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Leadership

The Bravest Coward

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I’m 6’3″ 250 now — but I was a frail kid. Migraines, fainting spells, anxiety — and physically a weakling. I was tall but skinny. I couldn’t do push ups, pull-ups (which I still can’t do!) and could barely lift the bar on the bench press was I was 16. So physical strength was not something I knew until my 30s when I started lifting weights.

I had daily reminders of my lack of physical strength and stamina. Slow and awkward at recess games. Unable to lift irrigation pipes, saddles, close wire gates on the ranch. Bullied at school by kids whose own insecurities seemed to be attracted to whatever kick-my-ass pheromone my little body was releasing.

That frail Justin remains in me today at nearly 48 years old. My first reaction to any physical activity or challenge is “I can’t do this” or “I’m going to suck at this”. When I do physical things in a group, I assume that I will be amongst the laggards.

The past few years, I’ve returned to my true self, the original me. Yet to get there has required me to examine these other parts. (For more info on this approach, check out this article on Internal Family Systems). I’ve avoided this frail Justin part because … well … I don’t like him. I’ve buried him so deep in me because I’ve been afraid he would come back. But he never left and I never took the time to get to know him until recently.

In re-examining my journey, I saw that frail Justin was the bravest coward I’ve ever known. Despite feeling weak, fragile, puny and cowardly, he did a number of brave things:

  • In a 6th grade football game at recess, I saw that Todd Chavez (one of the better athletes — and also a frequent contributor to my misery) was about to blitz. I moved over to block him. And I sort of did. In the collision, I received a black eye and concussion — but he didn’t get to the QB.
  • I spent hundreds of hours outside at the ranch. There were all kinds of ways to get injured (which I did frequently) or even killed. I remember each day making a list of all the things that might hurt me — with the most imaginative stories. Like imagining what I would do if I stumbled across a hive of killer bees. Or if a serial killer showed up and held my family hostage. Or the Russians invaded (Thank you, Red Dawn!). But I did it all anyway. I rode horses and got bucked off, I rode motorcycles and wrecked them, I worked as an adult, I broke bones.
  • My sophomore year in high school. Walking down senior hall, I was suddenly surrounded by a group of bullies straight out of casting central of an 80s teen movie. Mullets, acne, chew tucked in to their lower lips, all sporting t-shirts from heavy metal bands. They started pushing me around; shoving me from one to another in their circle. Then something in me snapped. For the first time in my life, I fought back. I remember thinking, “they might kill me, but I’m taking a few of them with me.” And I fought back like the cornered animal I was. Throwing an elbow into the balls of one of them that jumped on my back. Kneeing another one in the face. Punching another one in the throat. They all got suspended (one expelled from the school) and I was — for a few days — a hero.
  • My junior year in high school, I went out for football. I was 5’11, 125 pounds and ran a 6.85 40 (in case you were wondering, turtles are faster). I got destroyed in tackling drills, I puked during the conditioning — and when the season started, I played a grand total of 5 plays for the entire season. One day in practice, the head coach (more than a little crazy) decided to pit the bigger offensive/defensive lineman against some of the smaller kids on the team. One of them was Steve Woodcock. An 18-year who looked 28 with a full beard and mean temper. The coach yelled at Woodcock “If you let Foster tackle you, then we all run sprints”. Here he came. He outweighed me by probably 100 pounds so I knew I couldn’t take him head on. So I decided to jump on his chest. I wove my fingers into his practice jersey and held on. He tried to push me off but couldn’t. As we neared the goal line, I began to slip. Which caused him to trip and fall on top of me about one yard from the end zone. With a spewing of profanity and threats, we all ran sprints. And it was probably the only time I’ve ever run with a smile on my face.

There were many other brave things. Stories maybe for another time. But in my 20s, 30s and into my early 40s, I kept that Justin tucked away in a dark corner; a distant memory. A reminder of what I did not want to become ever again. I covered him up with size, strength, bravado, brashness. But he was still there.

