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Personal Branding: Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway

Scheff Shares

For those that weren’t able to attend the Personal Branding Workshop hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce Young Business Professionals Committee, I thought it would be helpful to share the information that I discussed with the group. My portion of the workshop was focused on finding your true, authentic voice that’s at the center of your personal brand.  

One thing that is a blessing and a curse is I have to write out any of the speeches I make before I make them so that I can process, practice, and have a reference point in the talk. In this situation, that paid off because I can now very easily share portions of that talk with you. Enjoy! 

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway 

There are many aspects to your personal brand. As business people, especially in client driven and relationship driven businesses, your personal brand can end up being the deciding factor when clients are choosing who they want to work with.  

Whether you’re actively doing so or not, each one of you already has a personal brand. Personal brands are often synonymous with reputation, and everyone has a reputation. Whether or not you take steps to develop that reputation is the question. Building a personal brand is about taking control of your reputation, taking steps to develop it, and using it to maximize your business.  

It’s not a matter of whether you should create a personal brand but rather a question of whether you want to transform your reputation into a personal brand and leverage that to maximize your business.  

So much of being a lawyer is building a reputation and a brand. We have to distinguish ourselves from other lawyers and we have to ensure that we remain top of mind. We never know really know when a seed that we’ve planted will begin to grow or bear fruit. 

I treat the Scheffette as an extension of myself and I infuse my authentic voice into all aspects of the Scheffette. I was very intentional about the name and the sections because I wanted it to form part of my personal brand.What do I mean by authentic voice? Well, we all have “voices” that we use in different contexts.  

Authentic Voice

Broadly speaking, we have our internal voice or our internal narrative. We have our external voice or speaking voice. We have different voices for different situations, different groups of people. Sometimes we even have different voices inside our own minds that contribute to our internal dialogue. Sometimes this internal dialogue is anxious, impulsive, supportive and uplifting, or entrepreneurial and brave.  

The way I think of the authentic voice is it’s the voice that comes most naturally – the voice that makes us feel like we’re being ourselves. This natural voice is the voice that is your genuine voice. That voice inside that wants the best for you. The voice that feels empowered. The voice that pushes you to step outside your comfort zone.  

For some of us, this voice might be quiet, and it might be buried underneath a louder, more dominant voice. That dominant voice can get in the way of our success and doing the things we were meant to do. I had an anxiety gremlin that was my dominant voice for most of my life and I was able to quiet the gremlin and let my authentic voice take over.   

When you focus on making your personal brand synonymous with your true self it becomes automatic. You don’t have to think about if the way you are acting is consistent with your personal brand because it’s you. It’s who you are. You know better than anyone how to be you and you know better than anyone what goes into being you. People see such a small portion of us and really only what we share with them and allow them to see.  

Our personal brands are no different and I’m not saying that in order to be authentic that you need to share every personal detail and bear your whole self to the public. That’s not what I mean by being authentic. Authentic is being present; it’s being engaged; it’s being consistent; and it’s acting with integrity.  

Using this authentic voice in our personal brand can feel intimidating because we might be worried that our customers, clients, or colleagues won’t like this voice. Using this voice can also make us feel vulnerable and a bit like we’re bearing our soul.  

Barriers to Using Your Authentic Voice

There are also barriers that can get in the way of using our authentic voice. Anxiety and self-doubt can be a major barrier for many people. It was for me for many, many years. I have only recently discovered my authentic voice and felt confident and empowered to use it.  

In my personal brand, I am quite vulnerable, and I put a lot of myself out there and on the table. That can be terrifying at times, but ultimately, it’s what feels good to me. It’s when I feel like I’m being my authentic self and using that authentic voice, which is most consistent with my personal brand.  

That wasn’t a switch that I was able to flip over night and it likely won’t be for you either. Using this authentic voice is a little mini leap that I take each day; each time I attend an event and network; in the way I interact with clients and colleagues; when I publish each issue of the Scheffette; and when I speak at events. It’s an intentional choice. 

People gravitate toward authenticity and for the most part, people can tell when someone is being fake or putting on a façade.  

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”. Creating a personal brand is the embodiment of that quote. It is not comfortable and it’s deciding that you’re going to put yourself out there and create a brand despite your fear; despite your reservations; and despite that voice in your head telling you to stay in your comfort zone.  

