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What Seth Godin Told Me about Building a Strong Personal Brand

I recently interviewed Seth Godin for the next episode of the Leadership Lab podcast. Of course, I want you to listen to the podcast when it launches June 26th, but I simply couldn’t wait to share with you a piece of advice that Seth divulged in our conversation.

Seth and I discussed (among other things) building a strong personal brand and he shared a key idea with me: when you join an organization your “boss and coworkers know little about you. So, when you show up to work the first day your haircut and the clothes you are wearing, they are screaming something about you the same way that the logo at Harley Davidson screams something. Then, over time, you are making promises and keeping them…”

This idea is critical if you are starting your career, changing jobs, or moving organizations. It’s also important if you are looking to reposition yourself in your current role.

He went on to explain that we either make or break those promises based on our choices. The choices we make and the behaviors we exhibit become our brand. He shared that if he were restarting his career, he “would invest a lot of emotional labor into building a brand that would make [him] a premium product.”

I finished the interview and shortly after I listened back to the recording. I found myself hitting pause after Seth’s comments about becoming a premium product to ask myself a few questions:

• What promises do I make?

• Do I make promises sparingly and keep them at all costs?

• How are the promises I make and the actions I take shaping my brand?

• Am I building a ‘premium product’? Do I even know what that means?

• How invested am I in building and maintaining a ‘premium product’?

Not Sure Where to Start?

Here are 5 basic workplace behaviors to help you to get it right…

Joining a new workplace, taking on a new job, or working to reposition yourself can be daunting! The foundation of building yourself into a premium product stems from little actions you take in daily workplace activities.

To that end, I offer 5 quick and easy workplace behavior tips. Although simple, and seemingly straightforward, these 5 things are often forgotten or overlooked in the rush of the day-to-day. By practicing and applying these skills, you will help yourself quickly become a standout and be well on the road to building yourself into a premium product!

1. Dress to impress

In the day and age of coffee shop workplaces and sit/stand desks, it can be hard to know what to wear in your new office. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on company dress code. Trust me, whoever hired you will want you to show up looking your best as you are a direct reflection of him or her. For some workplaces, “casual” may still mean button downs and dress shoes, while for others it may be flip flops and shorts. Never be afraid to ask your co-workers.

2. Answer the phone promptly and correctly

No doubt at some point you have fumbled through an awkward phone call, whether it was a wrong number or odd request. Keep yourself from being that person, by always answering your phone promptly and correctly. Shy away from lengthy monologues (unless required by your organization.) State your name and organization upfront and allow the caller time to respond to you. For example, “Thank you for calling XYZ. This is Jack.”

3. Write follow up emails

Everyone likes to be appreciated and acknowledged, so it’s safe to assume that your clients, peers, and managers will be happy to receive follow-up emails. However, workplace inboxes are constantly flooded with information and requests. Keep follow-up emails brief and to the point, even including the purpose of the email in the subject line (i.e. “Response Requested: Follow Up Action Items from Today’s Meeting.”) Let your reader know within the first sentence if a response or follow-up work is required on their end.

4. Small talk, in and out of the office

Small talk can be incredibly awkward or incredibly productive, depending on your outlook and approach. Whether you’re eating lunch in the break room or mingling at the office holiday party, it’s important to keep your cool and know how to keep the conversation flowing. Always remember, to keep small talk light; your counterpart may choose to share personal details or pull up family photos, but never pry or push for those kinds of details.

5. Workplace relationships

From the day you interview to the day you retire, you are in a relationship with every single co-worker, manager, customer, and vendor (whether you like it or not.) One of the most important aspects of healthy workplace relationships is learning to navigate conflict. It’s through differences of opinion and respectful critique that new ideas are able to grow and flourish. When faced with conflict, always examine yourself first and do your best to push aside biases before engaging. And always keep in mind that everyone you interact with has a life outside of the office – your co-worker’s seemingly heated response about an upcoming presentation may have nothing to do with work and everything to do with her life outside of the 9-5.

I wish you all the best as you work on creating the best premium product possible – you!


Listen to Patrick’s podcast conversation with Seth Godin here.

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