And in the last year, he came out again. But I noticed something this time. He was still brave. Brave enough to move to an entirely new state and start over after 20 years. Brave enough to walk away from the church I attended for pretty much my entire life. Brave enough to start a (another) new business. Brave enough to accept my life-long partner/wife’s awakening of who she truly is. Terrified by all of this, he did it all anyway.

Yes, this Justin is weak. Thank goodness. I’m more certain than ever that our weaknesses are designed to make us ask for help, keep us humble. I would much rather have a powerful soul and a frail body than a frail soul and a powerful body. I would not have known this without my weaknesses. I would not have asked God for help. I would not have gone back to therapy. I would have not spoken the truth if not for these weaknesses.

Of course, there are parts of me that I’m very proud of: being a dad, speaking skills, coaching/mentoring, strategic thinking, owning a business, writing intellect, etc. These things have fueled my confidence for years. And they still do. But added to this is a growing acceptance and confidence of this frail Justin. The bravest coward I’ve ever met.

How Do You Become an Original Thinker?

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Steven Pinker: A contemporary example of an original thinker.

I had recently gave a breakfast talk to a group of finance/ops executives in Austin. The presentation was called “How You Lead is Your Brand” and it made the case that leadership and brand are directly connected. I proposed that brand is no longer just an external construct but the cumulative result of leadership beliefs, behaviors and standards. As part of my presentation, I proposed that we need a new kind of leader in this post-industrial age era we call the Human Age. One of the traits of this leader is to be an original thinker.

One of the attendees reached out to me and asked to meet for coffee. We met up this morning and in the course of our visit he asked me this question:“How do you become an original thinker?” I thought this was a great question so wanted to share my response to his question.

First, there are two primary indicators that you are an original thinker:

  • Original thinkers have original ideas. People frequently tell you “I’ve never thought of that before!” We live in an information-saturated world full of meme-madness and a parroting of books, “inspirational quotes” and the ilk — what I call being a karaoke singer. Original thinkers are not fans or followers of any particular thought-leader. Of course, they will be inspired and even admire certain figures, but they see themselves as peers not groupies.

The ideas of an original thinker are often heretical and threatening to the status quo, which leads to this trait …

  • Original thinkers are immune to identity politics and refuse to be jammed in to any particular box. As such, original thinkers frequently offend conventional wisdom, corporate institutionalists, political ideologues, religious dogmatists and politically correct “social justice warriors”. This produces an array of reflexive and under-thinking haters and trolls that will try to silence them or mis-label them.

Now back to my new friend’s question on HOW …

The first step is to go inward. When coaching people on original thinking, I/we start with three questions:

  1. What have you always known to be true? (What did you know that you weren’t taught)
  2. What idea or principle would you be willing to commit civil disobedience over? (I asked this in my talk)
  3. Who will you most offend? (See above!)

The second step is to pick up some specific skills — like learning to confidently speaking on your ideas, becoming a prolific creator/sharer of original content, learning to relate with every human that crosses your path, embracing the discipline of reading, becoming a master of personal growth and more.

The third step is to begin to express your ideas. This could be speaking up in a meeting, challenging a teacher in class, pushing back against dogma in a conversation. It could be starting a blog, writing a book, teaching a workshop. Regardless of format, just start expressing! Life will present you many opportunities to share your ideas, but you must be willing to do so.

Finally, an original thinker thrives on being uncomfortable through self-examination, skepticism and questioning everything. This includes being physically uncomfortable at times (it’s no coincidence that most original thinkers frequently take cold showers!) It is nearly impossible to become an original thinker by being in comfort mode — drifting through life with a maintenance mindset. All of which numbs the mind and the soul and robs you of original thought.

Many thanks to my new friend for sparking this with his thoughtful (and original) question!

I have a curated list of original thinkers across business, society, personal growth, spirituality, creativity and more. Send me a DM and I will send you my list!

The High Cost of Fear Goggles

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We humans are pre-wired with a heightened sense of fear — which is rooted in the ego. For thousands of years, this heightened sense of fear was a necessary element for the survival and advancement of our species. As we’ve become more “civilized”, these primal traits remain. Yet they are used for much less threatening circumstances.

