Am I & How Did I Get Here?

You are today what you experienced yesterday. You are a function, today, of all of the life experiences you have had to date. These include, but are not limited to, your major accomplishments and significant setbacks.

Jerry Wilson and Ira Blumenthal, authors of “Managing Brand You,” have contributed a very helpful body of work to anyone wanting to explore the Brand You concept more thoroughly. Subtitle “Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self,” it draws on corporate and product branding techniques and applies them to becoming the person you want to be, with the life you want.

Step One of their process is to conduct a Brand You audit. In order to conduct an effective audit, the authors suggest that you take a methodical approach to understanding more about yourself – by looking into your past memories, feelings, and experiences in various stages of your life. Specifically, they suggest you imagine your life as a series of five distinct phases. Each phase is rich with experience and learning that influence your life.

Phase One comprises your childhood from birth to 12 years of age. The key word here is “memories” – your earliest memories and experiences shape your development in profound ways.

Phase Two covers your teen years from age 13 through age 17, and can best be characterized as years of “change.” The high school years are when you faced enormous challenges of acceptance and rejection, and more than likely include periods of confusion. Though only four short years, this time has played a big role in shaping who you today.

Phase Three encompasses your young adult years – from ages 18 through 22. It is in this time period that you first experienced “independence.” During these years, it is what you learn and reapply that will really matter to understanding a new you. What you learn from your experiences is  what you do to continue moving forward, to continue growing.

Phase Four is the period from ages 23 to 30, when you have reached adulthood. This is the “proving ground,” the period of establishing yourself as a real adult. It is a critical time for you: to be viewed, treated, and respected as an adult. The name you make for yourself will be a strong part of who you are becoming.

Phase Five is the longest phase, encompassing age 31 through your present age. This entire phase is about “adaptation.” By now, you are a fully functioning, full-fledged adult with all the responsibilities that go with adulthood. This longest phase represents the highest potential for growth and fulfillment. Looking at this phase with a opportunisitic and positive mindset will ensure that you continue to develop your Brand You.

Now it is time for you to dive into your own Brand You audit. Using the five phases of your life described above, the authors developed a worksheet designed to guide you through the process of a comprehensive survey of your life experiences, without regard to importance or relevance. Then, you identify the core themes from each life phase. Finally, you develop thee core themes into life-learning.

Want to know more? Check out page 49 for a blank audit form, with the following pages giving a real-life example.

If you are going to create the best Brand You possible, you’ve got to start with the experiences that made you, well, you!