This is the time of the year where we get to wipe the slate clean and start planning for all of the things we are going to do differently next year. We tell ourselves, “I didn’t hit my goals or objectives this year, but next year, yes, next year will be different”. There are many reasons why our plans end up failing: not enough clarity, not enough accountability, not enough discipline, or maybe the planning was just an exercise we never intended to follow through on in the first place. However, one key element absolutely contributes, and it is our lack of clarity about where we should even be spending our time.
A symptom of that lack of clarity is all of the distractions that find us during the course of the year. Issues, tasks and problems seem to find us and take us away from those things we should really be doing. We tend to blame others, but we, ourselves, are always at least partially to blame. First of all, we tend to look for ways to keep from doing the harder jobs. As an example, producers will allow themselves to end up doing service work rather than prospecting and making sales calls. Secondly, others bring these distractions to us because we haven’t made it clear to ourselves and others what our role and focus should be.

Communicating to others who we are and what we are about is our personal brand. Making sure that our self-image is the same as others’ perceptions of us is the key to managing that brand. We can be in charge of this and proactively control those images or we can ignore it and allow others to define it for us.

In defining the clarity of personal brand, one of my partners uses the example that you wouldn’t go over and mow your client’s yard just because they asked (well, maybe some of you would). Chances are the client wouldn’t ask in the first place because they clearly know that isn’t your role.

That’s an extreme example, but it makes the point of what someone clearly understands as the definition of your role in their life. If you don’t proactively define your personal brand, communicate it, and reinforce it constantly, you have no one to blame for the distractions but yourself. Think about it, if the people within your organization don’t know how you provide value, or when they should come to you and when they shouldn’t, what are the chances your clients truly understand? Perhaps worst of all, how do you really know where and how you should be spending your time? If you don’t have complete clarity about how to spend your time, the chances are very slight that your planning and subsequent results will be successful.

We often talk about brand as it affects our organizations, but we don’t often enough discuss our personal brand. Brand is the clear, powerful, positive thoughts you want people to have when they think of you. Stop for a moment and really reflect on each of those descriptors in terms of your personal brand. Have you even thought about your brand? How do you communicate your brand? The communication of your brand is critical and helps your audience know when and why they should come to you and what it is about you that creates value.

Regardless of whether you regularly reflect upon, develop and proactively manage your brand, or whether you are now thinking about your personal brand for the first time, you will benefit from the time spent contemplating these ideas. I am also going to challenge you to complete a more in-depth exercise. For those of you who have read Good to Great by Jim Collins, you are familiar with the Hedge Hog concept which we are borrowing for this exercise

The purpose of the exercise is to identify the clear, powerful, and positive thoughts people should have about you so that you can be sure to communicate these ideas as the focus of your personal brand. For a brand to be effective, all three characteristics have to exist.

Clear – Is the message easily understood? Powerful – Does it have a WOW factor? Positive – Will it deliver value? If you can’t answer yes to all three areas, you need to refine and develop your brand further.

The exercise.
Make three separate lists, one for each [overlapping] circle found below [What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine?]. Without initially considering the other two, answer the question asked in each circle. Remember, the end–in-mind is to create a focus for your work-life that meets the three standards, focuses most of your time and energy in that defined area, and then communicates that as part of your personal brand.

    • First, identify what it is you are doing, or should be doing, for which you have a genetic or God-given talent. In other words, when the talent is further developed, you have the potential to be one of the best in the world.
    • Secondly, you are paid well when you spend time in this activity.
    • Third, it is work about which you are extremely passionate, from which you draw great energy, and generally enjoy as an activity.
    • Next, look for the intersection of your three circles. What is the one/few activities that can be an answer to the question asked in all three circles.
  • Finally, take the intersection and translate it into aclear, powerful, positive concept that will guide how you use your time, energy, and efforts.

After completing the exercise, you now have a clear understanding of where you should be spending your time. You know which activities bring you energy and passion, you know the activities at which you excel and you know which activities pay you well when you’re performing them. Stick to this list of activities, communicate it to those around you and avoid the distractions of activities which are not on this list.
This is not an easy exercise and may take you several iterations to really nail it down. Test it out, ask for feedback and input, and refine it until it is to the point that, when pursued, it drives you to your personal greatness.

Yes, you have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Fill it back in with a clear understanding of what it is that you need to focus on and plan around. With that clarity, the planning you do for 2010 will bring the right results. Now ask yourself, “How badly do I really want it?”

Originally published on agencyfuel.zywave.com. © Copyright 2010 Zywave, Inc.