Unless you are a trauma survivor.

For trauma survivors, these primal instincts are further amplified. In fact, recent breakthrough brain research shows that trauma triggers deep-seated survival components that are manifested in PTSD, depression and other mental health issues.

That’s the science. This is the story.

I have noticed in myself a marked increase in fear the past couple of years. I used to be bold to the point of recklessness and brashness. But now as I’ve experienced a deep and transformative awakening, I noticed a much higher level of fear. From low-grade unease to abject terror. To some extent this makes sense. When you awaken, you feel everything.

I tried to explain fear away — “It’s just past trauma”.

I tried to mantra fear away — “Fear is a liar!”

I tried to pray fear away — “Please take this cup from me”

It was only when I turned in to the fears that I began to understand them. In short, I discovered I’d been wearing “fear goggles”. My perspective was being twisted by past experiences and changing how I saw things. Not just in small ways but in destructive, tyrannical ways.

Fear goggles made me …

  • See everything as a problem to solve.
  • See everything and everyone with a threat level assessment.
  • Create little false worlds or situations that I could control.
  • Either idolize or villainize people — especially those I love.
  • See myself as a victim.
  • See people as objects.
  • Visualize the worst case scenario in even the most benign situations.
  • Assume that something was deeply wrong with me; that I was permanently damaged in some way.
  • Look back with regret or nostalgia.
  • Create conflict in order to feel in control or powerful.
  • Look forward with delusion, dread or anxiety.
  • Lose my faith and spiritual vision.
  • Try to get comfort from more information and more data.
  • Possessive and greedy.
  • Not trust anyone or anything.

In times past, I would occasionally exchange fear goggles for rose colored glasses — an irrational hopefulness and recklessness disguised as positivity and optimism. This inevitably lead to more trauma, more disappointment — which lead to more fear. And back went on the fear goggles.

My path to freeing myself of fear goggles began with awareness (seeing that I was wearing them) and then advanced to this realization: wearing fear goggles is entirely a choice. Fear is a primal response. And all primal responses can be over-ridden by the one thing that elevates humans above all other creatures: the power of choice.

Getting rid of my fear goggles frees me to see that there are real problems to solve and sometimes real fears to confront. But it also frees me to see all of my resources and assets. It frees me to see my own worth. It frees me to see others as humans. It frees me to use my natural gifts.

By choosing to remove the fear goggles, I can see … the truth, the reality and the mystical.

 

Is Your Brand Doing These Two Things?

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As I/we have often written about, brand and branding is not what it used to be. It is no longer an external construct based on perception and image. It’s not about demographics, campaigns, ad spend.

So what is it?

We say that a brand is how other people experience what you believe.

This means that your brand must successfully and consistently do two things:

Emit Love

Create Trust

Love is the ultimate “bacon” aroma that a brand can generate. It literally means triggering oxytocin in the people that touch the brand. But it’s so much bigger than that. Love makes your brand un-copyable, unbreakable, timeless. Love turns your employees into ambassadors and your customers into your shareholders. Love makes your competitors shrink – or rise to the occasion. Love can’t be bought with Taco Tuesday’s nor with discounts. Love is earned through the daily habits of an organization – starting with its top leaders. One of these habits is self-care – leaders that invest in the holistic well-being of themselves and the people they lead.

Trust is what happens when you consistently emit love. Trust allows you to fail, make mistakes and otherwise be a human. Trust shows up in a thousand ways – from empowering your employees to truly help your customers to proactively listening to the needs of your customers. Trust means using branding and marketing language and tools that encourage, invite, inspire and saying no to manipulation, persuasion and saturation. Trust means building your brand as a word-of-mouth machine – knowing that the more trust you generate, the more your brand will grow. Trust means always seeing the humanity in your decisions.

My question to all leaders is this …

If your brand doesn’t emit love and create trust, what are you asking your marketing team to do?

The Top 5 Branding Practices of Contemporary Leaders

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Before I dive in to the Top 5 branding practices, let’s do a level-set on terminology. Just as societies update their language and tech companies update their products, the branding/marketing space needs some new definitions.

