I promise, my personal brand is not, “I’ve been too busy to blog.” I think I’m going through a process. An evolution. A “what’s next in my life” moment that has lasted for months. I have a lot to say, but I’m not sure HOW I want to say it.
You will often hear me say that deep down, at my core, I’m a writer. But that’s not my brand.
As a writer, however, I have a need to write. But the last few months have me questioning who I am at my core. Not that I am not a good communicator and writer; it’s just not my brand, and I’m trying to get to a more authentic place with who I am. And how am I going to write about anything, if I am not grounded in my core, my brand?
At the LMA Annual Conference I attended some great sessions, but it was those lunches and moments outside the presentations which still resonate with me.
In particular, Ross Fishman and I had lunch while waiting for it to be our turn to head out to the airport to head back to our respective homes. We hit Cooper’s, the awesome BBQ place next to the hotel. We told some stories, and he gave me some great advice … or a challenge.
“I don’t know what you do,” Ross said to me. “I know you’re smart. I know you do what you do well. But I don’t know what your brand is.”
Hmmmm. I know what I want my brand to be, but I also coach people that your brand is just a manifestation of who you are at your core.
This is true for a person, a company, and even a law firm.
Being a “legal marketer” or a “generalist” is not a brand. It’s a holding position.
“Who am I? What is it that I do better than most?” I asked myself. And I’ve been asking myself that question for the past couple months.
Multi-task organized isn’t it.
Neither is my ability to read people and instinctively adjust my approach so that my message is heard.
During my leadership program, on the last day, one of my fellows said to me:
“Heather, I know you’re really good at figuring out what’s wrong and solving that problem, but it would be really great to see what would happen if you took something from good to great?”
Wow. That blew me away. That’s what I wanted my next challenge to be. That should be my brand: The great maker. And I was off on a personal quest to find my “good to great.”
I was so excited. I had a purpose. But I still didn’t have a brand.
To be perfectly candid, while it would be really cool to see what I could do with taking something from “good to great,” my sweet spot is figuring out what the problem is, and the steps needed to solve the problem.
A Teamability assessment I took when on the LMA Board said the same thing. I’m a Conductor:
Conductors are well suited to jobs that allow them to use their problem-solving abilities to serve the team by removing the obstacles that prevent people from doing their best. They have the ability to persuade people and negotiate successfully with them. When there is an immediate problem that needs fixing, the Conductor jumps right on it.
Yup. That’s me alright. It’s not always a welcome position, but it is a necessary perspective. And yet I’ve been struggling against this for most of my career.
I yearn to be a “good to great” person. I want to be the visionary on the team. It’s so much sexier. You get awards and acknowledgements for that. You get inducted into things by being a visionary. People write articles about visionaries, not so much about conductors.
But accepting, knowing and being a conductor still isn’t a brand.
While blathering on about this to a colleague, she barely looked up when I questioned, “What’s my personal brand?” She quickly replied, “Oh, that’s easy. You’re a turn-around specialist.”
“What??? Noooooo!! I’m a ‘good to great’ person now,” was quickly followed in my brain by, “Damn. That rings true.”
I want to see myself on some higher (visionary) plane, but, in all reality, where I excel is by figuring out what is wrong and pinpointing the pathway to fix it.
A turn-around specialist isn’t a negative thing, and it doesn’t have to do with companies, departments, or people in a failure pattern.
A turn-around specialist can help someone find their personal brand when they’re not sure where the marketplace is taking them. They can create a business plan that is personal and authentic. They can kick a practice group off the ground, or create an industry group. To me, the turn-around specialist is about assessing the pieces of the puzzle, and then building the picture .
The personal reward I find is that I get to be there when the lights go on.
The negative is that what I do comes with a price: a hard truth.
At a prior firm (pre-recession, to preserve their anonymity) I was asked to help turn a service partner into a rainmaker. I explained all the steps to the managing partner that could be taken, as well as the investment necessary of time and money. He asked me, “What if it doesn’t work?” Without hesitating I replied, “You either hire another rainmaker to feed his practice, or fire him.”
The look on his face let me know that my little bit of “truth” did not settle well, and I realized immediately that I needed to choose my words more carefully. How to deliver my news in a way that did not threaten personal relationships, and how to speak the truth that I saw in a way that could be heard, is a learned talent.
What I have found over the years is that that, in my field, getting down into the “what ifs” and “what is” or “what should be” is the more intellectually stimulating, problem solving place for me to be. Anyone can pilot a ship that is on autopilot to a tropical destination, but it takes a different brand of marketer to navigate through rough and bumpy and murky waters.
So what’s my brand?
LME, of course.
Leadership Management Encouragement
Lawyers Mentoring Education
Landing Pages Micro-blogging Engagement
Leads Marketing Automation Execution
Why? Because, at my core, I’m a Legal Marketer Extraordinaire.