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Ron Ashkenas

Ron Ashkenas

Posted: January 22, 2010 04:32 PM

Define Your Personal Brand With Simple Questions

What's Your Reaction:

Cross-posted from Harvard Business Online

What's your personal brand?

Though I've been writing for The Conversation for several months, this is the first post in my own, "personally branded" blog -- so readers who want to know what I'm thinking can access my thoughts more directly. But why someone would want to do that? (I'm guessing it's probably not because of the picture.)

Regardless of whether you also actively contribute content online, I believe this is a question that everyone should periodically address about themselves. We are all the chief branding officers of our own personal brands. We have the power to determine and control our own reputation, whether through our actions at the workplace or through what we decide to Tweet. We are able to create our own sense of distinctiveness, trust and confidence. In every environment, from the workplace to the Web, people make choices that affect their personal brand -- whether it is who to work with (and who to avoid), who to follow, who to "friend", or what special message to share in 140 characters.

How you manage your personal brand in any of these mediums will determine how others view you -- and ultimately shape your career and your life.

To crystallize your personal brand, ask yourself what you want to be known for -- what differentiates you from everyone else who might have a similar background or set of experiences? In other words, what skills, abilities, knowledge and attitudes do you have (or are developing) that will make people want to work with, follow or "friend" you -- online or off? What value can you create for others as a friend, blogger, colleague, teammate, boss or subordinate? And what will make you satisfied and fulfilled that you are indeed making a contribution?

These are tough questions, and admittedly, I have trouble answering them myself. But let me give it a shot: First, my "brand" of leadership insight is practical, straightforward and simple -- no complex theories or frameworks. In fact, much of my work is about taking complexity out of your company: I call this "simplicity-minded management." Second, the style of my brand is direct, challenging, and hopefully thought-provoking -- with ideas that are based on thirty years of consulting with some of the smartest (and toughest) managers in the world, from GE, Cisco, the World Bank, public sector organizations, hospitals, start-ups and everything in between.

So that's an overview of my personal brand. What's yours? What do you want to be known for? What sets you apart?