Here are ours:

Brand: How other people experience what you believe.

Branding: The process of making yourself available to those looking for you.

Marketing: Any activity that amplifies a mission and message – especially around relationships, experiences and content.

These changing definitions of traditional terms have also brought about a bevy of changes in the roles and definitions of a leader. Until about 2010, brand and branding were the responsibility of the marketing department. Because of hyper-connectivity, emphasis on culture and greater sensitivity to brand experiences, brand and branding are now the responsibility of every leader and the people they lead.

As these massive changes take hold in brands large and small, a new set of leadership behaviors and habits is emerging. I am simply calling them the 5 Branding Practices of Contemporary Leaders.

  1. Fire the a**holes. Every day there are new headlines about abusive, churlish behavior from people in places of authority and influence. When these type of people are allowed to entrench in a company culture, they will eventually (and sometimes quickly) damage your brand. Surly, crude people spread negative energy and toxicity within an organization – which shows up in the poor customer experiences, lack of innovation and a negative/damaged reputation.
  2. Be an Original Thinker. With the daily onslaught of information overload from articles, podcasts, books, videos, workshops, etc, it’s easy for a leader to become a karaoke singer for other people’s ideas and content. My great friend Brandon Wrightsays it best: “Listen to everyone but think for yourself”. This requires setting aside even a few minutes for inner work: contemplation, awareness, observation of thoughts. It means being a healthy skeptic and questioning everything. This practice prevents brand from becoming cliches – using the same language as everyone else.
  3. Be Different, Not Just Better. Everyone talks about disruption but there’s not a lot of disrupting going on in brands – especially in marketing and advertising. The authors of the book “Play Bigger” do an excellent job of making the case that you can’t be slightly better and build a great brand – that you need to be a “Category King”. This practice of being truly different requires a leader with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence), a deep sense of self-worth, an insatiable curiosity and the political juice to actually execute something different.
  4. Say No. One of our many mantras at Root + River is: “You build a business/career by saying yes. You build a brand by saying no.” Saying no is about setting standards and holding to them. This means saying no to tactics that are not aligned with a strategy. This means saying no to policies and processes that hurt people or manipulate them. It means saying no to scarcity thinking that so permeates many organizations. This practice requires a leader who is a clear thinker and doesn’t confuse action with activity.
  5. Be a Human. Perfection is a myth – a myth often supported by internal propaganda and external perception management. The truth is that we humans are messy. We make mistakes. We lead ideas that fail. We easily slip into ego-centric behavior. But its this messiness that grows cultures, influences outside perceptions and is the seedbed of improvement and innovation. This practice requires a leader that can deftly do two things: 1) Speak like a human. No corporate jargon, buzzwords, cliches. 2) See the humans in every decision. When you make people the center of your brand, every decision impacts them.

These five leadership practices emphasize the three core tenets of 21st century branding: Mission, Message and Machine. They reinforce and grow the individual missions that become the over-arching company mission. They become the language of the brand via message. Not rote, saturation or persuasion but a steady invitation to believe what you believe. They amplify and prove the value of a contemporary marketing machine – especially around relationships (employees, customers, influencers, communities), experiences and original, consistent content/stories.

These five practices can be adopted by everyone in an organization – but must first be modeled by senior leadership. Once adopted, these practices provide an organic source for brand growth, innovation, quality control, recruiting, customer retention, social reputation and much more.

The Courage to Listen

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Photo Credit: Evolving Science

It takes compassion and discipline to listen to others. To truly be present in the moment and listen to their words, their body language and their energy. Most of us (myself very much included) don’t do this. So we miss many opportunities to love, serve, extend kindness.

It takes something different to listen to the voice of our own soul: courage. Most of us don’t do this either. Because it’s terrifying. The voice of the soul is always counter to the life we crafted. So to listen to it is to set fire to all we’ve carefully constructed. But some do listen and begin to organize their lives and priorities around what this voice is whispering.

I have witnessed this act of courage on many occasions the past year.