Creating The Scheffette was very outside my comfort zone. I spent most of my life with this little gremlin on my shoulder – my anxiety gremlin. We spent a lot of time together over the years and I did and didn’t do a lot of things due to what this little gremlin told me. She focused heavily on what other people already thought of me or what they would think of me. She focused on ensuring I didn’t damage my reputation in anyway. She didn’t like to take risks and she really liked ensuring that I acted in a very proper and perfect manner. She has been with me for as long as I can remember.  

How did I get from having an anxiety gremlin taking up residence on my shoulder to serving her with an eviction notice? Being well medicated and EMDR therapy. Those were life changing therapies that helped me put her to rest, but she still comes to visit from time to time. Sometimes she brings her sister, self-doubt and they have a party on my shoulder. I’ve learned how to shut the party down, feel the fear, and do it anyway. I did this because I knew that would be essential to transforming my personal brand.  

When you’re in a business where you’re the product, your personal brand is essential. As a lawyer, I am the product. I hope that my personal brand tells my clients everything they need to know about working with me; as I hope that yours does for you. 

Personal Brand and Personal Values

With that in mind, transforming your personal brand should start with giving thought to what you value the most. Some people may have a really strong sense of what they value the most. I was that way. I have always had a very strong, core set of values that have been important to me. But if you’re not quite sure what your values are, here is an exercise to get you started: 

Imagine you’re at your 80th birthday party and you’re celebrating 8 decades on Earth and all that you’ve accomplished. Ask yourself the following questions and write down the first three to five answers that come to mind: 

  1. Who is at my party? 
  2. What do people love bout me? 
  3. How have I impacted people’s live? 
  4. What have I accomplished in life? 

Then reflect on what your answers say about your values. You may notice some themes emerge – they may not be obvious at first but explore why those answers were the first to come to mind. Knowing what your values are will help you to figure out what you want your personal brand to showcase about you.  

You cannot be all things to all people. I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, no matter how much I’d like to be. It could be because of my personality, my beliefs, how I carry myself, the way I look, the way I talk, or where I’m from. But when you know and accept that you cannot be all things to all people it takes some of the pressure off because you can just focus on being yourself. You have to remind yourself that you will attract the kinds of people, clients, and opportunities that you want just by being yourself.  

Figuring out who I am, what makes me happy, what I enjoy, and how I like to spend my time – along with my values – helped me to infuse myself into my personal brand because I knew exactly what made up my personal brand; all that was left was to figure out how to share that and leverage it.  

When we think of transforming our personal brand and bridging the gap between figuring out what our personal brand is and then actually having a successful personal brand, there is a lot that needs to go on in between. It’s not as simple as snapping our fingers and just making it happen. 

Perception and Control

One thing that is vital about personal branding is remembering that you cannot control the way that people perceive you. You might be thinking, isn’t that the point of a personal brand? Yes, while you are trying to create a reputation and you are trying to control the way that people perceive you, you have to remember that you cannot actually control those things.  

For instance, I can control every single word that goes into The Scheffette. I can be extremely deliberate, I can do my very best to convey a certain trait, a certain emotion, or a certain level of legal competency (thus trying to control the way people are perceiving me); but I have to remind myself that no matter how much time or effort I put into trying to control these things, I am not in someone else’s brain. I could have the best intentions and that issue just might not land.  

Something else to consider when you’re actively trying to transform your personal brand: everything you do is a reflection of your personal brand. Every interaction you have, whether its with a client, colleague, or a stranger on the street and every piece of work that your name is attached to in one way or another contributes to your personal brand. 

Whether you are just starting out in your personal branding journey or you have already built a successful personal brand, remember that the process of personal branding is never done and you should allow your personal brand to grow and change with you.  

If you’re at a stage in your journey where you’re feeling stuck or are letting your gremlins lead the conversation: feel the fear and do it anyway. 

About the Author

Charlene Scheffelmair is a partner with Davidson & Williams LLP in Lethbridge, Alberta. She practices primarily in the areas of corporate and commercial law; residential and commercial real estate; estate administration and planning; and foreclosures.

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