I have seen it in the work Emily and I do at Root + River — where every single client came to us (either by serendipity or word-of-mouth) after saying “yes” to the voice. Each time, it required a re-organizing and re-purposing — often of very comfortable and secure lives.

I’ve seen it in those sent to me to mentor through a “what’s next” happening in their lives. After what is often many years of ignoring it, they began to listen. Or they had a cataclysmic event happen that awoke the voice. In listening they could see — that what they had thought was important and urgent was neither important nor urgent. And what was important and urgent was to listen to that voice.

I’ve seen it in my immediate family and closest friends — embracing their true selves at the expense of lighting fire or walking away from the movie set they’d built for their life. At the expense of trading the picture in their head for the voice in their soul. At the expense of relationships that were crudely pieced together to create a facsimile of family or love.

And I’ve witnessed it in my own life — in often starkly painful ways. The whisper to leave Boise and move to Austin. The clear insistence to build a new kind of branding practice with Emily. The quite but always-there prompt to encourage my wife of 25+ years to go find herself. The calling away from the church I’d attended with regularity for nearly 43 years. The push to begin sharing my musings I hear in my soul with the world. And a thousand or more other prompts, urges, whispers, pushes, pulls for a variety of moments.

All that have finally listened to this voice report a similar thread. That the voice is like drums in the distance, or a heartbeat, or the roar of a distance river, or the pounding of the surf. When the first act of courage occurs (to acknowledge this often far off sound), a new act of courage emerges — to step towards it. In doing so you begin to hear more clearly. Until you are close enough that it, indeed, it as as clear as a direct whisper in the ear.

Here’s what I know about this voice …

  • It doesn’t have a Plan B.
  • It is directly destructive of your current plans and ideas for success.
  • It uses no logic but makes complete sense.
  • It is always supported by what appear to be random coincidences and occurrences.
  • Those that have ignored this voice in themselves will be your greatest detractors.
  • It will produce some sort of creative output: writing, singing, art, spoken word.

Once tuned in, you can hear it all the time. Like living right on the shore of a river rather than hearing it from a distance. What did it say to me this morning?

Write about the courage to listen to this voice.

Annoyance-Inspired Innovation

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Innovation is a fickle and sporadic muse. A strange blend of research, failure, awareness and sometimes divine inspiration. Like all creative endeavors, there is no set formula. But there are patterns for innovation.

One such pattern is the removal of annoyances.

We tend to think of innovation as solving huge problems or creating a must-have product or inventing an entirely new category. But sometimes innovation is in the small things.

In our over-saturated, over-booked, over-whelmed lives, annoyances become the mosquito in the tent. Not really a threat but certainly damned distracting. In brands, these annoyances create friction points that competitors can later use to differentiate. Think Blockbuster’s late fees vs Netflix.

With some awareness, we can see thousands of these annoyances – each of which are someone’s business opportunity and/or differentiator. A few examples …

Southwest Airlines – They are brilliant at removing annoyances that are SOP for other airlines. Most famously, their bags-fly-free policy. This also includes their innovative on-boarding process, their flexibility with changing flights and using rewards and their entertaining safety briefings. Southwest didn’t invent a different kind of air travel nor did they create a new travel industry. They simply built a brand with smart business decisions, having fun and making the customer experience as annoyance-free as possible.

Amazon – As Amazon came on to the scene, they knew they had to remove as much friction as possible from the search-and-buy process. Any friction points would amplify the highly conditioned bias to “go the store” vs “buy on-line”. There are many ways that Amazon has mitigated annoyance but the best example is one of their most simplest: Amazon Prime. By eliminating shipping and handling fees, Amazon created instance viscosity. They made the value proposition and promise very clear: being a Prime member is a great deal. Now we click-and-buy with ease. Sometimes too easily!

Zoom – Having suffered through the experience of being a GoToMeeting user as well as dabbling in other virtual platforms, I learned about Zoom. Zoom appears to have reverse engineered all of the annoying things about GoToMeeting. You can easily talk to a person. It’s less expensive and has more features. The UI on both the backend and the participant sides is supremely better. And the biggest annoyance of all – minimal to zero tech issues (I’ve had a Zoom session 20+ times and have never had an issue connecting to audio or video).

As mentioned, the opportunities to build a brand around removing annoyances are everywhere. Look in every sector and segment of life and you will find annoyances – the friction points and burs of poor design, dumb policies, missing features. You don’t have to create gold from thin air. It’s in the seams and cracks of modern life.

The Ego Test

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We all have an ego. It’s part of the operating system that runs the human app. This is not a surprise. I’m certain that everyone has some varying degree of awareness of their own ego. Even if the old ego=pride definition is applied, it still shows some awareness that there’s a part of us that can be corrosive and destructive if we allow it. The sharp increase in the practicing of mindfulness has also brought greater awareness to the presence and influence of ego.

The first thing to know is that we need to stop trying to kill our egos. We need the ego. It contains a large portion of our identity. It makes us alert and situationally aware for threats and opportunities. It provides the drive to hunt, achieve, perform. It fuels passion and charisma. The issue is not that the ego is some sort of defect in the human app. The issue is that the ego is constantly in pursuit of trying to take control.

In short, the ego makes for a great employee but a tyrannical boss.

As such, it is an essential skill to learn how to be aware (quickly!) that our ego is running our lives.

I simply call this The Ego Test.

While there are certainly variances based on behavioral profiles and external conditioning, the red flags of ego are universal. They include:

  • Comparison. This is the #1 indicator that the ego is the boss. To put it directly, all comparison is of the ego. And from it springs jealousy, attachment, insecurity, unworthiness and many other destructive reactions.
  • Judging your feelings. “I should feel X.” “I shouldn’t feel Y”. Your feelings are just your feelings. Yet the ego puts a good-to-bad or right-to-wrong spectrum on them in order to label and to control.
  • Self-Righteousness. This may be the most deceiving trait of the ego; where we become convinced in our rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. Skepticism and rational (two key elements of being a free thinker) can’t co-exist with self-righteousness. This is the essence of extremism.
  • Lack of Compassion. By design, the ego doesn’t have compassion. It’s the primal side of us that is needed for survival. And compassion and survival are in direct conflict with each other. So if we begin to lose our ability to see our own humanity or soul and the humanity and souls in others, we know the ego is in charge.
  • Self Absorption. The ego loves the role of Victim. By attaching our ego to our suffering, we become so consumed by our pain that the pain itself becomes becomes our identity. This means we spend our days in a personal hell of torment and lose our capacity for gratitude and compassion.

Once you begin to be aware of these indicators, you can then begin to learn how to make your ego a productive, efficient employee. But that’s a separate post.

Why You Won’t (or Can’t) Opt-In

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A few years ago, my business/creative partner Emily Soccorsy and I coined the term “Opt-Iners”. We use this term to describe the millennial-minded mature leaders (40+ years old) that are opting into the new way of doing business – what we call “being human”. Opt-Iners are self-aware, heart-centric, spiritually curious, tech savvy and adventurous. All very necessary traits in building and growing 21st century brands.

Emily’s recent post entitled “The Most Terrifying Question You Can Ask You” got me thinking – which lead me to this question … why wouldn’t someone opt-in? The evidence is clear that the era of command-and-control leadership, treating humans as capital and treating consumers as idiots is over. Why hold on to any vestiges of that era?

Here could be why …

  1. Industrial-Age Mindset What made a leader a successful in the Industrial Age wrecks organizations and people in the Human Age. From health benefits to workloads to performance metrics to safety, all the ways a company treated people in the Industrial Age are over. You can no longer hurt people, discriminate, suppress, wreck the environment, etc (not that there aren’t still more subtle ways of doing these). Yet much of the Industrial Age thinking remains. A great example is this … in the Industrial Age, you moved the people by moving the numbers (quotas, performance bonuses, productivity metrics, etc). In the Human Age, you move the numbers by moving the people. If you have an Industrial Age mindset about what moves people, it is impossible to opt-in.
  2. Linear Thinking. This is very much related to above. The Industrial Age produced straight lines to improve efficiency, productivity, output. Marketing was a straight line between product and target market. Recruiting was a straight line between job and skillset. In the Human Age, everything is spherical. It’s messy. It’s unclear. It takes a leader to see the patterns and rhythms – and linear thinking is the enemy of spherical thinking. If you see everything as a Point A to Point B activity with a series of processes and checkboxes, it is impossible to opt-in.
  3. Hours in the Office. It’s no longer viable to be addicted to work. Yet thousands of leaders wage a war of attrition with their minds, bodies and souls around how many hours they spend in the office, how they are never disconnected. A cynical view is that vacation time for most leaders is a time to recover enough to go back to grist mill of their role and job responsibilities – like a military leave from a combat zone. In the Human Age, Opt-In leaders measure things through energy acquired and spent. This is partially why EQ and mindfulness are such a hot topic in the business world lately. When you measure things through time spent, it is impossible to opt-in.
  4. Lack of Self Care. Addiction, depression, anxiety and suicides are tragically at an all time high. Too many leaders treating themselves and their people like rental cars or disposable razors. Too much of a massive gap between the real person and the job person. In the Industrial Age, you kept your emotional and spiritual (and often literal) wounds to yourself. You showed up. Because you had to. In the Human Age, these wounds, if left untreated, will wreck your career and hurt the people around you at work and at home. In the Human Age, if you aren’t taking care of you first, its impossible to opt-in.

Each one these areas are a choice. No one can make you do, think or feel anything. So if these resonated with you as reasons why you haven’t opted-in, I encourage you to examine your attachments, beliefs and fears. These three are the root of why we don’t grow, don’t change, don’t evolve. For those of us that have opted-in, it’s essential that we show compassion to those leaders that haven’t. This is not some character flaw. These are not dumb people. They are simply afraid and need some encouragement.

Becoming a Producer Brand

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For the sake of a unified definition, a Producer is anyone that makes a living primarily off commissions and fees. This would include commissioned sales people, financial planners, realtors, CPAs, attorneys – to name a few.

If you are a Producer, you have a brand. Its a combination of the energy you bring into the room, the compiled experiences your clients have with you and the way you interact with others on-line and off-line.

None of that is new information. Most Producers have been avid consumers of books and tips on how to work a room, how to create influence, how to nurture a reputation. What may be new for you if you are a Producer is that you have so much more potential within your brand.

Here are 4 simple but effective ways to boost your brand as a Producer:

  1. Start Speaking. Not about your success as a Producer or about your area of expertise, but your experience as a human being. Each of us have overcome a lot to get where we are at. Within this overcoming is likely your mission – and a series of stories that the world needs to hear. Most audiences have plenty of information. What they need is inspiration. By sharing your sorrows and triumphant, you are showing the world your true self – not a construct designed to just hit your numbers.
  2. Take a Stand. Most Producers have learned that doing good in the community is good for their brand. Most are quite generous with time, money and energy with causes they want to get behind. What if you took it up a notch? What if you took a stand for an idea or purpose that’s intrinsically important to you. We Producers have been taught to fit in, don’t rock the boat, don’t be controversial. This leads to sameness. Instead, find that thing that sets your soul on fire and get behind it.
  3. Write. And Write Some More. The most untapped area of a Producer’s brand is around consistently crafting content in order to become a thought-leader. Whether you use LinkedIn, Medium or some other platform, writing original, thoughtful content about your industry, your area of expertise, your mission, your story are all force multipliers that contribute to your brand as a thought-leader.
  4. Invest in You. The Producer’s life is intense and high pressure. We pour out ourselves to our clients, to prospects, to partners, to family. We don’t live in the magical world of getting a salary every two weeks. This leaves very little left for yourself. When a Producer gets emptied out, they lose their passion and drive. This is when depression, anxiety, addiction sneak in and start running your life. Taking a pause – even if just a day – to re-connect to yourself, examine your thoughts and feelings, to think about the future will make you a better, more reliable Producer.

If you are a Producer, I’m very curious to hear from you about what you do to work on your brand. Reply below or drop me a note at justin at rootandriver dot com.